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My Best Paint Advice: 15 Common Questions Answered!

Yes, my inbox is filled with lots of paint questions that I LOVE to answer. Here is my best paint advice in one place!

If you are new to Porch Daydreamer, you may be wondering why I get so many questions about painting things?

After 5 years working for a paint manufacturer and being on the team that trained Lowe’s Home Improvement paint desk staff, I’ve learned a lot and even how to make paint!

My friends have coined me the “The Queen of Painting Everything!” and I wear the crown gladly.

So I can more easily answer your top paint questions, I gathered the most common questions and am answering them in one place.

Porch Daydreamer Making Paint
Learning to Make Paint in the Lab

Plus I’ve linked all of my best paint advice and how-to paint projects too!

At the end of the day I am a total nerd and love all things paint.

Plus am naturally curious about the chemistry behind what makes one paint outperform another!

Luckily, I’ve been trained by the best and can simply explain things about common paint project struggles. 

That way you can paint things the RIGHT WAY and avoid common mistakes.

Pin It for Later!

One thing you will notice is that most of my room makeovers are done using paint!

If I don’t like it, I paint it. That’s much more affordable than replacing.

Not only am I painting cabinets, but furniture, metal, outdoor resin wicker, frames…a lot.

To see all of the Before and After rooms: 10 Year Before and After Home Tour with PAINT COLORS!

My latest HOME TOUR: Whole Home Paint Colors: Soothing Palette

Contains hand selected products, with affiliate marketing links where I may make a small commission if a purchase is made. {full disclosure here}

Top 15 Most Asked Paint Questions

After combing through your emails and comments in the last 2 years, there are common questions that I’m always asked.

To me the answers are easy, but I’ve been painting things for over 25 years (well before my days at Valspar).

One of my missions of this website is to teach, so I am happy to pass along all that I’ve learned and continue to learn as I paint everything in my home!

Here are the questions I get asked the most about paint projects:

  1. How do I choose a paint color?
  2. What is the best process for testing a paint color to make sure it’s the perfect color?
  3. What does 50% of a paint color mean?
  4. What is the best paint for my project?
  5. Which primer do you recommend and when do I need one?
  6. What is the best paint roller to use for my project?
  7. Do I have to sand before painting over stain or polyurethane?
  8. What are those brown streaks in my chalk paint?
  9. What is the best paint for furniture?
  10. What paint is best for cabinets?
  11. Can I use spray paint on wood and metal?
  12. How do you paint cabinets and get a smooth finish?
  13. When should I invest in a paint sprayer?
  14. What do I use to get that antique look on furniture?

Phew that’s a lot of information and fortunately I’ve written a post answering just about all of them in in one way or another!

So let’s tackle these paint questions one by one…if I have a full post I’ll link to it, so just click continue reading on the one that you need most.

How to Choose a Paint Color

This is usually where people get stuck or paralyzed because there are SO many paint colors and brands to search through.

My recommendation is to find one paint manufacturer or store you love and stick with it, so you limit how many paint colors you have to look through.

Then, after searching through your go-to brand, if you can’t find the perfect color try another paint brand! That’s what I do 🙂

The bottom line is please don’t find a color in an Instagram post and run out and buy it.

It is the surest way to be disappointed.

If you want to match a color or find out what color is closest to a piece of fabric or home decor there are cool new apps to help you.

Did you know you can custom match any paint color?

valspar-sample-being-tinted-at-lowes

Yes, just bring a paint chip swatch to your paint store and they will scan it or find the formula in the computer. Easy!

This is what I  do when I find a color outside of the Valspar palettes, but want to use their Cabinet Enamel.

How Do I Test a Paint Color to Make Sure It’s Perfect?

Honestly, this is the BEST piece of advice I can ever give you around paint color.

ALWAYS buy a paint sample before you paint to make sure it works in your home.

This one I’ve learned the hard way and have had to repaint rooms the next day. 

Now I always buy a sample and since putting this in practice have not made any mistakes in choosing a color.

It’s under $10 to buy paint samples, which can save you hundreds of dollars and lots of time1

What Does 50% Tint Strength of a Paint Color Mean?

The real #1 question I get is “What paint color is your room?”

Recently, I’ve been choosing Benjamin Moore paint colors and I find they are very saturated.

That means I think the value is too dark or there is too much tint strength in the paint color, so I want to make it lighter!

Here is an example of what I mean, from my recent bedroom makeover.

Benjamin-Moore-Quiet-Moments-full-strength-and-50%

The color I selected was Quiet Moments, but as it is on the paint chip sample I felt it was too dark for my bedroom.

To lighten the color, I asked the person who was tinting my sample to give me one as it’s recommended and another sample at 50% tint strength.

That means they took the paint color formula and reduced it by 50% to make the paint lighter…I chose the one on the right to lighten up the room

benjamin-moore-wales-gray-at-50%-tile-master-bathroom

Here is the same method used for my recent Master Bathroom remodel and the color Wales Gray.

