Roll with it: we tested paint rollers to find the best for the job

From premium purchases to budget buys, here’s our verdict.

As with any DIY job, you need the right tools for the job. And when it comes to decorating, paint rollers and brushes will be on the list of items to buy. You might well be thinking:Ah, but theyre much of a muchness, arent they?Not so. We tested paintbrush sets with some surprising results and now its time for us to share our verdict on the best paint rollers.  

Yes, there are many rollers on the market some cost a lot, while others cost a few pounds. So, what sets them apart? And which one should you choose for your budget and your project? 

testing paint rollersCredit: Saga Exceptional

How we tested the paint rollers

What we chose and how we used them

We tested a range of 9in (230mm) and 10in (254mm) paint rollers available from a range of high-street and online-only DIY or paint specialist stores that are readily available to buy. 

The paint rollers were tested to paint the walls and ceiling in my son’s bedroom. The walls are in good condition, so I didn’t need to fill holes or fix peeling paint. 

My partner also tested them in the same room to get a balanced view of how they measured up against the criteria set.  

As I was only painting one room, I started by doing a large patch test for each. I made sure to roll the rollers the same number of times, in the same direction. I then used each roller again (the same number of times) to get a feel for how they’d work if I’d used them to paint an entire room. 

When I’d finished painting, I wrapped each roller in a bag and cleaned them a day and half after I’d used them. In each case, I followed tips on how to clean rollers. I assigned six minutes to clean each roller to make it fair. Each one was left to dry in the same room.  

  • I used medium-pile rollers for the decorating job I was doing. 
  • I used water-based matt emulsion paint suitable for the rollers tested. 
  • As I also have tennis elbow, I took this into consideration when testing the rollers.  
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What we looked for

How smooth and even did the paint roll onto the wall? Was it patchy? Did the roller drip or splatter paint? How much pressure did I need to apply to get an even coat of paint on the wall?

How heavy did the roller feel when using it? Was the grip comfortable to hold? How well did the roller roll in the paint tray? Did it aggravate my elbow mobility?

How did it look and feel before use? How did the roller hold up? Did the pile become loose? Did the pile become uneven?

How easily did the roller clean? 

We used a range of rollers covering a variety of prices to compare how they perform against value for money.  

How long after cleaning did the roller take to dry? 

coat paint roller with decorator tape
Editors Choice

Best overall and best coverage

Coat Large Paint Roller


RRP: £10
Who’s this for?
Anyone looking for a roller that delivers a premium performance that’s lightweight and easy to use. And let’s not bypass how lovely it looks too – not essential but a nice-to-have bit of kit.
Harris paint roller
Editors Choice

Best luxury

Harris Ultimate Walls and Ceilings Powercoat Roller, 9in (230mm)


RRP: £14
Who’s this for?
Anyone who’s painting large, smooth walls and ceilings. The inclusive extension handle that you can screw on gives it a good length for extra reach and is great if you’d prefer not to climb ladders to decorate.
Homebuild paint roller
Recommended

Best budget buy

Homebuild 9in Roller Kit Value Set


RRP: £6.50
Who’s this for?
Anyone who’s looking for a decent roller for a budget price. There are no frills, it’s a simple, slimline roller that’s value for money. The kit includes a roller frame and paint tray.
Draper paint roller

Fastest drying

Draper 9in paint roller kit


RRP: £12.55
Who’s this for?
Anyone looking for a weightier roller that feels substantial. It has a decent sized core diameter and it’s easy to clean.
GoodHome paint roller set
Recommended

Best DIY store paint roller kit

B&Q GoodHome 9in Medium Pile Paint Roller Kit


RRP: £12
Who’s this for?
If you like buying a kit with extra rollers and tray, then this is a good solid roller set that’s reasonably priced for what you get.

Coat Large Paint Roller Overview

Best overall and best coverage

Coat Large Paint Roller

coat paint roller with decorator tape
Editors Choice
Competitive

If you’re after a reasonably priced roller that feels and looks premium, absorbs paint well and gives silky smooth coverage, then this is the roller for you. Bonus the handle, frame and roller are made from sustainable or recycled materials.

