The DIY Painter’s Handbook

brushes and paint rolls, caption: The Painter's DIY Handbook

Sometimes a fresh coat of paint is all it takes to make a space feel brand new, but how do you get from color chip to paint brush? Our DIY handbook is your go-to guide for everything you need to know before paint touches the wall.

three pictures of red walls living room with different light conditions

See Color in a New Light

Put your color through the lighting test. The presence or absence of lighting in a room can dramatically change the way a color appears, so it’s important to make sure you love the color you’ve chosen in every light setting from natural to artificial. While a color chip is great for getting initial inspiration, painting a swatch on the wall you’re updating gives you the truest idea of how a color looks throughout the day. Our Color to Go® paint samples allow you to test the waters of the color you want for a fraction of the cost before you fully commit to gallons.

Not ready to paint a test swatch? No worries! If you’re still in the exploring stage, our Sherwin-Williams Color Expert™ app is available for download so you can visualize color options in your actual space before breaking out the brushes.

Pro Tip: Rooms that are flooded with natural light receive warm light that gives a yellow or reddish cast to colors. If your room faces north, it will receive cool, indirect light all day which can add a slight bluish cast to pure whites.

How much Paint is Enough?

You’ve found the perfect color – now it’s time to figure out how much you’ll need. Our Quick Calculation paint calculator gives you a general estimate based off wall measurements and the number of windows or doors your room might have. When you’re in the early stages of researching how much paint your project requires, a quick estimate like this is great for giving you a ballpark idea, but when you’re ready to start painting, you’ll want a detailed estimate that’s truer to your room’s features.

Our Custom Calculation paint calculator accounts for everything from wall texture to window trim size. Extra details like these create a more realistic estimate of how much square footage you actually have to coat. The more information you put in the better your estimate will be. After you’ve got your final calculation, stop by your neighborhood Sherwin-Williams to verify your paint amounts with one of our team members.

Pro Tip: It’s always better to have a little more paint than you need. Rounding up to the nearest gallon helps ensure optimal coverage. Plus, any leftover paint can be saved for future touch-ups down the road.

hands holding three light blue sheens: gloss, satin and matte

Getting the Sheen Right

Picking a sheen is just as important as picking the right color. Sheens include gloss, semi-gloss, satin, matte and flat. When you’re painting with gloss, your finish will be shiny and reflective, making it the perfect choice for areas you want to highlight like doors and cabinets. Semi-gloss finishes are less reflective than gloss finishes and their washability makes them a great option for rooms that are cleaned frequently like bathrooms and kitchens.

Satin finishes fall in the middle of the shine scale with a slight sheen that’s great for hiding imperfections in high-traffic areas prone to scuffs and nicks. On the opposite end of shine are matte and flat finishes. These are great for hiding surface imperfections because they soak up light instead of reflecting it. These sheens are best saved for low-traffic areas that don’t require a lot of cleaning.

Pro Tip: Flat sheens typically don’t offer the same washability of glossier sheens, but our Emerald® and Duration Home® interior acrylic latex paints come in a specially-engineered finish that makes a flat finish just as washable and durable as its glossy counterpart

Supply Essentials

Behind every successful project is a supply list that helps you get the job done. Our project checklist breaks down everything you’ll need from start to finish. Using this checklist before you start painting is a great way to take inventory of the supplies you already have and the ones you’ll still need to get. Do a run through before you head to the store to buy primer and paint, so you can pick up any additional supplies at the same time. Less trips leaves you with more time for working on your project.

brushes and rolls for house painting

Brushing and Rolling

Not sure whether you should use a brush or roller? It’s not a question of one or the other – you’ll need both when you’re painting a room. Rollers are great for covering more surface area, but they can’t reach the small corners and fine spaces like a brush can, so you’ll generally always start by cutting-in the room with a brush. Check out our Brush and Roller selection guide to make sure you’re using the best tool for your project. When you’re choosing an applicator, paying attention to everything from bristle material to roller size helps ensure you get the most out of your coating and a consistent looking finish.

Prepping and Priming

A little prep work goes a long way. Getting your room ready can save time by making the entire painting process run more efficiently. Once you’ve moved furniture and décor out of the way, wash your walls to remove any build-up that could prevent your paint from adhering properly. Use lukewarm water, mild soap and a sponge. If you run into any small holes or cracks after your walls have been washed, it’s important to repair them with a spackling or patching compound before you paint. Use a flexible putty knife to fill in the small holes and gently remove as much excess as you can right away – the more excess you get rid of the less you’ll have to sand*. Give your spackle a few hours to dry before smoothing it out with a fine grit sander.

Not sure if you need primer? If you’re painting new drywall or going from a dark color to a lighter one, priming is a step you might not want to skip, but primer does more than cover imperfections and old paint. Primers are specially-formulated products that help ensure your top coat of paint adheres to the wall properly while creating a base that brings out the true color and sheen of your paint. It might be an extra step in the process, but the results speak for themselves and prevent you from needing multiple coats of paint to cover what’s underneath. Use our Choosing a Primer guide to find the perfect solution for your project.