The sample painted on the left is at 50% of the regular tint strength.

You can ask the paint store to modify the color tint strength by 75%, 50%, or 25% for the lightest look or value.

When I get the question on Instagram “What does Wales Gray at 50% mean?” I hope this explains it!

What is the Best Paint for My Project?

This is a little more complicated answer to what seems like a fairly simple question.

The truth is that most of the time paint sheen will be used to decide what paint is best for your project.

In this post, I do a deep dive on paint sheens and have a table of sheen by paint project to help you narrow down the selection process.

Now you will never be frustrated, when you walk up to the paint counter with your perfect color choice and they ask “What sheen do you want?”

Which Primer Do You Recommend and When Do I Need One?

The magical world of primer and all it can do to ensure you get great results on your paint project.

When I was at Valspar, my mind was blown when I learned about a specific primer call “Bonding Primer”.

It is an amazing product that sticks to just about anything other than concrete, to prep your surface for painting.

This is  STAPLE in my paint tool kit and I always have a quart or gallon on hand.

Here are the features and benefits:

  • Heavy-duty stain blocker
  • Superior hide
  • Seals glossy surfaces
  • Improves top coat glide, adhesion and durability
  • Ideal for tile, glass, metal, trim and cabinets
  • Covers and seals wood knots
  • Sandable for smooth finish
  • Tintable for dramatic color changes
  • Mildew-resistant finish

When do you need a primer?

The benefits of primer are multi-faceted, so there aren’t many times that I won’t recommend a primer…even with chalk paint, which some manufacturer’s say you don’t need one.

Anytime you are painting over these surfaces use a bonding primer:

  • Polyurethane, lacquer, or shellac
  • Stained wood
  • Tile
  • Metal
  • Dark paint color
  • Bare wood
  • Glass…yes, you can paint glass after applying bonding primer
  • Mold or smoke stains
  • Painting latex/water-based paints over oil paint
  • Painting over a hight-gloss sheen moving to a lower sheen

Paint in general won’t adhere to a slick surface, so this primer will make it rough and also cover color or stains.

If you are just re-painting, with the same sheen paint and similar color, NO PRIMER IS NEEDED.

Now that we’ve covered primer let’s talk about roller application.

Best Roller by Paint Project?

Trust me when I say I know how you feel when you stand in front of the roller aisle, with no clue what to buy.

Fortunately, at Valspar, we trained with Wooster staff so I quickly learned the ins and outs of applicators.

I told you I was a nerd, right?

PAINT BRUSHES: 9 out of 10 times I recommend a nylon/polyester brush.

Do I Need to Sand Before Painting Over Stain?

You may be surprised by my answer, which is most of the time NO!

Remember the bonding primer? That is what you use to avoid sanding for almost all projects.

I’ve got LOTS of examples of projects from around my home where I don’t sand before painting.

People LOVE to argue with me about this one, but all I can tell you is my cabinets and furniture still look amazing years later WITHOUT sanding.

Once, I tried liquid sandpaper and didn’t use bonding primer. It was a disaster of epic proportions.

Read about why I can’t recommend liquid sandpaper: How-To Prep and Paint Stained Stairs White

Do I Need to Prime Before Chalk Paint?

Unfortunately, people want to skip priming their furniture or cabinets because chalk paint is sold as a one and done paint. 

Well, I’m going to SHOW YOU exactly what can happen if you DON’T prime.

Yes, I ruined a piece of furniture in the name of teaching you what can happen.

My inbox is filled with panicked people that after they applied the wax or clear coat bad things have happened.

It’s so frustrating and time wasted, when after all of that work you see bleed through or the paint isn’t adhered.

Do it right the first time!

What Are Those Brown Streaks in My Paint?

Those pesky streaks that not only come through chalk paint, but water based paint usually happen when you are painting over stained pieces.

They magically keep appearing no matter how many coats of paint you apply.

Want to know how to avoid and cover those streaks?

Sometimes the brown streaks don’t show until you apply a wax or water based clear topcoat.

I’m sorry to say if it happens with wax, sanding down to the wood is the best way to fix the issue.

With a clear top coat, you can apply bonding primer over the top to cover and then add additional paint or sand to the wood and start over.

Your best defense is a good offense and test for bleed through BEFORE you paint an entire piece OR apply Bonding Primer first.

What is the Best Furniture Paint?

You may be surprised by my answer of my favorite, but it works and I’ve used is for MANY projects!

Guess what it’s NOT chalk paint either. Read this: Why You Must Prime Before Chalk Paint

Check out a recent project using my favorite furniture paint: French Blue Paint Nightstand Makeover

What Paint is Best for Cabinets?

My favorite makeover project is painting cabinets. Especially when they are a dark stain!

