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Walls almost always need some surface preparation before you can start painting. Even brand-new plaster needs sealing. You should fill any cracks and holes and make sure all surfaces are clean, smooth and dry. You can paint over emulsion-painted surfaces that are in good condition, but make certain you strip back or sand off any peeling paint.
If you're painting on bare wood, plaster or metal surfaces, you'll get a better result if you use a primer first. It provides a surface which the paint can bond to and stops the paint being absorbed. Find out more what you need and for what surface.
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