How to paint a wall – give any room the perfect backdrop

Paint your walls like a decorating pro with our step by step guide

A fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference in any room scheme. Whether refreshing the existing colour or choosing to makeover a room with a change of colour completely, the way you prepare and how you paint is just as important as the shade you choose. While painting walls may seem like one of the easier DIY and decorating jobs, if you don't know the tips and tricks to ensure the best results it can prove disastrous.

Give your walls the love they deserve in every room of your home with our step-by-step guide, to achieve a clean and professional look. See the full tutorial on the video below:

How to paint a wall – what you'll need

  • Dust sheets
  • Decorator's tape or frog tape
  • Sanding block and sand paper
  • Sugar soap
  • Polyfiller and scraper
  • Paint brush
  • Roller and tray
  • Primer and paint 

Painting a wall – step by step

1. Choose your paint

different colors of paints with painting brush

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Bridget Peirson)

Before you start choose the paint colour and determine the best finish for the look you want. Matt is contemporary and will conceal flaws. A mild sheen is best for light colours as it captures subtle shades within the colour, especially neutrals. A silk finish will bring out the depth of the shade and will achieve a liquid when used with a dark colour.

2. Prepare the room

plastic sheet

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Cover and move all your furniture and soft furnishings. Cover the floors with dust sheets or newspaper. Protect your woodwork and ceilings by taping along the edges using masking or Frog tape. Next mask off skirting boards and coving with decorator's or Frog tape.

3. Repair damaged walls

women polishing on white wall

(Image credit: Future PLC)

To ensure a smooth finish, sand the surface that you are going to paint.

women scrapping white wall with flat scrapper

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Fill in any cracks or holes using filler and a flat scraper. Allow the filler to dry, the time will be determined by the instructions on the packaging (approximately 24 hours). Then re-sand those areas once set, to ensure the wall is completely even and smooth.

5. Clean and dry the surface

grey surface with water

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Wash all surfaces with a sugar soap solution, rinse thoroughly and dry. If your walls are in good condition and you are not going for a dramatic colour change there is no need to prime, however, it is recommended to achieve a professional-looking result.

6. Cut in with a paint brush

white wall with yellow paint

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Once the primer has dried (approximately 2-4 hours) it's time to start painting. Cut in about 1 to 2 inches with a paintbrush to achieve clean lines at the edges and corners.

7. Switch to the roller

white wall with yellow paint dipped paint roller

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Then use a roller to paint the larger areas. Start with a large 'V' shape and fill in the areas with a roller.

yellow paint roller

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Paint the whole wall with this method and leave to dry for again approximately 2- 4 hours.

8. Add a second coat

yellow paint with black tray

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Repeat the process with a second coat and remove the decorator's tape whilst the surface is still damp.

If you're keen to do more yourself you could also watch our video on How to wallpaper for an expert guide to hanging wallpaper with ease.

yellow wall and designed chair and plant

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme)

Now you know how it's done, you have the freedom to paint walls in any room – injecting colour and ensuring walls are looking fabulous.


Rachel Homer has been in the interiors publishing industry for over 15 years. Starting as a Style Assistant on Inspirations Magazine, she has since worked for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines and websites. After starting a family, she moved from being a content editor at to be a digital freelancer and hasn’t looked back.