The Best Painting Tools (bits of advices from 30 Years of Painting)
To master painting tools I research many websites and I saw some written by people who are obviously not professional painters. We all know the necessity for the right paint tool for the job (more about that here). No, duct tape is not the best painting tool for every paint job! We will start with a few timesaving painting tools, followed by my list of the best painting tools that you really do need, and then a few extras paint tools that will make the paint job a lot easier.
Big Timesaving Painting Tools:
Wide rollers: We use these for big long walls. They require a special bucket and 18-inch roller sleeve (a six-pack !) but they are worth the investment if you do a lot of painting: you will literally go twice as fast. Mostly pro with one con: you cannot roll right into a corner. Meh. Clean by soaking in water in the bucket: not hard. Keep the bucket clean: as with all pans/buckets, don’t let paint chips fall into the paint. (If they do, use an old nylon sock to strain paint!).
Extension Poles: we use two sizes and then we have a shortie for tight spots. We use the quick-lock type, which is not compatible with the threaded types. The screw-threads tend to loosen with motion. Our recommendation comes with a converter tip for both! It’s all in the telescoping: you don’t have to change poles much. I’d recommend a 6-12 and a 2-4. Don’t go very big as they bend at full extension: use a ladder for that.
Ceiling Scraper (popcorn remover): Hate that popcorn ceiling? Knock it off with this.
Sprayers—two recommendations for two budgets:
- We have an entire post just featuring 3 sprayers for 3 budgets.
- The best non-commercial paint sprayer today is hands down the Graco 390. It’s pricey but will last a lifetime with proper care
- The budget version is the Wagner Flexio 590. It has a very reasonable price for what you get
If you spray: pick up a hand-masker dispenser. This 30-second video shows how to use it: you just need paper and tape. You can also use masking film and film blade. Remember that tan masking tape leaves a mark after a few hours (cheap glues). On surfaces we will not touch, we use the blue stuff for more delicate surfaces. (We use it all over the house too.) This masking method is good for protecting window sills etc under a roller as well.
Ladders are fine but the hassle of moving them a lot vanishes with a platform. Ah, a platform. Better yet, try this rolling scaffold which I own. I wrote a more detailed article on the best ladder for every budget.
House Best Painting tools
We have compared the paint tools below and you will find our picks for the best painting tools deals around.
Roller Cage, aka Roller Frame or Roller
Wooster is my choice (Purdy is good too) and it is reallythe best paint roller. Cheap ones break easily. Advanced tip: the pros use moderately priced paint tools. Try the Quick Lock type (special pole required). It is a snap system, (that also accepts a screw-in pole), and to use the snap you have to have the snap type pole. But don’t freak. It’s so worth it. We use them because we can remove poles and re-attach a different length pole quickly. Probably not a good idea for the homeowner unless you live for paint tools, but essential in the professional painting tools list. You can find the roller cage here.
We use wool or a wool/poly blend. This one I’m recommending is the best paint roller cover, and a good deal. A half inch nap is good for most interior work: but not stucco or popcorn ceilings. They don’t shed and leave ticks on your wall like Cheap-o’s and they hold a lot of paint so you can go farther with each dip. By the way, paint tools like this roller storage container: don’t waste your money. Just wrap your wet one with some plastic that was already in the trash!
TIP: The cheapest wall painting tool to store a wet paint roller overnight or even for a few days, you just use a plastic bag and put a few drops of water inside! This advice goes for the occasional painter as well as the professional painter.
A Quality Brush
(See the brush here: we update the best value in brushes frequently) We use 3 kinds in our paint tools: Purdy, Purdy, and Purdy. Actually we sometime buy a cheap-o paint brush to leave in a small can of primer or to use with some oil paint. We don’t clean brushes for icky paints. The one linked to here is 2.5 inches: professional paint brush minimum size. Maybe go with 2 or 1.5 if you are new.
A Purdy is a lifetime painting tool: and it’s easier to clean than everyone thinks. Usually, a good Purdy is $20 for one so here is a very good deal on 3 brushes. In general, we use an angle cut brush for everything as a flat cut brush does not work as well in corners. But this pack contains a variety of sizes most do-it-yourselfers prefer. (Us pros go for the 3 or 3.5-inch brush as it holds more paint: save time with less dipping).
