Best Paint Rollers: How to Find the Right One

Best Paint Rollers: How to Find the Right One

Tech Mag reports on emerging market trends and innovation, which is expected by its name. What’s less expected is that a recent report doesn’t cover the latest in computer technology, but a humble but increasingly prominent tool in home improvement projects: paint rollers.

Paint rollers are expected to climb in sales by notable figures through at least 2025, according to current market projections. First published in Global Market Insights, the report found that, as of 2017, the market for paint rollers in alone was worth two and a half billion U.S. dollars, a number that is expected to climb by an astonishing six percent through 2025.

If that seems bizarre, it isn’t in isolation. More and more construction and home improvement projects are being taken up. The revitalization of the economy following the recession of 2008 has encouraged Americans in particular, as well as businesses, to build more, both nationally and even in their own homes.

But that isn’t the only reason paint rollers are increasingly favored. Withouatt a doubt, paint rollers are prized for both interior and exterior projects, for a variety of surfaces, and there are ample reasons why. This article will address how to find the best paint rollers, and which ones are right for certain projects.

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When do I need to use a paint roller as opposed to a paintbrush?

This seemingly simple question–when to use a paint roller as opposed to a brush, highlights the advantages of paint rollers in the first place. Chances are you, as most everyone knows, that a paint roller is able to cover more surface area than a paint brush.

Paint brushes are favored often for more detail work, such as corners and fine edges. They can also be used for covering very small or narrow surface areas, such as window sills or small wood furniture.

But let’s get a bit more specific. Here are the main differences of use between a paintbrush and a paint roller:

  • Paint Brushes are used for trims, edges, and different corners of nearly any paint job. They are also favored for certain brushstroke types to create textures or styles effect. Stenciled designs are accomplished with paint brushes. Usually, paint brushes with excellent tips. In short, paint brushes are great for detailed jobs and can help you cover hard to reach areas and also add some of those more artistic touches. Paint brushes are also favored for authentic restoration projects, in homes that are older than 1940, as that’s when paint rollers were first used.
  • Paint Rollers are far more efficient when it comes to covering larger surface areas and walls. While with paint brushes offer more control, paint rollers are not only quicker for covering large areas with paint, but are also more efficient for applying the paint evenly. Interior walls and ceilings are most commonly covered with paint rollers. Paint rollers also provide a smoother finish, so if the texture is desired, that is usually added with a detail brush, but there are actually specialty paint rollers that can be used for a faux textured effect. Small paint rollers and certain types of paint rollers can be used on trim for cabinets.

Paint roller vs paintbrush

Can you use any kind of paint with paint rollers? 

Paint rollers, like paint brushes, are highly versatile and meant to work with almost any type of paint, which includes water based and oil based paints, as well as stains and varnishes. However, depending on the type of paint you use, you may need a different type of paint roller, which we will discuss in a while.

What are some common mistakes people make when using a paint roller?

Even the best paint rollers have pitfalls–and much of that has to do with them not being used correctly. While it seems simple, using paint rollers in the way they are not intended can lead to drips and uneven coverage, as well as other undesirable results. The most common mistakes made when using a paint roller, mostly for interior walls, include:

  • Not protecting the bottom of your roller. For any paint job, you want to lay down newspaper or some other covering to protect your floors, as well as tape around wood trim, but you also want to make sure you keep your paint roller from touching the floor as you paint. Paint rollers that touch roller can collect dust and lint, and that’s especially problematic when you continue to use it on your walls.
  • Overcoating the roller. You want to make sure your paint roller, of course, is covered with paint, but overdoing it means you risk dripping and applying paint unevenly. The best technique is to roll into the prepared paint around half an inch, then rolling it back up for a total of four to five times to make sure there isn’t an excess. Of course, you also want to make sure the roller is completely covered.
  • Allowing paint to splatter. Paint splatters for many reasons–and one of them is simply not having the proper tools for painting or even being careless. Going too quickly, especially when you’re rolling paint, is a common reason. You’ll also need to be aware of the density of the paint you’re using. Thin paint is more likely than thicker paint to splatter–and this is especially true if you go over one area too much. The best advice is to apply, smooth, and then work on a new section until it dries.
  • Pressing too hard on the roller. It may be tempting to press on a roller to make sure you’re applying a thick layer of paint–but it’s far better to roll it gently and recoat as needed. Not only does pressing risk an uneven paint application, but it also mars the fibers of the roller itself, leading to the fibers possibly being damaged or becoming disheveled, which will lead to more uneven application and could even render the paint roller unuseable.
  • Simply using it up and down. Applying your paint roller up and down is actually not the most effective way to apply paint. Applying it in an alternating zig-zag pattern instead helps reduce uneven marks and smooths them for that first layer.
  • Using the wrong kind of paint with the wrong kind of roller. Yes, there are certain kinds of paint that work better with different kinds of paint rollers, and not following guidelines can lead to a paint job you may be less than pleased with.
  • Not cleaning up rollers properly. Failing to squeeze out the excess paint, covering rollers in plastic, and leaving rollers in a wet place can all result in deteriorating quality.

paint roller common mistakes

How do I find the right paint roller?

