Top Tips

Top tips for choosing paint colours

Follow your heart and go with what you love!

Don’t spend hours searching through countless colour charts looking for inspiration. You will quickly overwhelm yourself with the abundance of options and end up hating the whole process. 

Instead take a few moments to think about what you love. A piece of art? A piece of furniture? A fabric? Even a favourite piece of clothing. Now start to build a colour scheme around that. You should find that suddenly the colour charts that you were getting lost in make more sense and you can quickly discard 95% of their contents. 

Don’t allow others to sway you because of colours they’ve used. Different houses have different souls and light everyone has their own individual style. The more you listen to your heart the happier you will be with your choices! 

Top tips for decorating

What shall I paint and what shall I not paint?

As well as thinking about the areas you will be decorating, it’s wise to consider the areas you plan to leave and the impact your proposed work will have on them. Juxtaposition is key and relevant within the context of the room itself and the property as a whole. 

For example, you may be thinking of just painting the walls in your sitting room as you are bored of the colour. A brief glance upwards leads you to conclude that the ceiling looks fine so you choose your wall colour and crack on. However, once the walls have had any cracks filled and been freshly painted, your ceiling will probably look decidedly tired by comparison.

Cracks may be showing, revealing that your ceiling wasn’t fine at all, it just blended in with tired-looking walls. Now they are looking more chipper, the ceiling may be letting the whole room down. However it will be more of a challenge to paint the ceiling as you need to protect the freshly-painted walls to avoid getting little spots of paint all over them. 

Do I want the doors, windows and skirting boards painted?

This same logic can be applied to the woodwork in a room (ie the doors, frames, skirting boards, windows etc.) We will always break quotes down room by room and give a woodwork cost and a walls and ceilings cost. Just painting the walls and ceilings in a room, but not the woodwork, can often be a clever way to save time and money. However, be sure that you will be happy with the condition of the woodwork once the walls are painted. Also, we strongly recommend either painting all the woodwork or none of it for the same reason as given above. 

If painting a whole room in your house (including woodwork etc.) take a few moments to consider what impact a change in colour might have on surrounding areas. No one needs to have the same colour throughout their house but ideally there should be a certain degree of flow and a sense of all areas belonging together. Also be conscious of where your new colour(s) will stop. 

Sometimes this is blatantly obvious, other times less so, such as in an open plan layout where the dining area leads into the kitchen or the sitting room leads straight off the hallway. When working in unconventionally-shaped areas (such as open plan or loft spaces) it is time well spent taking a few moments to consider where each colour will stop and start to ensure you will be satisfied with the end result. Many a time we as decorators have found ourselves in a converted loft asking the question “is this bit wall or ceiling”?!

The best way to paint doors and frames

This is something so many people get wrong, even some professional decorators! Say you’re painting the woodwork in a bedroom in our subtle off-white Dream On. You should only use the new paint on the side of the door and frame relating to the bedroom you are painting. The hallway or corridor outside will have its own colour scheme going on so don’t try to include both sides of the door in your work to the room as this will look very odd from the outside when the door is shut. 

Before you start painting, stand outside the room and shut the door. Everything you now see should not be painted. It sounds obvious but when the door is open and you’re busy painting the frame it’s easy to lose your bearings and realise you’ve started painting the hallway woodwork.

Now open the door, the two edges of the doors should be included in the area they are now pointing towards. So if the door is opening into the room (as most do) the edge with the hinges will be treated as part of the hallway (i.e not painted if you’re only painting the room) and the edge next to the handle treated as part of the room (i.e painted).

Hopefully that all makes sense; if not just call us if you need to discuss! 

Different paint types and finishes explained

Paint comes in many different finishes and, to make things even more confusing, they often have different names. 

Put most simply, most people will use two types of paint in a room, one for the walls and ceilings, and a second for the woodwork. Let’s look at these two basic categories in a bit more detail:

Walls and ceilings: 99% of the time this will be some sort of emulsion, most commonly called matt emulsion. This is a water-based paint with a matt finish (i.e not shiny)

You can get other types of emulsion depending on the type of room or what will be going on in there. For example, we do a wipeable emulsion which is ideal for bathrooms, kitchens and high traffic areas. It literally does what it says on the tin – it can be wiped with a damp sponge, so sticky handprints will come off without taking off the paint. It is also moisture-resistant. 

Equivalent products purporting to do the same thing often have names such as soft sheen, vinyl silk (this is very shiny) bathroom paint, modern emulsion, intelligent emulsion or architect’s matt. 

Woodwork: In the past this was usually an oil-based paint that came in ether an eggshell or a gloss finish. Eggshell has the same kind of texture look an egg’s shell (hence the name) Gloss is very shiny and the opposite of matt. N.B Eggshell is the finish not the colour, so you can choose any colour you like in an eggshell finish. 

