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How to Choose a Good Paint Roller

In this DIY Smarts, Ask This Old House painter Mauro Henrique explains the different types of paint rollers and then demonstrates good rolling techniques.

Steps for Choosing and Using a Paint Roller:

1. Mauro explains that paint roller brushes are measured by their nap length, which determines coverage and texture.
a. Shorter naps, around ¼-inch length, are good for smooth surfaces because they can cover the surface in paint without applying too much texture.
b. Medium length naps, around 3/8-inch length, are good for semi-rough surfaces because the slightly longer fibers can push paint into the dips in the surface, allowing for full coverage, but aren’t so long that they add additional texture to the surface.
c. Long naps, around 1-inch thick, can soak up a lot of paint and will therefore add a ton of texture to the walls. They’re best for things like popcorn ceilings or other surfaces that already have a ton of texture to them.

2. Mauro also points out that the packaging for paint roller brushes are usually labeled with their nap length and what they’re best used for.

3. Mauro also shares a few roller techniques for painting:
a. Fully saturate the roller in the paint tray before application.
b. Apply the paint to the surface starting from the bottom of the surface and at a slight diagonal.
c. Each pass should cover the previous pass by about 30%
d. Don’t stop until the entire surface is covered. If some of the paint is allowed to dry before the surface is done, stroke marks can be left behind on the wall and make for a poor painting job.


What is a nap?

The nap refers to the soft part of the paint roller which will be used to apply the paint. They come in varying thicknesses, lengths, and materials.

Can I use a ¼-inch nap for a rough surface?

We wouldn’t recommend it. If you use a thinner nap, the paint may not get into the small crevices created by the texture, leaving you with an uneven coat of paint.

What are paint roller naps made of?

Paint roller naps can be made from a variety of absorbent materials, including synthetic fabrics like foam or polyester or natural fibers such as lamb’s wool or mohair.


Mauro explained the paint rollers have different nap lengths based on the texture of the surface being painted. In general, a roller with a shorter nap is good for smooth surfaces, and a roller with a longer nap is good for rough surfaces.

The materials Mauro used to demonstrate these techniques, including the paint, the tray, and the roller, can all be found at The Home Depot.

Shop Paint Supplies at The Home Depot