Whether your goal for an upcoming home painting project is to challenge your DIY chops or to simply save money (instead of hiring out the professionals), these essential painting tools are what you'll need to start and finish the job. All of the items featured on our list are expert-recommended and ideal for rooms of all shapes and sizes. Plus, we've got plenty of tips for what you'll need in order to paint stairways, trim, kitchen cabinets, and everything in between with ease and longevity in mind.
1. Standard 9-Inch Roller Frame
The pros use moderately priced painting tools, avoiding the less expensive brands that tend to break more easily. The Wooster Brush Company, established in 1851, seems to be the brand of choice among painting veterans (Purdy being a close second), and the standard 9-inch roller frame comes highly recommended for walls in most standard sized rooms due to its durable green fiberglass reinforced nylon cage and chrome plated shank.
2. Extra-Wide Adjustable Roller Frame
You could literally double your productivity when painting large rooms and hallways with an 18-inch roller frame that can adjust from 12 to 18 inches with ease. Its custom designed angle will give you better wall coverage by allowing the frame to get closer to the baseboards and ceiling.
3. Heavy-Duty Paint Bucket
You will need to purchase an extra-wide paint bucket to accommodate your extra-wide roller, but the time you'll save could be worth any extra cost. With its large 5-gallon working capacity and durable seamless polypropylene material that resists solvents and paint buildup, the Wooster Wide Boy will act as a bucket and tray all-in-one.
4. Roller Covers
When selecting a roller cover for your paint job, opt for wool or a wool/poly blend, say the pros. The best paint roller cover for your buck is by Purdy. With its half inch nap, it's perfect for most interior work (don't use it on stucco or popcorn ceilings) and won't shed or leave any tick marks on your wall, plus it'll hold a good amount of paint with each dip. Don't waste your money with any special roller covers; to keep your roller clean in between paintings, soak it in water right inside of the bucket, or, simply wrap your wet roller with a recycled plastic bag (and a few drops of added water) to keep overnight or even a few days.
PRO TIP: If you find any dried paint chips in your bucket after pouring fresh paint, take an old nylon sock and use it as a handy DIY paint strainer.
5. Roller Bucket and Metal Grid
A roller bucket is by far the most economical choice and much faster than a tray or pan for its large 5-gallon capacity and optional air-tight lid for long-term storage (definitely buy a screw-top lid), or if you're just storing paint overnight, an airtight plastic bag will do the job. You'll also need a 5-gallon bucket grid to fit inside. The bucket and metal grid system will save you a ton of time, money, and prevents much of the drips and spills that come with a tray or pan situation.
You will need a smaller roller for tighter spots that your standard 9-inch roller can't get to, like cabinetry, doors, and the narrow spaces around trim or behind toilets. Choose one with a useful extra-long frame that includes a high-capacity roller.
7. Extension Poles
Opt for quick-lock extension poles. The other option is screw-thread types, which tend to loosen with motion. This one comes with a special conversion tip to make all threaded tools GT compatible, so that you won't have to worry about changing poles. Painting experts recommend getting both a 6- to 12-foot extension pole for higher ceilings and a two to four footer for tighter spots. Any larger, they say, and you'll experience bending at full extension. Instead, use a ladder or platform when necessary.
8. Extension Ladder
If borrowing a ladder isn't an option, it might be worth buying a quality 12-foot multi-purpose aluminum extension ladder for around the house, or even a 22 footer for painting high ceilings, stairwells, and outdoors (depending on your budget). Make sure you've got enough indoor space to store your ladder because keeping it outside will cause rapid degradation and we want these babies to last a lifetime.
9. Platform or Scaffold
If you happen to fancy yourself a painting pro, consider investing in a platform. This will take away all of the heartache and anxiety usually associated with ladders, as the hassle of constantly moving a ladder around the room can quickly become cumbersome. Or, better yet, go for a rolling scaffold. Your new platform or scaffold will come in handy especially if you've got multiple projects, like painting, sanding, or staining a ceiling.
10. Step Stool
Step stools will pretty much come in handy whether you need them for a painting project or not, making them a great investment for the home. Go for a taller 3-step folding ladder, like this one for indoor and outdoor use; its durable high-quality, high-grade steel frame will last for many years to come. Or, if long-term storage space is an issue, go for a classic two-step kitchen step stool. And when aesthetics are among your top priorities, choose a pretty bamboo one-stepper. You really can't go wrong here.
