DIY painting tips: Choosing the right paint

Household 3 min read

If you’re fairly new to painting or haven’t painted a wall in your entire life, you’ve come to the right place.

I spent some time with Progressive Insurance Facility Maintenance Technician Kevin Morris to brush up on some painting DIY tips, including prep, painting tips, and choosing the right paint sheen for your room. To put it mildly, he and the Facilities Team have painted a lot of walls.

“If you’re hiring a painter, it costs about $40-45 an hour and at least $1 per square foot,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s a pretty big bill, which is why I would much rather do it myself.”

Tips for choosing the perfect sheen for your walls

Morris recommends talking to family members and friends and getting their opinions on what brand of paint to use.

“All of the higher-end, higher-priced paints are pretty close,” he said, referring to Sherwin Williams®, Behr®, Glidden®, and Martha Stewart Living®. “At that point, it’s more of a personal preference.”

But, one of the more important questions that’s always tossed his way is, “What type of sheen should I use when painting my room?” According to Morris, choosing the right sheen breaks down to a number of variables:

Flat, Matte 

Perfect for low-traffic areas such as ceilings, dining rooms, and living rooms, it’s easier to blend into old color and provides a smooth, subtle finish. However, you’ll probably have to do touch-ups after a year or so, and it’s more difficult to clean.


Ideal for minimal traffic areas such as bedrooms, foyers, hallways, kitchens and baths, eggshell paint provides a low sheen that’s easier to clean than flat or matte paint. There will be a noticeable difference when you do touch-ups and it can be more difficult to blend after the paint dries.


Great for rooms with more activity such as family rooms, playrooms, laundry rooms, and children’s bedrooms, satin paint is the most commonly used paint because it provides an elegant finish that’s not too glossy and can easily be wiped clean—although it’s the less preferred sheen for touch-ups.


Perfect for high-traffic indoor or outdoor areas such as trim, woodwork, doors, cabinets, bathrooms, shutters, moldings and hallways, semi-gloss provides a protective sheen that’s easy to clean. It’s not recommended for walls because it brings out imperfections that you would normally want to conceal.


Gloss is perfect for surfaces that require frequent washing such as trim, woodwork, doors and cabinets, as well as bathtub and shower areas. Although not recommended for walls, it can be used indoors or out and provides a smooth, high-shine finish that’s easy to clean.

The importance of priming

 To make the job a little easier and save money on paint, Morris recommends applying a coat of primer to your walls prior to painting. If you’re planning to paint the wall a darker color, have a tint added to the primer—most retailers do it for free.

“I would prime, especially if you’re going from a dark color to a light color,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier and you’re not wasting money on coats and coats of the paint.”

And what about those all-in-one paint and primer paints out on the market?

“I’ve used a combination paint-and-primer in one, and it took me four coats to get where I wanted it to be,” Morris added. “The paint-and-primer provides better coverage, but should not be used as a substitute in situations where you really do need primer.”

Also, don’t put too much thought into what brand of primer you buy. “Just go with the cheapest price you can find,” he said. “They’re pretty much all the same.”

What’s the deal with VOC? 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are aromatic chemical solvents released into the air as paint dries—the same type of solvents that are in various cleaners and scented plug-ins that you buy at a grocery store.

“If you have a family member who’s pregnant or just sensitive to the smell, I would recommend buying a lower or non-VOC paint,” Morris said. “They’re available everywhere.

Was this article helpful?

3 min
3 min
3 min
4 min
4 min