House Painters and Decorators | Lower Hutt | Upper Hutt | Whitby | Wellington

Learn How To Use A Paint Roller Like A Professional

Applying paint with a roller can cut down your painting time considerably and the results can be impressive. However, it’s important to use the right equipment and techniques to effectively eliminate paint strokes and achieve a smooth finish.


You’ll need a paint roller and roller sleeve, a paint tray or paint grid and possibly an extension pole.

The number-one thing for a great finish is making sure you have the correct roller sleeve to match the paint and surface.

Using the right sized roller sleeve will give you better results as well as saving time and effort. Generally the bigger the roller the more paint it will hold and therefore the faster the job. The following sizes are a good guideline:

  • 75mm and 100mm for cupboards and doors.
  • 180mm for small walls, doors and small surfaces.
  • 230mm and 270mm for larger areas including walls and ceilings.

Furthermore, paint roller sleeves come in different fabrics and pile lengths that are designed for varying surfaces, substrates and type of paint used.

Look for a good quality roller sleeve that has a core that will not soften in water or paint solvents. Avoid using economy all purpose roller sleeves which will give you a poor surface finish by putting too much paint on smooth surfaces and not enough on rough surfaces. The following is another good guideline:

  • 4mm nap sleeve for smooth surfaces with acrylic enamel paints.
    Ideal for doors and joinery.
  • 5mm nap sleeve for smooth surfaces with oil based paint.
    Ideal for walls, ceilings, floors, Gib board, plaster, wood, doors.
  • 6mm nap sleeve for extra smooth surfaces with oil based paint.
    Ideal for fine finishing on doors, cupboards, marine work, varnishes.
  • 8–10mm nap sleeve for smooth surfaces with water based paints.
    Ideal for walls, ceilings, Gib board, plaster, hardboard, MDF, Linea weatherboards, smooth wallpaper, concrete and cementitious surfaces.
  • 16mm  nap sleeve for textured surfaces with water based paints.
    Ideal for imperfect walls and ceilings, embossed wallpaper, concrete and cementitious surfaces, textured plaster, rough sawn timber, fences.
  • 20mm extra rough surfaces with oil or water based paints.
    Ideal for plaster, concrete and cementitious surfaces,  stucco, brickwork, trellis, textured coatings, all really rough work .

When choosing a roller handle look for a heavy duty steel frame to prevent flexing and bending during painting. Also choose a roller that spins on roller bearings. Bearings help maintain a frictionless roll providing even dispersion of paint onto the surface.

The importance of a strong, self-supporting paint tray cannot be overemphasised. Trays which are too flexible make handling difficult and can cause spillages. A paint tray with a deep reservoir holds more paint and does not need to be refilled as often as a cheaper, low profile tray. To improve on that efficiency even further, some professionals prefer to use a paint grid dropped into a 20 litre paint bucket.

As always, the key to achieving a good paint finish is to make sure the surface to be painted has been prepared properly.

Cover and mask all edges with masking tape where possible, especially where fittings cannot be removed. Invariably, try to do the cutting in around trims, windows and fittings before applying the rolled coat.

It’s a good idea to prep your roller sleeve by washing it in water (or solvent) to remove any loose fibres and to help the roller pick up the paint.

To load the roller, dip it into the tray reservoir or bucket and roll up and down the rake until there’s no drips.

Start your roller about three quarters the way up the wall and push upwards to disperse the paint evenly.  Work from the top down so any drips fall on unpainted areas. Roll the paint onto the surface in a big zigzag pattern. Then fill within the area with criss-cross strokes. Once you’ve covered the area,  finish by laying-off with long, slow, parallel strokes.

Work in small zones and listen to the roller. It should sound moist. When the roller loses that crinkly sound, it’s time to load it up with more paint.