Pro Tip: If you’re painting your room in a darker color, it’s best to use our p-shaded tinted primer instead of a white primer so you can achieve the depth and richness of the color in less coats.

Ready for Painting:

Once your wall repairs are finished and the dust from sanding has been brushed away, use painter’s tape to cover your trim. Using longer strips of tape, instead of multiple shorter strips, helps prevent paint from leaking through. Once your trim is taped off and secured, lay down a drop cloth to protect your floor from any accidental paint spills. If you’re using a paper or plastic drop cloth, you can tape the edges of the drop cloth to the floor with painter’s tape to keep it from sliding around while you work. After your drop cloth is in place, lay out the painting supplies you checked off on your list and open your can of primer – it’s time to paint!

Upload or tag your finished project photos with #SWColorLove for a chance to be featured in our gallery. Not ready to share? Visit our gallery in the meantime to get color inspiration for your next DIY project.


  1. I purchased a home with kitchen cabinets that have a vinyl coating on the doors. this coating is known as “thermafoil”. Can you recommend a paint that i can use to refinish the cabinet doors ?

    Stephen Rogacki Sr.
  2. I have plain wood cabinets and want to paint them. What type/kind of paint I need to purchase to do this? There is no paint, just a very light (worn) finish on them.

  3. I have a three seasons room that is finished in tung a grove pine board with I think is a shellac finish, which covers the walls and ceiling, but also has a large number of windows units that lets a good deal of light in. We would like to refinish in a light shade of paint. Is this possible to do over the shellac finish? What would the process be to accomplish this job?

    Joel F Murphy
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Joel! Painting over shellac requires prep work, but is possible. We recommend cleaning the surface with a mild detergent or degreaser. Once cleaned, apply a test sample of Extreme Bond Primer in an inconspicuous area and allow to dry properly and test for adhesion. Once you have established good bonding/adhesion, you can prime the entire surface and then topcoat.

  4. I want to paint cement block walls in my apartment. They currently are tan,I want gray and have a knock down texture. What primer, paint and tools do I need?

    Loris Metzger
  5. I am going to paint a brick wall in my loft, what steps do I need to take to start the process? What are the best primers, tools (brushes, paint rollers) and paints?

  6. I am looking for the best and easiest way to paint my stained and finished cabinets.

  7. I would like to paint the floor tiles in my kitchen. What would you recommend for paint, and to seal it.

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi JD! We do not typically recommend painting over tile floors, but if you are going to we recommend using Porch and Floor Enamel.

  8. I recently purchased some shipping containers and would like to paint them. They have a little rust on them. What would you recommend? And should we spray them or brush/roll them?

  9. Hi, I am wanting to paint the exterior red brick of my home. What primer and paint do you recommend and do you have an article on this subject?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Teresa! Consider using Loxon® Concrete and Masonry Primer and Loxon® Self-Cleaning Acrylic Coating.

  10. What is the terra cotta color shown at the top in the three different lights?

  11. i am about to paint my home it has been primed many times but never painted. What process do you recommend. Also the roof is caramel brown, i am considering a rich cream to yellow for the wall. what do you recommend.

    Dale Dickson
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hello Dale, take a look at Aged White SW 9180 or Stucco SW 7569 for a creamy complement to your caramel brown roof.

  12. I painted my kitchen First Star. On a few walls it looks light grey but a few walls look white. Any suggestions for a color that would look light grey on all the walls? Maybe just a shade darker?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hello there, the next two darker shades from First Star SW 7647 are Big Chill SW 7648 and Silverplate SW 7649.

  13. I want to repaint my stair risers. What time of paint do you recommend? Do I need a primer? They are currently already painted.

  14. Hi
    My walls are colonnade gray and doors are Pavestone and I love the combo but now I’m looking for beige colors with a great combo like the colonnade gray and Pavestone but in the beige family.

    Debbie Patterson
  15. Hi, I desperately need to finish getting my bedroom painted since I have new furniture arriving soon. . But the weather here in Ohio gold colder sooner than I planned. It has been in the teens at night, warming to the 40’s during the day. I have plaster walls and they are cold to the touch when the temps drop low. Is it okay to paint when it’s this cold? Any advice? The can of Emerald paint I’m using recommends 50 degrees-but I’m unclear as to if that means inside or outdoor temp. Thanks for any suggestions.

    Debbie Miranda
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Debbie, as long as the bedroom where you are painting is heated and above 50°F you are okay to paint. The Product Data Sheet recommends four hours for drying time between coats. Allowing for extra dry time between coats is also a good option in a colder space. Hope this helps!

  16. Hi, I am trying to paint on a corrugated metal roll up garage door with medium traffic. What products do you recommend to make this last over the years with as little damage to the paint as possible?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Annalise,
      We think that Duration Exterior would be a good product for this job. Give us a call at your local store for more information!


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