What is rolling & tipping?
The roll & tip method is a non-stop, fast-moving, two-person endeavor where one person applies a thin coat of paint with a roller, and the other person follows immediately behind with a brush to remove the roller stipple (‘orange peel’ texture) and smooth out the surface.
There’s no stopping and no do-overs, so be sure you have the paint mixed properly, and enough paint in the roller tray and paint pot to complete each large section. Also, have the appropriate thinner handy to replace thinner that evaporates.
Which direction should I roll & tip?
As far as what direction to roll and what direction to tip, the variations include: roll horizontally and tip horizontally, roll vertically and tip fore and aft (most common method for hulls or vertical surfaces), or roll fore and aft and tip vertically. To gain confidence, you might want to practice first on a piece of primer-coated plywood, and use the method that works best for you and your painting partner.
Tips for rolling & tipping
Whichever style you adopt, get into a rhythm and keep moving or the paint will dry and the brush will drag. If you run out of paint part-way down one side and stop to get more paint, you’ll get an ugly ridge at the point where you stopped and started up again. Don’t get discourage if the first coat is spotty or sags. You’ll develop a better feel as you continue, and by the final coat, you’ll have it figured out, and it’ll look great. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind:
- Be sure your roller and brush are solvent resistant because the solvent in the paint will ruin them and they’ll fall apart.
- Using a good quality natural bristle brush will make a huge difference in the final result. Badger, Corona, and Americana are a few good brush examples.
- To help prevent surface bubbles when rolling, use a 1/8″ nap high-density, closed-cell foam roller because large-cell foam rollers or other types of rollers will cause bubbles and other texture problems, including sags. Nap rollers are not recommended because they have a tendency to leave their fuzz embedded in the paint.
- Mix enough paint to do one whole section at a time, planning ahead for logical stopping points, such as after you finish one side of the hull. To make it less noticeable, pick the bow or a corner of the transom.
- Load the roller evenly. If you load it too heavy, the paint will run. If too light, you’ll get places where the paint is thinner and the gloss won’t be as good, or you’ll get skips (also called holidays) where there’s no paint at all.
- For the person tipping, it helps to have a little paint on your brush when you start so the brush does not drag in the beginning.
- Holidays happen. If you get them, leave them alone. Touching them up will only make them worse. After sanding, you’ll cover them with the next coat.
- Avoid rolling the paint on too thickly. Aside from the potential for runs and sags in the paint, solvents can get trapped beneath the film when it skins over and affect the cure time.
- Roll the paint on in small sections (for example, approximately 2 feet wide) that are appropriate for the size of the boat and the temperature (hot or cold) conditions. This gives the person rolling enough time to distribute the paint evenly and maintain the wet edge, and the person tipping adequate time to tip without the brush dragging from drying paint.
- Roll back toward the freshly tipped paint.
- When tipping, use a light hand. You’re not applying or distributing the paint, just smoothing it out. Don’t overwork the paint or it will pull and fail to level out properly.
- If the brush starts to drag even a little bit while tipping, mix a capful of thinner into the paint cup.
- Paint starts drying very quickly, especially when rolled out thinly on a hull. Don’t rush, but don’t relax or stop until you reach a logical endpoint, or it may be noticeable.
- Apply 2-3 coats in this way, allowing for proper curing and any necessary sanding between coats.
- Sanding between coats: Sand with 220-grit sandpaper. Remove all sanding residue by vacuuming, then wipe with a tack cloth, then wipe again with a lint-free rag dampened with the solvent recommended by the paint manufacturer. Let the solvent to flash (dry) before applying the next coat.
- For the cleanest line, after applying the final coat, remove the masking tape after (and no earlier than) 1 hour.
- When you’re done, sit back and admire your beautiful handiwork for a few days, and keeping it out of the hot sun until the paint cures.
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