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I love painting. I'm always so anxious to get started. It is so tempting to just start slathering paint on a wall. However, the most important step in painting is the preparation.

Wash the wall if it is greasy or oily (little finger prints are the worst). There is a product called TSP that will help with that. Read the directions and follow them carefully.

If you have water marks or places where permanent marker has been on the wall, you'll have to paint those areas with a primer like Kilz otherwise they'll just bleed through your new paint job.

Remove anything that is attached to the wall or blocking your way. If you're painting a bathroom, yes it really does make a difference if you remove the toilet tank. It isn't that hard.

Patch holes. I use pre-mixed joint compound since spackle is too hard. Caulk corners or around molding. Be sure to use paintable caulk (silicone caulk is NOT all that it is cracked up to be).

Remove face plates for light switches or outlets. Tape over the entire light switch or plug.

Tape - with masking tape or that blue painters tape - the baseboard molding and any other wood you don't want painted. If you want the woodwork to be the same color as the room, it is traditional to paint the woodwork in a gloss paint, not flat, eggshell, satin or semi-gloss of the walls.

Paint choice: Flat paint will hide most of the 'errors' in the walls but it is harder to keep clean. Semi-gloss will reveal every flaw in a wall but will be easier to clean. Personally, I like a shinier paint because I think it looks fresh longer. However, a lot of people think that flat paint makes a house look more modern. It is entirely up to you.

Lay down a drop cloth and put it in a bigger area than you think you'll need. Some people only use a plastic drop cloth but I've learned that any paint splatters just spread on plastic - making it too easy to track paint through the rest of the house. I like to put down a sheet of plastic then cover that with a fabric drop cloth. Sometimes I'll use an old bedspread or curtain, if available.

Have the right supplies: paint roller with extension pole, if needed; a roller cover appropriate for the wall and paint you're using, a step-stool, an angled cut-in brush (appropriate for the paint you're using); a roller tray with liner; a small cup or bucket for your cut-in paint; a stir stick or two; and a "key" for opening the paint can. Dress accordingly, especially covering your hair. Some people use gloves for their hands. I just moisturize really well (apply moisturizer to your face, too). Wear shoes or have shoes to put on before you walk through the rest of the house. Have a container of wet wipes near-by for drips and drops and messes. A few rags are handy, too.

Yes, stir the paint even if it was shaken at the store.

Cut in first. Cutting in is the process of painting a border at the baseboard, the side walls and the ceiling. It gives you a clean, controlled edge. Paint the cut-in approximately three to four inches wide.

With a roller, paint a W in one section of the wall then fill in the W so you have an area approximately 3-ft x 3-ft. Don't over work the paint. Don't put on too much paint at once.

If the paint isn't covering or sticking, you may have to paint on a primer. Kilz is one brand and it can be tinted to more closely match your paint color (you don't want it too close).

As you paint, look for errors in the area where you just painted. Look for drips and smooth them. Look for tiny places where you didn't get full coverage. A very bright light helps find these.

If you need to stop painting for more than a few minutes. Cover your brush and roller with a plastic bags. Cover your roller tray with aluminum foil.

Once you've painted - WAIT to re-hang pictures or put furniture against the wall. Paint has to set up for 24 to 72 hours. It'll be dry to the touch fairly quickly but it'll be soft and easily marred. I like to remove the masking tape fairly soon after painting so I can make touch-ups, but be careful to not lift the paint surrounding the tape. Use a razor blade to cut the tape away from the paint if you need.

Clean-up! If you have paint left over, put it in a smaller container, mark it and keep it for touch-ups.
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