How to Prepare Surfaces for Painting: A Guide for Apprentice Painters

Are you an aspiring apprentice painter looking to improve your skills? One of the key components of a successful painting job is proper surface preparation. And as an apprentice painter, your job description may include a range of tasks related to surface preparation. These could include cleaning surfaces to remove dirt and grime, sanding to create a smooth and even surface, patching holes and cracks, and priming to ensure the paint adheres properly.

In this article, let’s talk about some essential tips for preparing surfaces for painting that will help you achieve a professional-looking finish every time.


Cleaning is an essential step in preparing surfaces for painting. If you don’t clean the surface properly, the paint may not adhere well, resulting in an uneven or blotchy finish. The cleaning process will vary depending on the type of surface you’re working with.

For painted surfaces, a simple mixture of warm water and sugar soap can often do the trick. However, for surfaces with heavy grime or grease buildup, a degreaser may be necessary. Some surfaces, such as the kitchen or bathroom, may also require a specialised cleaner to remove stubborn stains or mould buildup. 

In addition to using the right cleaning solution, it’s important to use the right tools and techniques to ensure a thorough cleaning. A soft-bristled brush or sponge can help you scrub away dirt and grime, while a toothbrush can be useful for getting into tight spaces. Be sure to rinse the surface thoroughly with clean water and let it dry completely before painting.

By taking the time to properly clean the surface before painting, you’ll ensure that the paint adheres properly and looks its best. Remember to wear protective gear and use the appropriate cleaning solution for the surface you’re working with. Take your time and do the job right.


Sanding is a crucial step in creating an even keyed surface for the paint to adhere to. Sanding also smooths out rough spots and imperfections. Be sure to wipe away any dust or debris after sanding to prevent it from interfering with the paint’s adhesion. 

Sandpaper comes in a range of grits, with lower numbers being coarser and higher numbers being finer. For most surfaces, a medium-grit sandpaper (around 120 to 180 grit) is a good starting point. Use a sanding block to help keep the sandpaper flat and even, or fold the sandpaper in half and hold it with your fingers.

When sanding, be sure to move in a circular on walls, or back-and-forth motion when sanding h the grain of the timber. Apply even pressure and sand until the surface feels smooth and even to the touch.


As an apprentice painter in Australia, you’ll often encounter surfaces with holes or cracks that need to be filled before painting. If there are any holes or cracks in the surface, patching them is essential to create a smooth surface for painting. Use a proprietary filler or putty to fill any holes or cracks in timber. Allow the filler to dry completely before sanding and wiping away any dust.

Fillers come in a range of formulas, so be sure to choose the right one for the job. For holes or cracks on broadwall areas, a lightweight filler can often be a good choice. Putty can be colour matched and used on timber. Outdoor surfaces require a flexible filler so make sure you select a filler product that is fit for purpose.


As an apprentice painter and decorator in Australia, it is important to understand the role of bare surface priming in the painting process. Priming is a critical step that prepares the surface for the topcoat of paint and helps the paint adhere properly. Skipping this step can result in uneven, blotchy, and even peeling paint.

When selecting a primer, choose a high-quality product that’s appropriate for the surface you’re working with. For example, if you’re painting over a previously painted surface, you’ll want to use a primer that’s designed for that purpose. If you’re painting over a bare surface, you may need a primer that’s specifically formulated for that material, such as wood or metal. The same can be said for sealing plasterboard with a quality sealer before it is topcoated. 

Once the primer or sealer is applied, allow it to dry completely before applying your topcoat of paint. Drying times vary depending on the type used and the temperature and humidity in the room. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time, and avoid painting over too soon. 

By following these tips and using the appropriate tools and techniques, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a skilled apprentice painter and decorator. Remember, proper surface preparation is the foundation of a successful painting job, so take the time to do it right.

Master Painters Australia: Supporting Painters and Decorators in NSW and ACT

If you’re looking to start your career in the painting and decorating industry, Master Painters Australia can help. Our Group Training Company (RTO 90464) can assist you in finding employment opportunities as an apprentice painter and decorator.

By joining our program, you’ll have the chance to learn new skills while earning an income through on-the-job training. We’ll place you find a host trainer and guide you through the apprenticeship process. And, our Master Painters team will provide you with advice and support along the way.

Why wait? Contact us today and take the first step towards a fulfilling career in painting and decorating. Let us help you turn your passion for the industry into a successful profession.