painting a room

Painting a Room Without Making a Terrible Mess — 27 Pro Tips (DIY Guide)

When painting a room, do you get more paint on the floor instead of the walls?

If so, protect yourself from splatters, spills, dripping, staining and other messy disasters by following these 27 top tips.

Painting a Room — Planning Tips

Being a project manager, I like this part of the process (geeky, I know), but sadly it’s a part many people neglect. Follow the tips below so you’re well-prepared for the painting process.

1. Make a Painting Plan

Just taking time to write down what’s required to complete the project successfully and working out the correct order of things can save you a lot of mess and time.

The result should be a clear checklist of ‘to-do’ tasks organised in chronological order.

To help you get started with your plan, the example below outlines the order in which high-level tasks should be completed, along with some questions you should be asking yourself:

  • Assess the room and work out how you will paint each area. For example, ask yourself the following questions:
    • How tall are the ceilings?
    • Are there any narrow peaks or sharp angles?
    • Are there any tight spots/hard-to-reach areas?
    • Will some areas require specialised equipment, such as the paint pad tool described in Tip #22?
    • How do you plan on applying the paint? I.e. will it be via a brush, a roller, a paint sprayer, or maybe a mixture of all three?
    • Can you remove all the fixtures & furnishings from the room, or will some stay put?
  • Gather the tools and materials.
  • Prepare the room.
  • Paint the room’s surfaces in this order:
    • If applying primer, coat the ceiling. Next, do the walls, skirting and trim.
    • Apply the finish paint to the ceiling.
    • Apply the finish paint to the walls. If you’re using a paint roller for the large areas and brushes for edges (most common), apply the roller paint first. Cut in around woodwork, ceilings and skirting.
    • Apply the finish paint to the skirting.
    • Apply the finish paint to windows, door trim, and any other woodwork in the room.
    • If part of the plan, paint the windows and doors themselves. If possible, remove windows and doors from their frames and lay them flat on a workbench to paint them.
  • Cleanup.

2. Gather your Painting Tools and Materials

painting tools and materials

Save yourself multiple trips to a DIY store by creating a list of supplies and buying them all in one trip.

Most importantly, you need to buy the right paint in the right shade and finish (e.g., gloss or matt). Whichever paint you choose, buy the best quality paint you can afford to produce a long-lasting finish.

For any painting project, you will need at least these tools & materials:


  • Step Ladder
  • Canvas drop cloths or sheets to cover the carpet
  • Wire cutters
  • Drill with a paint-mixing attachment
  • Rollers and roller covers
  • Roller trays to fit each size of roller
  • A good quality set of paint brushes
  • Buckets
  • Utility knife
  • Putty knife
  • A hairdryer to remove the tape


  • Cardboard or old linens to cover tables
  • Plastic sheets
  • Duct tape
  • Painter’s tape (see suggested sizes in steps 14 and 15)
  • Rosin paper to cover hard floors
  • Plastic bags to cover hanging light fixtures
  • Pre-paint lotion
  • Finish paint
  • Primer (if using)
  • Wire coat hangers to use as paint can drip stoppers
  • Sanding blocks and sandpaper
  • Microfibre cloths
  • Facial cleansing wipes
  • Rubber gloves

Depending on the painting job you’re planning, you may need these additional items:

  • Floodlights
  • All-purpose cling film
  • Paint Pads or Homemade Edging Pad Tool (see step 22)
  • Stir stick
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Stain markers

Tips for Preparing a Room for Painting

living room furniture covered with protective plastic sheeting

As we’re often told, prevention is better than cure, so take your time and follow these steps before you start.

Remember, no matter how careful you are, paint splatter and drips are inevitable. We’re just aiming to minimise them and make clean-up easier.

3. Make Sure You Have Good Lighting

If necessary, rent or buy some floodlights. Seeing what you’re doing is critical to avoiding a mess.

4. Remove Furniture and Cover Non-Removable items in Plastic

Ensure you have plenty of room to paint, as cramped conditions can lead to accidents. The ideal solution is to remove all the furniture from your room, but that is not always feasible.

If you cannot remove all your furniture, create furniture stacks in the centre of the room. Cover tables with cardboard or old linens and stack chairs on top. Cover your furniture stack(s) with plastic and use duct tape to hold it together.

Ensure furniture stack(s) does not prevent you from getting to any part of the ceiling, walls or skirting. To test this, climb a step ladder with a roller in hand and check you can easily reach any part of your ceiling.

Cover all non-removable items in plastic sheets so no parts are exposed to stray paint.

5. Remove Wall Hangings

Remove curtain rods, photos, artwork, picture hooks and anything else that might get in the way of painting.

6. Cover Electrical Points with Tape

Cover all sockets, switches, telecom outlets, thermostats, alarm panels, and other electrical points with painter’s tape.

