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How To Fix (or Prevent) Paint Streaks On Walls

Fixing Paint Streaks

It’s a familiar story—

After much mental resistance, you’ve finally got around to painting your walls. In the days leading up to this moment, you’ve done all the research—you’ve removed all the room’s furniture, unscrewed the plates covering outlet and light switches, and even taped off your windows and door frames like a pro.

You take a deep breath, roller in hand, and get to work. A few hours go by unnoticed as you are absorbed by your work. When you step back to admire the fruits of your labor, you are horrified!

The paint is uneven, streaky, and clumpy! Where did you go wrong? 

Pizzazz is very familiar with these horror stories like this, as we hear them repeatedly from customers. That’s why we’ve prepared this comprehensive how-to guide for fixing—or preventing—paint streaks, clumps, drips, and other unsightly painting errors. 

By the end of this post, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to fix (or even prevent) paint streaks, or be humbled enough to let us handle it! 

What Are The Three Most Common Types Of Paint Streaks?

Nobody starts out as a professional. Even the professional painters at Pizzazz had to make many mistakes before assuming the mantle of a Pizzazz painter. Because we have so many years of experience under our belts, we’ve seen many types of painting mistakes. 

Generally, there are three different types of paint streaks untrained painters will encounter along their DIY journey. Classifying these paint streaks is essential because each will be remediated differently. 

So, what are the three most common types of paint streaks?

Raised-Edge Roller Marks

Raised-edge roller marks are narrow, raised streaks formed when painters don’t correct their paint roller technique. If the painter uses too much paint and presses too hard into the wall, excess paint will get squeezed out from the sides of the roller, leaving behind a streaky trail.

Left Over Brush Marks

We always recommend paint rollers for broad stretches of wall, but paint brushes will be necessary for tight, enclosed spaces and the areas around door and window frames. Proper brush technique is challenging to master. 

Poor brush technique will leave behind textures and streaks—which is fine if that’s what you are going for. But if your “textured” paint job lacks intention behind it, it will look more like an error than an artistic choice.

Uneven Paint Streaks, Clumps, and Drips

This last category covers all the streaks, clumps, and drips that result from not using enough paint or using far too much. When you step back and realize that the old paint is shining through your new paint job, or if you notice rivulets of paint running down toward your floor, you’ve encountered this third type of paint streak.

What Causes The Three Most Common Types of Paint Streaks?

Let’s examine the causes of paint streaks in greater detail. It’s important to understand what causes paint streaks, clumps, drips, and other painting errors so you can avoid them when repainting your home’s interior.

Inconsistent Coverage Can Cause Paint Streaks

You should aim to use the same amount of paint every time you bring the paintbrush or roller brush back to the paint tray for more. By keeping the amount of paint you use consistent, you’ll be keeping the amount of paint that goes up on the wall consistent, too.

Many DIY painters will lose this consistency halfway through a project when they start to get bored or tired. If your paint job started out looking great but declines in quality the further you move down the wall, then you may be falling prey to this DIY painter’s trap. 

Stay focused and be consistent with the amount of paint you use and how you apply it to the wall. 

Too Much Paint Can Cause Paint Streaks

Some DIY painters falsely believe it’s a good idea to get a lot of paint up on the wall first and then spread it around once it’s up there. This is not true! Interior wall paint doesn’t work like this. If it did, we’d all be glopping buckets of paint onto the wall and spreading out after the fact.

You want to use enough paint to coat your paintbrush or paint roller evenly. Allow the brush or roller to drip excess off into the paint tray before bringing it up to your wall. 

The Walls Were Not Prepped or Primed Properly

Sometimes, paint streaks aren’t caused by poor technique, inconsistent coverage, or too much paint. If your walls aren’t prepped properly, then the paint might have trouble adhering to the wall’s surface. This can lead to clumps, drips, and paint streaks. 

  1. You should make sure your painting surface is even. Inspect your walls for dents, holes, and scratches and fill them with dry-wall putty or spackle.
  2. Make sure you clean your walls to remove dirt and oils that have accumulated over the years. You want your paint to adhere to the wall, not tiny dust particles, grease, and dirt. 
  3. Use a high-quality neutral primer to create an optimal surface for your paint to adhere to. 

Low-Quality Paint Can Cause Clumpage and Paint Streaks

Make sure you use high-quality paints when painting your home’s interior. Poor-quality paint or paint you have mixed yourself from multiple sources should not be used to paint your home. If the paint is made from inferior materials, it might separate or break down, making it unable to do its job. 

Likewise, if you think you can extend the life of old paint by adding thinners or mixing in newer paint, stop now! It’s a bad idea to cut your paint with other additives or mix two different paints, especially without a professional-grade paint mixer. 

The results can be disastrous and counter-productive, as it will cost you more money to fix a bad paint job than to do it right or pay professional painters to do the job. 

Poor Technique Can Cause Paint Streaks

Take some time to educate yourself on proper painting techniques. There are clear dos and don’ts that will make a difference when you go to paint. Check out our blog for some valuable tips, and explore helpful resources like YouTube for visual guides. 

