What is the best paint roller?
Questions like these don’t really have a ‘one size fits all’ answer as there are many variables you need to take into account.
For example, choosing a paint roller for paint application on interior walls is going to have a different outcome as, say, choosing a roller that’s suitable for use on your cabinets.
With that being said, we decided to add a little science to the outcome. We’ve surveyed 131 professional painters and decorators in order to find the best overall brand and then chosen specific rollers for specific categories. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at the results.
Best Paint Roller Brand
1st: Hamilton (52% of vote)
2nd: Purdy (21% of vote)
3rd: ProDec (15% of vote)
4th: Wooster (11% of vote)
Unsurprisingly to us, the brand of choice in 2021 is Hamilton, with many decorators citing the Hamilton Perfection range as some of the best paint rollers they’ve ever used.
There’s little to choose from when it comes to Purdy, ProDec and Wooster with Purdy (perhaps based on their reputation) edging the other two in terms of total votes.
So now we’ve got the most popular brands, let’s look at some categories that are more specific.
Best Paint Roller for Emulsion: Hamilton Perfection 12″ Medium Pile
For this reason, we’ve gone with the Hamilton Perfection 12″ medium pile as our choice for best paint roller for emulsion in particular.
From our experience using this paint roller we’ve observed that it’s incredibly efficient at picking up paint and spreading it evenly, especially when paired with a good quality emulsion paint. Moreover, it picks up a lot of paint which typically means less visits to the old roller tray.
It’s best for use on smooth and semi-smooth surfaces which is likely what you’ll be painting on if you’re using an emulsion.
In terms of cleanliness, half the battle is won already as there’s very minimal paint splatter during application. The thermo-bonded fabric also means the fibres don’t unwind whilst washing which can be a bit of a pain when cleaning cheaper rollers. It’s also built to withstand multiple cleans and if used for DIY projects only, should last you a lifetime.
- Minimal paint splatter during application
- Leaves a smooth finish if using with emulsion
- Very easy to clean
- Will last a DIYer a lifetime if looked after
Best Paint Roller for Walls: Hamilton Perfection 5 Piece Roller Kit
Doubling down on the Hamilton Perfection range, we’ve chosen this nifty 5 piece roller kit as the best paint roller for walls. The 5 piece kit includes 1 short pile, 1 medium pile and 1 long pile roller plus a sturdy cage frame and a roller tray.
Having a variety of different sized rollers is ideal for those whose walls are not uniform in texture. For example, if one of your walls is ultra flat, using the short pile roller would be recommended as you won’t need to pick up as much paint.
If you then had a room where your walls have a slight texture for them, the medium pile roller would be ideal. You would need to be careful using a long pile roller on your walls however as you could very well end up with an ‘orange peel’ effect.
As mentioned above, these rollers pick up and hold the paint efficiently which makes for an even and ultimately breezy application. The thermo-bonded fibres also stay together which ensures you don’t incur any fibre loss whilst painting.
It goes without saying that all the rollers are easy to clean and if maintained well, can last you years. The wooden handle cage frame also ensures you don’t loss your rollers to rust which is a common issue with metal rollers.
- Picks up and applies paint efficiently with minimal fuss
- Creates walls with a smooth finish
- Great for hiding imperfections on your walls
- Easy to maintain and clean
Best Paint Roller for Ceilings: ProDec Medium Pile
Whilst theoretically speaking you could easily use the Hamilton Perfection range on your ceilings to, many decorators, myself included, are big fans of ProDec’s medium pile for this specific job.
When you’re using a roller on ceilings it’s a given that you’re going to want one that absorbs, and more importantly, continues to hold the paint during application. It’s for this reason that myself and many other professional decorators opt for ProDec when painting ceilings.
Another reason you’d choose this roller for your ceilings is because of the price. Many houses in the UK have semi-smooth ceilings and so your roller isn’t going to last as long as it would if painting flatter surfaces. Having something cheap that you don’t mind replacing every now and again is a big selling point of these rollers and gives you the option to keep your best rollers for flatter surfaces.
One issue you might encounter with these is lint coming off your roller and ending up on your ceilings. There is a simple trick you can use to avoid this and that’s to damp the roller first with warm water. This should remove any excess lint and you’ll be good to go.