7. Remove Window and Door Hardware

fit door handle

Remove window hardware such as sash locks, handles/knobs and latch strike plates. Store hardware safely and tape off the lock.

8. Thoroughly Clean and Dry all Painting Surfaces

As paint will not take to dirty surfaces, ensure all surfaces are spotless.

Dry dirt, such as dust and sawdust, can be wiped off with a cloth, while stickier materials, such as grease, must be washed with a mixture of dish soap and water.

If, while cleaning, you find problem areas that need patching, follow this guide on how to fix them before you start painting.

9. Use Drop Cloths to Protect Your Carpet from Paint

Using canvas drop cloths is the best way to protect carpets from paint. There are three key benefits to using canvas instead of plastic:

  • Canvas spreads out easily.
  • Canvas doesn’t need taping to stay in place.
  • Ladders don’t slip on canvas.

Lay the canvas on your carpet and bunch it up along the walls so it stays put. Note: Regular splatter and drips will not soak through the canvas, but large spills might.

Pro Tip: Look for a canvas drop cloth with a plastic face bonded to a cloth layer that absorbs drips.

10. Use Rosin Paper to Protect Hard Floors from Paint

The best protection for hard floors is rosin paper. Plastic and canvas covers will slip on hard floors like wood and tiles, but rosin paper stays put.

Remember, though, that one layer of rosin paper will only protect against splatter and drips, so make sure you clean up large spillages before it soaks through to your hard floor.

Before laying any rosin paper down, ensure your hard floor is clean, as trapped dirt can scratch the floor.

When the floor is clean, tape sheets of rosin paper to cover the entire area, leaving no part of your hard floor uncovered by rosin paper.

11. Use Plastic and Wide Tape to Protect Windows and Doors from Paint

using plastic and wide tape to protect windows and doors

You will learn from experience that paint rollers produce a fog of paint that touches everything below, including windows and doors. To avoid this, follow these tips:

  • When taping around windows and door trims, use wide tape that protrudes at least 15mm from your window/door trim.
  • Attach light plastic sheets onto the protruding tape to cover the areas that should not be painted.
  • Remember to cut the plastic cover with a knife for door openings wrapped in plastic so you can pass through.

Check out this post for more info on how to use tape effectively.

12. Cover Light Fixtures with Plastic Bags

covering light fixtures

Here’s the best way to deal with light fixtures attached to your ceiling:

  1. Switch OFF the mains power.
  2. Remove light bulbs and parts made of glass.
  3. Cut a spare piece of wire to use as a ‘hanger wire.’ The length will depend on the size of your fixture.
  4. Unscrew the fixture.
  5. Tie your fixture to its junction box using the hanger wire and leave it dangling away from the ceiling by a few centimetres. Make sure it’s actually the hanger wire supporting the fixture, not one of the electrical wires.
  6. Use a plastic shopping bag to cover the dangling light fixture.

Note: The plate is typically attached to the ceiling via a ring nut for pendants and chandeliers. In this case, don’t use a ‘hanger wire.’ Instead, unscrew the ring nut and slide it down the plate over the tube or chain.

13. Cover Radiators

Use plastic sheets and painter’s tape to cover the radiators. Alternatively, you could tape a rubbish bag around the radiator.

14. Protect Skirting with Overhanging Tape

applying overhanging tape to skirting

You don’t need to completely cover skirting with tape when a single strip of overhanging painter’s tape will catch all roller and brush splatters. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Use 24mm or 36mm painter’s tape for narrow skirting and 48mm for wider skirting.
  • Painters’ tape does NOT stick well to dirty surfaces, so make sure you clean your trim well before applying the tape.
  • Firmly push the tape down by running a metal putty knife over it. This will minimize paint seepage under the tape.

15. Protect Carpet when Painting Skirting

protecting carpet with tape when painting skirting

Painting skirting where it meets with carpet can be very difficult and messy. Follow the steps below and the image above to avoid getting paint on the carpet:

  • Stick strips of 48mm wide painter’s tape where your carpet adjoins skirting. Roughly 12mm of the tape width should be on the skirting and the rest on the carpet.
  • Tuck the 12mm skirting edge between your skirting and carpet using a putty knife.
  • Paint your skirting and leave it to dry. When your skirting is dry, pull the tape off.

16. Use the ‘Press’n Seal’ Wrap to Protect ‘Awkward’ Non-Removable Objects from Paint

woman painting pink illustration

Certain spots are difficult to paint without getting paint on nearby objects. Painting behind a toilet is a good example of this problem.

To get around this, wrap nearby objects in cling film, as it quickly sticks where you want it while protecting objects from stray paint.

17. Apply Pre-Paint Lotion

Before starting any painting project, coat all your exposed body parts with lotion. This way, the paint will easily wash off your skin.

