Using a paint roller

Using a paint roller is by far the easiest, quickest, and best way of painting wall and ceiling surfaces (lovers of paint pads may disagree with me here!). Although many manufacturers say that rollers can be used for oil-based paints, I only tend to use them for water-based paints (emulsions) – the exception being with mini-rollers, which can provide a good finish when applying an oil-based paint to flush doors for example. Therefore, my main concern here is for large rollers, using emulsion, on walls and/or ceilings. The basic technique for using a paint roller is shown below.

loading paint 1. Load paint onto a roller in the reservoir of the paint tray. Evenly distribute the paint by rolling over the ribbed section of the tray.
paint roller technique 2. Apply the paint to the wall surface in sections using light even pressure on the roller head.
how to paint walls with roller 3. Applying two bands of paint with one loading of paint on the roller is a good technique.
painting walls with a roller 4. Without reloading, lift the roller and work back across the area. Then reload the roller and move onto the next section of wall.

Paint roller tips

  • The best quality finish is achieved with the best quality rollers – try and opt for the most expensive options you can afford.
  • Fine or medium pile varieties are best for interior wall or ceiling surfaces.
  • An extension pole is the ideal tool, if you are painting a ceiling. The roller frame/cage simply fits on the end of the pole meaning that you don’t have to use a step ladder for high work like ceilings. Also consider using the pole when doing walls as it means you don’t have to keep bending down to do low areas and reaching up to do the higher wall areas.
  • You will still need a brush to cut in around the edge of a wall or ceiling.
  • Rollers can be temporarily stored by wrapping in cling film, so that you don’t have to wash them out every time you stop for a break, or between coats.
  • If your painting a ceiling, goggles are necessary and you may want to wear a cap to protect from paint splatters.
  • Medium pile roller sleeves are the most multipurpose, and best for the majority of interior wall surfaces. Only go for fine if the wall surface is very flat indeed.
  • For more information on paint rollers, please check out my ‘Paint roller buying guide’.


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