Painting Drywall in 6 Proven Steps (Will Look As Good As Any Pro Job)

room that is ready for painting drywall
We'll list the steps you will need to know how to prepare for painting drywall. We'll explain each step from the start of a brand new wall up to the finished product. We will start by how to prep drywall for paint.
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How to prepare drywall for painting

Drywall painted perfectly for a living room in modern house
Drywall painted perfectly for a living room in modern house

Your new walls are (finally) finished. Now to painting drywall.

We’ll get to the prep and the primer, but your most important question is, of course, paint. If you go with low-cost paint, you do more coats and they fade! Our #1 go-to wall paint is Ben Moore Regal*, and when the primer is done on the ceiling, you only need one coat with  Ben's Ceiling White. Zero VOsandC too.

 

PORTER-CABLE 7800 4.7 Amp Drywall Sander with 13-Foot Hose
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Sanding is the hardest part, and oh, the dust. This sander with vacuum cuts the labor and dust. Check here to learn more

If the monkey crew did not sand it to your satisfaction, you’ll need some 150 or even 200 grit sandpaper. (Read about great vacuum sanders here). Look closely the drywall holding a light in one hand and sandpaper in the other: what you see now is what you get later.  Paint does not fill cracks or smooth out rough edges! This is for your home improvement, so go all out. For your rental property, we usually let it go as the sanders left it.

3M Garnet Sandpaper, 9-Inch by 11-Inch, Assorted-Grit, 5-Sheet (has 2x100,2x150,1x220)
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Now get your painting tools ready (check my post on painting tools if you have not already).

6 Steps on how to prep drywall for paint:

  • Inspect the walls with a work light (such as this one). Sand the imperfections with 150 grit sandpaper*
  • Broom the walls and let the dust settle
  • Sweep then mop the floor of the dust – you will ruin your good vacuum with this fine dust
  • Give the walls a final dusting with a cloth or sponge that is not wet, but just barely damp
  • Paint the new drywall first with a drywall primer (you can find it here) on all the walls right to the corners.
  • Paint walls with your color. Apply 2 coats of paint, yes two.  One is never enough on new walls even if you tinted your primer! Tinting a primer can only come close to the final color and is helpful when you are using bold colors.*  If you have a lot to do, pick up an electric sander: the DeWalt seems to be the go-to machine paired with this paper If you have a lot to do, pick up an electric sander: the DeWalt seems to be the go-to machine paired with this paper

Before Painting New Drywall:

  • Now you’ll need to remove the dust from the new drywall. If you don’t do this, your walls will have a rough feel and look because the dust clumps up into grit in your primer later. Start with a wide dry broom on the ceiling if it is new (even if not, clean it!), and let the dust settle a bit. You’ll want to have a dust mask on.  I just use my respirator but take out the chemical filters as they are expensive and there is no need for them in most cases. You can read more on respirator mask here.  The dust filters are cheap and save your lungs for your old age when you will probably need them.
  • Next, broom the walls and let the dust settle. Do a first rough sweep, then a finer sweep, then go to your mop.  Don’t use your good vacuum as this dust will kill the machine! If you do not havea shop-vac, (one with a filter, not the gravity chamber type which will just blow around all the dust) use the broom. Important: we do this sweeping/mopping now because we don’t want to be kicking that up during the work.
    Shop-Vac 16 gallon 6.5 HP Wet Dry Vacuum Long Life Motor, Uses Type U Cartridge Filter & Type R Foam Sleeve & Type G Filter Bag 5987400
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    Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
  • Next, you want to give the walls a final dusting with a barely damp cloth or sponge–not wet, but just barely damp. This will pick up everything. If the wall gets wet at this point, it will cause a time-sucking problem: more spackle.  Yes, you must clean floor to ceiling because if you don’t, the paint roller will pick up the dust and create a wall finish that is rough like sandpaper.
  • Professional drywallers use stilts that save an enormous amount of v work up to full extension because a fall from any height is the same: gravity will not fail. Use this one-minute instruction video.

Painting New Drywall:

To paint your new drywall use a drywall primer first, you’ll need to use actual drywall primer, which is a bit cheaper than most primers: it has only what you need (assuming you have not stains or mold etc). Read more about the best drywall primer in this post.

This is one of the few times I would say that it is fine to use a paint and primer in one. I have written about why this is usually not a good idea, but for a brand new wall, it does save time.

If you try to use regular paint as a primer, the seams (where the tape was covered with mud) will show through every coat of paint!

Rust-Oleum Corporation Low VOC 01501 Drywall Primer, 1-Gallon, White
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
No need for Kilz or other stain blockers. Although it is something you will always want to have around (I just leave a small brush in the can).  Just look for a 'low-VOC' drywall primer. (
Amazing price online – wow, about 25 bucks at publication time.

Not terribly toxic but we still wear a respirator! Be sure to prime right to the corners. So you see painting drywall is a bit involved, but there really is no other way.  There is no “fastest” way when you are painting drywall.

Now you are parked on the downhill for painting your new drywall.  You have picked your colors l you will apply 2 coats.

After the primer, our #1 go-to wall paint is Ben Moore Regal, and after the primer, the ceiling only needs one coat with  Ben's Ceiling White. A bit pricey, but you can really keep it clean and these paints don’t fade, period.

* available from the seller in any color: you just choose your color from the Ben Moore website, unless you know it already, and email the seller listed on the page. Just click on ‘seller’ in the product page right-hand column, under the cart button.

ready for painting drywall
ready for painting drywall Photo by crimfants

 

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