Coverage

Ease of use

Robustness

Cleaning

Time to dry

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Anyone looking for a roller that delivers a premium performance that’s lightweight and easy to use. And let’s not bypass how lovely it looks too – not essential but a nice-to-have bit of kit.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Premium, even coverage and absorbency
  • No splattering
  • Made from sustainable materials
  • Comfortable to hold and easy to use
  • Available as a kit
  • The pile did become less compact at one end, but it didn’t affect coverage
  • Took a while to clean and dry

Expect to pay

RRP: £10 Buy direct from Coat Paints.

Best overall for consistent coverage

The soft-to-the-touch bamboo handle and duck egg blue pile gives this paint roller from Coat a premium aesthetic. It looks like it means business. And it didn’t disappoint.  

The roller felt really comfortable to hold. The bamboo handle is slightly tapered towards the frame end and is chunky enough to hold firmly and securely for a good grip. The frame and handle are light too, which meant the repetition of rolling didn’t aggravate my elbow injury. 

Coat paint rollerCredit: Michelle Guy
The Coat paint roller has a smooth bamboo handle and roller made from sustainable materials

The roller doesn’t come with an extension arm, so I did have to use it while up a ladder, yet I didn’t feel I had to apply much more pressure to the roller to apply paint to the wall because the absorbency and application were so good. There was zero dripping or splattering from the roller, so a great result there. 

When I came to roll the roller in the paint tray it rotated all the way around so there was consistent coverage. This made reapplication quick and easy. The 10mm (0.4in) medium pile instantly absorbed the paint with no congealing or blobbing on the roller.  

Coat roller used on wall with green paintCredit: Michelle Guy
The paint went on extremely smoothly and coverage was great

As soon as I rolled it onto the wall, the paint went on extremely smoothly. It was very similar to how the Harris roller (see below) distributed the paint, but the Coat roller just had the edge. The paint went on flat with no marks or bobbling, which you sometimes get with paint rollers. You often find yourself having to roll over the paint a few times to flatten it in. 

One thing I did notice, having used the roller several times, was that after a while, the pile looked less compact at one end. It had started to lift slightly. Gently rolling the roller a few times in succession on some cardboard helped to smooth it down a bit. But the ruffled pile didn’t affect the application. 

This roller was also my partner’s favourite for application and ease of use. He didn’t need to use two hands to apply any extra pressure. The paint also went on just as easily when he was rolling the top edge of the walls without a ladder as it did when he used it on the middle and bottom of the wall. I did use two hands to paint the harder to reach areas closer to the ceiling but didn’t have to apply loads of pressure to get the paint on the walls. It was more for stability. 

Overall, the Coat paint roller pipped the others to the number one slot because the paint went on consistently, achieving a beautifully flat, uniform finish with no imperfections. 

What we liked

The smooth uniform application was premium as was the look and feel of the roller. The absorbency was very good and even. The kit is great and reasonably priced – excellent value for money. And let’s not forget the sustainability credentials – an ideal option if you’re looking for an ethical supplier that sells eco-friendly products.

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What we didn’t like

There wasnt much wrong with this roller. Yes, the pile became a little loose, but it didnt affect the performance of the roller. The absorbency did make the roller a little hard to clean, but this isnt surprising considering it picks up and holds paint so well. It was slightly easier to clean than the Harris model, and it dried slightly quicker. 


Harris Ultimate Walls and Ceilings Powercoat Roller, 9in (230mm) Overview

Best luxury

Harris Ultimate Walls and Ceilings Powercoat Roller, 9in (230mm)

Harris paint roller
Editors Choice
Luxury

If youre after a roller with an extension adaptor as part of the package, then this is ideal. It provides even coverage, is easy to use and feels robust but not too heavy to handle. 

Coverage

Ease of use

Robustness

Time to dry

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Anyone who’s painting large, smooth walls and ceilings. The inclusive extension handle that you can screw on gives it a good length for extra reach and is great if you’d prefer not to climb ladders to decorate.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Great coverage and absorbency
  • Large roller
  • No splattering
  • Comes with extension handle
  • Had to apply extra pressure to the roller for coverage in harder to reach areas when using the extension handle
  • Took a while to clean and dry 

Expect to pay

RRP: £14 We’ve seen it on offer so shop around.

The best paint roller for luxury

As soon as I unwrapped this Harris roller it looked premium. It’s a medium pile and has a large diameter, which makes it look robust and up to the job.  

