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The major advantages of paint rollers include speed of application and versatility. Since most wall paints are formulated for roller application, you will do a quicker, smoother job with a roller.

Standard wall rollers, used in large open areas, are 7″ to 12″ wide. Specialized rollers can be any length from 2″ to 18″, depending on the job to be done. Special rollers are designed for painting round surfaces or into corners.

The best roller frames are expandable, made from heavy-gauge wire, have end bearings for smooth operation and a threaded handle to accommodate extenders.

A critical element in any roller is the type of fiber used in the cover and length of the nap. Mohair covers are especially good for applying enamel; lambswool covers are excellent for alkyd paints, but not latex; synthetic fibers make all-purpose covers but cannot be used with specialty coatings, such as epoxies and polyurethane.

Smooth surfaces such as plaster, hardboard, etc., require 1/4″ and shorter nap. Very short nap is used with enamels and gloss finishes, and longer naps with latex or flat paints.

Naps of 3/8″ to 1/2″ are used on semi-rough surfaces such as light stucco, sandblasted metal, etc.

Rough surfaces such as concrete block, heavy stucco, etc., require longer naps of 3/4″ to 1-1/4″.

Quality aspects of any roller are the type and density of the fibers used. Some fibers become matted and lose resiliency when they absorb water.

Core construction is also important. In a quality roller, the core is round, has no conspicuous seams, shows no indication that the fabric will separate from the core at the ends and does not deform when squeezed gently. Some cores are made of untreated cardboard, which will soften and collapse from excess moisture; phenolic core (treated cardboard) and plastic will hold up in heavy service. Other roller cores, made of polypropylene, are thermally fused to the fabric cover, unlike others in which the fabric and core are glued.

Regardless of the material, be sure the core will hold up with both oil and latex paints. It is wise to use a separate cover for each kind of paint.

The density of the fiber determines the roller’s ability to hold paint and spread it evenly. Inexpensive rollers that become matted or fail to spread the paint will produce a mottled finish, regardless of the quality of paint used. They may also leave lint on the painted surface.

Shields are available to combat spatter and drizzle. Some roller shields are incorporated into the structure of the tool.

Select the Right Roller Cover
The most important factor in selecting a paint roller cover is the surface that is going to be painted.
– short nap (1/8″ to 1/4″) cover. Longer nap can leave a pronounced “orange peel” effect. Use on smooth plaster, sheet rock, wallboard, smooth wood, Masonite and Celotex.
– (slightly rough) – medium nap (3/8″ to 1/2″); longer fibers push the paint into rough surfaces without causing “orange peel.” Use on sand finish plaster, texture plaster, acoustical tile, poured concrete, rough wood and shakes.
– long nap (3/4″ to 1-1/4″); longer fibers push paint into the deep valleys of rough surfaces. Use on concrete block, stucco, brick, Spanish plaster, cinder block, corrugated metal and asphalt or wood shingles.
The rule for using almost all roller covers – “The smoother the surface, the shorter the nap; the rougher the surface, the longer the nap.”
1) The application of catalyzed (two-part) fiberglass or epoxy coatings. These coatings have strong solvents that destroy normal covers. Special high-solvent covers are available for these coatings.
2) The application of paint to extremely rough surfaces occasionally requires an extra long nap roller cover (1-1/4″ or 1-1/2″).
3) The application of texture paint to a smooth surface requires a special cover to pull or peak the paint on the surface for the desired texture. This is often referred to as a stipple roller cover.


A paint pad applies paint quickly, as well as offering several advantages not possible with rollers.

Rollers, because of their circular motion, tend to spatter paint, especially if rolled too fast. Since pad applicators lie flat on the surface, spattering is avoided.

A second advantage is that a pad can be used in corners. If a ceiling and wall are being painted separate colors, a roller cannot be used at the point where the two surfaces meet, because the roller will mark the other surface.

