How to Use a Paint Roller on a Wall

Knowing how to use a paint roller can help you eliminate streaks in your paint finish. Applying paint with a roller can cut painting time by almost half. Using proper roller technique can help you save paint, protect your equipment and improve the look of your finished paint job.

1Gather your tools.

You’ll need a roller cover and roller cage, paint, stir sticks, paint tray and liners, spray bottle of water (for latex paint), Paint thinner and tray (for alkyd paint), and a 5-in-1 tool.

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2Prep your materials.

Put your roller cover on the cage. Stir your paint thoroughly, and pour about ½ and inch into the tray’s well.

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3Dampen the roller cover.

Prepping your roller ensures faster painting — and saves paint. For latex paint, dampen your roller cover with water from your spray bottle or the faucet. For oil-based paints, roll the alkyd-appropriate roller cover in the tray of paint thinner. Scrape off excess moisture with your 5-in-1 tool.

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4Roll the roller down into the paint tray.

Roll down the slope of the rake in to the paint well. Properly loading the roller cuts down on spatter and drips and improves coverage.

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5Distribute the paint on the roller evenly.

Lift the roller out of well and place it at the top of the rake. Roll it back down the rake but not into the well.

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6Repeat Step 5 to evenly load the roller.

Continue moving the roller up and down the rake until the roller no longer drips.

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7Hold the roller properly to improve your control.

Hold it in your dominant hand. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your roller directly in front of you for control. If you’re using an extension pole, place your dominant hand toward the bottom for control and your non-dominant hand at the middle position for leverage and pressure.

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8Paint a diagonal upward stroke.

Use a long, slow, upward diagonal stroke to unload the first part of the “M” pattern.

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9Make a diagonal downward stroke.

In a continuing motion, follow the first upward stroke with a long, slow stroke downward at a diagonal.

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10Continue by finishing the "M" pattern.

In a continuing motion, use another long, slow, upward diagonal stroke and another long, slow downward diagonal stroke to finish the “M” pattern.

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11Cross the "M" with horizontal strokes.

Paint a series of horizontal strokes working from the bottom of the “M” to the top.

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12Smooth out the section.

Smooth the section by making a series of downward strokes from top to bottom.

13Repeat steps 4-12 to complete the wall.

Repeat the process of loading and painting. Working in small sections, move from dry areas to wet ones, overlapping the wet edge each time.