Painting tools buying guide

Painting tools buying guide

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Want to paint your walls and woodwork but do not know what tools you need? Completing paint work is really just a matter of brushes and solvents. Masking tape, tarpaulin, and scrapers, with this guide, you can save yourself a lot of frustration.

Important features

  • Solvent and solvent
  • Roller, brush and brush
  • Scraper and knife
  • Mixer and tray
  • Protection
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Which tools are needed to paint?

Rollers, brushes and guns are some of the basic tools used for painting. Rollers and brushes are chosen according to the substrate, the type of paint, and the desired finish.

A paint gun is a very practical choice, it adapts to many types of paints but can be difficult to control if you’re new to this type of project.

Scrapers will serve you well with finishing or even in preparation. Paint bins are impossible to circumvent and the telescopic poles will save you having to use a stepladder.

As for the putty knives, they are necessary if you have to repair cracks or holes in the substrate.

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Putty knives

When is a roller and a brush used?


A roller is used to paint large surfaces such as walls, ceilings, etc., especially if you will be tackling this kind of project frequently. It is made up of a few main components:

  • Sleeve - it is the cylindrical ‘brush’ that spreads the paint on the substrate. The quality of the finish is almost wholly reliant on this part of the roller. It is made of synthetic, natural, or mixed fibres. Each type of fibre is suited to different kinds of paint and different painting projects. For example, if you use a water-based paint, the synthetic fibres will cling better and apply it more evenly. For an oil painting, equipping your roller with a natural or mixed fibre sleeve will serve you better.In addition to the material, you must also decide on the length of the fibres. Longer fibres work better on rough surfaces while the shorter fibres should be reserved for smooth surfaces. Beyond these basics, you can find special sleeves suited to each project or material such as plaster or wood treatment. But for starters, just look for the one that will drop the least paint on you.

  • The Frame – this is the wire support that holds the sleeve and connects it to the handle. It should be chosen according to the size of the sleeve. Most current models allow you to simply slide the sleeve on snuggly or to snap on an end-cap to hold it in place.

  • Handle – these are usually made of wood or plastic, it should be ergonomic and comfortable in your hand.

If you have the option, look for a roller that completely disassembles into at least these three parts. This will make it much easier to clean when you are done using it and means you only have to replace one part as it begins to wear instead of replacing the whole roller. Avoid single use rollers with an attached sleeve.


Brushes offer similar options to rollers. The material, size, and shape of the brush you choose are largely determined by the type of work you need to perform. In general, however, brushes are used for painting small surfaces such as frames, baseboards, or furniture and for edge work, touch-ups, and finishing on larger projects. Here are some of the things to consider when selecting the right brush for your project:

  • The ShapeRectangularbrushes are used similarly to a roller. They cover large areas evenly with paint. Edge brushes have angled bristles to help you get in close when painting in corners or along baseboards. Round Brushes are perfect for dabbing paint into hard to reach spaces on furniture or in ornate moulding or woodwork.

  • The Size – Different types of painting call for different size brushes. You shouldn’t try to use the same to paint a wall as you would paint along all the corners and joints on a piece of furniture. This one is straightforward; painting a large area is easier with a larger brush, painting a smaller area or painting precisely is easier with a smaller brush. Adjust your choice accordingly.

  • The Bristles – As with the roller sleeve, paint brushes come in a few different materials but your choice is usually limited to the same selection of natural, synthetic, or mixed bristles. In addition to this, you can pick bristles of different lengths as certain jobs are served better by longer or shorter bristles. As a general rule to follow, if your painting project requires you to paint long, straight, clean lines, you should pick a brush with long bristles. If your project requires very precise painting and a high level of accuracy and mobility, pick a brush with short bristles. For most projects, however, you should be served fine with something in-between.

As with many tools, with paint brushes, you get exactly what you pay for. If you try to save a few pounds by picking a cheap, you will find yourself sorely disappointed in the end. There is nothing more unpleasant than finding a bunch of bristles stuck in your finished paint job.