I’ve found the best paint that is durable and requires NO TOPCOAT for easy touch-ups, if you ever get a chip.

So many people have written to me about this paint and the great results they get on their cabinets.

Painting with Valspar Cabinet & Furniture Enamel requires specific applicators:

If you use a regular roller, you will over apply the paint and get an orange peel effect.

Also, you MUST wait AT LEAST 8 hours between coats and if you don’t the paint may never fully dry and be tacky.

If you make this mistake and your paint is tacky, my best advice is to run an oscillating heater fan over the paint overnight to see if you can dry it out. 

We will talk about painting cabinets later in this post.

Can I Use Spray Paint on Wood, Metal and Plastic?

You bet you can! I don’t write about spray paint as much, but I use it a ton to makeover items in my home.

One item I’ve made over, but didn’t blog about was a metal table that I use out on my front porch.

It used to be brown and now the tray is white and the base silver.

The planter behind it used to be black and is now silver too!

Palms in black square planters creating shade and beautiful sounds

They’ve weathered beautifully over 2 seasons no peeling. Click here for the silver spray paint used.

I’ve even spray painted the vinyl tubing of my drip irrigation system white, with no issues.

Spray painting outdoor resin was a new project I tackled and it’s not a permanent solution, but a nice update for the color for your outdoor furniture. 

See how I updated my bedroom gallery wall with a little spray paint.

Here is how I spray painted over metal cabinet hardware. 

Yes! You can spray paint cabinet hardware too and save a ton of money, if you are just looking for a finish change.

Spray paint is the most inexpensive way to change the color of anything…even drain covers in your yard.

Yep, I’ve sprayed my white ones black in my landscaping to make them disappear.

What is the Best Way to Paint Cabinets?

I’ve written a couple of posts on painting cabinets, so I’m going to share both.

Since I’ve been in the paint world, I knew the best way to get a smooth finish on cabinets was going to be done using a paint sprayer.

Of course like you, I was intimidated by using a sprayer.

Seriously, once you try one you’ll avoid hand painting and never do it again!

Here’s a quick video to show you how it’s done.

If you’d like to know which is better hand or sprayer applied paint, read this post:

In my home, I’ve paint over stained cabinets and changed the color of existing cabinets.

You’ll find what you need between these two posts!

When Should I Invest in a Paint Sprayer?

Seriously, so many people ask me “Do I have to buy a paint sprayer to paint cabinets?”

The answer is clearly no, but there are times when the investment will be SO worth it.

Sprayers save both time and money plus give you the best paint finish possible.

Here is a great example of a paint project that was so much easier because I had a sprayer.

Many single women have written to me thanking me for giving them the confidence to use a sprayer.

I promise it’s easy you just have to practice on cardboard a bit first to get the hang of it…no big deal!

What Do I Use to Get an Antique Look on Furniture?

First, there are two key ways to create an antique look on furniture or cabinets: 

  1. Manually by sanding
  2. Applying a glaze

Since my home has a more formal look to it, I prefer applying glaze versus sanding. 

It’s a personal preference…that’s all!

Plus glaze also can be used for faux driftwood finishes and I’ve developed three techniques using it.

You’ll be surprised by what you can do with glazes.

My Best Paint Advice 

Do you feel like a paint expert now?

My hope is this can be your go to resource, when it’s time to choose a color or paint something.

Want to know the hot 2021 Paint Colors? 2021 Paint Color Trends: Best of the Best Picks!

There are more painting projects on the horizon this year, so please consider signing up for my weekly email newsletter so you never miss a post!

As my FREE GIFT to you, with email sign-up a detailed paint sheen project guide! 

You will know the right sheen for every project…

free-paint-sheen-download-porch-daydreamer

Please consider following me on Pinterest and Instagram for daily inspiration.

I’d appreciate you Pinning from this post to help me grow!

Until next time…

PORCH DAYDREAMER

Tracey

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7 Comments

  1. I always enjoy reading your post and have gained a wealth of knowledge in how to paint and choose colors. Your home is so beautiful! I’m struggling with choosing a sheen for my exterior. I know I want a dark gray or blue. What sheen is appropriate for exterior vinyl siding? Should I prime first? My exterior is currently white.

    1. Hi, Amanda! Glad I can help. Painting vinyl siding is best be left to a professional who has experience with this substrate. Proper cleaning and using the right exterior paint is important. Here is some information on the Sherwin Williams site for colors that are safe to use and recommended paints: VinylSafe Paint Colors.

  2. Your knowledge is incredible. I do have a question about medium colored oak kitchen cabinets,. Is there a way to paint the upper cabinets that will still show the oak grain? I would like to paint a lighter color that would blend with my granite and lower cabinets but I hesitate because I don’t want to lose the grain. Any suggestions, or do I leave them alone?

    Thank you and stay safe,
    Diane

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