Paint Like a Pro: Interior Paint & Prep Checklist


If it’s time to add a fresh look to your space, a coat of paint can do wonders. But before you grab a brush, you’ll need to prep your walls and protect your floors and furniture. Use this checklist to get everything ready before you paint.


You want your new paint job to look fantastic. If there are any imperfections, cracks, bumps, holes, etc., they need to be fixed before painting. If you think the paint will just smooth things over, you’d be wrong.

First, clean and dust your walls using a towel or a vacuum. In a kitchen or bathroom, you’ll want a mild soapy water solution, such as a few teaspoons of laundry detergent to a gallon of water.

Next, carefully examine walls for cracks, dents, etc. Use a putty knife and some spackling compound to fill holes or dents. Make sure it dries completely. Then, grab fine grit sandpaper to smooth the repaired areas, as well as any plaster bumps.

Remove everything you can from walls, including faceplates and HVAC registers. Move furniture out of the way and cover floors and furniture with drop cloths or plastic. Canvas cloths are best because they can be reused and they’re very durable and absorbent, whereas plastic is slippery and spilled paint could easily be tracked.

Tools needed:

  • Dust cloths or floor duster
  • Towels or rags
  • Putty knife and spackling
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Painters tape
  • Drop cloths


Protect wall sconces and trim in your room with painters tape. Here’s a tip: adhesion levels vary for painter’s tape. Some are meant for textured walls, and others for surfaces like finished wood or wallpaper. Be sure to press the tape flat all over so you don’t get bleed through.

For textured ceilings, you can take a screwdriver and scrape it along the outer edges to create a flat, unnoticeable surface. This will make painting a straight edge much easier.


A high-quality primer will help cover minor imperfections. If you’re painting new drywall, a water-based primer is fine. However, if painting a room with any water or smoke damage, or if you’re painting paneling, then use an oil-based primer.

“Cutting in” is creating an outline on the room walls. Take a 2-3 inch brush and carefully prime all edges taking care around trim, baseboards, door frames and windows.

Pro tip: although some people cut the whole room, you’ll get a better look if you only cut in one wall at a time and then paint the wall. This will allow the wet paint to blend nicely giving you a consistent sheen.

Paint the primer in 3’ x 3’ sections. To hide seams and roller marks, many people use a “W” pattern on the wall; start in the corner and paint a 3’ x 3’ W and then fill it in without lifting the roller.

Once the primer is dry, take the very fine sandpaper and lightly sand off any bumps or ridges. Then wipe the wall with a damp towel or sponge.

Supplies needed:

  • Primer and your paint
  • Paint can opener
  • Stir sticks
  • Roller covers
  • 2-3 inch paint brushes
  • Paint trays
  • Gloves
  • Extension pole for the roller


After all that, you’re finally ready to paint! Be sure to remix your paint with a stir stick. To avoid any color inconsistencies, the pros recommend that once you use a half-gallon of paint, pour paint from the other gallon and mix them.

Cut the walls again, and follow the same “W” process as priming, working top to bottom and not picking up the roller. If another coat is needed, be sure you let the first coat dry completely.


You’re almost done! Remove the tape at a 45-degree angle. If any of it sticks, use a utility knife to carefully cut through the paint and lift the tape. Now, stand back and admire your beautiful new room (and all of your hard work)!

Get even more tips and how-to instruction from Valspar!