Painting Tools and Accessories for a Professional Quality Finish

Painting your home offers a great return on investment, especially when it comes time to list the property on the market. Applying a fresh coat of paint also offers great peace-of-mind ROI as new colours can invigorate a formerly stale area.

Painting is also one of the most popular DIY projects. Most homeowners can dip a brush into a bucket whereas building a deck out back might be a bit more tricky. There are some definite reasons to go with a professional painting company though including quality, time efficiency, and safety (reaching high areas). The abundance of painting tools is another reason the pros have an edge – and not just while edging.

This guide will familiarize you with what those painting tools are, what they do, and how difficult they are to use:

Painting Tools - Brushes

While bigger painting projects are more efficient to do with a roller, paint brushes are still needed to do the 'cutting' Paint cutting is using a brush for areas that are too tight to get with a roller. Spots that need to be cut include ceiling lines, corners, near crown molding and along baseboards and door trim.

It's important to note that not all paint brushes are created equal – nor are the painters. Here is what you need to know about brushes:

Brush Size

  • 1” to 2” - a precise brush used to cut for the inexperienced painters. Smaller brushes are also ideal if painting the grooves on a window or door as well as some trim types.
  • 3” - more experienced painters like to (and can) cut with a larger 3” brush. The bigger brush also allows for more coverage on doors and cabinets.
  • 4” - the biggest brush most hardware stores supply. Great for large, flat areas and walls too small to fit a roller.
paint brushes


Brush Types

  • Natural bristle – made of animal (badger, camel, pony, squirrel, etc.) hair that holds more paint and applies it in a smooth, even finish. Natural bristles are only used for oil based applications (paint, varnish, polyurethane) because water-based latex paints make the bristles limp.
  • Synthetic bristle – made of nylon / polyester that is easy to clean and durable. The nylon keeps the brush strong while the polyester helps it retain shape while providing a high-quality finish.

Brush Ends

  • Square – used for applying paint over large flat areas.
  • Angle – each bristle on an angle brush is longer than the preceding one which is great for cutting and painting window trim.
  • Chiseled– angled on both sides which produces a very straight line for painting trim grooves and cutting in tight areas.

Rollers (Roller Cover)


One of the most important painting tools is a high quality paint roller to prevent streaking. As a roller cover gets older the paint either a) won't stick to the roller or b) sticks too good to the roller and doesn't come off. Selecting the correct roller cover depends on whether you are using oil or latex paint as well as the type of surface being painted.

The thickness of a paint roller cover is known as its nap. The 3/4” nap is used for rough, textured surfaces. The 3/8” nap is the industry standard for most common medium textured surfaces. If you are painting an exceptionally smooth surface then a thin 1/4” nap is recommended. There is also a foam roller to use for latex paints on smooth surfaces.

A 9” roller is the most common size for walls and ceilings. Rollers are available 12”, 14”, and 18” however. Some people prefer a slightly smaller 7” roller and others also use a 3” or 4” roller for cabinets or door panels.

A pan is also needed to dip the roller in.

Extension Pole

There is a roller often called a long john that is much longer (up to 26”) to help with application on ceilings and high up on walls. Extension poles are also available as an adapter to a standard size roller. These painting tools simply screw on the end of a standard roller.

Extension poles are available from 2 feet all the way up to 24 feet. The best extension poles are telescoping and adjustable for a wide range of heights. There are a number of people who prefer the extension pole as opposed to the dangers and overall inconvenience of a ladder.

Step Ladder

A step ladder is an inevitable tool used in painting. There are just some applications that even an extension pole is not recommended such as cutting in near the top of door trim and near ceiling crown molding. 5 or 6 foot step ladders are the norm for most home floor plans.

If ceilings are a bit higher or if painting is going to be done on the exterior of the house than a taller 8 or12 foot step ladder may be needed. Some people prefer a drywall stand (18” to 30”) as a more convenient way to move around a room when trying to paint a ceiling they are just short of.

Extension Ladder

For exterior painting as well as home floor plans with vaulted ceilings or high stairwells an extension ladder is going to be needed. A 16 foot extension ladder is very common but a 20', 24', or even 40' size may be needed on multi-level homes.

There are various extension ladder tools that are also recommended for optimum safety. These include self-leveling leg adapters to make sure the ladder is stable. There are also stabilizers for the top of a ladder that expand out on both sides at dimensions ranging from 65” to 4'. These are used when painting above a window or just for increased general comfort. If someone has to get on a roof to paint a dormer or chimney a safety harness should also be considered.

Drop Cloth

One of the most important painting tools to consider is a drop sheet  to avoid damage to other areas of the home. Rollers are going to almost inevitably splatter and it's also not rare to kick over a paint can or pan, especially when zoning in on painting a ceiling.

Every painter in a room should have a drop cloth underneath them, even when cutting in. A 9' X 12', 12' X 15', or 20' X 20' canvas drop cloth is highly recommended because of its durability. The canvas drop cloths (or plastic sheeting) can also be laid over recliners, sofas, shelving, etc. Some people prefer to tape poly/paper floor coverings on the ground. It is definitely a more cost-effective painting tools approach but the paper also rips very easily and the process of taping the paper to the ground can be time consuming not to mention frustrating.


drop sheet


Jobsite Lights

Halogen or LED lights are an often overlooked necessity when it comes to painting tools. Complete, even coverage of a room is especially crucial when painting. Adequate lighting is important to make sure every square inch of a wall or ceiling is covered and is key to prevent streaking, runs, and bubbling.


Fans are also must have painting tools both for safety and performance. Air circulation is key so that the painter isn't breathing in fumes all day. Fans also help the paint dry faster and at a more uniform pace. Many painters prefer an oscillating fan for increased circulation.

Sanding Equipment

It never hurts to sand down walls, ceilings, doors, etc. before they are going to be painted. Sanding down is part of prepping an area and is a great way to ensure the surface is smooth (if it's supposed to be) and clear of paint chunks, cobwebs, and other dirt.

A wide variety of sandpaper grit is needed depending on the painting job. Finer grit (120-220) does a great job of removing most surface debris while a medium (60-100) may be necessary for more embedded items.

Caulk Gun

It's nearly inevitable that there are going to be some gaps on the areas that get painted. This is especially true when painting the exterior of a home because weather changes expand and contract wood, siding, doors, and windows. A caulk gun will be needed to fill in these gaps so that they can be painted in an adequate manner. Painters caulk adheres to wood, vinyl, plaster, and masonry.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to painting tools needed to fully get the job done. Drywall compound is frequently needed to fill in walls that have dents and dips. A pliers is needed to pull nails out as is a hammer to pound nails in. Utility knives or just razor blades are essential for scraping off paint that might splatter on a window. A paint sprayer obviously speeds up the process and then a masking gun would be needed as well.

Painting is a great DIY project, but as you can see there are a number of painting tools that would be needed to get a professional quality finish. Sometimes it's simply easier – and actually cheaper - to “call the pros.”

Panel Tool
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