Tips for Painting a Room

Now comes the fun part – Painting!

18. Use a Special Drill Attachment to Mix Paint

Drill a hole in your paint can lid and mix the paint with a drill attachment. Watch how Joe does it in this video.

19. Improve Your Painting Technique

Improving your painting technique is a great and often overlooked way to avoid mess while painting your room.

This article, under the heading ‘Painting Technique‘, has some great tips on how to use Rollers and Brushes.

20. Use a Coat Hanger as a Paint Drip Stopper

using a coat hanger as a drip stopper

To avoid your brush dripping everywhere, adding a homemade drip stopper to your can of paint is a good idea. Here’s how you make one using a wire coat hanger.

  1. Using wire cutters, cut off the long bottom part of a coat hanger. I.e., the part the trousers hang on. Discard the top half.
  2. Bend the wire so it wraps around your paint tin, as shown in the image above. This technique will keep the wire in place when you use it to remove excess paint.
  3. Once you have completed your painting project, remove the drip stopper from your paint can and clean it.

21. Use a Paint Bucket

using a paint bucket

Put your paint cans in buckets. The bucket will catch drips, prevents spills, and give you a place to hold your rag.

22. Use Paint Pads for Tight Spots

using paint pads to paint around tight spots

Painting in tight areas, such as behind your toilet, can be challenging with a paint brush. Paint pads are a much easier way to reach difficult corners and crevasses.

If you struggle to reach a particularly tight spot with standard paint pads, you may need to make and use a homemade paint pad tool. Here’s how you make and use one:

  • Use a sharp utility knife to remove the pad from an edging pad tool.
  • Stick the pad onto a sturdy stir stick. The size of the stick will depend on the spot you’re trying to reach.
  • Apply paint to the pad with a paint brush.
  • Paint the hard-to-reach areas with your homemade paint pad.

Paint Cleanup Tips

Congratulations, you have completed the project while following the 22 tips above. However, for some reason, you’re still left with plenty of mess to clear up!

Remember, a mess is unavoidable and happens to the best of us, no matter how careful you are. Just follow the steps below to clean up:

23. Save Your Carpet from Large Paint Spills by Fast Blotting

fast blotting

After a nasty spill, lots of water and speed are critical for complete stain removal. This is especially true for latex paint which dries super fast.

Follow these essential steps to avoid permanent stains on your carpet:

  1. Immediately pick up as much of the spill as possible using a putty knife or whatever is nearby. Don’t attempt to wipe up the spill; you will push the paint deeper into the carpet.
  2. Fill up your bucket with clean water and soak a clean rag. Hopefully, somebody else can do this while you’re scooping up the spill in step 1.
  3. Use the wet rag to blot the spill and continue blotting until you run out of clean water.
  4. Refill your bucket and keep blotting until the paint is no longer visible.
  5. Run a fan to dry your soaked carpet when you’re done blotting.

24. Use a Putty Knife to Scrape off Dried Paint From Wood Trim

using a putty knife to scrape off dried paint

Drips of dried paint on wood trim can ruin a successful painting project. Remove these nasty drips without stripping your woodwork by following these simple steps:

  1. Scrape off dried paint using a putty knife, and remember to angle the blade so it doesn’t damage your wood.
  2. Use a utility knife for tight spots and corners.
  3. Use denatured alcohol to rub off any residue left on your wood trim.
  4. Use a matching stain to cover any bad spots.

25. Use Facial Cleansing Wipes for Paint Cleanup

The alcohol in cleansing wipes softens latex paint and doesn’t harm most surfaces. Here’s how best to use them:

  • Remove the wipe from its container and gently squeeze the remaining solution from the wipe back into the container.
  • Dab the wipe onto your paint-smeared surface and remove the first layer of paint.
  • Press down and move the wipe in a circular motion to remove deeper layers of paint.
  • If required, use additional wipes to remove tougher paint smears.

26. Use Heat to Remove Painter’s Tape

using a heat gun to remove tape

Sometimes painter’s tape refuses to come off cleanly without a long struggle. Here’s a technique that will help:

  1. Make sure the surface has completely dried out before you attempt to remove any tape.
  2. Using a hairdryer, blow warm air onto the painter’s tape. Wait until the tape is warm but not hot.
  3. Gently pull off the tape

27. Scoop Up Spills and Pick Up Floor Covers

Using a wide putty knife or dustpan, scoop up any spills on your drop cloths.

When the project is complete, pick up drop cloths/rosin paper and remove all plastic covers. Discard rosin paper (if used) but keep drop cloths for the next project.

Painting a Room Without Making a Mess Infographic

how to paint a room without mess infographic

Painting a Room — Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed reading this list and feel inspired to take on any paint project mess-free!

For more great painting tips, check out our guide on how to paint a room.