How To Apply Water Based Gloss Paint

Water-based gloss paint is a great way to spruce up old skirting board, doors or anything else that needs painting. Water-based paints are easier to use and also better for both you and the environment when compared to their solvent-based brethren. But how do you apply water-based gloss paint? Is it any different to solvent-based? Well ponder no longer, we have a full step by step guide complete with photos just waiting for you down below.

Step by Step Guide

Step 1 – Clean the surface

Cleaning up the surface is essential before any type of painting but it is particularly important when using gloss paint. Any imperfections or little bits of dirt really show through with gloss so preparing well is key to a great finish. Just use a damp cloth and give the entire surface a really good clean.

Clean the area to be painted
Clean the area to be painted

Step 2 – Sand the wood

Now that is clean you need to give the surface a good sanding. Use medium-grit sandpaper, I used 120 grit paper. You want it to be strong enough to actually remove the surface layer but not too strong that it leaves deep gouges in the paint.

Sand with medium grit sandpaper
Sand with medium-grit sandpaper

Step 3 – Clean again

Now that you have sanded the surface you need to clean it again to get rid of all of that dust from sanding. Just use a damp cloth again and give it another wipe down, ensuring you get into all the nooks and crannies.

Step 4 – Masking Tape Surrounding Areas

Now you need to use some masking tape to tape up all of your surrounding areas. This will really help you achieve clean lines and a professional level finish. I used Frog Tape Green, which fared really well in my best masking tape test.

Masking tape surrounding areas
Masking tape surrounding areas

Step 5 – Dampen the surface

Just use a damp cloth to apply a little moisture to the surface you are about to paint. With water-based paints, this really helps the paint “spread” when it is applied to the wood. This a really good trick to achieving a smooth paint finish when using water-based gloss.

Step 6 – Paint

Now it is finally time to paint the wood! In a job like this prep really is at least 75% of the job.

When painting only put a little paint on your brush at a time. Work it onto the surface using large strokes. Make sure you get the paint into all the nooks and crannies, this is really important when painting something like a skirting board that has lots of moulding shapes.

If you see any drips then work them out using the paintbrush. By working them out I mean try to brush them away, spread the paint out. To achieve a good finish with gloss I have always found it better to paint on one plane. By this I mean just paint with either vertical or horizontal strokes depending on the shape of the object you are painting. On a skirting board horizontal strokes work really well whereas on something like a door vertical strokes may be better.

You only need a tiny bit of paint
You only need a tiny bit of paint
After first coat
After first coat

Step 7 – Paint Again

Wait for the paint to dry and then you can apply a second coat. With water-based paints, you only need to wait around an hour between coats. This is a massive advantage of water-based gloss over solvent-based gloss.


So there we have it, all done!

Finished after two coats
Finished after two coats

I have always found painting with water-based gloss a lot easier than using oil-based gloss. It goes on easier, dries quickly and cleans up a lot easier. When you are done you just need to run your brush under the tap and dry it. If you were using oil based gloss you would need to get brush cleaner or white spirit out. Work it into the brush, rinse, repeat.  There really is a lot more to clean up when you have used oil-based paint than there is water-based. Plus you don’t have to worry about any dangerous fumes while painting or drying, bonus!

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If you are looking at glossing more items then we have a whole section of the website dedicated to gloss, find all of the articles below.

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Sam Wood

Wood by name, wood by nature. I am a fully qualified, time-served, award-winning joiner with an NVQ Level 3 in Carpentry and Joinery as well as an HNC in Construction. Beyond my joinery qualifications, I have also earned a degree in building surveying. I believe these qualifications make me perfectly positioned to provide expert advice on many different areas of DIY as well as share all of the tips I have picked up in over a decade working on building sites!

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