Painting is the most popular and practical home improvement project for most homeowners. It's not without its challenges though, like picking the right paint color or working on a ladder. But the sense of accomplishment once you've painted a room or maybe your front door, is worth the time and money invested. To help you achieve success with your painting projects, here is a list of my favorite painting tools.
Before we jump into the tools, let me share my thoughts about what makes these tools good. It's not just about painting, or at least not about a single painting project. My favorite painting tools include:
- Tools that will last a lifetime. That means spending more for a quality Purdy paint brush that should last 10, 20 or more years if you take good care of it (learn How to Clean Paint Brushes).
- Tools that can be used for multiple tasks, like a single 2 1/2 inch, angled brush for interior painting (and rollers). Don't buy what you don't need and don't have room to store. For example, don't be tempted by a package of three straight edge brushes that only lead to confusion as to which is best for a given task.
- Take time to learn how to use your painting tools, to insure they deliver the quality job you want. For example, the edgers used to “cut in” the boundary between the top of the wall and the ceiling take practice. You've got to learn how to add paint to the edger (enough, but not too much) and how to avoid getting paint on the ceiling.
The other thing you'll notice is my favorite painting tools are organized according to the steps you should follow to get the best results for your painting project. That's because prepping the surface(s) to be painted is actually the most important step, and often gets overlooked.
Best Painting Tools to Prep & Protect the Room
When you're painting a room indoors or the exterior, you want to protect the floors from paint splatter. Traditionally we've used drop cloths laid out on the floor/ground but they can easily slip.
Now there's a new sticky drop cloth from 3M, called the 3M Floor Gripper. Instead of taping down the edges of your old drop cloth, these new anti-slip runners have a tacky surface to keep them in place on wood, tile, carpet and even concrete. And they're 3.5 feet wide (various lengths) so there's less bulk to fold up and store for future painting projects.
If you also need to protect the trim around your doors and windows, 3M has another great product called the 3M Hand-Masker Film Kit. This product is used by professional painters to save time (watch them in action), so if you're going to be doing a fair amount of painting over the years, this could be a great investment for you.
My Favorite Painting Tools to Prep Paint Surfaces
Take a close look at your walls. You'll likely find one or several – stains, holes, nail pops, hairline cracks, torn drywall paper or other imperfections? All of these must be repaired before you start painting, or they'll show through the new paint and won't deliver the beautiful new room you expect. Here's a quick summary of the tools and materials you may need, depending on the types of problems you find.
- Drywall repair tools – hammer, pry bar, putty and/taping knife, utility knife and possibly a file or level.
- Drywall repair materials – drywall compound (spackle only if hole less than 1/8″ inch), drywall tape (paper or mesh), aluminum drywall patch material, stain blocking primer, a sanding sponge (fine grit) and texture if required to match existing wall.
If there is any possibility of grease on the walls from cooking, crayons or other greasy materials, you will need to wash down the walls with TSP (trisodium phosphate). It's the top choice for hard-to-clean surfaces, and works well on interior walls as well as outdoors, on wood, brick, stone and cement. Outdoors you can combine with household bleach to eliminate mold and mildew.
But TSP is toxic so you have to handle with care — wearing protective clothing and a respiratory mask, and insure you have enough ventilation when working indoors. Don't use TSP in bathrooms as it can damage metal, ceramic tile, grout and glass, and protect landscaping by working on a windless day, and hosing down shrubs before and after the job.
Once the walls are ready to be painted, there's one more step. You'll want to remove or tape off things you don't want to paint. These include doorknobs and hinges, light switches and outlets, the ceiling and trim around doors, windows and baseboards. We showed you the professional painter masker, and there's an older (cheaper) version that combines “painters tape and paper” to make the work go faster. From 3M, the Hand-Masker, it holds a roll of masking tape and a roll of paper, with a 6 inch (can extend to 12 inches) blade.
In addition to traditional blue painter's tape, there are new tools to protect hinges while painting.
- Hinge Mask (available on Amazon) is magnetic and snaps onto the hinges after you've taken the door off (recommended).
- Quickey-Stickey as the name suggests, is a sticky paper that you apply to the hinges and toss when done.
Time for Fun with My Favorite Painting Tools
We're ready to paint but chances are you've purchased a few gallons of paint. So first you need to pour some paint into a container and the paint spout is perfect for this, and make sure to get a flexible one that will fit a quart or gallon can. There are other pouring tools but some are sized for quarts or gallons and don't fall into the trap of buying storage ones, which make it more difficult to store leftover paint.
Picking your paint brushes takes a lot of thought, and don't be surprised that each painter has slightly different preferences. The features you'll want to consider are as follows, and remember you'll be holding your brushes for many hours.
- Type of brush – natural bristle with split/fuzzy tips (called flagging), blended nylon/polyester or polyester.
- Brush styles – include thin angle (slanted) sash for trimming corners/edges versus angle sash which holds more paint, is used for cutting in at the ceiling or painting trim. Flat sash and trim brushes are used when painting large, flat surfaces like exterior siding.
- Brush end types – chisel trim for corners and edges, square trim for applying paint over flat areas, or angled brushes for trim and cutting in where walls meet the ceiling.
- Brush sizes – vary from 1 to 6 inches. Thin (1 to 2 inches) are used for windows and other small trim, 3″ are good for doors, cabinets and furniture while 4″ brushes are used for large, flat areas.
You've got your paint, your brushes and it's time to start painting. You can't really hold onto a can of paint, so you'll find my favorite “handy paint pail” with a magnetic holder for your paint brush, a real time saver. And for large wall and ceiling areas, you'll want to use the “handy paint tray” that can hold up to a gallon of paint, although I'd probably not recommend this.
Right below you'll also see the ladders I couldn't live without. Found when running my handyman business, I kept them when I sold my business as they're indispensable. Now that my house in Florida has 9 ft, 4 in ceilings, I had to buy a taller ladder for simple things like changing light bulbs.
Best Tools to Clean Your Paint Brushes
Once you're done painting for the day, it's time to clean your paint brushes. With questions from our readers, we've written a series of articles sharing tips from professional painters on this topic. They use a wire brush when cleaning their paint brushes, to clean out all the paint that can hide inside the bristles. But the recommendation I loved the most is really simple … “don't forget to dry your brushes”.
And one of the most recognized painter's tools is the 5-in-1 tool that can be used as a gouger, scraper, putty remover, spreader and roller cleaner (to remove paint before you wrap the roller up overnight, or toss it out when done).
- Painting Cleanup: Learning from the Pros
- How to Clean Paint Brushes, Part 1
- Cleaning Paint Brushes, Part 2
Plus Lead Paint Safety Precautions
One last reminder when you're planning any painting projects inside or outside your home, is to check for lead paint. There's no need to worry if your home was built after 1978, but if your house is older, you'll want to test and make sure there's no risk of lead poisoning. We've got several articles to help you do this:
- Why Lead Paint is Everyone's Problem
- 4 Types of Lead Paint Detection
- Get started with your Lead Paint Detection Kit, which you can do yourself!
Good luck with all your painting projects. We'd love for you to share photos, especially before and after photos, and if we missed one of your favorite painting tools, let us know in the comment section below.