Painting is one of the most common DIY jobs — but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. Use our fuss-free guide to get the work done, minus the spills and stress.

Painting seems like a simple enough job to do yourself, but getting it right can be difficult. Even trickier? Doing it without mess. However, with the right approach and preparation, it can be done. Just follow our no-nonsense guide below.


First, declutter as much of the room as you can — having fewer pieces of furniture around while you’re painting equals fewer pieces of furniture that can be ruined by errant paint drops. Next, get detailed: remove electrical outlet covers and light fittings — this is actually easier than applying tape (and it also gives you the opportunity to clean them). Finally, protect everything by laying down plastic drop sheets. Tape them down overlapping each other to avoid any trips and also to stop spills from seeping through to the floor.


The proper paint tools can really cut down on the chance of mess. If you’re using a roller, get the right nap (this refers to the length of the fibres on the cover). Long naps are best for textured walls, while short naps suit flat walls. Using a long nap cover on a flat wall will lead to paint spatters. Similarly, there are different fabrics for covers depending on the kind of paint you’re using (i.e. water-based or solvent-based). Check with your paint supplier to see which one suits your job best. Finally, invest in good-quality brushes if that’s what you’re using: cheap brushes tend to shed their bristles… all over your freshly painted walls.


Yes, the way you paint matters. To reduce stuff-ups, roll with slow, controlled movements. Don’t overload the brush with paint — this will lead to unsightly drips. Soak the brush to about one-third of its length, and then reapply with small amounts as needed. Finally, when you’re doing intricate work, hold the paintbrush like a pencil, not a hammer, as this offers more control.


If you’re painting again tomorrow, simply cover everything with cling wrap or foil to keep it from going dry or leaving paint marks.

When you’re completely finished, wash rollers, brushes and trays with water (for water-based paints) or mineral turpentine (for solvent-based). Air-dry and wrap in dry newspaper to store.


If you have leftover paint, dispose of it properly — never (seriously, ever) pour paint down a household or storm-water drain.

For water-based paints, you can buy paint-hardener products — you simply mix the solution into the paint and it forms a solid mass, which you can then throw away in your regular bin. For solvent-based paints, pour the excess onto an absorbent surface (like kitty litter or shredded paper). Throw it away once it’s dry, and toss the empty can into the recycling bin.

For large quantities of paint, contact your local council — they’ll have a proper disposal system.


If you’ve managed to get paint on your skin, or through your hair or on your clothes, don’t panic — it’s actually pretty easy to clean up. For skin, first up: never use a paint remover. This harsh stuff is for walls and furniture, not your precious epidermis. Simply rub the affected areas with a small amount of vegetable oil (coconut, olive, grapeseed and so on) until the paint has been removed. If it’s stubborn, you can add a little rubbing alcohol (but, beware, this thing really dries skin out, so don’t use too much).

If you’ve got paint through your hair, simply wash it as normal and then apply an extra-thick layer of conditioner. While the conditioner is soaking in, brush your hair with a fine-toothed comb and watch as the flakes fall away (bonus: your hair will be super soft).

And as for clothes, it’s best to wait until the paint dries. Wet the marked area with water and then saturate it with rubbing alcohol. Use a stiff brush (an old toothbrush works just as well) to scrub away the stain until it’s gone.