Prepping Your Drywall for a Perfect Finish When Repairing and Painting

Proper drywall preparation is required to achieve a smooth and professional finish when painting. A prepped drywall is free of imperfections, enhancing paint adhesion and extending the paint job’s longevity. Neglecting this step can result in visible flaws, peeling paint, and an overall unsatisfactory appearance.

The article guides readers through the essential steps of repairing and preparing drywall for painting. It covers techniques for fixing common drywall issues, the tools and materials needed, and best practices to ensure a flawless finish.

Assessing the drywall

Inspection for damage

Inspections help you to identify the common types of drywall damage.

  • Holes: Caused by nails, screws, or accidents. Small holes are easy to patch, while larger holes may require more extensive repair.
  • Cracks: These are often caused by the building’s settling or temperature changes. Minor cracks can be patched, but extensive cracking indicates structural issues.
  • Water damage: Results from leaks or high humidity. Signs include discoloration, softness, or mold. Water-damaged drywall usually needs replacement.

Evaluate severity

The damage’s extent or severity helps you decide whether to patch, repair, or replace drywall.

  • Patch Small holes or minor cracks.
  • Repair Larger holes or extensive cracks that compromise the drywall’s integrity.
  • Replace Severe water damage, mold, or structural issues affecting large sections of drywall. 

Tools and materials needed

These tools and materials will help ensure a smooth and efficient drywall repair and painting process.


  • Utility knife
  • Drywall saw
  • Putty knife
  • Taping knife
  • Sanding block or sanding sponge
  • Drywall screw gun or drill
  • Mud pan
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint rollers and trays
  • Paint stir sticks
  • T-square or drywall square
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Drop cloths
  • Painter’s tape


  • Drywall patches
  • Joint compound (drywall mud)
  • Drywall tape (paper or mesh)
  • Drywall screws
  • Sandpaper (various grits)
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Spackle (for small holes and imperfections)
  • Corner beads (if repairing corners)
  • Painter’s caulk
  • Stain-blocking primer (if needed for stain coverage)

Preparing the workspace

Clearing the area: Removing furniture and covering floors

Clear the area for drywall repair and paint:

  • Remove all furniture, decorations, and other items from the room to prevent them from getting damaged or dirty. 
  • Move large pieces of furniture out of the room. But if that’s not feasible, move them to the center of the room. Next, cover them with plastic sheeting or drop cloths.
  • Cover the floors with drop cloths or plastic sheeting to protect them from dust, debris, and paint splatters. 
  • Properly seal off the area to create a clean and efficient workspace. 

Safety precautions: Wearing masks and protective eyewear

Safety should be a top priority when working on drywall repair and painting. 

  • Wearing masks, such as N95 respirators, helps to protect your lungs from inhaling dust, paint fumes, and other airborne particles. 
  • Protective eyewear, like safety goggles, shields your eyes from dust, debris, and paint splashes.
  • Wearing gloves protects your hands from irritants and chemicals. 
  • Opening windows or using fans ensures proper airflow. It can reduce exposure to harmful substances. 

Taking these precautions helps to maintain a safe and healthy environment while working on your project.

Repairing drywall

Cleaning the Area

Purpose: It ensures better adhesion of repair materials.


  1. Use a brush or vacuum to remove dust and loose debris.
  2. Wipe the area with a damp cloth to eliminate remaining particles.

Filling small holes

Materials needed: Spackle, putty knife, sandpaper.


  1. Apply spackle over the hole using a putty knife.
  2. Smooth the surface by removing excess spackle.
  3. Let it dry completely.
  4. Sand the area until smooth and flush with the surrounding wall.

Repairing larger holes

Materials needed: Drywall patch, joint compound, putty knife, and sanding tools.


  1. Place the drywall patch over the hole.
  2. Apply joint compound around the edges of the patch and smooth it out.
  3. Blend the patch with the surrounding wall by feathering the edges.
  4. Let the compound dry, then sand the area smoothly.
  5. Apply a second coat if necessary, and sand again once dry.

Addressing cracks

Materials needed: Drywall tape, joint compound, putty knife, sanding tools.


