DIY Tutorial – 3 Tips To Paint Surfaces Like a Pro

teal paint on old plastic chair
DIY – Painting Old Chairs

Honestly speaking , paint jobs are one of the easiest Do – It – Yourself ( DIY) projects.

But there is a single biggest reason why DIYers end up dissatisfied with the final look of their paint project . They don’t give enough importance to surface preparation prior to paint and end up with a lousy paint job . Surface prep plays a big role in the final look and the longevity of your paint job.

I am listing 3 general tips you need to follow when you paint any surface.(Common ones are Wood,Metal,Plastic or a wall of your room )

Important Note : Ensure personal safety  

Even if you plan to paint a small object , it’s important to take sufficient safety precaution.

Always wear protective gear like gloves and a dust mask while working with paint . Ensure that you have a well ventilated,dust free working space . Cover the area with a cotton drop cloth or an old bed sheet. This will reduce the time required for cleaning up the spills and spatter .

Covering Up the Surface before paint . (Image source : Taelynn Christopher work on Unsplash.)

Tip 1 : Cleaning the surface 

Thoroughly wipe the surface with a clean cloth to remove all the accumulated  dust ,dirt or grease. Use a detergent or a cleaning chemical, if required.(Especially in case of old metal or wood surface). With a scraper or a blunt knife remove all the loose,cracked paint layers . Also remove stickers or labels , if any . Leave the surface to dry completely.

If the surface is not clean , it will offer poor adhesion to new paint making it prone to flaking or peeling in future .

Tip 2 : Sanding down the surface

Sanding is the process of smoothing a surface by grinding or rubbing with an abrasive such as a sandpaper. Sandpapers are categorised on the basis of Grit size which is usually a number. Smaller number means coarse grit, while a large number indicates a fine grit. Sanding gives a roughened surface or a “tooth” for paint to adhere/ latch onto .

  • For Wood, use a medium or fine grit sandpaper ( P100 or P220). Sand till smooth if its fresh/bare wood and sand lightly for previously painted one.  
  • For Plastic,sand gently with a fine grit sandpaper (P320 or P400 ) as it tends to scratch easily . Focus on shiny smooth areas as paint finds it difficult to stick on these areas.
  • Don’t sand Glass surface as it tends to scratch easily. 
  • Metal** surface should be sanded to get rid of rust or scales ,if any . Scratches on metal are clearly visible hence sand them very lightly using fine grit sandpaper (P220, P320 or P400 ).

** Note- On Galvanized surface paint sticks very poorly and it requires additional action to prepare them for paint .

Sanding wooden surface

Just keep in mind that you don’t damage your surface while sanding. Sand gently in circular motions to reduce scuff marks. As sanding generates a lot of dust , always wear gloves and a dust mask. Prefer open spaces or cover your workspace well  to protect it from the dust. 

After sanding wipe clean the surface with a soft damp cloth followed by a dry lint free cloth. It’s easy to clean this fine dust with a damp cloth but if you use a cloth too wet you’ll get a chalky layer of moist dust on your surface.

Once you finish cleaning let the surface dry properly as moisture can ruin your paint .

Tip 3 : Prime the surface

Why do we need to prime ?

DIYers usually work with old, previously painted surfaces. Priming gives you a clean slate to start and helps you get a smooth paint finish for dilapidated projects . It also help to protect the original surface from ageing due to exposure.(especially for wood and metal )

Primer has two purpose mainly :

  • Primer increases durability of your paint . It acts as a middle layer and improves the adhesion of paint to surface. This save your new paint from peeling or chipping in future . 
  • Primer gives excellent finish to your DIY paint job while keeping it economical as they are cheaper than paint . After 2 coats of primer, single coat of top layer paint is generally enough for a smooth finish . If you don’t use primer you will need extra paint coats for similar finish .

Primer is very helpful when you are trying to change color ,especially while going from darker shade to lighter one.

Pick a primer based on the paint you are using and the material of the surface. There are different types of  primer available for wood, masonry, metal, etc. Two coats of primer are sufficient with enough drying time between each coat .

Please note, for glass surface, you can directly apply the paint . 

Giving base coat before paint

General care tips :

Following points will come in handy if you are a beginner who is starting a DIY paint project :  

  • Cover up or fill any dents or holes in your project before you apply primer/paint . Depending on the surface the method may vary for this.
  • Multiple coats are important. This extra step will provide longer life and smoother finish to your paint . It’s advisable to invest a little more time and do that second coat. 
  • While working with multiple layers , let your surface dry completely before you proceed to the next step. 
  • If you are a beginner ,be very careful while sanding.  Always start with a fine grit size as they can’t cause much damage to your project. You can move down  to a smaller  grit size once familiar with sanding.  
  • Delay or avoid in humid conditions as it means drips and slow drying for paint.
  • For cleaning your surface always use a clean lint free cloth . 

Lastly,as a rule of thumb remember that the time spend in preparing the surface decides the final outcome . Now that your surface is ready you can go ahead and finish your paint job like a pro. Happy painting !

PS – This article only meant to give beginners a general idea .  After knowing the basics you will be equipped at handling your project requirements.  This post does not cover all the possible details for different scenarios .

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