Don’t Skimp on Choosing the Best Paint Roller, Says Clare’s Founder
You’re only as good as your tools.
Updated Oct 17, 2021 8:25 PM
Adding a fresh coat of paint is one of the most impactful (and affordable) ways to completely transform a space. But without the right paint roller, the DIY you saw on Pinterest becomes more of a headache than a simple before-and-after. “It’s sort of like putting the cheapest gas in a Ferrari,” says Nicole Gibbons, founder of Clare. “If you’re using premium paint, you should be using the most premium materials. The supplies you choose are one of the most important things that impact how your project is going to turn out.”
With the right roller, painting a room can be an easy—and, dare we say, relaxing—experience. We tapped reno pros to find the best paint rollers for the smoothest finish, no matter your project or level of expertise. With these no-fail picks, you’ll want to refresh every room in your house.
- Best overall: Purdy White Dove Roller Cover
- Best starter kit: Clare 7-Piece Kit
- Best value: Home Depot Polyester Paint Roller Cover
- Best extra-wide: Home Depot 18-Inch Paint Roller Cover
- Best for textured walls: Wooster Pro Super Roller Cover
- Best for big projects: Wagner Spraytech Electric Powered Roller
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Easy-to-grip frames: If you’re going to be painting for a while, you’ll want a roller frame that’s both comfortable and ergonomic. According to Gibbons, most roller frames you’ll find at a paint store are designed for professionals and not the average DIYer. She recommends one with a thin, soft grip or using an extension pole for even more control and speed.
Length: While a bigger roller might seem more efficient when painting a larger surface, it’s actually much harder to hold and control, according to Connie McKinney, senior product manager at Sherwin-Williams. “If I’m painting a standard room, a 9-inch roller is going to be the one I choose,” she says. But for smaller surfaces like molding or that awkward space between a counter and a window, a 4-inch roller will work and be much speedier than just a brush.
Material and fabric: There are three kinds of materials that roller covers are made out of: wool, microfiber, and foam. For the smoothest application, Gibbons suggests using microfiber, as it has a tight stipple pattern and holds more paint. “Woven naps tend to have more texture, which means you can leave texture marks on the wall you’re painting,” she says. “The more woven your nap is, the smoother the results.” However, wool covers can be useful when using oil-based paint.
Type of painting surface: The thickness of the roller you need, also known as the nap, depends on the surface you’re painting. The standard roller nap is ⅜ inch, but if you’re painting something really textured, like stucco walls or brick, you’ll need a thicker nap to get into those grooves and work the paint into all the nooks and crannies. McKinney recommends going up to ½ inch or higher in these cases.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Purdy White Dove Roller Cover
The average home painter wants a tightly knitted roller that will leave behind a uniform color without any loose fibers left behind. Made of woven Dralon, an acrylic fiber, the Purdy White Dove does just that and can be washed for several reuses. “This roller is going to leave a really smooth finish,” says McKinney. “It’s going to have that tight stipple pattern, so it will have a uniform look to it and leave no lint behind.” Plus at 9 inches long and with a ⅜-inch nap, it’s the ideal length and thickness for most rooms, and it works with all paint types.
Best Starter Kit: Clare 7-Piece Kit
Beginners will appreciate this kit from Clare that has everything you could possibly need for a standard paint job. It comes with a plastic drop cloth, painter’s washi tape, a 2-inch paintbrush, a roller frame, a 9-inch roller cover, a metal tray, and a tray liner.
The roller has a ⅜-inch nap, which is ideal for painting smooth–to–lightly textured surfaces. It’s made of a premium German microfiber that creates a clean application with minimal splatter, and it works particularly well with Clare’s paints and primer.
“Our products are designed to give the best performance with our paint, and customers who are novice painters achieve quality results,” says Gibbons. “The roller is really high quality, has virtually no shedding, and helps achieve the smoothest possible application.”
Best Value: Home Depot Polyester Paint Roller Cover
While most roller covers aren’t terribly expensive, this six-pack is particularly economical. The polyester paint roller covers are 9 inches long and have a ⅜-inch nap, which makes them ideal for most standard walls. They’re best for use with nonfinish coatings on smooth to semi-smooth surfaces, and can be used only once—which makes them a good option for anyone who has one small project or doesn’t want to bother with washing covers.
Best Extra-Wide: Home Depot 18-Inch Paint Roller Cover
More experienced painters can benefit from a larger roller, which can cover twice the amount of wall in one swoop (or tackle more annoying tasks like painting a ceiling). This one is 18 inches long and has a ⅜-inch nap with premium woven fabric for a smooth finish. Note that because the roller is longer, it will also be heavier, so you’ll want a longer roller frame and an extension pole for better control.
Best for Textured Walls: Wooster Pro Super Roller Cover
Using a standard ⅜-inch nap on a textured wall is going to leave lots of little grooves unpainted (and leave you frustrated). Enter this roller cover, which goes up to 1 ¼ inches thick, meaning it will get into even the spaces between bricks easily. Designed for extra-rough surfaces, it resists matting, which is especially important, as cheaper covers are likely to shed or rip from the texture of the wall.
Best for Big Projects: Wagner Spraytech Electric Powered Roller
If you’re spending your day painting multiple walls and want to make the most of your time, any help is appreciated. This electric-powered roller from Wagner attaches to the paint can and automatically reloads your roller for continuous painting. You can control the flow using a button on the handle, and the design eliminates back discomfort from repeated bending down and the risk of accidentally knocking over a paint can, which is all we can hope for when tackling a huge paint job. The 16-foot hose also makes it possible to reach the tippy-top of walls or the ceiling.
Q: What roller material gives the smoothest finish?
Tightly woven microfiber gives the smoothest finish on a standard wall. It has a minimally textured surface that will leave behind less of a stipple effect compared to a wool roller cover. “Microfiber also holds more paint so you spend less time dipping your roller into the tray to reload your roll with paint,” says Gibbons.
Q: What’s the best way to clean and dry a paint roller after use?
A quality roller cover can be used multiple times—as long as it’s cleaned correctly. To clean a roller, McKinney recommends using a 5-in-1 tool and scraping paint off the roller and back into the paint can. “You’ll be shocked at how much paint is in that roller cover,” she says. “This will save so much time in your utility sink.” From there you can roll off any remaining paint onto a piece of cardboard, before rinsing the roller cover with some mild soap until the water runs clear. Then just leave it out to air-dry.
Q: My paint roller keeps shedding fibers into the wet paint. Help!
If your paint roller starts shedding, Gibbons recommends stopping your project immediately and getting a new, quality roller cover—otherwise it will just keep shedding. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent shedding in the first place. McKinney recommends rinsing your roller before dipping it into the paint to remove any loose fibers and to prime it to hold more paint. She also advises painting less visible areas first, such as a closet, which gets any inconsistencies out of the roller before you paint a wall in a high-traffic area like a living room.
The Last Word
Picking out the right paint roller depends mostly on the type and size of the surface you’re painting. Once you figure that out, you can adjust the material, length, and nap of the roller to best fit your project and get rolling. Purdy’s White Dove Roller Cover is a great all-rounder that leaves a smooth, even finish, but if you’re a DIY rookie, opt for Clare’s 7-Piece Kit, which includes all the tools and accessories you need.
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