  1. Apply a layer of joint compound only thinly over the crack.
  2. Place drywall tape over the compound and press it down.
  3. Apply another layer of joint compound over the tape, smoothing it out.
  4. Let it dry, then sand the area until smooth.
  5. Apply additional coats of compound if needed, sanding between each coat for a seamless finish.

Sanding and smoothing

man plasterer construction worker at work, takes plaster from bucket and puts it on trowel to plastering the wall, wears helmet inside the building site of a house

Sanding techniques

  • Use the right tools: Use a sanding sponge or a pole sander with fine-grit sandpaper (120-150 grit) for a smooth finish.
  • Circular motion: Sand in gentle, circular motions to avoid creating grooves or scratches.
  • Feathering edges: Feather the edges of the repaired area to blend it seamlessly with the surrounding wall.
  • Light pressure: Apply light pressure to avoid sanding through the drywall paper or creating dips.

Checking evenness

  • Visual inspection: Start with a close visual inspection under good lighting to spot any noticeable irregularities.
  • Touch test: Run your hand over the surface to feel for bumps or indentations.
  • Raking light: Shine a light at a low angle across the wall to highlight shadows and imperfections.
  • Straightedge or level: Place a straightedge or level against the wall to check for high or low spots.

Priming the drywall

Choosing the correct primer: Benefits of different primer types

  • Latex primer – Quick-drying, easy to clean, and ideal for new drywall.
  • Oil-based primer – Excellent for sealing stains and providing a durable base; ideal for high-moisture areas.
  • Shellac primer – Superior for stain-blocking, fast-drying, and ideal for tough stains or odors.

Application Tips: Best practices for applying primer evenly

  • Surface preparation: Ensure drywall is clean, dried, and free of dust or debris.
  • Use quality tools: Use a high-quality roller with a smooth or medium nap for even coverage.
  • Consistent technique: Apply primer in a ‘W’ pattern, then fill in gaps with even strokes to avoid streaks.
  • Proper drying time: Following the manufacturer’s recommendations, allow the primer to dry completely before painting.

Final preparations before painting

Tackling dust: Tips for removing all sanding dust

After repairing, sanding, and priming drywall, remove all sanding dust to ensure a smooth and clean surface for painting. Here are some tips for effectively tackling dust:

  • Vacuuming: Use a vacuum with a brush attachment to gently remove dust from the walls and surrounding areas.
  • Damp cloth: Wipe down the walls with a damp cloth or sponge to pick up the remaining dust particles.
  • Microfiber cloths: Use microfiber cloths to attract and hold dust without spreading it around.
  • Compressed air: Use compressed air to blow out dust (for tight spaces or intricate details).
  • Dust Collectors: To minimize dust during the sanding process itself, consider using a dust collection system or a sander with an attached vacuum.

Applying a base coat: Optional, depending on paint type and color

Applying a base coat, also known as a primer, can be optional based on the type of paint and the color you’re using:

1. When to use a base coat

  • New drywall: Always prime new drywall to seal the surface and ensure even paint application.
  • Dramatic color change: Do you want to change your wall colors from dark to light (or vice versa)? A primer helps achieve the actual color of the new paint.
  • Stain Blocking: Use a primer if you must block stains on the surface.

2. When a base coat might be skipped

  • Self-priming paints: Some modern paints contain built-in primers, making a separate base coat unnecessary.
  • Similar colors: If the new paint color is similar to the existing color and the wall is in good condition, you might skip the base coat.

Carefully remove all dust and thoughtfully decide on the necessity of a base coat. Doing so can help you achieve a smooth and professional-looking finish on your painted walls.


The key steps for preparing your drywall for painting include cleaning the surface, repairing flaws, sanding, and priming. Following these steps (in the exact order) leaves your drywall clean and smooth, meaning it is ready for a new coat of paint. Proper preparation will lead to a smoother, more professional finish. Investing effort now will pay off with beautiful, long-lasting results. 

Otherwise, entrust the task and your property to our experts at Custom Painting, Inc. If you need drywall repair and paint, our seasoned paint crew is here to do the job! You can rest assured knowing that your project is in capable hands. Call us at 925-294-8062 or message us here