How to paint your apartment walls like a pro

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Looking to add some color to your rooms (AND your apartment management group allows you to paint your walls…definitely check first to see what their specific rules are!)? A quick coat of paint can make a transformational difference to your walls for relatively low cost and just a bit of elbow grease. Even if you’ve never painted before, it’s easier than you think! Here are five steps to take you from start to finish.

  1. Check with your apartment management team FIRST

It’s mentioned above, but this is one step you cannot skip: make sure that you are allowed to paint your apartment walls and confirm what the rules are for paint types/colors. You may be allowed to use any flat latex paint as long as you agree to return your apartment back to its original wall colors before you move out—or the rules may be slightly different for your home. CHECK FIRST.

  1. Select your paint color

Thinking about going bold and dark, or light and fun? The sky’s the limit on paint colors. To make sure you’ll like yours long term, plan on getting several paint swatches and post them on the walls in the room(s) you want to paint. Check them out both in natural light (if the room has windows) and artificial light, and at different times of day. You’ll want to love your new color for a long time, so choose wisely!

A word about finishes: for most walls, you’ll be looking for a flat or low-luster finish for your latex paint. If you’re thinking about a paint with glossy finish, know that they’re easier to clean (a bonus!) but they highlight every flaw in your walls, so you’ll have to be extra diligent when you prepare your walls (see the next step).

  1. Prepare your walls

Most people think they can breeze through this step quickly, but don’t be fooled: a properly prepared wall will make or break your painting project. So take your time here. Fortunately, most apartment interiors are painted fairly frequently, so you should be able to wipe down your walls with minimum fuss. Repair any holes, remove any dust or grime, and you’ll be good to go!

Note, you’ll want to tape over any permanent wall fixtures that can’t be removed, but make sure they are dust-free, first.

  1. Assemble your materials

Here’s what you’ll need for a great paint job: painters tape, a paintbrush, a paint roller (possibly on a pole), enough paint for your job, a tray for your paint, and a liner—a liner isn’t required, but if you’re planning to re-use your tray, a long strip of aluminum foil torn off and pressed into the base of your tray can help extend its life through several paint jobs. You may also need a ladder. Make sure it’s sturdy!

  1. Tape. Tape a lot. Do not skimp on the tape.

Sticking painter’s tape along every trim and baseboard, along your ceilings and around every permanent wall fixture may seem like a tedious drag (and, okay, it is a tedious drag) but it will make your actual painting process go MUCH faster. You won’t have to paint slowly and carefully around every corner or edge—because the painter’s tape will keep your edges nice and neat. USE TAPE.

  1. Start high, work your way down – and think thin

Either standing on your ladder or using your roller pole, start painting at the top of the wall, and work your way down. This way, you can cover over any drips or splatters.

Also, consider covering your walls with two thin coats of paint vs. one heavy coat. Don’t overload your brush or roller, either (dip it into your paint no more than a third of the way up your bristles or, if you’re using a roller, until it is very lightly covered). This will ensure the paint goes on evenly. Don’t worry about your first coat looking like it didn’t cover everything enough—that’s what the second coat is for!

Note: you can paint the trim first OR paint it after the walls, but most novice painters prefer to touch up the trim after the walls. And if you’ve done a good job with your tape, you may not need to paint your trim work at all!

  1. Clean your brushes immediately!

Once you’re finished with your paint job, you’ve got one job left. Wash all your equipment—tools, brushes, rollers, trays—thoroughly and dry them to ensure you can keep using them for several jobs to come. Just need to take a break for awhile? Seal your brushes and rollers in airtight plastic bags to keep them from drying out—because once that paint dries, it’s there to stay.

That’s all there is to it! Good luck on your painting project (AFTER you’ve checked with your apartment management team), and here’s to a more colorful year!


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