At Home with Marni Jameson: How not to pick a painter – and other painting advice

Here are 10 tell-tale signs that an amateur is on the job, along with and tips to paint like a pro:

Outlets are painted over. A sure sign that an amateur painted a room is that the electrical outlets or switches are painted over, or worse, the outlet covers. Slacker, you have to take the outlet covers off and paint around switches and plugs.

Nail holes have too much spackle. Non-pros tend to overfill nail holes, so patches look obvious, like too much cover-up on a zit. Just use a tiny amount of spackle, enough to fill the hole, and don’t let it extend beyond the edges. 

They use masking tape. Using masking tape instead of blue painter tape is another non-pro move.  

They have a color blind spot. Because professionals have seen a lot of paint go up, they can often foresee how a swatch will translate, and can see a paint mistake before it hits the wall. The rest of us need to sample paints before committing and gnash our teeth for a while, which I recommend. But here’s help: After sharing last week that I painted a dozen, 12-inch squares of drywall a variety of colors to test them, a reader told me (too late) about Small Wall. 

Their lines aren’t straight. A crisp, straight line where color meets ceiling or trim is the hallmark of a pro paint job. It’s all in the brush, though practice helps. “Don’t buy a cheap brush,” an expert says “or you will end up with a mess.” 

They skimp on roller covers. Likewise, though it’s tempting to buy cheaper roller covers, which often have thin pile, spending a bit more for a roller with a thick ¾-inch pile will let you apply more paint, more easily and uniformly.

They use cheap paint. “The price difference between the lowest-cost paint in a line and premium quality is not that much,” says an expert, “but well worth it.” 

They go too easy on the paint. Pros know to lay paint on thick. A wall needs to have a certain paint thickness for the coverage to last. Using good-quality paint, a good roller and a couple of coats will yield professional results.

They leave a mess. Non-pros often leave roller marks of wall color on the ceiling, drops on the floor, and the lower half of walls not completely covered. To avoid ceiling marks, first cut in with a brush, painting several inches from the top and bottom of walls; then roll paint in the middle. Use cloth tarps, not plastic.