11. Angle Brushes
The professional angular paint brush minimum size for trim is 2.5 inches, but consider going with 2 or 1.5 inches if you're new to the game, say the experts. For this brush, it's all about Purdy, which is a lifetime painting tool and well-worth the upkeep. An angle cut brush is required for trim and pretty much all detail work, as flat cut brushes don't do so well in corners. Consider this value 3-pack that contains a variety of sizes good for any interior or exterior trim job. (Up to 3 or 3.5 inches can hold more paint and save time with less dipping.)
12. Painter's Tape
A decent painter's tape, like this one, is essential in order to protect trim in tight corners, but at the same time, having a decent paint brush on hand could help you skip this more time-consuming step. Wondering whether to paint walls or baseboards and trim first? This chicken-or-egg dilemma has been graciously answered by our favorite 30-year professional painting veteran. (Spoiler: it's the trim.)
13. Hand-Masker Kit
This hand-masker pre-assembled masking film kit includes painter's tape, plus it has a few other items you might find especially time-saving, like a film blade and roll of clear film. Using hand-masker film with or without the kit is an absolute must for keeping paint flakes, dust, and overspray when painting outdoors contained, especially for masking windows, doors, cabinets, floors, walls in windy conditions, or when using a paint sprayer.
14. Paint Sprayer
A paint sprayer might seem more like a luxury item but these days there are plenty of options out there for all budgets. For a top-of-the-line non-commercial paint sprayer that will last a lifetime with proper care, go for one by Graco (retails for about $220). Wagner offers a more budget-friendly model for about $60 to $70. No matter which model or budget you're working with, a paint sprayer might be well-worth the cost, depending on how large or how often you need to apply a few coats of paint, indoor or out, as these will work on just about any sized surface, whether it be trim, decks, and even cabinets.
15. 14-in-1 Multi-Tool
Meet your new best friend: the 14-in-1 titanium painter's tool. This thing does it all: It acts as both a Phillip's and flat-head screwdriver, putty knife, can opener, nail extractor, scraper, and even has a solid hammer end that sets drywall nails, plus so much more. It will even fit in the special pocket in your painter's pants designed just for a putty knife.
16. Painter's Pants
Speaking of, with painter's pants, it's all about the pockets. The 100 percent cotton painter's pant by Dickies comes with multiple tool pockets and loops, known as "the standard in painter's pants." Their durable drill fabric with triple stitched seams and extra-large double back pockets will make you look and feel like a true painting pro. Style points? That, too.
17. Drop Cloths
You will want to have a drop cloth or two around while painting, unless you're planning on replacing your existing floors anyway. Professional painters tend to use canvas drop cloths to protect floors and plastic drop cloths on nearby furniture. Use 4-foot wide canvas runners along walls, and be sure to wipe up any drips that end up on the cloths to prevent tracking paint when you step onto the non-covered floor. Drips are the enemy.
18. Quick-Dry Spackle
In addition to a putty knife, spackling is good to have on hand during any painting project in order to fill holes or cracks before applying the first coat. Selecting a quick-drying spackle is the way to go, but for larger repairs, consider keeping some pre-mixed drywall compound handy, which will dry more slowly, so keep that in mind (you'll need a wider putty knife to apply).
You'll need some sandpaper around, especially if you're doing any spackling or using a pre-mixed drywall compound (be sure to let everything dry completely before sanding; this is a crucial step before applying paint). Keep some various grits handy, like 120-150 and maybe even some 80, but tread lightly, so you don't damage your walls. Look for an assorted pack by a decent brand and try not to let it get wet. Also, get a sanding block or use a scrap piece of wood to keep your walls nice and flat.
20. Caulk Gun
Buy a decent caulk gun, like this heavy-duty chrome one to caulk in corners for perfectly straight lines where two different colors meet. You'll also need caulk for cleaner seams between painted trim and walls. However, avoid the silicon stuff — silicon is not usually paintable, and silicon-based caulk takes a long time to dry (it's specifically designed to be used in wet areas, like outdoors and around plumbing).
21. Work Light
Never again underestimate the value of decent lighting while painting. Indeed, a work light will save you a lot of heartache down the line. Imagine that moment after your second or third coat dries and you've already started hanging things only to notice later there's a dreaded bald spot in the paint that you didn't catch before (and now it's all you see). We've all been there. Once you experience a super bright LED work light, you'll soon consider it an essential painting tool.