The size of the roller (in comparison to the others) made it look like it would be heavier. However, I was surprised when I picked it up that it felt the same weight as them. Adding the extension arm to the roller frame made it a little bit weightier, but it felt robust, and it didn’t particularly aggravate my tennis elbow.  

Harris paint roller with extension armCredit: Harris
The extendable arm is a great addition

The medium pile picked up the paint well, although one pinch point was the roller didn’t spin in a full rotation very easily in the paint tray, so it meant the coverage was slightly uneven. To resolve this, I had to tease the roller to ensure the whole surface was evenly covered before using it each time.  

However, paint didn’t clump together in blobs, and went on the roller cleanly. This meant the application of paint on the wall was even. The coverage was very good – smooth with no patchy finish. And the paint didn’t splatter or drip while rolling, so no worries about getting covered in specks of paint. 

Harris paint roller used on wall with green paintCredit: Michelle Guy
Paint went on smoothly without a patchy finish

I used the extension handle to paint to the top of the walls without climbing a ladder. I did find I had to use two hands to apply enough pressure to roller on a good amount of paint. However, doing this also teased out more paint from the very absorbent pile. 

One bug bear was that if I held the handle at the point where the extension arm screwed onto the frame (which happened to be the comfiest part for me), it kept unscrewing slightly. It wasn’t uncomfortable, more a nuisance as I had to stop and screw it back into position.  

My partner tried this roller and liked it. He preferred to use it without the extension handle – he’s (a short) 6ft and I’m (hovering around) 5ft 3in. The difference in our heights made an impact on how high we could reach with, or without, the extension handle, and how much pressure we needed to apply to the roller. He, too, thought the coverage was very good – smooth and even.  

What we liked

The diameter of the roller was chunky and it gave great, even coverage. Being able to extend the handle easily, thanks to the accompanying screw-on extension arm, was a real bonus.  

What we didn’t like

Having to tease the roller round to cover it in paint was a bit faffy. The absorbency was great but that did make cleaning the roller a bit cumbersome. This wasnt unexpected, though, as it picked up a lot of paint. It also took days to dry.


Homebuild 9in Roller Kit Value Set Overview

Best budget buy

Homebuild 9in Roller Kit Value Set

Homebuild paint roller
Recommended
Budget

If you really dont want to fork out much on a roller, then this is a fantastic budget option that stood up to the task. The price also includes a plastic paint tray. 

Coverage

Ease of use

Robustness

Cleaning

Time to dry

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Anyone who’s looking for a decent roller for a budget price. There are no frills, it’s a simple, slimline roller that’s value for money. The kit includes a roller frame and paint tray.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Great value for money
  • Good coverage
  • Easy to use and lightweight
  • No splattering
  • Easy to clean
  • Roller did become slightly uneven after some use and the sleeve did start to slip off
  • Absorbency wasn’t as good as others

Expect to pay

RRP: £6.50 Great budget buy.

The best paint roller for a budget buy

This roller definitely looked like a budget buy in comparison to the others but that certainly didn’t dampen its performance. Considering its low price of £6.50, I was impressed by how well the paint went on the wall. 

Homebuild paint roller (1)Credit: Homebuild
For a budget buy this roller didn’t disappoint

The roller rotated freely in the paint tray, so application was no problem. Absorbency was a little lacklustre – it didn’t pick up as much paint as the other rollers, and I had to reapply paint a few more times in between each application. However, in the patch test the coverage was noticeably good.  

The depth of paint wasn’t as thick as the Coat or Harris rollers but if you’re applying two coats then it’s not so bad. My partner and I both found that if we applied a bit more pressure to the roller, it helped tease out more paint and the application of colour was more even. 

Homebuild roller used on wall with green paintCredit: Michelle Guy
Absorbency wasn’t as good as with the other rollers but the paint went on fairly well

It’s lightweight and I felt that this was one of the easiest rollers to use regarding comfort and grip – great for my tennis elbow. 

One slight nuisance was that the roller sleeve did start to slip off after some use. It’s a quick and simple thing to rectify but it was noticeable. The roller also became quite uneven – it ended up thicker at one end than the other. Applying pressure helped balance up the coverage when the roller was a bit wonky. 