Paint pads have guide wheels or trim tabs that guarantee a straight line at the point of intersection. This same device allows for painting around trim and molding without marring the second surface.

Pads hold a great deal of paint and spread it quickly. For even faster application, manufacturers offer pad trays, some of which are equipped with a revolving wheel to speed the proper loading of the pad. When a pad is wiped on the revolving wheel, the proper amount of paint is picked up on the surface of the pad.

Pad refills are available for most pad applicators. Although cleanup is relatively easy, some users prefer the disposable feature.

There are also a variety of special paint pads; these include pads for painting in corners, for applying stains, for rough surfaces and for edging. There are also pressure-fed pads with a trigger-controlled paint supply.


Foam brushes are so inexpensive that they are often considered disposable; but most are substantial enough to be cleaned and reused. Foam brushes have handles like regular brushes, but a foam pad replaces the bristles.

Foam brushes are ideal for clear finishes. Most brands are not recommended for use with lacquer or shellac. The chemical formulas of these finishes attack the foam.


There are many products specifically designed for applying texture paints. Among them are special stippling roller covers. Some of these are foam with various patterns etched into the surface; some have deep, looped material.

Special large-diameter texture painting rollers are available for the heavier consistency of texture paints. Texture edgers can also be used to texture where rollers cannot reach.


Spray painting is far more efficient than other methods in certain instances, such as covering large areas with the same color or painting intricate surfaces such as furniture or grillwork, where other tools won’t reach all surfaces. It requires some practice in order to handle the equipment and get an even paint covering.

Spray equipment has been available to homeowners for many years, but airless sprayers offer an easier way for do-it-yourselfers to spray paint. Airless sprayers eject paint at high pressure and must be handled carefully to avoid possible injury. An electric airless paint system consists of a paint container, high-pressure pump, motor, handle, and housing and pressure regulator. Extension nozzles, longer suction tubes, extra nozzles and viscosity measuring cup are optional accessories.

Important points to remember in using an airless sprayer, as with other types of sprayers, are proper paint consistency, pressure and tip selection.

Choice of spraying tip depends on paint consistency, but generally the thinner the paint, the smaller the tip needed.

Paint consistency also governs pump pressure. Thinner materials such as stains, lacquers, enamels and sealers require less pressure than heavier materials such as house and wall paint.

Paints formulated for brush or roller application may be too thick for spraying. They should be tested and thinned if necessary.

Other types of spraying equipment have several operational differences.

A suction gun has a vent hole in the cover of the paint cap. A stream of compressed air creates a vacuum, allowing atmospheric pressure to force material from the container to the spray-head. These guns usually are limited to quart-sized containers or smaller and are used where many color changes are necessary.

In a pressure-fed system, the material is force fed to the gun when large amounts of the same color are being used, when materials are too heavy to be siphoned from a cap or container by suction, or when fast application is required.

Non-bleeder sprayers cannot release air until the trigger is pulled. These are used when air is supplied from a tank or from a compressor having pressure control.

A bleeder gun releases air at all times, thus preventing the pressure from building up to a point of popping the safety valve.

Some paint sprayers can be adapted to other uses with proper accessories. For example, an air-gun attachment blows dust from objects to prepare the surface for painting; an adjustable pressure-relief valve regulates maximum air pressure on air guns; an inflater attachment converts the sprayer into a pump to inflate toys, tires, etc.

Another type of applicator in this category is a rotary-disc airless paint sprayer. An auger pump pulls paint from a container mounted under the electrically powered spraying head into a high-speed spinning disc. Centrifugal force from the spinning disc causes the paint to flow through a variable gate opening.

The gate control regulates size of paint swath and eliminates nozzles and high-pressure injection hazards.

High-volume, low-pressure paint sprayers reduce the amount of over-spray typically caused by airless sprayers and conventional, air-powered spray guns. More paint reaches the surface and painters save time and money on paint, drop cloths and masking.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.