Having the RIGHT painting tools is a one-time cost that makes your life easier. Take a look at our Painting Tools Infographic: it shows tools that you cannot do without. Get them and keep them for life. Excellent for the professional painter or do-it-yourselfer.
In doing some research about essential painting tools I see so many websites written by people who are obviously not painters. On the other hand, architecture.com is a website that explains the necessity for the right tool for the job. No, duct tape is not the right tool for every job! Here is my list of essentials painting tools that you really do need, and then a few extras that will make the job quicker and easier.
Why are some people recommending a plastic roller storage cover? This is a ‘tool’ of almost no value. To store a wet 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.
Essential Painting tools and where to find them
We have compared the items 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). Cheap ones break easily. Advanced tip: the pros use moderately priced 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 tools, but essential in the professional painting tools list. You can find the roller cage here.
- Roller Cover
We use wool or a wool/poly blend. This one I’m recommending is 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, products like this roller storage container: don’t waste your money. Just wrap your wet one with some plastic that was already in the trash!
- A Quality Brush
We use 3 kinds in our painting tools: Purdy, Purdy, and Purdy. Actually we sometime buy a cheap-o 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 minimum size. Maybe go with 2 or 1.5 if you are new. Read more about the best painting brushes that I recommend
- My Main Professional Painting Hand Tool: 5in 1
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.
- Extension Pole(s)
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.
- Block Sander
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
If you want a tray, that one linked above has 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 painting tool.
- Extension Ladder
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.
- Step Ladder
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!
- Drop Cloths
Good to have around. 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.
- Work Light
Good lighting will help you catch the ‘skips’ in the paint. 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.
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.
- Caulk Gun
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
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. So there you have it. If you are considering starting your own painting business and want to know how much it will cost to get started this list will help you. I would guess offhand that everything on the list totals around $300. If you already have a step ladder and even a small extension ladder, this will cut the startup cost down considerably.
- Rags – 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
To remove dried paint from the outside of your brush is the main 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!
- Screwgun— —Drill——Screwdriver
What is a screwdriver? It’s a hand tool we used to use. I might still have some. But seriously, we only use electrics. I love the Hitachi the best. Have lots of tips (including the weird ones) around. Keep some in your pocket. I also glue a plastic holder on to the side of my gun. It really helps. I bought this Hitachi because I was tired of throwing away cheaper ones. It’s great. Just remember not to put in carry-on luggage or they make you check it. I KNOW.
- Pencil – Never use ink. Don’t believe me? Try to paint over ink. See?
- Stain Blocking Primer
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.
Some Non-Essentials Painting Tools
You might not need those painting tools, but I use these every day, all day. You can do without them for occasional house painting, but they are good professional painter 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 – just for when you use sprays 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
- 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 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 tools every so often and you won’t have to hunt them down when you need them. That is a momentum killer.
Let me know what are your favorites painting tools.