A good quality brush is a wise choice. Because of their quality, elasticity, and durability, natural bristles are preferable to synthetic ones. If you apply acrylic paints, however, synthetic bristles are better. As for the handle, whether wood or plastic, the thing to remember is that a long handle is usually more comfortable and more versatile.

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Should I use a paint gun?

A paint gun is a great way to save time, but should only be used if you already know what you’re doing. A compressed air gun can quickly cover a large area with a very even coat and can also be used to paint small objects. Be careful where you point it!

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Paint gun

How to protect the floor and furniture

To avoid covering every part of a room in the paint, always put a protective covering such as a tarpaulin, plastic film, painter’s tape, or other protective accessories before starting. Between the different types available, base your choice on the size, durability, and type of project you’re working on. For large projects, the plastic film can be an appealing choice as it is cheap and comes in large rolls to cover a whole room. The downside is that it is not reusable and tears easily.Cloth tarpaulin is reusable and easily cleaned but very thin paints can sometimes leak through. Heavy duty polyurethane tarps are resistant to tears and leaking but are more expensive than the other options.For delicate areas or to protect any surface that you don’t plan on painting, masking tape is your best ally. This is simple paper or cloth tape with a light adhesive on the back that won’t damage the surface you use it on. Use protect your baseboards or to mark the edges of your paint job.

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Masking tape

Choosing a bin and paint screen

To work like a professional, a painter’s tray and paint edgers should be added to your list of tools

Painter’s tray

While a paint bucket will work for paint brushes, to properly use a roller you will need a painter’s tray. By dipping the roller in the reservoir at the bottom of the tray and then rolling it along the striated deck above you get an even layer of paint along the whole sleeve. For the best result, always pick a tray that is bigger than your roller. If you need to use a stepladder, look for a painter’s tray with legs or brackets that will easily attach to the steps on your ladder.

Paint edger

A paint edger, for its part, is used to create a neat line wherever your paint job meets other walls, wallpaper, tiling, baseboards, trim, etc. Simply place the edger along the border between the area you want to paint and the area you do not. The longer the edger is the less you will have to move it as you paint.  Paint edgers can also be found with 45° or 90° angles to help you get into tight spaces and corners.

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Paint edgers

What are the benefits of a paint kit?

Acquiring a painting kit is advantageous because it will come with the basic tools you will need for most painting projects. But as these kits vary, shop around for one that best meets your needs. If you don’t own any painting tools, it is better to look for a kit that contains the essential tools at a good price: brushes of different sizes, roller sleeves and frames, a putty, and a paint tray.If you are looking for something to complement your existing tools, there are kits that offer only a few tools for specific tasks. These kits can be particularly handy for specific uses, but it is still often better to choose your tools one by one.

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Painting kit

When to use a boom?

A painter’s boom is an alternative to a stepladder when you have to paint someplace out of reach. It’s often more convenient. First, look for a boom with an adjustable telescopic handle that adapts to the desired length. Second, look for a swivelling head that gives you better access to beams, cornices, and other irregular surfaces.

When is a paint booth used?

A painting booth is always advisable if you want impeccable results. It allows applying paints, varnishes, etc. while preventing any risk of exposure to VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which can be released as they dry. They also suck up any undesirable particles which would ruin the finish of your painting project and makes it possible to paint without worrying about dust.Paint booths are usually used with airbrush guns. This tool is great if you’re setting up a workshop, but you’re unlikely to have one if you’re painting your kitchen or living room.

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Paints, varnishes, etc.

