Rolling paint onto your walls does take a certain amount of know how.

Using the proper techniques will insure the surface being coated has an even, consistent paint thickness while at the same time eliminate runs or marks caused by the rolling process.

By learning a few paint rolling tips you'll be a pro no time.


A Roller/frame or cage as it's sometimes called should (in most cases) have an extension (pole) attached to it. I prefer the one foot six inch to two foot six inch style. You might find the two to four foot model more comfortable to use. Keep in mind, though, that your pole length depends entirely on the height of the walls you're rolling.

Using a roller/extension combination gives you speed and much better control over the rolling process than using just the roller alone. Also, smaller extension poles will let you easily roll cramped areas such as those found in hallways and the lower part of a stairwell.

Before you start rolling paint, be sure your roller cover (sleeve) is lint free prior to placing it onto the roller. If not you'll need to wash and spin (shake) the cover dry or wrap it in masking tape (then pull the tape off) to remove excess fibres. I like a fairly thick cover (15 mil or 5/8” ) for most of my projects. You may prefer a less nappy cover (10 mill or 3/8''). The thicker a cover is the more stipple marks you'll see in the finish (depending on your skill level of course). A less dense cover on the other hand requires more paint loading and can leave more roller marks in your dried paint (also depending on skill level).

There are paint sticks along with power and pressure rollers that you can purchase of which some require a paint sprayer to operate. When they work they are very nice tools to have around. Do keep in mind though that some of them are not recommended for ceilings (by most painters not the manufacturer) and can be very heavy, temperamental and finicky to operate. The main key with these types of rollers is that they need to be exceptionally clean to operate properly. Furthermore, the roller covers can, at times, be hard to find depending on your particular type of tool.


I like to use a one gallon painting tray since filling the thing can become monotonous after a while. You can buy extra wide roller covers and a large tray that will do an amazingly fast job on floors. I do not recommend rolling a wall with them if you're inexperienced at rolling paint. Even so, you will need to decide on what works best for your particular situation.

Remember too that you can save time and a messy clean up by using a tray liners or a throw away paint tray. Also, disposing of the liner after each use will keep bits of hardened paint from contaminating your roller cover (sleeve).

Some use plastic as a tray cover but I find that it doesn't distribute paint onto the roller very well and tends to lift out of the tray when pulling the roller out. I have sprayed a tray (or tray liner) with spray glue then attached tin foil to the tray and that seemed to work quite well though.

With that said, you can still use an unlined tray, just be sure to throughly clean the darn thing at the end of the day.

Place your tray so that you can start rolling in the corner of a room. Right angled transition from living room to hallway for example will also work as starting point.


Prior to rolling check out the cutting in page (edging/brushing). You can cut in after rolling but cutting in then rolling is the recommended process so as to cut down on any brush marks that may occur.

Furthermore, to protect from paint mishaps be sure to have removed, covered, masked or taped as needed (this painting how to page will get you started).

  1. With the grid of the tray and your roller (frame) horizontal to each other start at the top of the grid and slowly roll toward the paint. Don't press down to hard on the roller, you want to have a gentle touch. Stop just as the roller touches liquid and is into the paint by about half an inch. The object is to get a section of the fibres wet but not the side of the roller cage.

    This isn't possible, of course, but do try and keep it as dry as possible while at the same time coating the roller fibres in paint.

    Now roll the roller onto the trays grid without touching the paint that's in the reservoir. Once that's done and beginning from the top of your tray roll down just contacting with the paint again in the trays reservoir. Keep doing this until the cover and the trays grid are reasonably wet. Basically, what you're doing is loading the roller cover with paint then using the roller cover to load the trays grid with paint.

    You will find that once your roller cover is properly filled it will need less tray rolling after each rolling of the walls etc. Your objective is to be consistent with how you fill the roller and then roll the surface as you want the paint to be the exact same thickness through out your paint rolling project.

  2. Beginning in a corner with your wet roller touch the top section of the wall.

    Trying not to hit the ceiling, roll up and down in a tight W pattern from the top of the wall down toward the floor. Your rolled on W should be about two feet wide and eight feet high. You should be able to do this with one filling of your paint roller cover. If not roll your cover in the tray a few more times until it's loaded enough to complete your floor to ceiling W.

    Also, use a longer extension pole, ladder or scaffolding for higher surface areas along with rolling in one section at a time if needed.

  3. Once your two foot wide by eight foot high W is rolled out, your unloaded sleeve should be stopped at the highest point where the letter ends (close to the ceiling). Upper right side if your right handed.

