Types of Paint Roller - How to Choose the Correct Paint Roller for Different Types of Paint and Different Surfaces

Summary: The many different types of paint roller. Where, how and when to use them. How to choose the right paint roller for your work. Find out about the different types of paint roller and what type of paint they should be used with e.g. gloss and emulsion and also what type of paint roller you should use for a given surface such as an artex ceiling or textured wall or a flat surface such as a plastered wall. Also, find out about the different parts that make up a paint roller and what they are called.

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Using a paint roller can make life very easy indeed but sometimes there is a lot of confusion over the best roller to use in any given situation.

When this happens it is as well to know which roller to choose and how you can refine that choice. Rollers can be used to paint with gloss paint as well as emulsion and smaller rollers are specifically designed to work with radiators.

Radiator roller

Radiator paint roller

When Should I use a Paint Roller or a Paint Brush?

For larger, flatter surfaces rollers can make a huge time difference but it is important to use a brush, or paint pad to go round all the edges and corners where the roller cannot get without making a mess of the surface next to the one you are painting. Using a paint brush in this way, i.e. for detail, is called cutting in and this is dealt with in our project about choosing a paint brush.

Rollers come in varying widths, from about 90 mm wide to 450mm and all have their uses. There is no correct or wrong width for any given job but the obvious thing to remember is the larger the surface, the wider the roller.

Paint rollers come in two parts. The outer skin which applies the paint called a sleeve, and the inner frame. The skin is pushed onto the frame allowing a change of roller sleeves for different applications.

What Type of Paint Roller to use on What Surface?

Paint rollers have two main coverings which are dipped in the paint - wool or natural fibres and man made fibre. Again, generally speaking, the rougher the surface of the wall the longer the hair on the sleeve.

Short pile roller sleeve

Short pile roller sleeve

Long haired roller sleeve

Long haired paint roller sleeve

A long sleeved mohair roller would be used to cover a textured wall or an artexed ceiling whereas a smooth foam roller would be used to paint emulsion on a nice smooth, plastered wall. The length of the hair on a roller is called the nap or pile of the roller.

Cheaper paint roller sleeves have cardboard tubes onto which the skin is stuck. This cardboard can get damp and break down allowing bristles and foam to work loose. Plastic cores, or inserts are preferable.

Synthetic fibre roller sleeves are ideal for oil based paints such as gloss painting a flush door. The tighter the nap, the smoother the finish but be prepared to throw the smoother roller sleeves away as they are a nightmare to clean.

Lambs wool used on a roller sleeve is perfect for emulsions. They hold more paint than synthetic sleeves and do not splash as much.

The best choice is a roller sleeve from Mohair. This is ideal for most surfaces, when used with different length naps, and can even be used with varnish. Mohair is most often used with gloss paints and is ideal for oil based radiator paints.

  • Cheap Paint Roller Sleeves: To be avoided!
  • Long Haired Mohair Roller Sleeves: Ideal for textured walls and artex ceilings
  • Shorter Haired Mohair Roller Sleeves: Ideal for most surfaces and most paint types, but choose the length of your nap carefully to suit the surface you are covering
  • Smooth Foam Roller Sleeves: Ideal for painting emulsion onto smooth plastered walls
  • Synthetic Fibre Foller Sleeves: Ideal for oil based paints such as gloss and for painting flat surfaces such as a flush door
  • Lambs Wool Roller Sleeve: Great for use with emulsion based paints

Roller Trays and How They are Used

Roller trays are plastic dishes which have paint tipped in to one end. The roller is dipped in the paint and the surplus paint removed by running the roller up and down the trays flat surface.

To avoid cleaning out the tray every time you use it, it can be lined with cling film which can simply be thrown away when that particular colour is finished with.

Tip: A good tip to avoid transferring loose fibres from a roller sleeve onto your walls is to dab the sleeve with some masking tape before you dip it into your paint.

Roller and tray

Roller and tray

Most roller frames have hollow, or threaded handles. This allows you to insert an extension pole into the handle to reach high ceilings or the top of tall walls. Rule number one when using paint rollers is that for a good finish, buy a good roller or at least, a good roller sleeve. Cheap sleeves can leave roller marks which are almost impossible to paint out.

Roller frame

Roller frame

Creating Patterns ansd Effects With paint Rollers

There are special roller sleeves available for applying thicker paints or mixes, in a textured way to walls and ceilings.

Roller sleeves with patterns cut out of them can give a very nice stippled effect to a wall. Some of these roller sleeves are called stenciled rollers and they are generally made from rubber or cut foam.

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