Fresh Design decorating tips: How to paint like a pro

Ever wished you could paint like a pro? Professional painter and decorator Teresa Tomlinson of Internal Affairs shares her tips for the perfect paint finish.

Now the warmer weather’s here, the evenings are lighter and windows can be opened safely, many of us are thinking about giving tired sitting rooms or bedrooms a fresh coat of paint.

A new look for summer

A professional painter and decorator for more than 20 years, Teresa Tomlinson knows all about how to achieve the perfect result. She’s been running her own business, Internal Affairs, from Helsby, Cheshire since March 2013, and her clients mostly come through recommendation and word of mouth.

Teresa Tomlinson at work

“I find my customers react really positively to employing a woman decorator,” she says. “Going into people’s homes, often when they’re not there, is an intimate, personal thing and other women in particular are more confident with me.”

In her long experience in the trade, Teresa’s come across some tricky situations. She once walked into a house when the owners were on holiday in France to find water pouring through ceiling. During building work, a radiator had been taken off the wall in the en suite and hadn’t been capped off properly, so as the temperature dropped the valve opened and flooded the house. Teresa spent her first day finding a plumber and cleaning up the mess before she could even pick up a brush.

On another occasion, she was using an electrical steamer to remove wallpaper when it was suddenly and inexplicably turned off at the switch, and she later found out the house was reputed to be haunted.

Preparation is key

“Mostly though, it’s plain sailing and I really enjoy the work,” she laughs.

Decorating tips

If you’re considering some DIY, here are Teresa’s top tips for a great finish

1. If your house is pre-1970s or older, look out for old paint that could contain lead, or even original 19th century wallpaper containing arsenic! If you’re not sure, always get expert advice.

2. Get kitted up properly. Wear old clothes and old trainers or shoes with a good grip, and have a face mask, goggles and overalls available if required.

Make sure you’ve got enough paint for the whole job

3. When updating a room, if you already have existing strong colour accents you can complement these or pick them out, for example a striking purple vase could be matched with neutral cream paintwork and a single red feature wall.

4. Your colour choice will depend a lot on how much natural light your room has. Teresa often uses darker colours in small, dark rooms to make them look cosy and intimate.

“Don’t fight what you’ve got,” she says. “Dark red or green in a small dark dining room can create a great impact, and painting a small dark space white can make it look boxy.”

5. Preparation is key. If you inherit an old house with old wallpaper, the chances are that when you strip the walls the plaster could come off as well. In these circumstances, it’s better to take expert advice to avoid expensive mistakes. Expect to spend a long time preparing walls and woodwork – take out any lumps and bumps, give any existing paintwork a light sand down and fill any imperfections.

“The secret to a good finish is all in the preparation,” says Teresa. “I might spend a week preparing and only two days painting, if that’s what that individual job needs.”

6.  Use a good quality paint, as it’s cheaper in the long run. Use a recommended undercoat, as well.

7.  Get a good quality brush. Use synthetic brushes for water-based paint, and natural bristles for oil paint, as the way that the brush dispenses the paint is different in each case. “If you were to put an oil-based product on a door using a synthetic brush, you’d get a wavy line,” says Teresa.

8. If you’re mixing a colour, make sure you mix sufficient at once to finish the whole job, or won’t be able to match it afterwards. Similarly, if you’re wallpapering, make sure you’ve got all the same batch number as they vary slightly. Don’t forget you’ll also need a pasting table, pasting brush, and some paste!

“A lot of paper manufacturers now advise you how to paste and what paste to use, and you must follow their guidelines or you’ll have no guarantee if something goes wrong,” says Teresa.

9. It’s worth spending some time making sure that you put dustsheets over the complete area, as it will save any accidents later on. Paint any exterior doors and windows first thing in the morning so they have a chance to dry before you close them.

To contact Teresa, visit

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