There are simple steps you can take to set yourself up for success.

What Materials Do I Need To Fix (or Prevent) Paint Streaks?

However, if the damage has already been done, it’s not the end of the world. There are ways you can fix paint streaks, clumps, and drips using readily available materials and a little grit.

Sandpaper Helps Even Out Paint Streaks, Clumps, and Drips

If you’ve already completed one coat at are dissatisfied with the number of paint streaks, clumps, and drips, you can use sandpaper to even out the surface for the next coat of paint. 

Pizzazz recommends using between 120 and 150-grain sandpaper to sand down raised, uneven areas, streaks, and splotches. Make sure to sand lightly, or else you could remove the layer of paint you applied.  

The Right Paint Brushes and Paint Rollers For The Project

Using the right paint brush or roller for the job is also essential. Different types of paint rollers and paint brushes have different uses, and it’s vital to know what tools are needed for certain jobs. 

Use High-Quality Foam or Microfiber Rollers For Walls

Depending on the paint texture you want, you’ll need to know a bit about nap. Roller nap is the “brush” part of a paint roller. It is the bristled cover that rolls across the surface of the wall. Longer and shorter nap lengths will create different textures. 

Generally, you want a shorter nap length for smoother, finer surfaces. A shorter nap is also used for detail work. The longer the nap, the more paint you’ll be applying to the wall. Longer naps are useful for textured paint jobs, where the surface is uneven by design. This option is also suitable for concrete walls and other rougher, porous surfaces.   

Use High-Quality Bristled Brushes For Detail Work and Small Areas

Great care should also go into choosing the right brush for smaller detail work on trims and around door and window frames. You should know the difference between synthetic and natural bristled brushes. One choice will be better than the other depending on which type of paint you are using and the texture of the surface you are painting.

Generally, natural hair paint brushes work well will oil-based paints and provide the smoothest finish. Additionally, they work well with latex and other non-oil-based paints. Natural bristled brushes tend to be more expensive, but you are paying for a quality paint brush that will get the job done right the first time.

How To Prevent Paint Streaks: Prep Before You Start Painting

Here are the steps you need to take before painting. Preparation is key when painting your home’s interior. Follow these steps, and you’ll save time, money, and effort by preventing many mistakes that lead to painting streaks, clumps, and drips.

Make Sure Your Painting Surface Has Been Primed and Prepped Properly

Take the time and effort to thoroughly clean your walls and prime your painting surface with a primer designed to work with your selected paint.

Let Coats Of Paint Fully Dry Before Painting More

You can’t rush this process! Take time to allow coats of paint to fully dry before adding more. You need to build your paint job up from the first layer out. If you are too impatient, the first layer won’t be fully cured, compromising your efforts.

Sand Painted Area Between Coats (And After Paint Has Dried)

If you notice painting streaks, drips, or clumps, use the fine-grain sandpaper we discussed above to lightly smooth out surface irregularities. Also (it seems obvious), you must wait for the paint to dry before sanding. 

Check Your Painting Techniques

Make sure you brush up on your painting techniques before painting. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind.

Use The Right Amount Of Pressure

You want to use even, consistent pressure when painting. Remember, pressing too hard will leave behind roller-edge streaks. Not pressing hard enough will lead to inconsistent paint coverage. Practice on a loose piece of drywall to get the feel down before painting your wall.

Paint the Small, Tight Areas First With A Bristled Brush

Don’t use the roller in small, tight areas. For these areas, use a natural bristled brush. Remember, the roller is useful for broad, smooth stretches of wall. 

Paint in One Direction Always

You want to paint in one direction to create a uniform texture. To a certain extent, streaks are unavoidable. You can make them hardly noticeable by keeping your strokes moving in one direction. This technique lends a uniformity to your paint job that will make it look professional. 

Don’t Alter the Paint With Thinners And Don’t Mix Different Paints Together

We can’t stress this enough—don’t mix different paints together and don’t use thinner to alter the paint unless you know exactly what you are doing. You can completely destabilize the paint or create a poorly mixed Frankenstein paint that will embarrass you once it’s up on the wall. To prevent disaster, use the paint as recommended. 

Two Coats Of Paint Is Usually Optimal

The optimal number of coats you’ll want is two coats of paint. Any more, and you’ll risk making the paint job uneven. Any less, and you are compromising paint coverage. 

Properly Illuminate Your Painting Area

Lastly, but certainly not least, make sure your painting area is well lit! You might think you are doing a great job, but when you shine a light on your work, it looks patchy and full of uneven paint streaks. Set yourself up for a successful paint job by properly illuminating your painting space.

Trust a Professional Painter And Forget About Paint Streaks

If you just can’t seem to get rid of paint streaks or don’t trust your steady hand enough to do it yourself, Pizzazz Painting will paint your house fast and professionally and provide you with a stunning, streak-free paint job. Contact Pizzazz Painting today if you need help selecting the right colors and types of paint or if you need us to paint your home’s interior or exterior.   

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