I see I've been neglecting newbies for the past few months, so it's time again for a lesson in Homeownering 101.

And, because one of the first jobs any beginner takes on is interior painting, that's what we're going to concentrate on today.

Bigger is better

For painting the wall around the windows, doorways and other woodwork and along the ceiling, a 3-inch brush is the minimum. Even better is 4 inches.

Actually, a bigger brush isn't necessarily better, but it's faster. A wide brush holds more paint, which means you don't have to dip it into the pail as often and can paint more wall with a single stroke.

The only times you should use a narrower brush are on a window sash and for minor touch-ups, and there are arguments against both of those, too.

Straight, true

There's nothing wrong with taping off woodwork, whether painted another color or naturally finished, before you start cutting in a room, but it takes a lot of time — at least an hour for the average bedroom — and there still is likely to be touch-up needed after removing the tape.

It's a lot faster to learn how to paint a straight line.

Start with a loaded brush and paint about a foot of wall an inch away from whatever you're trying to avoid, such as a door casing. This is your supply.

Now, place the brush at about a 45-degree to the wall and near, but not against, that casing. Smoosh it a little until you get a bead of paint on the edge of the bristles, then draw that along the line in a long, smooth stroke.

It's much less complicated to do than to read about.

Bucket vs. pail

Many experienced do-it-yourselfers paint straight from the bucket.

They shouldn't, and neither should you.

Instead, be sure your paint is thoroughly stirred (or, better, shaken at the paint store), then pour a few inches into a paint pail. You can get that at the store, too.

Dip your brush about an inch into the paint, then tap both faces against the side of the pail to knock off potential drips.

Avoid for as long as you can getting paint as high as the ferrule, the metal band that holds the bristles to the handle. It's inevitable when you start working above your head, but try. It's wicked hard to clean paint out of the tight, upper bristles.

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Rollin', rollin'

Just a few things to remember when rolling paint on a wall:

• Vary the direction of the roller. A little vertical, a little horizontal, a little diagonal. It will blend better and show fewer marks.

• Roll into the cut-in areas but not into what you're trying to protect. But try to get close. The texture of rolled paint is different from brushed paint. It will show glaringly.

• Roll from a dry area into a wet one, but avoid over-rolling. You actually can peel semi-dry paint off the wall when you try to smooth things out too much.

• Plan on a second coat. It's very unlikely a single coat will cover, and it's better to resign yourself to doing it all again tomorrow.

Final word

Always keep a damp rag at hand. You can remove dried-on latex paint with a chemical cleaner from the paint store, but it's a lot easier to wipe as you go.

(Send your questions to HouseWorks, P.O. Box 81609, Lincoln, Neb. 68501 or email houseworks@journalstar.com.)