Painting the Trim with Perfection?

How do the professional painters get the trim (i.e., specifically where the wall meets the ceiling) so perfect? Painter’s tape has limitations in that (a) it takes so long to put up, (b) it can be very difficult to get the tape straight, and © paint can still seep under the tape, afterall! Does an angled-tipped brush help? How do the pros do this so well?

My husband used to be a professional painter; from what I’ve seen, they get the trim done so nicely because they’ve done thousands of linear feet of trim. He likes an angled brush, and he has shown me the angle he uses to paint trim - you hold the brush so the straight line of the brush is against the straight line of the trim (rather than using the wide part of the brush). You don’t go too slowly or your hand starts to shake, also.

Also, I’ve found that if you push the paint toward the edge line, you get a better “line”. Painters tape isn’t a good option and it’s obscenely expensive. Practice is the real key. That’s why there are professional painters. :slight_smile:

Backfill the tape joint with caulk. Straight looking line.

When painting a line free hand, paint up to, but not right on, corners. Straight looking line.

For most applications, straight looking is good enough. The straightest lines come from a very well done tape and backfill job. To backfill, caulk the tape edge and then scrape or wipe away as much excess as possible. Then paint slightly over the tape line. A straight tape line is actually pretty easy to do, just take your time. Backfill stops the bleed under.
Look up backfill on a home improvement site.

this might help explain better. Same principle applies to smooth surfaces or textured

I once saw a very experienced old painter working with a brush in one hand and in the other a metal concrete finishing trowel. He held that along the edge and painted with the brush. About every 3rd time he wiped the trowel with a wet rag to make sure there was no paint on the bottom of it.

Seems to work about the same as putting up painters tape, but without the expense or effort of installing & removing the tape – just takes a lot of experience to do it accurately.

Jinx, if you are currently painting and not just asking for curiosity’s sake, can I recommend the Shur-line edger?

I just finished painting out 1800 sq ft house and this thing saved my sanity. To get beautiful clean lines on trim and ceiling, I painted all of the walls, getting near to the trim or ceiling, but leaving 2 inches or so of unpainted border. Then I painted all the trim with a white semi-gloss; getting the white onto the unpainted area frequently, and without really worrying about it. Final step is to use the shur-line to edge the walls, covering the unpainted/splashes of white areas with the wall paint. Read the reviews, there are some great hints there, like to load the pad with a brush and to be careful not to get the little wheels into the wall paint.

Seriously, if you are painting, you must spend the $5 to get this (and a few refills), it’ll make your edges look better than professional.

Thanks for the tips, everyone. No current project underway, but Spring is coming, so… In the past, I have tried the Shur-line edger, but I guess I did everything wrong. I loaded it by dipping the pad in the paint tray (which does get paint on the little wheels) simply making a mess of things. And, one needs the right touch, too. Pressing too hard leaves a bead at the edge of the trim which can be wiped down by brush, but it still shows when the job is done. As I recall, all those painting gismos give little to no instruction (or tips) on how to best use their products.

Can you elaborate on this? What does it mean to paint “up to, but not right on, corners” in relation to getting the trim straight? Perhaps this tip is only valid as one approaches a corner? (I am picturing that one would paint right on the seam where the wall and ceiling meet…along the straightaway, that is.) Thanks for the advice!

I paint part-time in the summers with a couple of grizzled old veterans. The one guy is a master at painting these edge lines by hands, but it drove me crazy. When I painted my own interior I bought one of these edger tools and will never go back. I learned to load the pad with a brush early on.

My SIL just finished painting her kitchen and living room area with highly contrasting colors. Naturally, my eyes were drawn to the ceiling, where the wobbly line was pretty noticeable.

When they were over to our place for the Super Bowl, my BIL asked “How do you get those lines so straight?”

The tool is the way to go.

My husband says go quickly, but I go very, very slowly - I let the paint ooze into every minute crevice along the way. Painting trim is very much a finesse art to me, but that’s fine with me, because I like finesse art.

I’ve used all the above suggestions successfully. i use the sure-line painting pad on the walls. I prefer tape when painting the ceiling because I put 2 coats down and it’s harder for me to paint the ceiling. It’s not hard to mask quickly and tape works REALLY well when caulking. I wouldn’t caulk anything without masking it off.

Heck, I just did this a month ago when I painted some interior baseboard by the cellar entrance that was looking a bit worn - didn’t feel like masking off the trim, only problem is it’s a bit slow as you need to stop, clean off the edge, reposition, and continue, but it works fairly well with no slop. Obviously I didn’t invent it, but it did seem obvious enough and I don’t recall reading about it anywhere else beforehand…

Unless you’re more experienced than most DIYers, if you try to get right into the corner, you’ll often find yourself getting paint on the other side of the corner, whether wall to ceiling or wall to wall. When using different colors, this looks messy and amateurish. Try visually using the corner itself as a guide for freehanding about a sixteenth of an inch away. Visually, most are fooled into seeing the painted line as the corner, not the real corner. (Inside corners, btw) Works most effectively with ceiling to wall. Paint the ceiling color a little below the coner, then paint the wall color as described above. There are dozens of other tricks out there, this has worked for me for over 20 yrs. NEVER a call back on ceiling to wall transitions.

For inside corners where both sides of the wall are the same, slap on paint in that corner with a full brush, then roll close to it. Rolling corners doesn’t work so well most times.

On trim to wall transitions (door, baseboard, ceiling crown mold), tape and backfill is almost essential for a professional look. Even the best freehanders just can’t quite get it right, despite what they may brag.