Hi Roberta, here is a beautiful example of painted wood paneling: http://www.hometalk.com/85787/ahh-sigh-wood-paneling-did-you-love-it-in-the-70s-does-it-bring-back-memories
mine was built in the 70's too and most of my walls are painted and in the process of painting the rest... all panelling too. You may want to clean and prime first depending on the condition. I just painted the kitchen with BM paint and primer combo but needed to prime along the bare panelling because I was using a very light yellow. I am painting the living room a teal/aqua color and 2 coats are covering the panelling.
if you want to make them look less than "paneled" I have used sheet rock mud (very cheap) and a wide scraper to fill in the lines in the paneling. When it dries just use fine grade sand paper to smooth the mud out, and paint as usual. The walls will look amazing like they were replaced with sheet rock. Good luck!
If it's regular wood paneling, you'll want to clean with a TSP mix first, prime with 2-coats of oil-based primer...like Zinser Coverstain...wear a respirator and crack windows open for fumes. Then top-coat with a good quality interior paint...probably 2 coats. Most times we've done this, we have not skimmed out the cracks...but left the for texture and it's a good look. Problem with skimming is that the joint compound may crack over time and even fall out as wood tends to expand & contract more with temperatures and humidity in your home.
I agree with Andy and recommend a good oil-based primer first before painting. I made the unfortunate mistake of not scuffing glossy paneling before painting, so make sure you take that extra step if your paneling is smooth. Lightly sanding with a fine grit will help the primer adhere to the paneling. Otherwise the primer will disperse unevenly over the surface.
It' paints great. Just wipe it down with water based deglosser and prime it with a good latex primer like Zinzer 123. Next you want to caulk the open seams and putty any holes that stand out. Then you are ready for two coats of paint, which can be rolled on or rolled and then brushed behind.
A bonding primer, then paint your heart out.
I am painting mine now!!! Primer first even if you are using a pant that has primer in it!!!