If you’re getting supplies ready to start a paint job in your home, then it’s helpful to understand the different sizes that paint rollers come in and what sort of project each size of roller works best for.
The standard length measurement of a paint roller is 9 inches, though paint rollers also come in smaller and larger sizes for specific projects. The pile or ‘nap’ of a roller will also come in different measurements, and it’s important to pick the right roller nap for the job to get the best results.
Paint Roller Nap Explained
When you’re shopping for rollers, it’s easy to get confused by the language used, especially if you’re new to DIY and home renovation. The ‘nap’ of a roller refers to the thickness of the roller cover or the pile of the cover. This is the soft, outer layer on the roller that you dip in paint and apply directly to your wall or ceiling.
Rollers have different naps, which affect how well-suited they are to different types of jobs. Typically, a surface that is rough, such as a ceiling with a textured coating, will be best suited to a roller with a thicker nap.
This is because they hold more paint which can get into the crevices on textured walls, and they are also tougher and won’t be ripped apart by the textured surface. For flat walls, a thinner nap will be better for a smoother finish, and it will use less paint to reduce paint wastage.
Paint Roller Nap Sizes
Paint rollers come in these standard naps:
A ¼ inch nap is not the thinnest pile you will find on a paint roller, but it is the smallest nap you are likely to use for a home renovation project. This nap is ideal for use on metal or wood, for example, if you are upcycling some furniture with a paint roller. The shallow cover of a ¼ inch nap gives a really smooth finish for a project which looks like it has been undertaken by a professional.
The ¼ inch nap roller is also suitable for use on smooth walls, but it will hold a limited amount of paint. This will mean a super smooth finish, but it may also mean you have to apply more coats than you expected.
This paint roller nap is the most common size used for painting flat ceilings and drywall. It can hold a decent amount of paint for good coverage, while still giving a smooth finish.
The ½ inch paint roller is a standard size used for interior paintwork on walls and flat ceilings. It can hold a little more paint than the ⅜ inch nap, but will give a similarly smooth finish.
Rougher surfaces such as fences, stucco, and textured ceilings, should be painted with a ¾ inch nap paint roller. These can hold greater amounts of paint which will get pushed into the cracks and crevices when rolled onto the surface. The additional thickness also makes this paint roller covers more sturdy, so they won’t rip apart if they get caught on a rough surface. These types of rollers should not be used on smooth surfaces, as they will give an orange-peel finish.
The 1 inch nap paint roller covers are suitable for rough textures such as decks, fences, and stucco. They hold more paint for better coverage on rough surfaces, so you won’t have to touch up gaps and crevices with a paintbrush afterward.
1 ¼ inch to 1 ½ inch
If you are painting bricks or masonry, a paint roller with a nap of between 1 ¼ inch and 1 ½ inch will be best. These will offer the best coverage and be tough enough not to catch and rip on any sharp corners.
Paint Roller Length Sizes
Paint roller length is measured from the open end of a paint roller to the opposite end.
Small roller sizes
Paint rollers with a small length are really useful for quickly painting trim, furniture, or narrow strips of the wall when you don’t want to waste time with a paintbrush. Small rollers typically come in length measurements of 2 inches, 3 inches, 4 inches, and 6 inches. You can also get rollers in half-inch measurements from specialty stores.
Standard roller size
A standard paint roller has a length measurement of 9 inches. This is the size of roller you can expect to use for walls, ceilings, fences, decks, and masonry. The 9-inch length gives good coverage while not being so big that it gets too heavy in your hand.
A 9-inch roller fits perfectly into a 5-gallon paint can that’s about 12 inches in diameter. But if you’re using a smaller paint can size, like a 1-gallon can that’s only 6.5 inches wide, the roller won’t fit inside. In this case, Just pour the paint into a paint tray and dip your roller in there instead.
Large roller sizes
Paint rollers with a length of longer than 9 inches are considered to be oversized rollers. They most commonly come in 12-inch and 18-inch options. These are useful if you are painting a very large space and want to get the job done more quickly, though your aim may ache a lot afterward from carrying the extra weight.
What Size Roller is Best?
The size of the roller that is best depends entirely on what you intend to use that roller for. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to rollers because they are designed with specific qualities to suit the needs of the job. For smooth interior walls and ceilings, choose a paint roller with a 9-inch length and a ⅜ inch or ½ inch nap.
For rough surfaces or textured surfaces, opt for a roller with a nap of at least ¾ inch or more. When painting very large ceilings, a paint roller with a longer length of 12 inches or 18 inches will allow you to cover more surface area in a shorter amount of time to get the job finished more quickly.
For narrow sections of the wall, for example, around a window frame, or for trim and furniture, smaller rollers are better. A 2-inch or 3-inch roller works well for most types of trim.