- Great value rollers
- Work well on smooth and semi-smooth surfaces
- Suitable for use with both water and oil-based paints
- Excess lint can be a problem if not dealt with prior to painting
Best Paint Roller for a Smooth Finish: Purdy White Dove
Sometimes when you’re painting, ease of application and convenience simply doesn’t matter as much as the final finish. With that in mind, if you’re looking for the best paint roller for a smooth finish, you don’t need to look much further than Purdy’s White Dove.
Whilst it doesn’t pick up and release as much paint as the Hamilton Perfection rollers, there’s no question that it gives the best finish. Purdy’s cover sleeves are manufactured using woven Dralon fabric which is highly specialised at releasing paint in an even manner. It’s for that reason you can expect the smoothest finish on flat or semi-smooth walls.
Like the ProDec roller, you will need to prepare Purdy White Dove rollers thoroughly to ensure no lint is released during application.
- Results in a uniform, smooth finish
- Carries a decent amount of paint
- Minimal drips and splatters when applying paint
- The White Dove rollers have issues with lint release (but it can be avoided)
Best Paint Roller for Masonry: Purdy Colussus
As you’ll see in our buyer’s guide below, when painting masonry, it’s imperative that your roller is long pile. This essentially means that fibres are longer than other rollers and will cover uneven or porous surfaces without missing gaps. With that in mind, if you’re looking for the best paint roller for masonry, we’d advise you to go with the Purdy Colussus.
The 100% polyamide sleeve picks up an enormous amount of paint and does an equally impressive job of releasing it during application. And despite being able to carry so much paint, you don’t typically get any issues with drips or splashes.
Another aspect that tradesmen often rave about is the fact that the roller feels light in the hand, even when loaded up with paint. This means it’s much more comfortable to use over the course of the day and your arms shouldn’t get as tired as they would if using a heavier roller.
- It’s light to hold which means it requires less strength to use
- The sleeve picks up a generous amount of paint and releases the majority of it during application
- It can last for around 10,000ft which would be a lifetime for DIYers
Best Refillable Paint Roller: Bommel
I’ll be honest with you, there’s not many, if any refillable paint rollers that I’d use on the job. But if I was forced to, I’d go with the Bommel.
If you’re using anything other than water-based paint, refillable rollers are basically useless but if you are using a thinner paint and MUST have a refillable roller – go for Bommel. The one benefit of using Bommel’s refillable roller is that it you get zero dripping as the roller absorbs the paint from the inside.
Being quite a gimmicky accessory, most companies will get away with flimsy materials but in fairness to Bommel, the handle is quite sturdy and the paint capacity seems to be higher than their competitors.
- No drips
- No need to use the roller tray as often
- Doesn’t give you a fantastic finish
Paint Roller Buyer’s Guide
If you’re still not sure which roller is right for you, take a look at our quick buyer’s guide.
Short Pile Roller
A short pile roller essentially means the fibres on your roller are going to be short. This means they don’t pick up a lot of paint which makes them ideal for use on surfaces that are very flat such as:
Basically, most types of woodwork! Due to the flat surface, longer pile rollers would cause all sorts of problems such as bubbling and the orange peel effect. Avoid using short pile rollers on substrates that are rough or porous. The lack of paint on the roller won’t do a very adequate job of covering the imperfections.
Medium Pile Roller
A medium pile roller means the fibres of your roller are not short but are not long. They tend to pick up a decent amount of paint with the best rollers absorbing more which tends to result in less trips to the roller tray.
A medium pile roller is perfect for emulsions as it will pick up enough paint to cover minor imperfections with ease. This makes the medium pile roller is staple for anyone painting walls and ceilings.
Long Pile Roller
A long pile roller has long fibres and picks up the most paint. This makes it ideal for use on porous and uneven substrates such as masonry. The long fibres can allow you to apply paint into any gaps, giving you a uniform finish.
It’s best to avoid long pile rollers on other, flatter substrates as this could result in the ‘orange peel’ effect.
What about the handle?
In truth, what material you choose for the handle is down to personal preference. Wooden handles have the benefit of avoiding rust (which is a common problem with metal handles). On the other hand, metal handles are easier to clean.
Best Way to Clean a Paint Roller
Oil-based paint: the best way to remove oil-based paint from your rollers is to use a white spirit followed by a good rinse.
Water-based paint: the beauty of water-based paint is that it’ll come off with just a bit of soapy water. I’d recommend using a powerful garden hose and spraying one half of the roller which should get it spinning pretty quickly.
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