Paints & painting – hints & tips

Choosing the right colour

Colours look a little different on every screen. You can order a free colour card from any brand page to get a better idea, or if you’re buying Albany Traditions paints you can ask for a free A5 sized sample on the product page.

Colours also look different in different rooms, depending on the light in the room and the other colours already there. Our selection of roomsets feature different coloured furnishings to help you get an idea of the colour you want, but you should order an emulsion test pot or two to get a sample of the colour itself.

It can be a good idea to paint your test pot onto a piece of card. If you hold the painted card at arms length standing away from the wall, you can get an idea of how the whole wall might look painted that colour.

Buying the right amount

Measure the area you want to paint and multiply its length by its height (in metres) to get the area you need to cover. Most emulsions look best when you apply two coats, so when you’re working out how much paint you need, two coats will double the cover you need.

When you know the area you want to cover, divide the area you need to cover by the coverage of the tin to see how many tins you’ll need.

For example:
Four walls 4m long x 2.8m high = 44.8m2
Minus a door 0.85m x 2m = 1.7m2
Minus a window 1.5m x 1.6m = 2.4m2
Area to cover = 44.8m - 1.7m - 2.4m = 40.7m2
Two coats requires 40.7m x 2 = 81.4m2

One 2.5L tin Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion covers up to 35m2 and two tins covers up to 70m2. A 2.5L tin costs £45.00 and a 5L tin costs £78.00 so the cheapest way is to buy one 5L tin and one 2.5L tin.

If you need to cover up marks and stains, or if you’re going from a very dark colour to a very light colour, you might need more coats. Consider using white emulsion as an undercoat for walls, it’s often far cheaper than tinted paint

Paint brushes and tools

The right brushes and tools make painting much easier, so make sure yours are in good shape before you start.

Press your brushes against the palm of your hand. The bristles should be soft and pliable. If you can feel blobs of old paint on the bristles, these will need to be picked off or they will leave marks in your painting.

Pull the bristles away from the brush, and make sure stray bristles don’t come away in your hand. If they do, they’ll probably come away when you’re painting and leave you having to pick them out of the wet paint.

Make sure you have the right width brushes. Nice and thin (1/2” or 1”) for sash window beads and detailing, medium (2” to 3”) for skirting boards or for the edges of walls that you’re going to paint with a roller.

If you need to buy new brushes, look no further than our brushes and tools section, buy the best you can afford, clean them well after use and they’ll last years.

Roller sleeves need to be clean and supple with no lumps. If yours is crusty and stiff, buy a new one. You can get special gloss sleeves for small rollers.


Before you start painting, make sure the surface you want to paint is flat, clean and free of flaking paint, and make sure anything you don’t want to get paint on is either moved out of the way or covered up.

Sugar soap diluted in water and applied with a sponge is great for removing dirt and grease on walls. You’ll need filler and a filling knife to fill holes and sandpaper (otherwise known as glass paper) to rub off any lumps or excess filler when it’s dry.

Bare wood and metal should always be rubbed down (to smooth out wood and to remove rust on metal) and painted with a primer and undercoat before you paint (unless the paint is specifically self-priming). This will help your topcoat to stick properly to the surface so it won’t peel away later on.

Dust sheets are either lightweight polythene (see-through plastic), fabric, or fabric with a plastic backing. Professionals often use fabric dust sheets because they’ll absorb any spilt paint, which stays wet longer on a polythene dust sheet. Fabric dust sheets tend to last longer than polythene.


Open your tin on top of your dust sheet using a flat bladed screwdriver, and stir your paint well with a clean stick to make sure all the pigment is mixed in evenly (paint can settle after mixing).

When you’re brushing emulsion, pour a small amount at a time into a paint kettle, and put the lid back over your paint tin to keep the dust out. A paint kettle will be lighter than carrying the whole tin, too.

If you come to the end of the day and you haven’t finished painting, you can wrap a plastic carrier bag tightly around your brush or roller to make sure it doesn’t dry out by the next time you want to use it.

When you’re painting wood, always paint in the direction of the grain, and rub the paint down with a fine sandpaper in between coats.

Using paint safely

Some paints, particularly oil-based paints can be quite smelly, and breathing their fumes in a confined space for prolonged periods is not a good idea, so always make sure your work space is well ventilated and take lots of breaks. Keep the space well ventilated while the paint dries.

Modern eggshell (acrylic) paints offer an excellent hard-wearing alternative to oil-based paints for wood and metal, and are much less volatile, so it’s sometimes a good idea to use these indoors and oil-based paints outdoors.

Cleaning up afterwards

When you come to clean out brushes and rollers, try to get as much excess paint as you can back into the tin before you wash them off. Water-based emulsions and acrylics can be washed off in warm water. When the water runs clean, rub the bristles in a little washing up liquid and give that one last rinse. If you can, stand the brush up to drain the bristles to keep them in tip top condition.

If you’re using oil-based paints, put a little white spirit in a clean jam jar or paint kettle and clean your brush in that. You can put the lid on afterwards and use the white spirit again later. Rinse out thoroughly with soapy water afterwards.

Disposing of unwanted paint

Don’t throw paint away with your household rubbish. It will eventually find its way into landfill, where it could pollute the ground.

Do take paint to your local recycling centre where they will dispose of it safely for you.

If you have lots of paint left over it can be used for community projects. Community RePaint work with some local authority recycling sites to collect and distribute paint in the community. Visit their website to find out more.