Troubleshooting: Surface & Color Variation

Uneven paint

Applicator Marks, Poor Flow and Leveling


This occurs when the paint fails to dry to a smooth film, resulting in unsightly brush and roller marks after it dries.

  • Application of additional paint or re-brushing or re-rolling in areas where the paint has partially dried.
  • "Working" paint too much during application; applying too rapidly or for too long.
  • Use of the wrong type or nap size of roller cover or the wrong type or size of brush.
  • Applying paint too thinly.
  • Painting a hot surface or in direct sunlight.
  • Coating a very porous surface.


Allow the paint to dry thoroughly, then sand smooth and repaint.

Wait until the paint has dried thoroughly before touching up.

Apply the paint using good painting technique. Do not overwork the paint with the applicator-repeat smoothing strokes only until the paint is even, then move on to next section. The final stroke should move from the fresh section to the previously painted section, ending the stroke with an upsweep in the previous section painted.

Follow label directions for the appropriate applicator type, size and quality, appropriate paint thickness and appropriate environmental conditions.

Prime or seal porous surfaces.

Paint burnishing



Paint burnishing is an area that shows an unwanted increase in gloss or sheen of the paint film as a result of rubbing, scrubbing, or having an object brush up against it.

  • Use of a flat paint in high-traffic areas where a higher sheen level would be more durable.
  • Frequent washing and spot cleaning with an abrasive cleaner.
  • Heavy objects (e.g. furniture) rubbing against the walls.
  • Use of paint that has a low resistance to scrubbing.


Paint burnishing can be solved by painting heavy-use surfaces that require regular cleaning (doors, window sills, cabinets and trim) with a paint that offers both durability and easier cleaning in a higher sheen, such as semi-gloss or gloss. On walls in high-traffic areas, choose a satin or semi-gloss rather than a flat sheen.

To assure maximum washability and durability, wait at least two weeks before washing the dry paint film. When removing stains, dirt and marks, use a soft cloth or sponge with water or a general-purpose household cleaner. Penetrating stains and marks may be removed either by carefully using an abrasive cleaner and water or by applying a solution of household bleach diluted in water and then rinsing with clean water.

Faded paintt

Fading Due to Sun or Chalking


Fading due to sun or chalking is the premature and/or excessive lightening of the paint color, which can occur on surfaces with sunny exposures. Faded paint is relatively easy to see because hidden areas such as eaves will not usually fade. (Fading or poor color retention may also be a result of paint chalking.. (See "Chalking.")

  • Colors will fade slightly when exposed to intense sunlight. As the coating ages, the fading can become more noticeable. Slight paint fading is acceptable, provided it is gradual and uniform so as not to be noticeable. (Excessive chalking of the paint film will cause colors to appear lighter.)
  • Interior-grade colorants used outside will fade.
  • Adding more tint to the coating than is recommended.
  • Interior coatings may also fade if they are near windows and there is significant sunlight exposure.


If the substrate is in good condition except for fading, clean as needed and repaint using a paint that is fade-resistant. Color chips will generally indicate when a color is prone to fade in exterior use. Follow label directions for surface preparation for the coating.



Hatbanding is a non-uniform appearance of color that occurs when a wall is painted with a roller and the edges (where the roller could not reach) are "cut in" with a brush. The brushed areas generally appear darker, thus resembling a picture frame or hatband. Sprayed areas may be darker than neighboring sections that are brushed or rolled.

  • Hatbanding can be caused by applying paint at different thickness as a result of using a thick brush cut-in application versus a thin roller application. Spraying versus brushing may also show the problem because of differing paint thicknesses.
  • Not maintaining a wet edge while painting (applying wet paint over dry or almost dry paint at the edges).
  • Incomplete mixing of the paint: paint ingredients that have settled to the bottom and are not uniformly incorporated before application.


Where the edges of two sections overlap, if the first is still wet (the "wet edge") when you paint the second section, the overlaps will meld into a single coat. If the first section has begun to dry when you paint the next section, the overlaps will in effect have two coats and look darker or more concentrated in color.

Cut in only a portion of a room - no more than one wall - before rolling. Working in smaller sections of the room will help maintain a wet edge. When using a brush, only cut in as narrow an area as needed, usually 1" to 2", using the roller as close to the corner as possible.

Apply the coating as uniformly as possible with any applicator - brush, roller or sprayer.

All paints, even factory-blended colors or whites, should be shaken thoroughly before use.

Uneven paint



Lapping is an uneven paint appearance of a darker/denser color or higher sheen where two layers overlap during paint application.

  • Failure to maintain a "wet edge" when painting. Essentially, some areas are receiving two coats.
  • Painting an unsealed surface.
  • Applying paint too thinly.
  • Painting under high temperatures.