A few decades ago most people went for a gloss finish on their windows and doors. These days the majority of people prefer eggshell. Our eggshell is water-based and has been since 2007. These oil-based products have high VOC levels and give off the nasty smell and fumes associated with conventional paint. If you are going to use them we would advise steering clear of them when painting inside. 

Other woodwork paint names on the market include satin, satinwood, flat eggshell, architect’s eggshell, estate eggshell, modern eggshell, semi-gloss, flat oil, Tom’s Eggshell and Dave’s Porridge (OK we made that last one up!)

Always check when buying paint if it’s oil-based or water-based as this will affect the level of fumes, drying times (oil-based paint takes longer than water-based) and the cleaning products required to clean your brushes or any spillages. To make things more confusing it’s often not clearly-stated on the tin. Therefore a good indication is that if it says on the label it’s quick-drying and to use water to clean tools it’s likely to be water-based. Whilst if it recommends white spirit to clean your brushes with, it’s almost certainly oil based. 

Tools you’ll need; where to spend the money and where to save

So you’ve worked out which areas you’d like to decorate, you’ve chosen your paint (hopefully from PTTG!) and you’re ready to start, right? Not quite. You can’t apply the paint with your fingers and, like the other areas already covered, it’s worth giving the equipment you’re going to need a bit of thought before you start. 

Decorating is a time-consuming business so you want to make sure that a) you have the correct equipment and b) you don’t spend half your day running backwards and forwards to the local decorators merchant every time you realise there’s another thing you’ve overlooked.

Here’s our recommended shopping list to kit yourself out with a basic tool kit:

  • Drop sheets/ plastic protection (ideally recycled plastic and ensure you depose of it responsibly afterwards; we recommend First Mile Recycling who we use for all our rubbish collection)
  • Sandpaper
  • Masking/ low tack tape (to protect the edge of the carpet/ flooring)
  • A basic filling knife
  • A paint kettle
  • Some powder filler (brands available include Toupret, Tetrion)
  • A tube of flexible filler (AKA painter’s mate/ Caulk)
  • A caulk gun to dispense the above
  • Some two-part wood filler
  • A set of brushes of various sizes
  • A roller handle
  • A roller sleeve
  • A roller pole (advisable but not essential)
  • A paint scuttle or tray wide enough to take the above roller
  • A stirring stick (you can improvise with this; old wooden spoons are very good!)
  • Something to get the lid of the paint off with
  • Some old clothes you don’t mind getting ruined

As professional decorators we buy the best equipment possible but you don’t need to. Things such as paint trays, roller handles etc. you can pick up for a couple of pounds. However, one area we always recommend investing in is your brushes. Try to avoid the bargain basement sets and ask the shop keeper for their recommendation for a good set of brushes. Reputable brands include Hamilton, Purdy and Wooster. 

Not only do good brushes last longer if looked after correctly, but they perform better, allowing paint to flow more easily to help you with your straight lines. Furthermore cheap brushes often shed their bristles at the most annoying moments. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you have beautifully painted a wall or a door, only to look back at it the next day and find brush bristles in your dried paint!

The ground work is in the prep

There are lots of factors that distinguish an average paint job from an excellent one, but one of the most telling aspects is the level of preparation. 

Decorating is not an exact science and what defines an acceptable level of finish is something I’ve heard being debated by various tradesmen for over two decades! However, they would all agree that an excellent finish is only achieved by meticulous preparation. 

Firstly, before you even start thinking about decorating, get the room ready. This involves moving furniture away from the walls so you can get to them all easily and protecting the floors and furniture. Time spent on this section of the work will pay dividends at the end. Thoroughly protecting everything at the start means that at the end of the work you can simply remove the protective sheeting and put the furniture back where it was. 

If you rush into the decorating work without adequately preparing and protecting the room you will spend hours at the end cleaning and scraping spots of paint off various surfaces.

Now change into your painting clothes. Even professional decorators don’t try to decorate in clothes they value. However hard you try you will get something on your clothes during the work so change into an outfit you’re happy to sacrifice!

Next all cracks should be filled and sanded down and all woodwork rubbed down to create a good smooth surface to paint onto. 

Use the powder filler for the walls and ceiling and the two-part wood filler for the woodwork.

Our decorating top tips

Top tip – if you are using water-based eggshell (it’s likely you will be) and you think the existing paint might be oil based (again it’s likely it will be) we recommend using a primer before you paint that stabilises the switch from oil-based paint to water- based and ensures good adhesion. 

The best way to explain this is to think what happens if you have a pan of water and drop a bit of olive oil into it. The oil will not disperse into the water but will instead cling together; the two liquids do not mix well and basically repel each other. Exactly the same thing happens with paint. Oil-based products don’t adhere well to water- based do so a primer is used to unite the two. We sell a product called Grepp which is great for this use; other suitable products include the snappily-titled Zinsser Bulls Eye 1 2 3.

Once you’ve done all this you’re ready to paint with your chosen colours. We hope our tips help to make it easier for you to transform your home. Happy painting!