How to choose a good cleaner for your brushes

After each painting session, your tools need to be pampered, especially when using an oil based paint. When buying a cleaner, look for one that will clean your rollers and brushes thoroughly without stripping their intrinsic properties. High-quality cleaners will remove only the paint without making the fibres or bristles stiff, dry, and brittle. If your brush or roller bristles are too dry or poorly cleaned, there are brush and roller restorer available as well.Painting and varnishing are jobs that require the use of solvent and thinners to dilute oil paints. White mineral spirits are the most familiar. To remove any trace of glue or varnish, acetone should be used. Above all, pay attention to the type of container you use and the work surface, the materials should be nonreactive with these products.Gloves are also highly advisable as these products can be very harmful if they come in contact with your skin. When using a water-based paint such as latex paints, no solvents or cleaners are necessary. Just use water to clean your tools.

How to prepare your paint and surface

To prepare your walls or surface for painting, three elements are essential.

Putty knife

Before embarking on painting, you must first fill in any cracks or holes with plaster and make your work surface perfectly smooth. To do this, you’ll need a putty knife which comes in stainless steel, polyamide, or aluminium among other materials. In this choice, the main criterion to consider is lifespan.

Stainless steel is a tempting choice, it cleans up easily and, as long as the coating remains intact, it should last a while without corrosion. Steel knives with a higher percentage of carbon promise greater strength and flexibility along with a longer lifespan but must be cleaned and cared for properly or they are prone to rust and corrosion.

The material of the handle is also a crucial decision. Plastic often offers a more ergonomic shape however wood handles are easy to maintain and offer greater comfort. The width of the blade is determined by the type of work, but for truly professional results you will require a range of sizes from narrow to wide. To achieve the best results, apply a liberal amount of plaster over the crack or hole with the narrowest knife you have.

Use the blade to fill in the and then to scrape away the excess. Once this has dried, select a knife one size larger and go over with fresh plaster, repeating the same process. Continue repeating until you have used your largest size knife once that layer of plaster has dried go over with very fine grit sand paper to create the smoothest finish.


To make your work impeccable with a minimum of effort, use a scraper. The choice depends on the surface you're working on, the material, and its appearance. Triangular scrapers, window scrapers, moulding, or angle, whatever your project you can find a tool to fit it. There are not many criteria to choose from here. Once you have selected the shape you need, just look for one that fits your hand comfortably. Models with interchangeable blades are far more convenient and will pay off in the long run.

Paint mixer

Mixers are crucial if you are starting a large painting project. They allow you to combine the paint from several canisters and mix the pigment to create a consistent colour. You can homogenize your paint with a hand mixer or a rotary mixer which can be mounted onto a drill.

The rotary mixer has one advantage, it can also be used to mix other building materials. Whatever mixer you end up choosing, make sure that you can keep a good grip on it to avoid spills or other accidents.

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Rotary mixer

You are nearly a confirmed painting expert. There a just few tools and accessories that will set you apart from other amateur DIYers. A sponge is crucial for cleaning stains, a pair of gloves, a smock or coveralls to protect your skin and clothing, and a mask to protect against VOCs. If you still have questions, consult with this short buyer’s guide:  How to choose your paint.

Here is a short list to review the tools you will need to make yourself an expert painter:

  • Rollers for painting large surfaces

  • Brushes for details and finishing

  • Paint trays and buckets for holding your paint while you work

  • Masking tape, tarpaulin, or covers save you time cleaning up excess paint

  • A painter’s boom for painting your high surfaces or ceilings

  • A mixer to keep your paint consistent throughout your project

  • Cleaners and solvents to maintain your tools properly

And now you’re ready!

Learn More

If you want to know more about painting you can consult our guides:

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Guide written by:

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

First of all, my studies have nothing to do with decoration or DIY as I was specialised in management. My passion in DIY started 5 years ago (very recently!) Everything started when we bought a house to renovate from floor to ceiling. As I’m a self-taught person, I started working on different house projects both inside and outside. My husband helped me but the student soon overtook the teacher! And as there are a lot of green spaces in Wales, gardening tools have no secrets for me. My friends and family often come to me for advice when it comes to DIY. Today, I want to share this knowledge with you!

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