17 Easy Fixes for a Botched Paint Job

Not every paint job ends with a perfect “after.” Here's how to fix the most glaring painting mistakes and achieve near perfection.

Take Action to Remedy Paint Mishaps

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Take Action to Remedy Paint Mishaps

No matter how careful or experienced you are with paint, the occasional mistake can happen while DIYers and professionals are painting a room. Paint can easily splatter, spill, and bleed, and there are many other real-life obstacles that can pop up and interfere with a perfect paint application. Remember: a bad paint job isn’t permanent. With these tips you can quickly fix it, and if you end up with some leftover paint you can put to use for a more fun DIY.

Fortunately, most missteps can be repaired without too much trouble. Next time you have a drip, spill, or "oops" moment, try one of these straightforward fixes that can help you find your way to a flawless finish.

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Undo Uneven Coverage

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Use Plenty of Paint to Prevent Patchy Coverage

Applying the optimal number of coats is key to a terrific paint job. If you didn't apply enough layers, you might find your walls looking patchy, with bits of color showing through from the old finish. To correct this common mistake, let the paint dry completely, and then follow up with a second coat. 

Another contributor to uneven coverage is paint that hasn’t been stirred. Paint tends to separate over time, and solids sink to the bottom of the can. Before applying paint, make sure to fully stir it with a paint stirrer. A stir stick can work fine, but a mechanical stirrer like the ALLWAY Paint Mixer that works with most drills (available on Amazon) makes the mixing job a little easier. 

Related: 10 Top Tips to Make Any Paint Job Go Faster 

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Banish Paint Bubbles

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How to Fix Paint Bubbles and Blisters

Paint bubbles or blisters will occur if the top coat of paint doesn’t properly adhere to the undercoat, often as the result of a moisture or heat problem. If you notice these unsightly bubbly sections, first identify the underlying cause before you move on to fixing the finish. 

After the basic problem has been addressed, scrape off the bubbles and blisters with a handy paint scraper like this HYDE scraper (available on Amazon), and sand smooth. Coat with primer before repainting.

Related: 8 Exterior Paint Colors to Help Sell Your House

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Scrape Paint Splatters

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Scrape Paint Splatters

Drips or splatters on window glass aren't difficult to remove. Allow the paint to dry completely, and then scrape off the offending spots with a razor blade or a scraper with changeable blades like this tool from HYDE (available on Amazon). Set the blade at an angle to the glass and gently scrape away the dried paint. If the blade starts to gum up with paint, wipe off the razor blade with a damp rag to remove the excess paint. 

Related: 4 Scraper Tools Every DIYer Should Know About

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Take Back the Trim

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Wipe Away Mistakes on Trim Right Away

It’s best to keep a damp cloth close by when you’re painting, especially around trim work. If you accidentally skim the trim, you can wipe it up as you go. If you don’t catch a spot until it’s dried, sand the problem paint off, then remove the dust by wiping the surface down with a damp cloth. When it's dry, touch up the area with trim paint.

Related: Which Comes First, Painting the Walls or Trim?

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Delete Drips and Runs

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How to Fix Paint Drips and Runs

Drip stains can occur if you overload your brush with paint. To fix the drips, wait until the paint has dried, then scrape the drips off the wall with a paint scraper or multi-tool like this HYDE 6-in-1 (available on Amazon) and sand the area smooth. Repaint the section carefully, blending it in with the rest of the wall.

Related: The Best Paint Sprayer Options for DIYers

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Clear Off Ceiling Spots

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How to Remove Wall Paint on the Ceiling

It’s easy to get a little dab of paint on the ceiling when you’re working up high. If you notice it while the spot is still wet, spray some window cleaner on a clean brush, and wipe the paint off. If the dab has already dried, touch up the ceiling with a small brush or mini roller (available on Amazon), being careful to feather the edges so they blend in with the rest of the ceiling.

Related: 13 Lazy Cleaning Tricks for a Spotless Home

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Unsticking Stuck Painter’s Tape

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Unsticking Stuck Painter’s Tape

Painter’s tape is a helpful tool, but it can become stuck in place if it’s left on too long. If you haven’t forced the tape off of the surface, there’s a way to prevent the tape from pulling off paint from the wall. Carefully score and cut the tape along the edge with a utility knife like Black & Decker’s Quick Change Utility Knife (available on Amazon). Cutting will separate the tape from the wall and help release the tape from its stuck position, making it easier to remove.

Related: 11 Problems You Can Solve with Paint

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Remedy Roller Marks

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How to Fix Lap Marks from Paint Rollers

Roller marks, or lap marks, can occur if you don’t maintain a wet edge while painting. To restore a smooth finish to the wall, sand down all the uneven areas until they are smooth. Then wipe the walls down completely to remove all dust. Prime and follow up with an even coat of paint using an interior paint roller cover with a ⅜-inch nap, like this one from Purdy (available on Amazon).

