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I'm looking for advice as to how best obtain a straight line between the wall and ceiling which are both textured. I've seen some new homes where the painter masks about 1/8-1/4 inch down the wall parallel with the ceiling which looks quite nice. I've tried to mask in the corner, but it always looks terrible even using frog tape. Are there any techniques for getting a straight edge?

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5 Answers 5

I never tape anything and people are amazed at the crisp lines I paint in my home. I use a high quality angled brush for this. Depending on my wrist fatigue and room, I work from either left to right, or vice versa with this technique. This is self-taught and I have no idea if their is a name for this.

I load the brush up with plenty of paint and then spread the paint on about an inch lower than the ceiling, onto the wall for about the length of a foot. This is just to get the bulk of the paint onto the wall to prevent dripping and to help load the brush back up while I work. I pull the brush along the wall just below the ceiling and slowly raise it up to the corner so that the bristles fall in to place. Without the angled brush, this would be difficult. I hold the brush more on plane with the ceiling than the wall, almost perpendicular to the wall. Once the bristles have fallen into a nice setup, most people would simply drag the brush and paint the wall with a one long stroke. I found that I run out of paint and have to use multiple shallow arcs to do this. This was unsatisfactory to me. I wiggle the brush back and forth while dragging it along to drag and push the paint to the place I want. The key of this method is to control the amount of paint loaded up on the brush at the ends while you drag and push. With the push and pull action of this method, I think it would work wonderfully for a textured surface as it pushes paint with both strokes in each direction

Upon very close inspection, the finished edge will have a small ragged appearance to it, but you can only see it when you are very close up. From normal viewing distance, even in a small bathroom, the line appears to be a crisp edge, well-defining the corner. I will be painting a room in the next week or two. I could take a quick video and post if it would be beneficial to anyone.

Edited to add video:

Video

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Thanks @evilelf a short vid would be great. –  Andrew Findlay Apr 2 '13 at 12:59
    
When are you painting? –  Evil Elf Apr 2 '13 at 14:54
    
To be fair, even when you look at most taped lines up close, they've got ragged appearance and bleeding and other imperfections. –  gregmac Apr 2 '13 at 19:55
    
I favor this technique too---but it works best with flatter finishes, then starts to break down with high-gloss finishes, such as satin. I discovered this recently while painting our bathroom. My solution: I got some regular ol' hobby paint brushes (like for watercolor or acrylics) and painstakingly replicated the technique, only with the super-small brushes. This probably isn't advisable if you need to be fast and economical, but ours is a small bathroom, so it only took a couple or three hours to edge it out like this. But now I have ultra-sharp edges. –  elrobis Apr 3 '13 at 15:31
    
+1 It's a revelation the first time you decide to not go with masking and paint freehand. It's surprisingly easy to paint a crisp corner with a decent brush. I now no longer waste all that time masking. –  DA01 May 2 '13 at 16:42

+1 on Elf's brush technique.

I would add: using a small scraper or careful use of a partially exposed utility knife, to remove the texture just on either side of the inside corner.

Then I would deliberately overpaint the ceiling paint onto to wall a bit (1" or so). Then go back with EvilElfs loaded brush and cut towards the ceiling.

The overpainted corner allows the back cut to flow smoothly.

I use this method with trim also, doing the final back cut with the wall paint

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We're in the process of painting our main floor (and we opted in for the cheaper popcorn ceilings when we bought the house), so I feel your pain.

I mostly use Elf's technique: use a good quality angle brush, unload around a half-inch below the ceiling and then push paint up into the corner. As a part of prep-work, I use a 1/4" screwdriver and drag it along the ceiling, effectively removing a thin strip of the popcorn and allowing a ledge for the paint.

However, what texture are you dealing with? Do you have the same texture on wall and ceiling?

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If you are like me & don't have a straight hand to save your sole here are a few tips that may be helpfull. The first method is to tape along the ceiling and with using the exact color you used to paint your ceiling, apply a thin coat along the tape line between your wall & ceiling (this acts as a barrier & will not allow your new wall color to seep under the tape & get onto the ceiling), allow it to dry & then paint your wall color.
Now, if you didn't just paint your ceiling & are not needing/wanting to then here is another method & the one I usually do. Again, tape off the line where your wall meets the ceiling. Next, using a clear paintable caulk apply a thin coat along the entire edge of the tape & smooth with finger. Leave to dry & when its dry paint your wall color. When tape is removed you will have crisp straight lines! Happy painting!!

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I definitely agree that painting with a brush and no tape is the way to go. To add some variety, however, I'll suggest another option: Crown Moulding.

And by that, I don't mean you need to go out and get the 8" angled stuff with the fancy profile. Even a 2" trim board nailed flat on the wall butt-up to the ceiling can really add a little bit of detail to a room. I got in the habit of doing that at our previous house (built in 1929) where that was the standard in all the bedrooms. I thought it was a nice, simple, and relatively cheap design detail and saved me the hassle of painting that corner at the top of the wall.

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