Now that we’ve gone over some basic mistakes when it comes to using paint rollers, let’s discuss how to find the best rollers for your next painting project.

The following factors should guide you to paint rollers that are most suited for the task at hand and allow you to complete it with efficiency and relative ease.

We Recommend The Magimate Paint Roller Kit
$18.99 ($0.52 / oz)

You can't go wrong with the Magimate Paint Roller Kit. This kit comes with all the essentials for you to get the job done effortlessly. It'suited for both indoor, outdoor, and different types of paint jobs like emulsion, anti-rust, varnish, cabinets, etc.

Buy Now Learn More
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What kind of sleeve do I need?

As we’ve already mentioned, the type of paint impacts what type of paint roller you’ll need. But the material you’re painting on does as well.  In general, there are two main types of paint rollers: a foam roller and a nap roller. But when we’re discussing this, we actually aren’t talking about the metal frame, but the sleeve that goes over the roller.

  • Napped sleeves are better suited for stucco, brick, masonry, drywall, and ceilings. They hold up better to tough and textured surfaces than foam rollers and are suitable for oil-based paint, latex paint, and textured paints. They fare less well for a smooth application–with water-based paint on interior walls, for example, some napped sleeve paint rollers have a propensity to shedding. However, if you purchase a thinner roller with the right material, napped sleeves can actually be used for paints as well–you just have to be careful to find the right one. Overall they are more durable, but harder to care for and also more prone to shedding.
  • Foam sleeves, on the other hand, are suited for interior projects where smooth wall application is a must. They are suited for water-based paint, stains, and finishes. They work well with high and medium gloss, and even oil paints. Foam rollers are also the preferred choice for built-in furnishings like cabinets. Foam rollers also work well for adding glazes.

How to find best paint roller

How well will I care for my paint rollers?

If you’re looking to use a paint roller for a single task, especially for painting a small room or two, purchasing a foam paint roller is both the easier and cheaper way to go.

Nearly all foam rollers are not meant to last long, but be disposed of, meaning you won’t have to worry so much about clean up. In fact, too much washing can harm foam rollers.

If on the other hand, you want a paint roller you can use again and again, napped sleeves are far more durable. In fact, if cared for properly, napped sleeves can last several years.

In order to clean a napped sleeve, first, squeeze the excess paint. Next, get a tall bucket filled with warm, not hot water, rotating and squeezing several times until the excess paint has been removed. You’ll want to use a little bit of soap as well, just don’t overdo it. When you’re finished, stand the roller upright and let it dry in an open space.

How large of a frame do I need?

You may think there are many different sizes of paint roller frames, but in reality, there are two main kinds most commonly used for home improvement projects–a nine-inch roller and a four-inch roller.

This choice here is simple common sense. A larger frame is more suited for covering large areas, such as walls and ceilings, while a four-inch frame is favored for projects such as painting cabinets, doors, or furniture.

You’ll have more precise control with a four-inch frame, but a nine-inch frame will cover more, more quickly. If you are having trouble reaching a certain area, you can also buy add on extensions, which screw on to your roller.

However, napped sleeves tend to come in different sizes, from seven to eighteen inches. Nonetheless, the same principle applies.

What kind of finish do you want?

Paint rollers are known–and mostly prized for–applying smooth finishes. But if you want to add some texture, it’s easier to accomplish with a napped sleeve. Napped sleeves, meanwhile, don’t do as well with purely smooth applications, though some can be used in a pinch.

How thick should the sleeve be?

Sleeve thickness is where some more variability comes into play. This is something you mostly need to worry about if you’re buying a napped sleeve.

Thin nap sleeves, also called low nap sleeves, generally run up to a quarter in depth and are well suited for cabinets, small doors, detailing and trim.

From three-eighths to a half inch, medium nap covers work best for general tasks, such as walls and ceilings. The thickest covers (typically up to an inch) work well on brick and stucco, while especially deep covers (up to one and a half inches) are used on masonry.

You may also see them in categories known as pile depth. Pile depth is described through textures, from very smooth to very rough. Very smooth is suited for metal doors; smooth works well on drywall, and rough works on textured ceilings and stucco, while very rough is meant for material like a brick.

What kind of fabric should I look for?

This is a question you’ll need to ask yourself if you’ve decided not to go with a foam roller. You’ll be given three choices: synthetic, natural, and blended covers.

