Paint and stain have the power to transform nearly anything in a matter of minutes. They have the power to brighten up a room, add depth, warmth, fun, or elegance. But with so many possibilities comes a problem. Endless options = endless questions.
What brush should I use? Shake or stir? Wait — there are different types of paint rollers? Don’t worry, your answers are here.
Let’s start with paint.
Pick the perfect sheen
Eggshell? Isn’t that something you don’t want in your food? Yes, and it’s also my favorite paint sheen! Eggshell falls between flat and satin, so it has the benefits of both.
What are the benefits?
To start, you can think of paint sheens as a spectrum. Flat has no shine, satin has a bit, and gloss has the most. More shine means it’s easier to clean and more durable, but it also means that every flaw and imperfection will be noticed.
Gloss is great for doors, cabinets, and trim since those are touched more often and require more cleaning.
Satin works great in the kitchen, laundry room, or bathroom.
Eggshell works on mostly everything — it gives you an almost flat modern look that hides most of your walls secrets, but it also holds up to some light scrubbing if needed.
Brushes or rollers
- Lots of nooks and crannies? Use a brush.
- Large surface? Use a roller.
- Painting a wall? Use a roller for the bulk of it and a medium hardness brush for corners.
- Have a lot of details? Use a soft angle brush.
- When painting with a brush, brush in straight lines with the wood grain.
- What painting with a roller, paint in a v formation and keep the pressure light.
Quick painting tips to know
- Shake the paint before using. If you are painting a lot at once, be sure to shake or stir the paint throughout your project.
- Use a high-quality, natural bristle brush or a sponge roller for oil-based paints. For water-based paints, artificial bristle brushes or natural fiber rollers work best.
- If you want an extra smooth finish, you can let your coat of paint dry, then lightly sand it using very fine sandpaper (220). After sanding, lightly wipe with a tack cloth and paint again.
- Textured surface or thick paint? A stiff brush or long pile roller is best.
- Smooth walls or furniture? A soft brush or a short pile roller works great. The rule is, the smoother the surface, the softer the brush or shorter the pile needed.
Here’s everything you need to know about stain.
Stain gets an awful reputation for being easy to screw up. Honestly, I’ve stained hundreds of pieces of wood and I can’t recall an awful experience. There are myths that make stain scary, but you’re about to get the tips you need to feel confident staining your next big project.
Oil vs. Water-Based Stains
Water-based stains don’t smell (as much as oil-based), they dry quickly, there are a ton of color options, and you just need soap and water to clean-up. Sounds awesome, right? Yes, but there are advantages to oil-based stains as well.
Oil-based stains are my personal choice for staining projects. Oil-based stains are especially great for very large surfaces, such as floors and cabinets. Because oil-based doesn’t dry as quickly, you have more time to properly blend your stain across a large surface. Another advantage is that oil-based stains don’t raise the grain of the wood.
You might have just read “raise the grain” and thought, “what the heck does that mean??”
When wood comes into contact with water (i.e. water-based stains), it causes fibers to rise, making your wood appear dull and potentially have a less smooth finish. To minimize the effect and still use a water-based stain, you can first spray the wood with water and let it dry for a bit before sanding.
1. Stir the stain thoroughly before applying. If you are applying stain to a large surface or to several pieces, be sure to stir the stain occasionally. This is especially important if you mixed multiple stain colors together.
Embarrassing personal experience: Andrew and I once didn’t follow this golden rule. We tried a new black stain and it was so watery that it barely changed the color of the wood at all. Just when I was determined we would have to re-buy all our wood to something that would take the stain better, Andrew’s dad came outside and stirred our stain. Suddenly it was a normal consistency and the stain was exactly as advertised. Luckily, our black farmhouse table still turned out great!
2. Prep the wood by sanding with fine grit sandpaper (120 grit works great). If you want a very consistent color throughout your wood or are nervous that your brush strokes will be seen, you can use a wood conditioner. We never use one because it evens out the stain color and we’re partial to a strong wood grain and slightly rustic touch.
- Clean the wood. You want to remove all of the dust and dirt from your wood. I recommend blowing the wood with a shop vac or using a vacuum nozzle to suck everything up. If this seems like too much work, a damp cloth works just fine.
- Apply with a rag, brush, or foam applicator. You can work with and against the grain — the only rule is to get everything covered! Using a brush will make it easier for you to get all the nooks and crannies. A brush will also give you a richer color without the need for multiple coats since the brush carries a lot of stain. Make sure to use a synthetic brush for water-based stains and a natural-bristle brush for oil. The only downside of a brush is that it takes longer than a rag to apply.
- Want to darken the color? Leave the stain on for a longer amount of time (many can sit for up to 10-15 minutes). Still want a darker color? Apply a second coat. The answer is not to leave the stain on the wood rather than wiping it off. If you don’t wipe the excess off, it will be sticky and the stain will eventually peel off.
3. Wipe off the stain in the direction of the wood grain to accentuate the wood grain and remove all excess stain.
4. Let it dry and finish with a top coat of your choosing.
Have more tips and tricks about paint and stains? Share them below in the comments!