My partner was impressed with this roller too. He was surprised that it didn’t spray or splatter paint, and liked how compressed the roller pile was. He liked the slender roller because it was easier to see how far away it was from the ceiling, which meant you could roll close to it without accidentally marking the freshly painted ceiling. 

The lack of absorbency had its plus side – it was less time-consuming to clean and dried quicker than the other brands. 

What we liked

The coverage was good and not a million miles behind how the more premium brands faired. Great value for money and easy to clean.

What we didn’t like

The roller sleeve did keep slipping off and the roller itself became uneven, which knocked points off for robustness. I think youd only use this roller if you were applying more than one coat of paint, as the depth of colour isnt as good as the more absorbent premium rollers.

Roller direction

We did find that the paint didnt apply as well when using the roller horizontally in a side-to-side action as opposed to painting vertically up and down or slightly on an angle. 


Draper 9in paint roller kit Overview

Fastest drying

Draper 9in paint roller kit

Draper paint roller
Budget

A robust and solid roller with good coverage. The price also includes the frame and plastic paint tray. 

Coverage

Ease of use

Robustness

Cleaning

Time to dry

Value for money


Who’s this for?

Anyone looking for a weightier roller that feels substantial. It has a decent sized core diameter and it’s easy to clean.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Decent coverage
  • Weighty handle
  • No splattering
  • Easy to clean and quick to dry
  • Robust, but a bit heavy for me
  • Not as absorbent as some of the other brands

Expect to pay

RRP: £12.55 Found it slightly cheaper elsewhere so shop around.

The best paint roller to clean and dry quickly

Draper has a whole raft of decorating tools for decorators, whether you’re in the trade or a DIYer. It’s another mini kit with frame, sleeve and tray included, so it’s not a bad price point. 

Draper paint roller with blue handleCredit: Michelle Guy
The size of the roller was a bonus but the absorbency levels weren’t as good as others

I really liked the size of this roller. It’s 9in (230mm) across but the core diameter was a decent size, which looked and felt substantial. The handle is robust, but I did find it on the heavy side, which didn’t suit my tennis elbow. Once the paint was on the roller, I found it a bit tiresome to roll and hold after a time, so doing the whole room with it may have been a struggle. But my partner didn’t find it heavy at all, and without an elbow injury, he found it fine to use. He liked the ergonomics of the handle and how it felt in the hand when using it. 

Again, as with the other rollers, paint didn’t drip as we rolled. The roller picked up the paint well when rolled in the paint tray. However, absorbency levels weren’t brilliant, so the roller had to be re-rolled in paint a lot sooner than some of the others.  

Draper paint roller used on wall with green paintCredit: Michelle Guy
Coverage was a little blotchy and patchy

The lack of absorbency meant the coverage was a little patchy and blotchy but rolling over it a few times flattened the paint into the wall. Again, as with others, using two hands on the handle for extra pressure helped achieve a richer depth of colour on the wall.

My partner found using the roller in this way made the coverage less patchy, too, especially in the harder to reach areas. However, the extra work involved in having to flatten the paint in did mean it fell short on marks for coverage.  

The roller was noticeably easier to clean than some of the others, which I put down to it not being as absorbent as the Coat or Harris rollers. The roller was slightly misshapen after cleaning but not so when it had dried. It dried a lot quicker than some of the others – a benefit if you want to move onto the next bit of decorating.

A nod to the paint tray

I have to say the paint tray was brilliant it dips on a gradient, which is really handy. I found if you dipped the paint roller into the paint first, then rolled up and back down to cover the roller, it worked a treat for even coverage. 

What we liked

The size of the roller was great. It was super easy to clean and very quick to dry.

What we didn’t like

Similar to the Homebuild roller, I think youd only use this one if you were applying more than one coat of paint, as the depth of colour with the first coat isnt as good as the more absorbent premium rollers.


B&Q GoodHome 9in Medium Pile Paint Roller Kit Overview

Best DIY store paint roller kit

B&Q GoodHome 9in Medium Pile Paint Roller Kit

GoodHome paint roller set
Recommended
Budget

An easy-to-use roller that kept its shape and offered good coverage. The kit comes with three medium pile sleeves, a tray and frame. 

Coverage

Ease of use

Robustness

Cleaning

Time to dry

Value for money


Who’s this for?

