The Best Painting Tools, Say Us

This post is a long time coming; one I should have written a very long time ago.  (Thank you Rebecca, for helping me realize it!)  We've painted a room, or a hundred, and we've pretty much got painting down to a science.  But the science of it all doesn't add up if you don't have the right tools.  That's how it goes, right?  The right tools will help you succeed!  #communitycollegeslogan

I didn't know the first thing about painting an interior room growing up (and neither did Anthony).  My dad made my siblings and I scrape and repaint our white farmhouse when I was ehh, maybe middle to high school somewhere (I hated it so much I must've blocked out the time frame) and that's the most painting I did until we bought our first house and dove headfirst into changing the color of 90% of the walls in the house...and then 100% of the walls in our second house, 100% of those in our rental, and now what will eventually be the walls (and ceilings!) in this house.

All that's to say, you don't actually have to have any experience in painting to start.  It's not that hard!  Yes, it takes a little bit of time and effort but as far as I'm concerned, the time you spend is money saved and the effort counts as a workout.  Win, win.  :D

So, without further ado, these are our tried-and-true, all-time favorite painting tools.  We've used all of them for quite a while, so there aren't any newbies here.  Just oldies and goodies.  ;)  

1  //  Handy Paint Products  //  I moved up in the world several years ago when I bought a Handy Paint Cup*.  Goodbye Tupperware.  Hello little, red-handled friend.  Haven't looked back since.  When I edge a room or paint a piece of furniture, I'm using this paint cup.  A couple of years ago, Handy kindly sent me some more of their paint products to try and they have also been used umpteen times since.  Their paint tray* is the bomb.  It holds an entire gallon of paint (before I was refilling multiple times to paint a whole room), has handles to help you carry, and a magnet to hold your paint brush.  I promise, you'll never buy or want another paint tray if you get this one.  When I'm using a smaller roller, I use their Paint Pro Pail*.  It has a wide, flat side where you can roll excess paint off your roller after dipping, the paint brush magnet again, and a flexible (and muy comfortable!) handle you slide your hand into.  And bonus, they're all made in the USA.  Another bonus, Handy makes thin plastic liners* for each so you can paint and toss.  (I usually wash the liners so I get a few uses out of them but if you're not a fan of the clean-up part of painting, the liners make it easy, breezy.)

2  //  Wooster Paint Brushes*  //  When I first started painting, I thought every paint brush was the same.  Therefore, I only bought the cheapest brushes.  They worked out for me...I guess...but then I decided to splurge on a Wooster and holy moly, what a difference!  The bristles are thinner and so the paint goes on  better and the finish is much more smooth.  I've had my two-inch Wooster for seven years and, it's definitely seen better days with some stray bristles and caked-on paint up top, but it still paints like a dream.  I've also used Purdy paint brushes* and they are great too!   

3  //  Roller Extension Pole*  //  We've had an extension pole for ages but I just started using it while painting in this house and I wished I'd have started much sooner.  It cuts down on painting time because there's no climbing up a step ladder, painting, climbing down the step ladder, moving the step ladder, painting, repeat...  So maybe your legs don't get as much of a workout but with the time you save, you'll be able to run a few blocks after.  ;)  Our extension pole is wood with a metal screw at the top.  I've tried a metal pole with a plastic screw and felt like it was more flimsy so I'd recommend going with a pole that has that strong metal screw.

4  //  Ace Hardware Roller Covers  //  Roller covers are kind of like paint brushes.  The cheaper you go, the more they shed and the less paint they hold.  An employee at Ace Hardware once introduced me to these roller covers and they're all I've bought since.  With a good soak and wash post-painting, I can usually use them three or four times before I toss them.  (However, I do buy these cheaper roller covers when I'm painting with oil-based paint because I only use them once.)  If you don't have an Ace near you, these covers on Amazon* have good reviews!  I added them to a list to try!

5  //  Paint Spout*  //  This is one of those cheap little things that saves you from a mess and rust inside your paint can.  You just clip it onto the edge of the can, pour, unclip, and wash.  No paint inside the rim that can cause rust and no paint splatter everywhere when you hammer your lid closed (ask me how I know that can happen...)  I linked to a five-pack (I have two - one for oil-based paint and one for latex) but if you're looking for just one, they're cheapest by the paint section at Lowe's and Home Depot. 

6  //  Double-Sided, Silicone Spatula*  //  Another little thing that packs a big efficiency punch is a kitchen spatula.  I used to get frustrated when combining/emptying paint cans because I could never get all of the paint out of the can by just pouring.  So, I headed over to Dollar Tree and found a Betty Crocker spatula to help get all of that paint out.  Don't worry, it never makes a debut in the kitchen; on the paint supply shelf it stays.  ;)  (I linked to a spatula on Amazon but I'd check your local dollar store first.)

7  //  Edge Guide*  //  I've written about this tool a few times before.  We've had carpet in every house we've owned and so painting baseboards seems a tricky job.  Not with our edge guard though!  We slip it between the carpet and baseboard and it keeps paint where paint is supposed to be and not where it's not.   

8  //  Drop Cloths  //  Another perk of painting so. many. rooms is that we rarely spill/splatter when painting anymore.  So drop cloths aren't really a necessity unless we're painting ceilings.  But, we do have a stash of old flat sheets we use if we feel we need them.  They're great for small splatters but, since they're thin, paint and any other liquid can seep through them onto floors below.  That's why, when we removed the popcorn ceilings in this house and then painted, we used these drop cloths* from Walmart because they were the best for the price, we needed a lot, and there wasn't any leaking.

