Nothing can transform a room’s look more effectively than a new paint job. Color can create mood, play up nuances of light and add the illusion of size to even the smallest of spaces. There are, however, pitfalls that many do-it-yourselfers fall into when painting a room. Known for her use of dramatic lighting and bold color, Massachusetts-based founder of Woodcliffe Design, Shannon Miranda, lends you her knowledge on the five most common mistakes people make when taking on a paint job and shows how to avoid them.

  1. Underestimating the Job’s Complexity – “Saying to one’s self, ‘It’s just paint, how hard can it be?’ is the first mistake everyone makes,” says Miranda. “A good rule of thumb is, if there is an industry built around one product like paint, it may be more involved than it looks. My solution? Do your homework and get advice with professionals at the local paint store. They can help get you started in the right direction.” 
  2. This Should Only Take a Day or Two – Underestimating the amount of time a job will take is the second most common mistake people tend to make. “Prep work involves cleaning walls, patching, sanding and priming for any wall color. An average 13’x13′ room will take a day or two just to prep and dry when done properly,” advises Miranda, who suggests going online and checking out DIY sites that will clearly explain each step needed to create a good base for your paint job.
  3. Choosing the Wrong Color – “Painting color selections on the wall is the worst way to select a color,” cautions Miranda. “It’s important to move the samples to every wall during different times of the day in order to get an idea of how natural light affects the color. The best way to avoid this is to always order or make two samples of the same color, so they can be placed in a corner for an accurate gauge of color intensity. Bigger paint samples are better and most manufacturers will allow you to order their samples online in order to eliminate this potential mistake,” she adds.
  4. Choosing the Wrong Finish – “Using a flat paint finish for walls, especially for darker colors, is a common mistake many people believe will mask imperfections,” says Miranda, who instead recommends fixing imperfections with good prep work. “Use pearl or low sheen paint to help reflect light and brighten wall colors and semi-gloss paint on woodwork. If you’re feeling daring, opt for a pearl finish on the ceiling to illuminate the space. You can also tint ceiling colors to add warmth to the room,” she says.
  5. Using the Wrong Tools – “Not investing in correct tools and drop cloths only makes the project more difficult and guarantees paint spillage. I’ve seen the dinkiest of brushes used to paint an entire room, as if it was a watercolor class,” says Mirada, who suggests investing in the appropriate tools to make paint application cleaner and more efficient. “Never bet that you’ll be careful and won’t spill, because it will happen! A painter’s drop cloth is treated to resist mold and block moisture from getting through to carpets and wood flooring, so use them. And don’t forget to move the furniture out of the way. The process will go much faster and you’ll be happier for it.”

Keep Miranda’s tips and your family’s unique style in mind when you pick out your colors and brushes. And don’t forget to look for low or zero VOC paint before you buy in order to keep your home safe and chemical free.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at