Photo: Kenneth Chen
Never dip your paintbrush directly into the can—too unwieldy, too sloppy, too dangerous if the container slips or drips. For optimum control, pour paint into a small metal "cut bucket" with a liner and fill it only a third of the way. Bonus: Any paint left in the can stays pristine this way.
Ask just about any painting pro, and he'll tell you that his trade has a real image problem. After all, everyone thinks they can paint—just watch how fast the color goes up on those done-in-a-day home-makeover shows. Grab a brush, a roller, and a couple gallons of latex, and you're all set, right?

Not quite. "The truth is, it is easy to do things poorly," says Rich O'Neil, who chairs a craftsmanship committee within the Painting and Decorating Contractors Association of America. There's no substitute for learning the proper steps, taking time to do the job right, and improving your technique as you go.

But there are also a few tricks of the trade that homeowners can learn to ease the way. We've assembled a couple dozen of them on the following pages, gleaned from decades' worth of accumulated wisdom from pros working from Seattle to Boston. Put their pointers to work, and you'll notice a difference in your paint job years after the tape and tarps are put away.
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