Paint around the edges of a room before you roll the walls to get a professional finish
To paint a room, start working around the ceiling, corners and trim first
Before you begin rolling the walls, painting the perimeter of a room with a brush, or cutting in as it is called, is an essential part of the decorating process.
Cutting in corners where the two adjoining walls are the same colour is relatively straightforward.
But where beginners can run into trouble is along ceilings, mouldings and other areas that need a perfectly straight line of paint.
To help you increase the speed and accuracy of your technique, here is our foolproof guide to cutting in.
1. Use a separate pot
Rather than dipping your brush into the tin the paint comes in, transfer a small amount to a separate container.
Pour only about 25mm of paint into the container, as this will prevent you from dipping in your brush too deep, reduce the weight and make cleaning up easier if you spill any.
Your local hardware store should have plastic paint pots for about $4, or metal containers for about $8. Removing the rim of an empty paint tin with a can opener will also give you a fully usable container.
2. Pat your paintbrush
Wiping the brush on the edge of a pot after dipping it is a common practice, but it’s not very efficient.
It’s better to dip the bristles about 25mm into the paint and then just pat the paintbrush against opposite sides of the pot.
With that quantity of paint on the brush, you will be able to cover more of the surface before you need to reload it.
Wiping the brush on the edge of a pot after dipping it is a common practice
3. Wiggle into corners
Moving the brush a little in tight corners helps the paint release more efficiently.
Wiggling the brush is also a good technique for filling in areas you’ve missed as you make a second pass.
Just a little vibration is all that’s needed to get great results.
Moving the brush a little in tight corners helps the paint release more efficiently
4. Mask only the tops
When you master cutting in, you’ll only need to apply masking tape to the tops of windows, doors and skirting boards.
The reason for doing this is to avoid getting any paint spatters on the trim when you begin rolling the paint onto the walls.
Masking less will save you time and money, and you don’t have to worry about paint creeping under the tape or the job being messed up when you pull off the tape.
5. Purchase a sash brush
Plenty of professional painters will cut in well with square-edge brushes, but for most people, angled sash brushes are easier to control.
You can fan the angled tips out to get a fine line of paint, and the angle makes it easier to get right into corners for an even spread.
A 63mm wide sash brush is usually just about right for most interior room painting.
But if you’re painting windows or other narrow sections of trim, also buy a smaller 50mm sash brush, as it will aid accuracy and be easier to control.
Plenty of professional painters will cut in well with square-edge brushes, but for most people, angled sash brushes are easier to control
6. Use bright lighting
In order to paint an accurate cut-in line, you will need to be standing in a position where you can see the line clearly.
It’s also important that you have a bright light, and a really good tip is to use a torch headlight.
For cutting in along the ceiling, get your head as close to it as possible to give you the best view of the line.
In order to paint an accurate cut-in line, you will need to be standing in a position where you can see the line clearly
7. Work up to the line
When cutting in against a ceiling or other surface where a straight line is required, start by sweeping into the line to unload a little paint onto the wall.
Don’t worry about getting close on the first pass, and without reloading your brush, make a second pass to coax the paint closer to the line.
Fan the bristles so you’re using the tip of the taper to spread the paint in a straight line. You may even have to make a third pass to achieve a perfectly straight cut-in line.
When cutting in against a surface where a straight line is required, start by sweeping into the line to unload some paint on the wall
8. Add in conditioner
Professionals will often recommend adding conditioner to the water-based paint you’re using for cutting in.
Check at your local hardware store for paint additives or conditioners.
You can just add a little to the pot each time you refill it or, if you want to measure it, mix in about one tablespoon per cup of paint.
The conditioner will help the paint flow better, which extends the wet edge, reduces brush marks and makes it easier to get a straight line.
Professionals will often recommend adding conditioner to the water-based paint you’re using for cutting in
9. Fix up errors
Even professionals can end up getting paint where it’s not meant to go.
To remove paint, wrap a damp rag around a putty knife, then carefully slide the knife along the trim.
Make sure the cloth is just one layer thick to achieve the best result. Also clean up right away, as once the paint starts to dry, tougher measures will be needed to remove it.
Another problem can be if the wall is accidentally knocked and damaged or you notice imperfections in the paint finish.
But there’s no need to repaint the whole wall, as you can use Retouch, which transforms the paint into an aerosol spray to seamlessly touch up any flaws.
To remove paint, wrap a damp rag around a putty knife, then carefully slide the knife along the trim
10. Feather the edge
When you’re happy with the cut-in line, apply a neater finish by feathering or thinning the edge.
Without reloading the brush, drag the tips of the bristles lightly over the outside edge to spread the paint in a thin layer and get rid of any ridges or excess build-up.
This feathering step ensures that the cut-in line won’t show up as a stripe after rolling the walls.
When you’re happy with the cut-in line, apply a neater finish by feathering or thinning the edge