Apr 7, 2007

Painting with a roller

Paint efficiently with a proven system and $20

By Jack Pauhl

Originally Published Jan 1999 on paintreview.com

In this article, we’ll teach you an advanced painting system and the tools required to quickly apply a smooth, consistent coat of paint. We’re going to show you how to avoiding common problems such as light or heavy spots and roller marks.

The best system will not work with poor-quality tools. Selecting the proper roller cover is the first step. It’s important to purchase a quality roller cover designed for your project and the paint you plan to spread. Quality roller covers will have a plastic core, tapered edges and not shed fibers.

When selecting a roller cover, remove it from the plastic bag; grasp one end of the cover, quickly and lightly using the thumb and index finger of your other hand, run your thumb and finger down the cover a few times. Loose fibers indicate a poor quality cover.

Poor-quality covers will continue to shed each time you run your hand down the cover. Tiny fibers will end up stuck in the paint finish leaving you with less than desirable results. Quality covers will shed very few fibers if any. Generally, white woven nap covers are good for semi-gloss, eggshell or low sheen paints. White woven covers can be used with flat paints but may add more time and energy rolling.

Selecting a quality roller frame is the next step. Stay away from cheap throw away all-in-one paint kits. You can clean up and reuse a quality set and have it for years for about $20. Look for a rigid 90º roller frame. A quality frames cage will have noticeably heavier metal in comparison to the cheaper frames. Be sure your roller cover fits the frame.

Our next step is selecting a roller pan, roller pans come in various sizes. The largest pan is 21” which accommodates an 18” roller frame. Look for the next size down, 13” deep-well tray which accommodates a 9” frame and holds 3 quarts of paint, now available in plastic and metal. Plastic throw away liners used in conjunction with metal pans are also available for changing colors quickly without much cleanup. Simply toss away the liner.

The last tool we need is an extension pole. Professionals use a telescoping extension pole that attaches to the end of the handle on the roller frame. Extension poles can be costly but an inexpensive alternative is a threaded wood handle found at paint stores. Be sure the roller frame has a threaded end (most do), not socket and pin style unless you are purchasing that particular set.

Shopping List

1 – Roller Cover ½”
1 – Roller Frame 9”
1 – Roller Pan 13”
1 – Wood Extension Pole

Benefits of quality tools go beyond having them around for years; you will work more efficiently.
Here’s a quick TIP

How to get started with immediate professional results. If your project requires more than 1 gallon of paint, it is necessary to pour all single gallons into a single larger bucket called boxing the paint. By boxing (mixing) the paint, you make sure any differences in tint between gallons are mixed together. This is important! Colorant or tint machines are known to produce slight varying results between gallons. You can purchase a color in the morning and another gallon the same color in the evening and the two may be slightly off.

Always be sure to have enough paint to complete the project, and never leave the paint store without checking the color of each gallon.

Let’s get started painting.


Pour approximately ¾ of a gallon of paint into the deep-well pan. Place the roller cover on the frame and load the roller cover in the pan using a sweeping motion down the ramp of the pan. Allowing the roller cover to spin slightly until the roller cover is loaded with paint (as shown on the left). Repeat the motion approximately 12 times; make sure the entire surface of the cover is heavily loaded. Allow the loaded cover to sit on the ramp for 5 minutes. This process is called marinating the cover. When you return, most if not all the paint that you loaded initially should be absorbed into the cover. Proceed by loading the cover a few more times down the ramp. This load will be placed on the wall. Screw the wooden extension pole into the handle of the roller frame.


Starting from a corner and assuming you cut-in everything doing the ceiling line last, place the loaded cover on the center of the wall. Avoid using too much pressure. Move the roller up the wall first approximately 2’ then roll back down another 2’ from center starting position. Proceed up the wall past your last position then back down further than the previous pass. Continue this gradual up and down motion until you reach the top and bottom of the wall. If the paint appears too light or you find yourself pressing hard on the wall for coverage, take another lighter load and finish the area in the same manner. If you have too much paint, gradually move the cover over into the next area until you reach the desired results.

QUICK TIP – If you need to take a break for any reason try to complete the wall first.

Simply repeat STEP 2 over and over slightly overlapping the previous section as you move down the wall to the next corner. Keep a wet look. It may be necessary to work a 3’ wide area consistency before you proceed across the wall.

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