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How to Paint Walls – Rollers and Spray Machines

Painting a wall might seem like a straightforward task, but there’s a bit more to it than simply slapping on a coat of paint. Choosing the right tools and techniques can make the difference between a professional-looking finish and a patchy, uneven job. In this guide, we’ll explore two popular methods: using rollers and spray machines.

Using a roller to paint walls

When embarking on a painting project, the roller method stands out as a popular choice for its ease of use and effectiveness, particularly on large, flat surfaces. However, the success of this method hinges on selecting the right type of roller and mastering the technique.

Selecting the right roller

The choice of roller largely depends on the texture of your wall. For smoother walls, a short-nap roller is ideal as it leaves a fine finish with minimal texture. Conversely, if you’re dealing with a rougher surface, such as textured plaster or stucco, a long-nap roller is better suited to get into the crevices and cover the surface evenly.

It’s also essential to consider the quality of the roller. Investing in a high-quality roller can save you from the annoyance of dealing with shedding fibres, which can stick to the paint and mar the finish of your wall.

Preparing for painting

Before you begin painting, it’s important to prepare your space properly. Start by donning old clothes and protective gear like gloves and goggles – painting can get messy, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. The wall itself must be prepped: it should be clean, dry, and smooth. Any holes or cracks need to be filled, and rough spots should be sanded down for a uniform surface.

Another crucial step is taping off areas you don’t want to paint, such as skirting boards, window frames, and door frames. Using painter’s tape for this task ensures a clean, sharp finish and protects these surfaces from stray brush strokes.

The painting process

If you’re painting over a dark colour, a stained surface, or new drywall, starting with a primer is a wise move. It helps cover the underlying colour and provides a uniform base for your new paint.

When it comes to the actual painting, using the “W” technique with your roller can significantly improve the outcome. This involves painting a large ‘W’ on the wall and then filling it in without lifting the roller. This method ensures that the paint is distributed evenly across the wall, preventing uneven thickness or texture.

For the edges and corners where a roller might not reach, a smaller brush is your best friend. ‘Cutting in’ around these areas before you start rolling helps to create a seamless finish across the entire wall.

Using a spray machine to paint walls

Opting for a spray machine when painting walls introduces a level of efficiency and a smooth finish that is often hard to achieve with traditional rollers, especially over large areas or uneven surfaces. However, mastering this method requires an understanding of the right equipment and techniques.

Selecting the right spray machine

The first step is to choose the appropriate type of spray machine for your project. Airless sprayers are commonly favoured for DIY home painting projects due to their ease of use and ability to handle a variety of paint types. High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) sprayers are another option, particularly appreciated for their precision and reduced overspray.

An often overlooked but critical aspect of using a spray machine is selecting the correct nozzle size, which varies depending on the type of paint you’re using. Each paint type has its viscosity, and using the wrong nozzle can lead to poor coverage or even damage to the sprayer. It’s essential to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure you’re using the appropriate nozzle.

Preparing your space

When using a spray machine, the preparation of your space takes on even greater importance. Unlike rollers, spray machines create a fine mist of paint that can travel and settle far beyond your intended target. Therefore, it’s crucial to cover everything in the room that you don’t want to be painted. This includes furniture, floors, and even ceilings if you’re not painting them. Masking off these areas thoroughly will save you a significant cleanup job later.

In addition to covering, ensuring good ventilation is vital. The fine mist created by spray machines can linger in the air and be harmful if inhaled. Opening windows and using fans can help circulate air and reduce fume buildup.

The technique of spraying

Before you begin painting the walls, it’s advisable to practice on a piece of cardboard or scrap material. This practice allows you to get a feel for the sprayer, adjust the pressure settings, and become comfortable with the spraying motion.

When you start painting, maintain a consistent distance from the wall – usually about 12 inches – and move the sprayer in a smooth, steady motion. It’s important to keep the sprayer moving to avoid drips and uneven coverage. Each stroke should overlap the previous one by about 50%, ensuring that you cover the entire surface evenly without leaving any missed spots or having areas with a thicker layer of paint.

Tips for both methods

Quality of paint matters

Investing in high-quality paint can significantly affect the outcome of your project. Higher-quality paints usually offer better coverage, more vibrant colours, and longer-lasting finishes. They may also have better adherence and resistance to fading or chipping over time.

Proper surface preparation

For both methods, the importance of surface preparation cannot be overstated. Ensure the surface is clean, dry, and smooth. Any holes, cracks, or imperfections should be filled and sanded. This step is crucial for achieving a professional-looking finish.

Primer use

Applying a primer is particularly important if you’re covering a dark colour, painting over a glossy surface, or working with new drywall. Primer helps in providing an even base for the topcoat, ensuring better adhesion and uniformity of the final colour.

Testing colour and technique

Before committing to painting a large area, it’s advisable to test the paint colour on a small, inconspicuous section of the wall. Additionally, if you’re using a spray machine, practice on cardboard or scrap material to get comfortable with the device.

Multiple thin coats

Whether rolling or spraying, applying multiple thin coats is preferable to a single thick coat. This approach allows for more even coverage and reduces the likelihood of drips or uneven texture.


For both methods, dealing with edges and corners requires attention. Using a small brush to ‘cut in’ at corners, edges, and around trim before rolling or spraying can ensure a clean, sharp finish.

Respecting drying times

Adhering to the recommended drying times between coats, as specified by the paint manufacturer, is vital. Rushing this process can lead to a finish that is not durable or evenly applied.

Proper ventilation

Ensure that the area is well-ventilated, especially when using spray machines. This helps in reducing the inhalation of fumes and aids in faster drying of the paint.

Clean-up and maintenance

Clean your tools immediately after use. For rollers and brushes, remove excess paint and wash them with water (for water-based paints) or mineral spirits (for oil-based paints). For spray machines, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning to prevent clogging and ensure longevity of the equipment.


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