Home Decorating For Dummies
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Interior ceiling and wall painting is a project that's best divided into two: cutting in and rolling. (Having two people do the work is nice — especially if you're not one of them!) One person uses a brush to cut in, or outline, all the areas that a paint roller can't cover without getting paint on an adjacent surface. The other member of the team spreads paint on the ceiling and walls with a roller. If the ceiling and walls are the same color, you can cut in both at the same time. Otherwise, work on the ceiling first.

If you're painting with a partner, have the person with the brush start by spreading a 2-inch band of paint on the ceiling, all around its perimeter. Lap marks result if the cut-in paint dries before you blend in the rolled area with the cut-in area, so don't let the outliner get too far ahead of the roller. You also want the roller to roll over as much of the cut-in band of paint as possible. The textures that a brush and a roller leave are quite different.

Both the outliner and the roller must observe the top-down rule and paint in the following sequence:

  1. The outliner paints the ceiling molding, if any, and then cuts in a band of paint on the ceiling along the short wall.

  2. The roller follows the outliner, rolling the ceiling as soon as it's cut in along one wall.

  3. The outliner cuts in a band of paint on one wall at the ceiling and down the wall in the corners and then across the bottom at the baseboard; the roller is then free to begin that wall.

  4. The outliner cuts in around any windows and doors on that wall and then any other areas the roller can't do, such as around light fixtures or behind radiators.

  5. The outliner completes the wall by cutting in the wall at the

  6. The roller follows along, usually at a pace that makes the outliner feel as if she is being pushed along.

  7. The process continues in this manner until all the walls are done.

To apply paint to broad, flat surfaces, such as walls and ceilings, use a 9-inch roller and a shallow roller pan.

Before you use a new roller, wrap it in masking tape and then peel off the tape. Taping the roller gets rid of new-roller fuzzies that can drive you crazy if they get onto a newly painted wall.

Start painting by carefully rolling a band of paint to smooth and blend in the cut-in areas while you still have a wet edge. Now you have a nice, wide band, so you won't spatter the adjacent surface as you roll the rest of the ceiling. Then work your way across the narrow dimension of the room in 3- or 4-foot-square patches. By working across the narrow dimension and starting each row at the same wall, you maintain a wet edge and spread the paint into new areas without creating noticeable lap marks.

When rolling walls, keep these tips in mind:

  • Begin in a corner. For ceilings, lay down a big "W" pattern about 3-feet wide. For walls, lay down a roller-width coat of paint from top to bottom. Then smooth out your work by rolling lightly a 3-foot-square area on the ceiling or from ceiling to floor on walls with a dry roller. Continue to work your way across the ceiling or along the wall in this fashion.

  • Don't skimp on paint. By applying a single ceiling-to-floor vertical stripe or "W" pattern of paint per roller of paint, and then smoothing only that area, you will assure adequate coverage.

  • Frequently step back and observe your work from several angles, checking for lap marks and missed spots. Adequate lighting is important here. As long as the paint is wet, you can go back over an area without creating noticeable lap marks.

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