How to do cutting in trim and corners

Cutting the Trim and Corners while painting interiorOne of the benchmarks of a good paint job is crisp, straight transitions of color where trim meets a wall or a wall meets a ceiling. Cutting in these areas is as much about having the right tools as it is about having the right technique. It all starts with the right brush.

One of the best is an angled sash brush. It’s good for a wide variety of painting tasks besides cutting in. Most painters, pros and do-it-yourselfers alike, hate cleaning brushes; even some pros wrap their brushes in plastic wrap or aluminum foil for later use. Unless you are in an extreme rush, though, you shouldn’t do it. Clean bristles produce a much better finish, and it really doesn’t take long to clean a high-quality paintbrush.

Having a clean brush is so important that it is good to wash your brushes both at lunchtime and at the end of the day. In hot or dry conditions, you could even wash your brush three or four times a day. The problem with storing brushes in plastic wrap, foil, or even zip-top bags is that the paint near the top of the bristles dries in a few hours and becomes difficult to remove completely. Before long, the bristles don’t hold as much paint or flex as they should, which contributes to a rough finish and ragged lines where you’re cutting in.

Besides the brush, you need a paint pail. Good choice is metal pails because they don’t flex unnervingly like plastic pails; however, the seams in metal pails make them more difficult to clean. If you find this a problem, look for a paint store that sells liners for metal pails.

Fill the pail about one-quarter full so that there’s plenty of room to tap off excess paint on the side. Generally, well-mixed paint to be fine right out of the can, but in extremely hot or dry conditions, a paint additive such as Floetrol® or Penetrol® can reduce brush marks and even the transitions between brushed and rolled areas. Follow the additive directions carefully to avoid problems.

Tools for cutting in trim and corners

Cutting in nice, straight lines starts with the right brush and a high-quality paint pail. A good paintbrush choice is an angled sash brush. Pails come in several sizes. Choose one that’s comfortable to hold and has enough room for tapping excess paint off the brush.


 

tools for interior painting quarter steel paint pail, 3-in angled sash brush and liner pail

tools for interior painting quarter steel paint pail, 3-in angled sash brush and liner pail

Step by step tutorial on how to do cutting in trim and corners

 

1 – WET THE BRISTLES. Before painting, wet the bristles in the appropriate solvent (check the can), and then squeeze out the excess. This makes cleanup easier and prevents paint from creeping up the bristles.

1 - before painting, wet the bristles in the appropriate solvent

1 – before painting, wet the bristles in the appropriate solvent

 

2 – GET A GRIP. Hold the pail with four fingers on the bottom and your thumb wrapped around the handle. Keep only an inch or two of paint in the pail to keep your brush and workspace clean and to minimize spills.

 

2 - hold the pail with four fingers on the bottom and your thumb wrapped around the handle

2 – hold the pail with four fingers on the bottom and your thumb wrapped around the handle

3 – TAKE A DIP. Dunk the brush into the pail so that paint covers about one-third of the bristles. You can adjust the paint depth by tipping the pail slightly to the side.

3 - TAKE A DIP - Dunk the brush into the pail so that paint covers about one-third of the bristles

3 – TAKE A DIP – Dunk the brush into the pail so that paint covers about one-third of the bristles

 

4 – ONE TAP. Tap one side of the brush against the side of the pail, and then gently drag the bristle tips over the rim. While painting, keep the pail in your left (or nondominant) hand for maximum productivity.

4 - ONE TAP - Tap one side of the brush against the side of the pail

4 – ONE TAP – Tap one side of the brush against the side of the pail

 

5 – APPLY THE PAINT. Starting 1/2 in. to 1/4 in. away from the trim or ceiling, use a single stroke to apply the paint. Looking slightly ahead of the bristles, pull the brush toward you; keep dragging until the paint stops covering.

5 - APPLY THE PAINT

5 – APPLY THE PAINT

 

6 – WORK IT OUT. With the brush rotated 90°, take a second pass with the bristles just touching the trim or corner. The paint should level out, leaving a smooth line free of ridges. Take a third pass only when necessary.

6 - WORK IT OUT - With the brush rotated 90 degrees, take second pass with the bristles

6 – WORK IT OUT – With the brush rotated 90 degrees, take second pass with the bristles