Read more about the best painting brushes that I recommend
My Main Professional Painting Hand Tool: 5in 1
(See it here) 5-in-1 “putty knife-can opener-nail puller-hammer-roller squeegee-scraper(s)”. This one has the hammer end: important to have, as well as the nail puller hole in the middle. It’s like having a 3rd hand. Keep in pocket. Painter’s pants have a nice side pocket just for a putty knife (here more about this). Be careful with the sharp point on this knife: I put a hole in my car upholstery. Once I knew a librarian who could not think without a pencil in her hand. I cannot work without my 5 in 1 tool in my side pocket. I also need coffee. Essential in it’s own way.
See our favorite pole here. A broom pole unscrewed WILL work, but are flimsy. Some bathroom plungers will fit also for a short pole. If you get an adjustable fiberglass or aluminum pole, you’ll be happier. Also, check out the Quick Lock system here.
Have some various grits around: 120 -150 – and some 80. Careful with the 80 as it can do some damage. Buy the good stuff and don’t let it get wet. Or go with the kind you can wet to cut through plaster faster: but I don’t like them.
Just a block of wood that you can wrap sandpaper around will save your hands some stress. You can buy the kind that has a clip so the sandpaper does not move around. Remember to give walls a quick blast with about 120-150 grit sandpaper to remove ticks and lint trapped there from the last painter who used a cheap roller that shed lint~!
Roller Bucket or Tray/Pan
I prefer this roller bucket. If you want a tray, that one as a lid, but we use 5-gallon buckets that paint comes in and knock off excess paint with this screen. This system is so much better than a tray/pan. It is is hard to spill–we use a plastic bag for an overnight lid. It is made out of durable plastic and balances a lot better than a paint tray and washes out easy. It’s a must-have wall painting tool.
Small Paint Roller
If you cannot borrow your neighbor’s ladder, get a quality 12-foot extension for around the house or 24-footer if you are brave. I personally would not go up a ladder bigger than 24 feet (not counting my reckless youth). You will use it outside and inside for painting stairwells. Don’t store outside as they rope will degrade quickly. I have the one linked here, as well as a 24-footer and others. More about ladders for every budget here.
This one is my favorite. I was not supposed to use this ladder I’m recommending, as it is against the safety code of the government, but I used it anyway. It has a shelf for tools and the ‘cut’ bucket, and I customized it by adding a thick screw to the top handle for hanging the cut bucket as it is up higher. We move fast and this was a big help for us. I did not invent it, but I perfected it! See photo. That hook should be patented!
Good to have around while painting. We use canvas for floors, plastic for furniture. Not expensive and have many uses. Tip: wipe up drips that go on the cloths so you do not step in one and track paint when you step off onto the floor! Long-skinny canvas ones are best for walls: only 4′ wide. We also like a floor tarp that`s very thick plastic. Nice.
HANDY: Drop cloths with grip. Once pressure is applied, the rubber dots grab and hold firm. You can see the different sizes here.
Good lighting will help you catch the ‘skips’ in the paint. I consider this one an essential paint tool. Anything you miss with good lighting will never be visible later. We used to use halogen which is very hot and have bulbs that wear out or break. LED’s go forever.
Quick Dry Spackle – and putty knife.
Quick Dry Spackle: find it here – and putty knife here.
For larger repairs, have some pre-mixed drywall compound handy: it dries slowly, but is easy to sand and very cheap! You’ll need a wide knife to apply.
I am using this good one. Cheap guns frustrate you by pushing out caulk even after you click the tension rod off. What you need is moderate quality and it needs to have a cutting tool to cut the tip off the new tube, and a poker to break the seal inside the spout of the tube. You can carry around a knife and a nail like we had to do before they got smart and built them into the gun, but it’s not worth it.
Use caulk in corners where you will have two colors meet (straighter lines), and for all seams: between painted trim and wall and so on. Tip: don’t use silicon caulk unless you have to. Make sure you buy “paintable” caulk. Silicon is not paintable unless it says so, and silicon-based caulk dries very slowly: they are mainly for wet areas, especially outdoors and around sinks etc.
People often say to “Dap it” because Dap has been the brand to use for so many years. If you need just a little, go small (this does all have silicon but is fast-drying).
Painting’s Tape and Hand masker
Here’s the tape I use. Tape is not used as much as you think, (see my post on about painting the walls or trim first), but essential to mask off trim in tight corners. (A good paint brush eliminates the need for taping.)