Maintain a wet edge while applying the paint. When painting, apply paint in the unpainted area first and then back into the wet paint surface to prevent the appearance of uneven paint. This technique will produce a smooth, uniform appearance. Work in manageable-sized areas; plan for interruptions at a natural break, such as a window, door or corner.

Prime the surface with the appropriate primer to prevent the paint from soaking into the surface and drying too quickly.

Follow label directions for the appropriate environmental conditions and spread rate.

To prevent uneven paint begin rolling at a corner near the ceiling and work down the wall in two- to three-foot square sections.

Spread the paint in an "N" pattern, starting rolling from a dry area into the wet area. Cross-roll to fill in the "N" and finish with light, downward, parallel strokes to even out the finish.

Uneven paint

Poor Coverage/Hide


Failure of dried paint to obscure or hide the underlying color or surface to which it is applied can cause poor coverage/hide.

  • Spreading paint too thinly.
  • Using paint with low hiding characteristics.
  • Using a paint that is much lighter or darker than the previous coat.
  • Using the wrong nap size of roller cover. Using the wrong type or size brush.
  • Painting over a porous surface that absorbs the coating.
  • Poor flow and leveling.
  • Thinning or reducing the coating.


Follow label directions for the appropriate coating thickness and spread rate.

Prime the surface with the appropriate system of gray-shaded primers for the color of the topcoat. For very deep or very bright colors (particularly primary colors - red, blue and yellow - using a neutral base), two or more coats may be necessary. Color chips and samples for these colors may indicate that multiple coats may be necessary. A gray primer will help achieve the desired depth of color in fewer topcoats than white or tinted primer.

Determine the correct roller-cover nap based on the coating being applied and the surface to be coated. On smooth surfaces, a 1/4" or 3/8" roller nap is usually sufficient; on medium-texture, use a 1/2" nap, and on heavily or deeply textured surfaces, use a 3/4" nap.

Prime porous surfaces before topcoating.

Allow proper drying time before recoating.

Uneven paint

Poor Touch-Up


A repaired or repainted area that is noticeably different from the surrounding surface is evidence of poor touch-up.

  • Applying the touch-up with a tool different from what was used to apply the original coating, (for example, touching up a roller application with a brush).
  • Using a batch of paint that is different from the original application.
  • A repaired area with a different texture from the surrounding surface.
  • Applying the touch-up at a temperature much different from the original application.
  • The existing paint has faded from exposure to sunlight or weathering.


Use the same tool to apply the touch-up as was used to apply the original paint.

Try to keep some of the original batch of paint for touching up.

When making repairs, try to make the repair match the surrounding area as closely as possible in appearance, or feather the repair out into the surrounding area to reduce any abrupt change in texture.

It may be difficult to know the environmental conditions that existed when the original coating was applied. Use good painting technique when applying any coating; follow the label instructions for acceptable environmental conditions.

Some thinning of the touch-up coating may help it blend into the surrounding finish.

Uneven paint

Uneven Gloss (Flashing)


Uneven gloss is deterioration of the paint film, resulting in excessive or rapid loss of gloss or sheen of the topcoat. Uneven appearance of a coating's gloss, sheen or luster is also an indication.

  • Use of a gloss alkyd/oil-based paint or solvent-based epoxy in areas of direct sunlight.
  • Heavy dew, moisture or condensation on paint during drying.
  • Temperature fluctuations during drying.
  • Painting over a porous surface.
  • Paint applied at uneven film thickness (i.e., lapping).
  • Insufficient film build (applying paint too thinly).
  • Use of interior paint outdoors.


Exterior alkyd/oil-based paints and solvent-based epoxies will chalk, giving the appearance of loss of gloss. Washing the chalk off should return most of the original sheen, but it will likely chalk again. If this is unsatisfactory, recoat with an acrylic following all label directions.

Bare surfaces should be primed/sealed before applying the topcoat to ensure a uniform surface.

Spot-prime any patched areas to try to even out the porosity of the surface.

Often, applying an additional coat will even out sheen irregularities.

Thinning any touch-up coating may help it blend in better and match the sheen of the surrounding area.

Follow label directions for the proper environmental condition for application, appropriate spread rate and applicator and product use.



Yellowing is the development of a yellow cast in aging paint, most noticeable in the dried films of white paints or clear varnishes.

  • Alkyd/oil-based paints, because of their curing mechanism, tend to yellow, particularly in areas that are not exposed to sunlight.
  • Oil-based varnishes start with an amber cast and will darken with age.
  • Heat from stoves, radiators, and heating ducts.
  • Lack of light, for example, behind pictures or appliances and inside closets.
  • Tobacco staining or other environmental contaminants.
  • Moisture.


If there are no other problems and the yellowing paint is not offensive, repainting is not necessary.

Repainting using a latex paint will reduce the amount of yellowing paint, but if the environmental conditions that caused the previous coating to yellow continue, any new coating will likely yellow as well.