    You can now start rolling in a strait line down to the floor(stop in the middle of the walls if they are more than eight feet high). Staying with a strait rolling pattern head toward the ceiling from the floor (on 8 foot walls) over lapping each up and down stroke (or zig zag pattern) by an inch or so.

    Keep rolling up and down moving toward the far corner (of the room) from left to right rolling into your brush cut in (or edging line at the ceiling and trim).

    You're trying to coat a layer of paint over top of the W you just rolled on so that the previous old paint doesn’t show through. The first W on the walls acts like a paint tray and will fill the roller cover as you roll back through it the second time using your strait up and down pattern. So, what I'm saying is as you roll across the dry wall you will cross the path of the W picking up paint and distributing it onto non-coated or thin areas. Be sure to roll in as quick a fashion as you can without splattering paint or making a mess as your rolling.

  4. While using light even pressure, starting from where you left off at the ceiling, roll top to bottom again. Roll in a reasonably strait line with an unloaded roller cover.

    Bring the sleeve back up to the top, slightly overlap your last roll and once again go from ceiling to floor in a very tight zig zag fashion. With the somewhat dry roller keep rolling reaching up, down, into or toward your brushed (edged/cut in) ceiling, baseboard, window/door trim and room corner while re-rolling the paint that you just rolled (this is called back rolling). Back rolling is a choice and isn't always used by professional painters, I find that it distributes the paint more evenly. With that said, some might decide that back rolling is either redundant or somewhat difficult to do. You will need to decide what works best for your specific situation.

  5. You will now have a section of wall that is covered with a two foot wide by eight foot long rectangle of paint. Also, the original coating is not showing through the newly applied coating. Your freshly rolled on paint should be a nice even thickness and consistency without runs drips or sags.

You're basically trying to get the paint on in sections then re-roll the section to even it out while at the same time removing lines, drips, and sags, along with any roller marks. You also want to be back rolling over top of anything that might be left behind by the the roller cover.

Work quickly or your paint will set up making the liquid tacky and uneven.

Imagine the roller is a toothless rake and your trying to level sand in a box with consistent, even, parallel lines.

Paint the next section rolling paint on in a W and then dry rolling back over top of what you just rolled. Keep doing this in two foot wide sections overlapping into the previous section all the way around the room.

While rolling don't stop (other than in a corner), always be sure to roll from wet edge to wet edge. Furthermore, keep an eye on the wall as you might need to pick debris out of the wet paint (with your finger) prior to back rolling.


If your walls are taller than eight feet, do the bottom section (following the instructions above) in the same fashion as you did the upper walls. As you do so lightly over lap the top painted area with the lower section.

When rolling paint, (especially on higher surfaces) be sure to keep the entire length of the roller cover (sleeve) touching the wall at all times. Pressure should be distributed lightly and evenly across the roller and wall.


When rolling paint the roller frame needs to be turned so that the side that the roller cover slides onto is always facing away from the surface area that has yet to be rolled. Once I reach the farthest corner I do turn the roller cage over so that I can get closer into the corner though.

You can apply a little extra pressure (not to much) onto the side of the roller that your rolling the paint into. By doing so you might find that it helps you get a more consistent roll.

To get tighter to your edged ceiling and baseboards (where you cut in with a brush) you can cross roll the wall first. Cross rolling is when you roll horizontally as close as possible to the ceiling or baseboard. After cross rolling roll your W on into your cross rolled sections.

The second coat needs to be done in the same fashion as the first. Be sure to fill any holes bumps and cracks that you see then spot prime your repairs prior to sanding, then cutting and rolling your last coat.

If you look down a wall and see missed spots leave them to dry, then with a little extra care re-roll either the spot or the entire wall. If you have problems it's almost always because of to much or to little paint being used. Load the roller more/less or adjust the size of the W (closer together or farther apart) usually helps with such issues.

Keep in mind to that roller marks can be due to excess pressure applied to one side of the roller frame.

Another reason might be the roller or sleeve itself is damaged. Bent frames or distorted covers need to be thrown away. The final causes for lines in your dried paint has to do with the paint, so don't feel it's your fault. It's either separating as it sits in the tray (stir it well and keep stirring as you work).

Contrasting tints can be an problem too. When different tints are added to create your color some of them tend to dry at various rates. Some manufacturers have yet to rectify this problem.

Using a special undercoat can help with darker colors along with applying a paint that has a primer in it (not always).

With all that said, do keep in mind as paint is drying it can have all kinds of markings in it that completely disappear once the paint has set up

If need be, ask your paint dealer for assistance regarding application advice, products and tools..

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