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May 19, 2024

15 Painting Tools You Need (and 7 You Don’t)

When it comes to painting supplies, if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. There’s really no substitute for quality painting tools, adequate preparation, and careful work. “One of the easiest things to remember about paint tools is that you get what you pay for,” says Lou Manfredini, home expert for Ace Hardware. “The biggest mistake I see homeowners make is that they buy cheap tools that don’t give them good results, or they buy cheap paint—then they end up with a poor finished product.”

Here are some of Manfredini’s favorite must-have paint products for a flawless finish and a handful of appealing painter accessories that you can skip altogether. Keep in mind that you may not need some of these products if your walls are in good shape and don’t need a lot of repairs. (Just make sure you purchase some highly-rated paint first because a quality tool won’t work miracles on low-quality paint).


Wall Cleaner

You want to work with a clean surface since a dirty wall could prevent the paint from adhering or cause the paint to bubble. “I like to use a classic cleaner, Spic and Span, with a little bit of water and a sponge to get any surface dirt off the walls before I paint,” says Manfredini.

Painter’s Tape

While purchasing a quality painter’s tape like 3M or Frogtape is important, it’s more about how you apply it. Once it’s on the wall, run a damp rag over the edge to create a seal. Pay attention to the release dates, or when the tape needs to come off, it varies from 15 to 30 days.


A 2 1/2-inch angled brush was made for painting trim and cutting in. Look for quality brands like Wooster, Purdy, and Benjamin Moore.


A standard 9-inch roller with a synthetic core and a 3/8-inch nap is a classic. “Test the core, take your thumb and index finger and push down on each side on the end of the roller. You shouldn’t be able to close that opening,” says Manfredini. “Ace and Shur-Line both make quality roller covers. Mini paint roller frames are also convenient for working around small spaces.”

Canvas Drop Cloths

“Sure, it’s a little more expensive to buy canvas, but if you’re going to take on a painting job, you’ll have these for the rest of your life,” says Manfredini. “Get the 4-foot-wide runner length to use near the walls.”

Paint Brush Cleaner

This painting product ensures that painting newbies get their quality brushes completely clean for future use.

Plastic Bucket

It’s easier to pour paint into these containers than to work from a quart or gallon.

Plastic Roller Tray

Instead of metal, buy a heavy-duty plastic tray. They’re rigid, but when you go to clean them, the latex paint doesn’t stick and comes right off.

Roller Extension Pole

An extendable two-foot roller extension should work in most spaces, but keep the height of your ceiling in mind when shopping for supplies.

Sturdy Ladder

A standard six-foot aluminum or fiberglass ladder that fits your weight specifications (don’t forget that you need to add on approximately how much you’ll be carrying up it) is a good investment piece.

Touch Up Tool

For quick paint touch-ups around the house, invest in the Shur-Line Touch Up Painter, available at hardware stores. “If your walls take a lot of abuse, this little gadget holds extra paint for easy touch-ups,” says Manfredini.

Pre-Mixed Spackling

This product works for most patching jobs and nail holes. Look for DAP Fast n’ Final or Drydex, since both dry quickly and are easy for novice painters to use. Drydex is especially cool because it goes on pink and then turns white when it’s dry, so you never have to guess. You’ll also want caulk for filling in gaps between the walls and trim.

Putty Knife

Skip the 7-in-1 tool. Instead, you’ll want a two-inch putty knife and a six-inch-wide taping knife, both with flexible blades. They’ll help patch cracks and apply joint compound.

Fiber Mesh Tape

This wall repair tool is ideal for covering larger holes, look for versions from Hyde, Purdy, or Shur-Line.

Sanding Sponges

A medium and fine grit sponge can handle most jobs. “If you don’t want to make a lot of dust by sanding, skip the sandpaper and smooth your spackle out with a damp sponge and warm water,” says Manfredini. “It will get the job done with zero dust.”

Skip It

Paint Key

You don’t need a special tool to open your paint cans; a standard flat-head screwdriver works just fine.

Plastic Tube for Paint Roller

If you’re done painting for the day but want to pick it back up tomorrow, cover the roller in plastic wrap, then throw it into a plastic bag with an air-tight seal.

Paint Tray Liners

These aren’t necessary if you get a quality hard plastic paint tray. Plus, it’s less wasteful if you don’t throw away a plastic liner each time you paint.

Paint Pads

Skip these, unless you’re using them to paint behind hard-to-reach areas like a toilet tank or radiator.

Fillable Paint Products

“Any gadget that sucks paint up into its handle is a nightmare to use and to clean. In the time it takes to refill it, you could already be painting,” says Manfredini. The exception here is the touch-up tool that Manfredini recommended specifically.

Paint Edgers

Don’t be fooled by these—you’re not guaranteed crisp, clean lines if you use them. You’re better off properly taping trim and walls then using an angled brush.

Paint Mixer Gadgets

You might see drill attachments for stirring paint, but seriously, save your money—a traditional paint stick (the kind that’s usually free with your paint purchase!) will do the job just fine, even if it takes an extra minute or two.

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