  1. Synthetic covers are most useful for latex paints and are typically made with nylon or polyester.
  2. Natural covers which are made from mohair or sheepskin are useful with oil paints. Latex paint can cause it to become swollen or matted.
  3. Blended covers are usually made with polyester and wool blends and can be used with all paints and are known to also be the most durable.

How do I find a paint roller that’s comfortable to use?

It may seem less important to worry about comfort but consider that comfort might make a difference, particularly when covering large areas. The best option is to look for the following features:

  1. Ball bearings are not an absolute necessity, but they make rolling movement smoother and more streamlined.
  2. Threaded handles are equipped with threads or handles at the end of the roller so you can use extensions if you want to, making it easier to reach difficult places.
  3. Ergonomic handles are meant to reduce strain on your wrist and are helpful especially if you foresee yourself invested in lengthy projects.

Do I need a ‘specialty’ paint roller?

To add to the complication of finding the right paint roller, some paint rollers are marketed as ‘specialty’. These tend to be used for special materials such as stone and suede. There are other categories of rollers, all of the wish impact the finish of your paint job:

  1. Manual rollers are the most widely used. Manual paint rollers are best for walls and ceilings and can be used with extensions if needed.
  2. Textured rollers as the name implies, are an option to add texture to what normally would be a smoother finish. The most common way they are used is to create an illusion finish, imitating textures such as stone, wood, and tile.
  3. Miniature hot dog rollers are useful when you want to finish a job quickly and efficiently. They are most popular for cupboards and doors and tight corners, but they are also more prone to splattering.
  4. Pad rollers are used for trim and edging if you don’t want to use a paint brush. You can recognize them because they normally have small wheels attached to the frame.

How do I avoid shedding?

Foam rollers allow you to avoid shedding, but there are also options that have low to no shedding lint. Just look for it on the label.

versatile durable paint roller

If I want a versatile and durable paint roller, what’s my best option? 

As you can see, depending on your task, you may end up with one paint roller over the other, and that’s especially important to note if you’re working on a heavy or thick texture like brick and masonry.

If you’re looking for an overall useful paint roller that’s both durable and versatile, go for one with a manual roller with a blended cover and a medium frame, with thin to medium depth and a smooth finish.

What are some of the best paint roller options I can buy?

These options will cover paint roller covers, not the actual frames, and are most suited for multipurpose use.

Magimate Paint Roller Covers for Indoor and Outdoor Painting

This variety pack is suited for both indoor and outdoor painting, as well as a variety of paint types, including emulsion paint, anti-rust paint, varnish, cabinets, and interior and exterior walls. They are also lint free, meaning less shedding.

We Recommend The Magimate Paint Roller Kit
$18.99 ($0.52 / oz)

You can't go wrong with the Magimate Paint Roller Kit. This kit comes with all the essentials for you to get the job done effortlessly. It'suited for both indoor, outdoor, and different types of paint jobs like emulsion, anti-rust, varnish, cabinets, etc.

Buy Now Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you. 10/30/2020 09:28 pm UTC

Pro Grade Paint Roller Cover Set

Nine-inch rollers by Pro-Grade can be used with a variety of both paints and stains and are made with nonshedding microfibers. They are known to be durable and suited for multiple uses, as well as smooth and easy to apply.

Pro Grade - Paint Roller Covers
$8.55
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Grand Flourish High-Density Premium Polyester Paint Rollers

These paint rollers are versatile? inch width and have dense fibers optimized for as little paint dripping as possible. Effective especially for smooth finishes, these rollers can be used on drywall, wood, and plaster.

Grand Flourish Paint Roller kit
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High-Density Acrylic Minipaint Rollers by KingOrigin

If you want a smaller paint roller set to work with, consider these by KingOrigin. Four inches long, they are suited for reaching in tighter spaces or edging work. Considered multipurpose, they also have no lint shedding.

KingOrigin High Density Paint Roller Covers
$7.99
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Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a difference between paint rollers?

A key difference between two paint roller products is the thickness and the length of the material that covers the roller and which material is used to make the nap.

What’s the difference between a paint pad and roller?

Paint pads are more commonly used for painting ceilings because they give good coverage and smoother finish without any spray as opposed to rollers. They also require reloading more frequently reloading than rollers, but they can still do a pretty quick job.

Should I wet the paint roller before painting?

Yes. It’s crucial to wet the paint roller cover which will allow the roller cover to soak up more paint, but, you should be careful not to overdo the wetting part and always remove the excess moisture.

Further Reads

Erin Jamieson

Erin Jamieson is passionate about making the space you live in as comfortable, affordable, and personal as possible. With her vast nonprofit experience, including for organizations like Habit for Humanity, as well as experience writing for startups, she brings both financial, mechanical, and stylistic advice to make your home uniquely yours. Erin Jamieson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University of Ohio.

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