I'm always looking to improve my knowledge about lots of thing and the other day I had the good fortune to meet a master painter on a job MONT was working at. Number 10 is the third house I've painted but one can never have too much knowledge about things like this, so I asked him for some tips on how to get a professional finish.
Here's what Craig told me. Preparation is EVERYTHING! If you cut corners on your prep, it WILL SHOW....no matter how well you paint the room.
Always paint a room from top to bottom. Ceiling and cornice first, then walls, trim, like architraves and skirting boards and finally, the floors.
When painting a ceiling, use the fluffiest roller you can find and do the first coat across the "light source" in the room...when applying the second coat, go towards the light source. For instance, if there's a window in the room, work across it first, then back and forth towards the window for the second coat. That way you'll pick up any bits you've missed or have left a bit "hungry".
For the walls, use a roller with a medium nap and start about a roller width in from the corner of the wall and use long sweeping strokes instead of quick, short ones.
The lighter the paint, the bigger the room will look, the darker the paint, the smaller it'll look because it'll feel closed in. Also, when trying to choose a colour, paint a sample of it into a corner of the room where the walls meet so the paint reflects off itself and gives you a better idea of how it's going to look.
When painting a long hallway where there are a number of joins in the plaster sheets... minimise the chance of seeing any variation in the wall by painting with only long, sweeping, vertical roller strokes...
Finally from Craig: Take your time. Rushing it will mean you cut corners and it will show.
A couple from me. One of the best products I've found for patching dings and holes in plaster is Cornice Cement. Despite other fillers promising amazing results, the best one for me has been plain old Cornice Cement. It doesn't shrink, you can mix as much or as little as you like, it's sands off beautifully and it's cheap!
Buy the best brush you can afford and always get the proper masking tape for going around the skirting boards etc.....I know someone who used regular old masking tape once and left it on a little longer than necessary. They spent hours trying to peel it off and then had to neutralise the sticky glug that was left behind.
If you have any tips of your own, I'd love to hear them. The more information the better I say