Applying Latex Paint With a Roller: (Can You Do it, Types & How To?)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Latex paint has a thick flow and can be applied with a paintbrush or sprayer. But, can you apply latex paint with a roller?

You can apply latex paint with a paint roller. For large surfaces, a roller is the best tool to apply it. That’s because latex dries fast, so you must cover the surface faster to prevent finish cracks. 

Paint rollers are easy to use, save you time, and apply the paint evenly. However, you must have some experience using it to get a smooth finish. Also, you must use the right type of roller for latex paint.

Choosing a Roller

The roller you use also depends on the sheen: gloss, semi-gloss, or flat paint requires different rollers because they have different finishes. 

Standard rollers are 7 – 12 inches wide and work well in most situations (near baseboards or ceilings). Mini rollers under 5″ are good for tight edges and corners. That’s because they’re easier to handle than larger ones due to their smaller size.

Canvas rollers work best for flat surfaces with a low sheen, and vinyl or foam-covered rollers should only be used for high-gloss sheens. 

Foam Roller

Foam rollers work well to apply latex paint on smooth and even surfaces, and don’t leave lap marks behind. They are good at applying semi-gloss or gloss latex paint. However, foam rollers aren’t good at applying it on rough or uneven walls because the foam absorbs too much paint. 

Foam rollers do a great job at applying thin coats of latex paint, but can struggle to apply thick coats of it. 

Nap Roller

The nap of a roller cover refers to the length of fibers on it. You should consider what type/kind you want because they come in natural and synthetic materials. Synthetic material is excellent when applying latex paint.

For smooth surfaces, use a nap length of 3/16 to 1/4 inches. For medium or semi-smooth surfaces, use a nap of 3/8 to 1/2 inches, and for semi-rough surfaces, use a nap length of 3/4 to 1 inch. Extra rough surfaces (such as brick) require a nap of 11/4 to 11/2 inches.

A longer nap will absorb more paint than a short one, so pick which one best fits your needs.

How to Apply Latex Paint With a Roller?

Applying latex paint on larger surfaces using a roller is easy. You must dip the roller into a paint bucket, roll (remove) excess, and apply it to the wall. However, you need the right type, and you might need to use a brush for corners or hard-to-reach areas.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1. Choose and Prepare Your Roller 

Here are some steps that will teach you how to apply latex paint with a roller.

First, choose the right type of roller for your project. For a textured wall, use a roller with a longer nap. Attach an extended handle to your roller if you are painting a tall or large area. The extra handle with help you control it better.

You must prep the roller before starting to paint. Use a synthetic roller sleeve and prep it before you dip it into the paint. The loose fibers on the sleeve can result in the clotting of paint during application. So, you must remove these fibers. 

You must dampen the roller with water for easier paint loading. However, the roller must be slightly damp and not dripping in water. 

2. Prep The Paint Bucket

Setup the Paint Bucket or Tray

Pour latex paint into a clean bucket. Don’t overfill the bucket, as paint can spill out when loading the roller.

Optionally, you can thin it before rolling. To thin latex paint, use water as a paint thinner and thin it in a ratio of 4:1 (4 parts latex paint, 1 part water). 

3. Apply Latex Paint

Apply Latex Paint To The Surface

Before applying latex paint, outline the fringe of the wall using a paint roller. Long and horizontal strokes help with achieving even coverage. 

To apply latex paint with a roller:

  1. Dip the roller into the bucket. 
  2. Remove excess (or sticky) paint from the roller. 
  3. Start at the middle of the surface.
  4. Leave 6-inches of space from the edges and 12-inches from the surface. Leaving these areas unpainted allows you to spread the paint evenly.
  5. Roll the paint into the surface by keeping the roller at a slight angle. 
  6. Apply the paint in upward strokes. 
  7. Work in single areas before moving to the next one. This helps you to apply latex paint evenly. 
  8. After painting one area, dip the roller into the bucket, and paint the other areas. 

4. Apply The Second Coat

Apply a Second Coat And Clean Your Roller

The first coat of latex paint must dry before applying the next one. If you re-coat too soon, the finish will turn sticky or tacky and peel off. It takes latex paint 3 hours to dry enough for a re-coat.

While waiting between coats, put the roller into a plastic bag and then put both into a refrigerator to prevent the paint from drying. If the paint dries into the roller, you must clean it (which takes time), let it dry, and then re-use it. So, putting it into a refrigerator between coats is a better option.

Apply the second coat of latex paint the same way you applied the first one. You need 2-3 coats of latex paint for proper coverage. 

Final Words

You can use a paint roller to apply latex paint, but you must use the right roller. Also, you might need to sand between coats (and the final coat) to achieve a smooth finish.

Also, since latex paint is thick, you might need to thin it (with water) to allow the roller to suck more paint. Thicker paints are harder to apply with a roller than thin paints. 

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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