Home Improvement

How to Paint a Room like a Pro

November 4, 2019

I say this all the time, but paint is so transformative! It can turn a dull and uninviting room into a space that makes you truly feel at home. While paint can drastically improve the look of a space, a messy application or choosing the wrong sheen can draw attention for all the wrong reasons.

I recently completed my first One Room Challenge and compiled a full tutorial on painting my dining room. I have spent countless hours painting walls throughout the years and consider myself somewhat of an expert! With the right materials and the proper painting technique, you too can paint your room like a pro. Let’s get started!

One Room Challenge complete dining room transformation

How to Paint a Room like a Pro:

My dining room was in dire need of an update and I decided to paint my walls a dark, moody gray to serve as the foundation for the design in the room.

Dining Room

Disclosure: I received compensation to complete this project using FrogTape painter’s tape products. All opinions, projects and ideas are based on my own experience.

Materials you will Need:

Materials to paint your room
  • Paint – Your ceiling, trim and walls will need different paint sheens. Consult your paint supplier on the appropriate sheen or check out my cheat sheet below*
  • FrogTape – Use this painters tape to achieve crisp paint lines and hassle free clean-up
  • Trim Brush – Use an angled brush when trimming the room. (I prefer 2″ brush)
  • Paint pail & liners – A handheld cup simplifies painting harder to reach places and a liner makes for an easy clean-up
  • Roller sleeve – This will depend on the texture of your wall. For a smoother surface, get a shorter nap (1/2″, 3/8″ or 1″) if your wall has lots of texture, go for a thicker nap for better coverage
  • Roller
  • Extension pole – To paint your ceiling
  • Ultra smooth roller sleeve & small roller – This is used for tighter spaces, (around the chair rail detailing in my photos)
  • Wet rag – To clean up any drips or smudges
  • Drop cloth – To protect your floors & furniture. You can buy these or use old bed linens

*Paint Sheen Cheat Sheet

  • Ceiling Sheen: Flat (some people go with a higher sheen for ceilings in bathrooms)
  • Trim & Door Sheen: Semi-gloss
  • Wall Sheen: Satin or Eggshell
  • Cabinet Sheen: Satin

Step 1: Prep your space

Before I could begin painting, I had to prep the walls. First, I removed the wallpaper using a steamer. I filled any holes I saw with spackle and used a sanding block to get the walls as smooth as possible. This is especially important after removing wallpaper to remove any remaining glue left on the walls.

Prepping the walls for paint

Next, I applied FrogTape around the baseboards to protect my floors. Because baseboards are so tight against the floor, painters tape ensures that the floors will be protected and the boards get a nice even coat of paint. I know that I can quickly paint the baseboard and pull up the tape to achieve a clean paint line and no clean up on my new hardwood floors.

Before you begin painting, cover your floors and furniture with a drop cloth. Remove all switch plates (DON’T paint around the plates) and re-install once the room has been painted.

Prep your walls to paint

Step 2: Paint the ceiling

There are two guidelines I follow when I begin painting a room.

  1. Paint the room from top to bottom (or ceiling to floor)
  2. Paint the room from light to dark

I generally buy the standard flat ceiling paint they sell at Home Depot. If your ceiling is in relatively good condition, you may be able to get away with 1 coat but 2 coats is preferred for complete coverage. Once you roll the ceiling with paint, you will need to trim around the edges where the roller could not reach. This is where a handheld paint cup comes in handy – I prefer cups with a magnet on the side to prevent the paint brush from falling deep in the paint.

Paint like a pro using these materials

Step 3: Paint Crown Molding

If you do not trust your steady hand, tape off the ceiling before you begin painting. This is a great option for beginner painters. Personally, I like to trim out the ceiling myself, especially when the trim and ceiling paint color are so similar.

I am not as careful as I paint the lower portion of the crown molding because I know I will be painting the wall color over anything that goes on the drywall. For the trim paint color, I like to keep it simple with a standard white so I can reuse any leftover paint in other rooms of my house.

How to paint a room

Step 4: Paint Window Trim, Door Trim & Lower Half of Chair Rail

If you are painting a darker color than white on the walls, then I would recommend painting the baseboards and trim before you paint the walls. For the dining room, I was able to paint the crown molding, lower half of the chair rail, baseboards and trim at the same time. Because I painted the wall a darker color, I knew that I could paint “outside of the lines” where the dark paint would be applied.

Painting the crown molding with semi-gloss

I applied 2 coats of the white paint and used a combination of the paint brush and ultra-smooth small roller to apply the paint on the lower half of the wall. Be careful with paint drips when you are painting decorative features and corners.

Step 5: Cut in the wall color

I let the white trim paint cure overnight and then prepped the room for the dark gray wall color. To achieve a crisp straight line at the chair rail, I applied FrogTape on the painted white trim.

How to paint a room

I used the angled paint brush to cut in around the doorways windows and ceiling. For best results, remove the tape while the paint is still wet.

Crisp paint lines using Frogtape

Step 6: Paint the wall

For the wall color, I worked with my Sherwin Williams rep to color match the same dark gray on my kitchen island. I used a satin sheen on the walls but eggshell also works great. Dip the paint roller in the paint tray and remove excess paint so that the sleeve is covered but not dripping. You want to avoid putting too much paint on the wall at once to avoid drips on the wall. If you find a spot that has a drip, roll over it to smooth out that part of the wall.

Paint tutorial

Step 7: Enjoy your beautiful space!

Give yourself a pat on back and celebrate the transformation of your room! Add your favorite family photos and artwork to the walls and enjoy your beautiful space.

Dining room transformation

Your wall color acts as the foundation of your space when you are ready to decorate the room. When choosing your paint colors, remember to think about how you want the room to feel. Do you want it moody and cozy? Do you want the space to feel tranquil or give you energy when you walk into the room? These are important questions to ask that will help you create a space that you will love for a long time to come.

Dining room decor
Painting your dining room

Want to save this tutorial to reference once you start your next project? I’ve got you covered! Use the pin below to easily find your way back to this tutorial.

Paint like a pro

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  • Reply Heather December 18, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Where did you get your kitchen chairs?

    • Reply lindseymahoney December 18, 2019 at 10:31 am

      They are from Arhaus! 🙂

  • Reply Bill June 3, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Looks great. What sheen did you use for the white wall under the chair rail?

    • Reply lindseymahoney June 3, 2020 at 1:20 pm

      Thank you so much! I used semi-gloss but a satin would look nice too if you want a little less shine.

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