Related: 10 Tool Box Hacks for Your Next DIY Project

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Touch Up Tape Lines

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How to Prevent Messy Tape Lines

If you did wait too long to remove your painter's tape and pulled paint off the wall along with the tape, here’s how to fix the mark on the wall: Sand the damaged area smooth with a sanding block, thoroughly wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove residual dust, and then carefully repaint the section. The next time you reach for painter’s tape, consider using one that has a long clean removal period, like ScotchBlue’s Sharp Lines Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape (available on Amazon). 

Related: Editors’ Picks: The 9 Greatest Grays for Your Next Paint Job

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Save Carpets from Stains

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How to Remove Paint on the Carpet

Paint spills on the carpet are easier to remedy than you may realize. If you catch the paint mishap while it’s still wet, you can blot it up with a wet paper towel. Don't rub the paint spill, as you'll end up grinding the liquid deeper into the fibers. Continue to blot until all the paint comes up. 

If the paint has dried, pour a small amount of hot water mixed with dish detergent onto the area. Allow the solution to sit until the paint has softened, then gently scrape the chips out of the fibers with a table knife. If there’s paint spilled on other surfaces, the article “How to Remove Paint From Everything” may help. 

Related: How to Get Rid of Every Carpet Stain

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Prime Patchy Filler

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Prime and Repaint Patchy Walls

If you filled or patched sections of drywall before painting but forgot to prime them, you may notice that they show through as unattractive lighter spots that ruin your finished product. Cover those patchy sections with primer like this interior/exterior primer from Kilz (available on Amazon) that can bond to a variety of surfaces. After it has thoroughly dried, give the wall another coat of paint. 

Related: 8 Times to Never, Ever Skip Paint Primer

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Fix Brush Marks

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How to Fix Brush Marks

If you've ever stepped back from your hard work and noticed brush marks where you were cutting in, you may have become displeased with the uneven results. Before you become resigned to living with the messy marks, try again with this method. First, sand down the area and wipe it clean. Stir the paint thoroughly, and then carefully repaint for picture-perfect results. Try using a high-quality angled brush like this 2½-inch paint brush from Purdy (available on Amazon) when cutting in. 

Related: The Perfect Paintbrush—and How to Choose It

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Lose the Lint Splotches

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Remove Lint from New Rollers

If you don't remove lint and dust from a paint roller, it can transfer onto the walls and ruin an otherwise flawless paint job. If you come across a splotched spot, lightly abrade it with a sanding sponge to remove the lint from the wall. An angled sanding sponge, like this one from 3M (available on Amazon), makes it easier to sand surfaces flat in tight corners. Wipe off the dust, and then repaint when dry for a seamless finish. 

Related: The Only 7 Tools You Need to Paint Any Room

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Seal Wood to Nix Paint Bleed

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Seal Wood to Nix Paint Bleed

Painted wood can be charming, especially in a modern farmhouse–styled home or on an updated piece of vintage furniture. However, painting wood that hasn’t been sealed can lead to frustration when a stain just won’t go away, even after several coats of paint. The staining is bleed-through caused by tannins in wood, and the wood needs to be sealed in order for the staining and paint bleed to disappear from the finished paint job. Sand the area back to the wood surface, and then apply a wood sealer, like Varathane’s Ultimate Water-Based Polyurethane (available on Amazon). After letting it dry, reapply primer and paint to the surface.

Related: How To Paint Wood Wall Paneling

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Eliminate Cissing

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Eliminate Cissing

If paint isn’t adhering to a surface, it can be extremely confusing and annoying. No matter the type of brush used, some paint won't stick to a wall. The reason? Water-based paints can’t stick to oily surfaces, so prepare the wall to receive the water-based paint. Wash the wall with soapy water, rinse, and let it dry. Then lightly sand the surface and use a bonding primer like Zinsser’s Peel Stop Triple Thick High Build Binding Primer (available on Amazon) before painting with the desired paint color.

Related: 10 Easy Repairs Never to Pay Someone Else For

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Remove the Wrinkling

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Remove the Wrinkling

A perfect paint finish isn’t usually achieved with just one coat, and forcing a thicker coat could lead to issues like wrinkling. Thicker paint coats or paint that dries in extremely hot temperatures isn’t able to dry properly. As it dries in unsavory conditions, paint can wrinkle. Fixing this issue involves sanding the wrinkles, cleaning the area, and then repainting when temperatures are mild using less paint per coat. Choosing high-quality paint from some of the best paint brands can also help secure a top-notch finish.

Related: The 8 Painting Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

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Brush Up

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Brush Up

If you end up with some leftover paint, you can save it for another fun DIY. When storing paint, make sure the lid is tightly sealed without wet paint in the rim; often the lid can be painted closed when extra paint gets in the rim. Avoid this problem with a clean lid to make sure the stored paint is ready to use again. The Paint Can Lid from Shur-Line (available on Amazon) keeps the paint safely stored and includes a pour spout to make the next paint job easier.

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