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Those are the things we'll never veer from but here are a couple of things we've tried that we didn't hate, but didn't love enough to include in our favorites list:

Tape  //  We cut in using an angled brush* these days to paint around trim so tape isn't used much, therefore, I don't have a good handle on the best brands to use.  I've used Duck tape* and 3M Painters' tape* with success but I think a lot of the success of painters' tape relies on the user.  If you don't press it down hard enough or you paint too thick and then let the paint dry before peeling, you might be in for trouble.  An unstable (peeling, freshly painted, etc...) surface might also cause problems - don't tape over these areas with any tape or you'll be pulling off more than just tape.

The Paint Roller Cover*  //  I saw this on Shark Tank a few years ago and I loved the idea!  We usually just stick our paint rollers and brushes in as-air-tight-as-we-can-get plastic bags but to have something we could reuse over and over sounded awesome!  So, I bought a roller cover two years ago and I've used it a few times but I didn't feel like it kept my paint quite as wet as our trusty plastic bag situation when used over the course of several days.  Over one day, it was great!  So, fantastic concept; a round of applause to the brothers who invented it, but I feel like the products need a little more tweaking.

And here a couple of things we're still looking for love with:

A Roller Handle  //  Personally, I feel like there's a huge flaw in all of these rollers that have the roller cover slide on from one end.  The side of the roller that has the arm sticking out gets most of the pressure applied by the painter whereas the side without the arm needs more pressure.  Does that makes sense?  I feel like I have to twist the extension pole while I paint to have pressure applied evenly on the roller.  We need something with an arm on both ends of the roller.  That of course means there has to be a new way to get the roller cover on the roller and so be it but it's 2020, we should be able to invent something like that, right?  Anyway, if you have a favorite roller handle, send the rec our way!

Paint Sprayer  //  We bought this little paint sprayer* several years ago and really like it for small projects, but not for large pieces like furniture and definitely not for walls.  It sprays circular so things can get really splotchy over large surface areas.  You also need an air compressor to use it which doesn't make it the most convenient tool.  I bought a used Wagner Wide Shot* at an estate sale a few months ago though but the jury is still out on if we like it or not.  I used it for the first time to paint a dresser a few weekends ago and, at first, it was awesome.  It sprays in a big line and doesn't need an air compressor to use BUT mine didn't come with a manual so I just did what I thought I needed to and after about five minutes, paint was dripping EVERYWHERE!  I realized after cleaning up the mess that I didn't screw the front nozzle on tight enough.  And when I say it wasn't tight enough, I mean it was looser than loose.  So, I'll get a better opinion formed after round two.  If it still isn't quite hitting the mark, I've heard good things about this paint sprayer* and so we'll probably try it out.  Once again, any recs?  Send 'em over.  

With that, if there's anything - brushes, rollers, anything - you love and couldn't paint without, please share!  We are certainly not against adding things to our arsenal and/or upgrading.

The paint we've tried probably deserves a whole post in itself but suffice it to say, we are Valspar fans.  We find the color we want and, if it's not a Valspar color, we have it mixed in Valspar paint.  We've used Sherwin-Williams, Behr, Olympic, Color Place and probably more that evade my memory but none have measured up to Valspar, or if they have, they work just as well but are more expensive (I'm looking at you SW).  Another thing that maybe deserves its own post is technique.  (I did type down some tips and tricks for painting trim though.)  I don't want to put too much of an emphasis on the importance of technique because really, you just roll it on and cover up what you missed, but I do feel that there is an efficient way to paint and for us, that's just rolling vertically across a wall, making sure you overlap what you just painted when painting another vertical "column".  But that's not necessarily the "right" way to paint; it's just what we do and what we've found works.

Last but not least, in my effort to cheer you on and convince you that YOU can paint a room, read this doozy.  According to Home Advisor, it costs between $170 to $680 in labor costs alone to hire someone to paint one interior room.  If we use the lowest estimate of $170, Anthony and I, by painting ourselves over the past several years, have saved $1530 on our first house, $1870 on our second house, $1700 on our rental, and what will be $2890 in this house.  That's all NOT including that time we painted the entire exterior of our second house which could have cost us upwards of $3000 to hire out.  The grand total saved?  $10,990!!!  Using the LOW estimate.  Awesome and sorta frightening, right?  And like I said, that's just labor because obviously, we've had to buy our paint and supplies.  With that though, I'm not telling you painting yourself is the best way to go - I know that many a person makes their living as a pro painter and that profession is much needed for people on time-crunches and other kinds of crunches plus people who just absolutely hate painting.  But for the people on a budget, like us, getting out that paint roller and getting a workout in is absolutely the way to go.  I mean, you could go wrong by choosing a bad color or a doing splotchy job.  And what do you do then?  Well, you paint over it again and you know what they say...

Practice makes perfect!

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  1. Thank you so much!! This is super helpful. I bought a couple of the Wooster brushes, and you're right, they're so much better! I am definitely going to get one of those can spouts and the Handy tray some time too; I got one of the paint cups over the summer and have used it a ton.

    A word of caution about those cheap roller brushes from Amazon: I bought a bunch of them because they were such a good deal, but they shed a ton and I hate them. I haven't used all of the ones that I bought yet, but I went to Lowe's today to buy some different ones because they don't apply paint well.

    1. Hooray for Wooster! It is crazy how much better they are, right? You wouldn't think it would really make that much of a difference but it does! Thanks for the head's up on the Amazon rollers! I have had luck, when using cheap rollers in the past, with running them under water before using them to get all of the loose fibers out. But there are some that will help with and some are just so cheap that they continually shed. Maybe try it? And if you do, let me know if it helps! If not, I'll have to find some other ones I can link to that don't shed!