Paint roller buying guide

Paint roller buying guide

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

187 guides

Paint rollers should be chosen according to the type of paint and surface you're working with. From single-layer rollers to non-drip or lacquer rollers, you have plenty of choice; using stipple effect rollers, spiked or foam rollers, you can apply anything from render to varnish. Read on to find your paint roller!

Important features

  • Nap type
  • Nap length
  • Type of application
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The main features of a paint roller

Paint rollers are practical for painting large, flat surfaces. The roller itself is made up of a handle and a sleeve, the latter of which can be replaced separately. Your choice of paint roller will depend on the following:

  • the type of surface you will be applying your paint on;
  • the type of product you plan to apply (paint, varnish, lacquer, render, etc.);
  • the result you're looking for.

Paint rollers can be used alone but often come as part of a painting kit. They are generally sold with a brush (at least) which will allow you to tackle corners.

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Painting kit

Choosing a paint roller based on application

Handle and roller frame

Your choice of handle will basically come down to common sense. Nonetheless, here are two tips to help guide you in your choice of handle:

Telescopic handle for increased comfort

Opt for a long handle if you need to reach ceilings and consider getting an extension pole – or even a telescopic pole – to fix the handle on. You can also equip yourself with a ladder, stepladder or step stool.

Handle materials

The handle can be made of wood, plastic or a composite material. The last two options are easier to clean, though the cleaning product should be chosen to match the paint used (i.e. water for acrylic or alkyd paint and white spirit for oil-based paints).

Sleeve type

Paint roller sleeves should be designed for the surface they will be working on. They can be made of different materials and have special features depending on the result you're looking for.

Foam sleeves

Foam sleeves are useful for a variety of applications. You can use them to apply undercoat or simply to freshen up your floors with a lick of paint.

Paint roller sleeves for varnish

Paint roller sleeves for varnish

As their name suggests, these sleeves are specifically designed for use with varnish. Varnish is a wood treatment product designed to let the material breathe while lending it colour and protecting it from UV rays.

Paint roller sleeves for lacquer

Paint roller sleeves for lacquer

These sleeves are specially designed for any smooth surface to which you wish to apply varnish or lacquer. Lacquer offers a glossy finish.

Exterior paint roller sleeves

Exterior paint roller sleeves

Exterior paint roller sleeves feature a long nap in order to fill in the gaps on the surface they are working on; for example, on render.
These paint rollers are often used with a telescopic handle or from a stepladder or stool.

Long nap paint roller sleeves

Long nap paint roller sleeves

Long nap paint roller sleeves are designed for uneven or textured walls. They can be used for painting on brick or even plaster walls. However, these sleeves do tend to drip.

Short nap paint roller sleeves

Short nap paint roller sleeves

These sleeves are recommended for smooth walls and offer an even effect. The material used and the length of the nap means that they don't drip very much.

Stipple effect paint roller sleeves

Stipple effect paint roller sleeves

Stipple effect sleeves give render its distinctive pattern. These sleeves feature holes which, when rolled over your surface, will create a rough and peaked look.

Spiked paint roller sleeves

Spiked roller sleeves allow you to form a decorative finish on render by creating depth.

Roller sleeve materials

Paint roller sleeves can be made of synthetic fibres, natural fibres or a mixture of both.

Synthetic paint roller sleeves

Synthetic roller covers are particularly suited to applying acrylic-based paints.

Mixed naps

Paint rollers with a mixed nap are designed for use with both oil- and solvent-based paints.

Natural naps

Natural fibres can be used with all types of paint and offer a better finish.

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Stepladder or stool

Choosing a paint roller to match your room type

Most paint rollers are designed for a specific application and have names such as acrylic paint roller or radiator paint roller, etc.

Furniture and doors

Furniture and doors should be painted with a lacquer paint roller with a synthetic nap of around 5 mm for the best effect. If you are planning to repaint wooden doors or furniture, we recommend that you choose your wood paint wisely and prepare the surface well. These steps will help you achieve a better finish.

Ceilings and walls

A lightly textured ceiling or wall should be painted using a non-drip paint roller with a nap of around 12 mm.
Team up your roller with a special wall and ceiling paint, adequate floor protection and a paint grid and/or paint tray. Get your hands on a telescopic pole if your job requires it.

Smooth walls

A smooth wall calls for a double-layer roller with a 10 mm nap. If you are redecorating a kitchen or bathroom, be sure to use a special bathroom or kitchen paint to cope with the humidity and to prevent your walls from wearing prematurely.

Outdoor walls and rendering

Exterior walls and masonry should be painted using a nap of around 18 mm. Be sure to choose a roller designed specially for use with pliolite paints to avoid damaging the nap of your roller sleeve. If you are planning to paint on wooden surfaces (such as wooden cladding), we recommend reading our tips on exterior wood paint in order to choose the best protection available.


Render is applied using a stipple effect roller. This type of roller features holes which produces peaks and gives the render its distinctive look.

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Telescopic pole

Paint trays to masking tape: essential painting accessories

In order to paint your walls or ceilings in the right way – and for a better finish – be sure to prepare your surface properly. A range of painting tools designed to protect, prepare and clean your tools and accessories is available. For your next painting job, equip yourself with the following:

  • a protective sheet and masking tape to protect your floors from paint spills and drips and to mark any areas you do not want to paint;
  • a paint tray with a ramp to control the amount of paint applied to your roller;
  • a solvent to clean your roller sleeves and brushes between applications;
  • a protective mask to keep you safe from VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are harmful for health.

More information

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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 187 guides

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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