If you like buying a kit with extra rollers and tray, then this is a good solid roller set that’s reasonably priced for what you get.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Decent coverage
  • Easy to use and lightweight
  • No splattering
  • Easy to clean
  • Roller handle made from 100% recycled plastic
  • Roller sleeve did start to slip off
  • Absorbency wasn’t as good as others

Expect to pay

RRP: £12 B&Q’s own brand paint roller set.

The best DIY store paint roller kit

Similar to the Draper, this B&Q own brand roller has a good core diameter – 1.8in (45mm) in fact – which made the product feel robust.  

B&Q GoodHome paint rollerCredit: Michelle Guy
A decent core diameter of 45mm made this a decent sized roller

And it was very similar to the Draper roller in all areas. The roller picked up paint well, but it did clump together, so I had to make sure I rolled it a few times in the tray to even the paint across the roller’s entire width.  

Coverage was average in the patch test. The roller certainly wasn’t as absorbent as the Harris or Coat brands, especially on the sides, where it seemed to wear thin first. We had to reapply paint more regularly to get enough on for even coverage. No dripping or splattering of paint, so again, a good result there. 

GoodHome paint roller used on wall with green paintCredit: Michelle Guy
Paint seemed to wear thin on the sides of the roller first

The frame felt one of the lightest to hold and use, which was great for my tennis elbow. It made light work of the rolling, even when I had to use two hands to add some pressure.  

My partner thought this was a decent roller and felt the same as me – that it was similar to the Draper roller in coverage. He agreed that it was lightweight and easy to use, too. 

As with a couple of the other rollers that you put onto a push and snap fit frame, it did start to slip off after some use. Not a major issue, more irritating when you’re in the middle of painting as it’s a faffy fix, trying to avoid getting paint all over your hands. 

On the plus side, the roller kept its shape the whole way through and looked the same at the end of the job as it did at the start, including the cleaning and drying process.  

It was really easy to clean and was one of the fastest to dry. Out of the rollers that started life white, it was the one which looked less green from the paint we’d used once it had been cleaned. 

As with the Draper and Homebuild varieties, we’d use this if we were applying more than one coat of paint, just because the depth of paint and coverage meant it needed another coat.

What we liked

Light frame, easy to use and clean – was one of the fastest to dry.

What we didn’t like

Again, we’d only use if painting more than one coat as the coverage was average.

Our tips for choosing a paint roller

Things to consider before you buy

It may not be the biggest investment you make in your home, but the right roller can be the difference between a professional finish and a decidedly dodgy one. So before you pop one into your shopping basket, ask yourself the following:

1. What size do I need?

Think about the size of the surface area you are painting because this will impact the size of the roller you opt for. Mini 4in (100mm) paint rollers are ideal for small areas, such as the narrow slithers of wall either side of a window.

If youre painting a wall or ceiling, then a standard 9in (230mm) roller is ideal. Some have larger diameters so the width is also 9in but the diameter could be 1.8in (45mm), like the Draper roller.

2. Do I need a short or long pile?

Paint rollers have different piles. A long-pile roller is ideal for use on textured walls and concrete. Whereas a medium pile is a good option for interior walls and ceilings that are generally smooth.

A short-pile roller is usually used with gloss paints when painting windowsills, for example. 

3. What extras does the roller come with?

If you’re starting from scratch and don’t have much in the way of decorating tools, consider whether a kit is better value for money. The Coat kits start from £20. I had the £32 kit which came with a mini roller, paintbrushes, decorator’s tape and a tray. Look at whether buying what you need separately will cost more than buying a kit.  

It’s very handy having a kit that supplies more than one roller. If you’re painting walls in a different colour, such as green and white like we did, then it means you don’t have to buy a spare or wash one in between. Everything fits and works together, too. 

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Michelle Guy

Written by Michelle Guy she/her

Updated:

With an editorial career spanning more than 20 years, Michelle Guy has spent time working on educational magazines and websites as well as being a freelance copy editor for companies like BT, until her career pivoted, and she moved into and embraced the world of homes and interiors.  

Working on magazines and websites including Homebuilding & Renovating, Real Homes and Period Living, Michelle honed her skills writing about all things renovation, extension and self-build. From interviewing homeowners to writing buyer’s guides, from sharing advice about kitchen renovations and extensions to design ideas for bathrooms, Michelle has written about a whole range of home improvement projects for discerning home improvers and keen DIYers alike.