Ten Painting Tips, 10 More Tomorrow

Yesterday I shared Painting 101 information – all the must-knows.  Today, I thought I’d share some of the best tips that I’ve learned over the years.  I’ll share 10 today and 10 tomorrow.

But, first, I wanted to link to a great post over at the Decorologist on how color selection can make a space look dated.  That way, if you are choosing color while choosing paint, you can get extra guidance.

Back to the tips.   They are targeted at wall painting though I touched on furniture painting yesterday.  If you are all interested, I can do a post on just furniture…

1.  Buy a Purdy 1.5 or 2 inch angled paint brush.
A good quality angled paint brush can make all the difference when cutting in at edges.  I used Purdy brand.  Wooster is also good.  They cost about $10, but if you take care of it, it will last for a very long time.   A real estate agent that I was doing a paint color consult for the other day went and got me a brush so I could put some paint I happened to have with me on his wall.  I was like, oh a new brush!  I mean, still in the package, perfect condition.  He said it was 7 years old!  I was so impressed.  I have to admit, my month old brush doesn’t look as good as his, but it’s still in good shape.

Brushes come in natural and synthetic bristles.  In general, paint brushes with natural bristles are meant for oil-based paints.  Synthetic bristles were designed for water-based or latex paints, but can be used for anything.

image image

The brush is so important for the next tip.  You won’t be able to cut in without a good brush.

2.  Cut in.  Don’t tape.
Don’t you hate taping off a room?  You don’t have to.  You can just cut in.

What is cutting in?  It’s when you do not use tape around the edges of the room and instead paint a straight line without the guidance of tape.

The first time or two is always tough, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll not do it any other way.  So, take the time to learn it.

image image image

To cut in, first load the brush with paint. Then be sure to wipe most of the excess paint off by gently scraping the bristles on the edge of the can. Unload the brush a bit more on the first swipe by starting in an unpainted area and dragging towards an area already painted.  Once the brush is unloading about like a pen would, do a brushstroke right at the edge without reloading the brush.  I usually go about a foot or two like this, keeping as steady as I can, looking an inch or so ahead of the brush the whole time.  Sneaking up to the edge is easier than trying to get it perfect on the first try. At the end of the stroke, pull the brush away from the cut-in line and sweep it off the surface.  Drag towards the previously painted area.  Don’t overwork the paint and keep brushing it.  Remember, paint starts to dry as soon as it’s laid on.  So, overworking it leaves marks.

You can hold the brush like in the image above left or almost completely vertical (still parallel to the edge) like the above middle and right.   Whatever works best for you is fine.  I do both at different times.

I used to use a paint edger.  It’s a pad that you load with paint and the pull along edges.  However, I was never truly happy with it.  I would overload it with paint and it’d seep out the edges, or I wouldn’t have enough paint and it would miss lots of spots.  The pads would sometimes slip out and cause a disaster.  It wasn’t good, but I used them for several years as I was afraid to try a straight line on my own.  Now, I like cutting in much better.  No need to tape anymore!

image image

When cutting in, do the edges of one wall first, and then paint that wall.  This especially matters if you are using a paint with any sheen.  You’ll want the edging to still be damp when painting so it blends.  With a flat finish, it doesn’t matter as much.  Edge when you want with flat paint.

3. Tape horizontals only.

image image

While I don’t really tape, if you want to tape one thing, it’s horizontals.  Paint will splatter a bit and it will land on anything horizontal.  So, if you have trim or chair rail, consider taping it off.   Otherwise, wipe it off immediately after each coat while the paint is still wet, or you could be picking off one tiny splatter at a time later.

If you do use tape, for stripes or horizontals or anything, be sure to take the tape off while the paint is still wet.  That way, the tape doesn’t pull off some of the dried paint with it.

4.  Use tray liners.
Paint trays are a pain to clean every time you use one in order to roll paint on.  What I recommend is a liner.  For about 60 cents, you can use it to line the tray and later when you are done, just throw it away.  No cleaning.

5.  Feather out the paint where you can’t keep a wet edge.
If you need to come back and finish painting a wall later, yet you don’t want the line where you stopped painting to show, feather the edge.  What I mean is keep going until the brush is dry and the wall is painted in a lighter and lighter coat.


The edges above are feathered.

6.  Get paint boogers out with straining.
You know what I mean – those clumps that get in there when paint starts to dry a bit.  First off, keep the can covered as much as you can to avoid any drying.  Lay the lid on it, cover with a drop cloth, throw plastic over it, whatever.  This will help you avoid clumps.  But, when you do get them, and we all do, you can strain them out!


Pour the paint through a straining cloth to remove the paint boogers.  You don’t want them to end up on the wall or you could have to pick them out and reroll the area.  You can buy a paint strainer at a home center or paint store or use old pantyhose.

7.  Use an HGTV easy drop protection mat.
I just tried this and loved it.  It was easier than a drop cloth and you could move it around fast.  It caught all of the splatters for me and protected my hard wood floors.

image Photo Sep 12, 9 39 39 AM

It’s a 2 feet by 7 feet folding mat.  I like that it folds so that I can use it in small or larger spaces.  I couldn’t find many photos of it, so took one of mine.  It slides right up against the wall and into corners.

8.  Prep a dirty surface by cleaning with TSP.

image image image

Paint doesn’t adhere well to skin oils or dirt.  So before painting, clean grimy areas with a deglosser or heavy-duty cleaner like a trisodium phosphate cleaner (TSP), which is found at home centers like Home Depot. It will get all of the grease and dirt off, thus helping with paint adhesion.

Wipe on the cleaner using a lint-free cloth or abrasive pad.  Be sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection.  It’s strong stuff.

9.  Use an extender to avoid brush marks and for a smoother finish.
Floetrol is a paint conditioner that, when added to latex paint, helps to eliminate brush strokes caused by quick drying paint.  It extends the drying time, letting the paint flatten.  That means you should count on a longer drying time when using Floetrol.

image image

10.  Use a small container for cutting in.

image image

Since you don’t want to leave a gallon of paint uncovered for long (it could dry out and get a skin or lumps), it’s best to pour a small amount into a container and cover the gallon when cutting in.  Pour paint about 1-2 inches deep into a separate container.  I use old glad containers or old plastic cups.  But, anything works.

I hope all of that helps!  10 more tips tomorrow.  What are your best tips?



  1. Great tips! I don’t tape off anymore either. SO much easier this way!

  2. I haven’t been brave enough to try cutting in yet, plus my husband says I’m the worst painter in the world. Haha!

  3. I love this post. I am so happy to find someone who strikes using tape because you don’t need to once you have the right brush. I use to tape off until I discovered the purdy brush – it is my best friend. Since I paint quite a bit, I’ve gotten use to holding the brush just right so that my cut-ins are puuurfect. Cheers!!

  4. I was too tired last night to even type Kristy, but this has been excellent information for everyone. Great stuff. I love my Purdy’s. I think I have about 6 or so & have had them for at least 10 years. I guard them carefully & I always keep them stored in the original snap sleeve they come in to protect the shape & the edges.

  5. Amen to cutting in & Purdy brushes! Love them. Helpful post, thanks!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

1 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Comment on is the Placement of your paint color make you look old? by Kristy Swain | Furniture Idea (Pingback)