This hand masker kit contains all parts needed: please watch the video to understand how to use it: big time saver. But you should have more tape and this paper on hand: we keep wide paper and narrow paper in the shop.
We like colored rags as drop cloths are generally white and white rags disappear when dropped. Caution with colored rags: the pigment may come out when you wipe. An old baby diaper or any flannel is best. Keep a damp one in your side rag-loop (not a hammer loop in painters’ pants). Yes, Amazon sells ’em.
Clean Up Tools: Wire brush
Love this wire brush. To remove dried paint from the outside of your brush is the main paint tool here. You can read my other post on cleaning up: it really is easy. Read more in my post: Best way to clean paint brush. This comb is for straightening the bristles to let the brush dry well… Not, as Mrs. Stewart’s website shows, to clean under water! Funny self-taught fluffy websites!
Finally, to spin a roller cover dry (a few dunks and a few spins and presto), this spinner can do brushes too but we just use it for rollers. See my post on cleaning roller covers and our post all about why you should only buy the best roller covers.
A good Screwgun– (screwdriver) and this is a great drill. What is a screwdriver? It’s a hand tool we used to use before fire was discovered. I might still have some. But seriously, we only use electrics. I love the small Black&Decker the best. Read our full post on screwguns for every budget and all the accessories you can wish for. Still there is no substitute for a corded electric drill: real power on the job site.
– Never use ink on surfaces before painting. Don’t believe me? Try to paint over ink. See?
Don’t buy cheap carpenter’s pencils: the lead falls out!
Stain Blocking Primer
We use this one. Commonly called “Kilz” although there are other brands. (BIN has a nice toxic spray and 1-2-3). They have a ‘shellac’ which blocks ink, water stains etc. I cut down the handle on a cheap brush and keep it inside the can with the lid tight. Be sure to wear gloves! Use this if you have a mold problem. We have an entire new post on how to paint over a mold problem.
Some Non-Essentials Painting Tools
You might not need those in your home painting tools, but I use these every day, all day. You can do without them for occasional house painting, but they are good professional painters tools and can make your life much easier.
- Gloves – I cut off the fingertips. Keeps hands clean and protected from cuts etc. Latex gloves here.
- Shop Vacuum- I keep a wet-dry vac around all the time. Once I dropped a quart of paint on a lady’s carpet. Rushed out to get the vac. With adding warm water to the mess and going over and over, I left a bit spot much cleaner than the rest of the carpet!
- Respirator – This is the link for the mask only: Add these filters: chemical, and particle top filter with retaining clip. For spraying or oil/toxic paints. Somewhat expensive, but health and safety really must be first. Learn more about type of filters and how to use them in our post about respirator mask
- Tack cloth – For when you need to really remove all dust/lint. This is more for furniture painting, but good for eye-level and hand-level door frames, especially around the door knobs.
- Sponge – for cleaning walls before painting (after sanding especially). I keep one semi-damp on hand.
- Powerful Fan – Keeps you cool as well as helps dry the paint faster. We have several.
- Cut Bucket (for brushing) – We just use the single gallon cans and here is a good tip: use a regular can opener to remove the lip that holds the lid. We usually buy several gallons of the same color, and keep one can nice for storage (that means we don’t gunk up the seal with paint: we wipe it clean with brush). You can buy 2-quart or 1-gallon buckets that come with lids: great for storage too.
- Painter’s Pants – they have great pockets. I like the kind with a cell phone pocket and for pants that don’t have that, I sew a pocket onto the front of the thigh.
- A cell phone case to protect openings from dust and paint. I used to wear out one per year, until I was given a cover. Love it.
- Tool Bag –I have lots of pouches on my belt for all kinds of painters tools: I hate to go hunting for a tool.
- Tool Box or Bucket – A good place to keep things together. It’s good to gather all painting tools every so often and you won’t have to hunt them down when you need them. That is a momentum killer.
Contact me with any questions.
Let me know what are your best painting tools.
I am a semi-retired painter, sure, but I still love and care for my house painting tools. Any home maintenance task that needs to be done, I hook up my tool belt and I have everything that I need right on my person. After I paint a room or a wall, I always make sure to clean my tools. Painting tools are not just good for painting! I use my 5-in-1 knife all over; it’s a screwdriver, it cleans goo of the kitchen floor, on and on.
Write us and let us know what you think. Are you convinced to buy the best painting tools for your home, or will you go with cheap working tools and throw them away?