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Been doing a lot of interior painting lately and I always find the edges — by the ceiling, windows, baseboards, etc. — the most tedious.

What's the best way to paint the edges — old fashioned cut brush? Some of these special edging tools they have at all the home stores? Some other method?

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8 Answers

A good old fashioned, quality paint brush.

Get a good quality paint brush and take good care of it. It's a lot less time intensive to use a good brush and make a good line than it is to have to tape it first.

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+1 for this. It's what the pros do, but it does take some skill to get a nice line. –  Eric Petroelje Jul 23 '10 at 12:41
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If you find normal paintbrushes difficult to cut with, try a European finishing brush for cutting. It's got a conical shape like a artist's paintbrush but is ~1.5" in diameter. You twirl it slowly as you paint for a nice even flow. Lee Valley has them although they're calling them Chinese now. leevalley.com/en/wood/… –  Rod Fitzsimmons Frey Jul 23 '10 at 15:00
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I've used the Shur-Line Paint Edger with some success -- mostly against the ceiling, though. Some tips for using it:

  • Don't get overzealous and load tons of paint on it - it will just overflow onto the spacer wheels and track nicely spaced marks across your ceiling.
  • Another side effect of too much paint is a raised bead of paint on the wall beneath the edger that you will have to feather out, unless you want a uniform ridge running around the room 4" from the ceiling

I gave up on the corner edger that Shur-Line makes and went with a brush for the corners. The corner edger either didn't cover the spot I brushed it over, or left a bead of paint to each side that I'd have to go over with a brush anyway.

For window frames and baseboards, I ended up using blue painter's tape and a brush. Careful with how long you leave the tape on though, since it can pull up paint that's underneath it. I wouldn't recommend using blue painter's tape for anything but trim, which usually has a high-gloss or a semi-gloss finish, making it so the tape doesn't stick as well.

UPDATE: After painting the bedrooms of our house with the Shur-Line Edger, I moved on to using a 2" angled brush for the rest of the house. It took some getting used to, but I could actually do it faster than with the edger by the time we were through.

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Usually the blue tape will be OK for masking walls and ceilings as long as you don't leave it on too long. If you want something stickier for the trim work, use the green tape. –  Eric Petroelje Jul 23 '10 at 1:29
    
My wife uses these and I use a 1.5" angled trim brush. For the most part the results are the same. –  Mike Powell Jul 26 '10 at 4:46
    
Yes, I use this for all my edges with great success. No more wasting tape. –  dotjoe Jul 28 '10 at 19:32
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A good brush and painting by hand is the easiest and best methodology. But if you want to try a more advanced technique that is less prone to errors, and if you are like me and your hand shakes, then try this:

Let's assume that you have 2 walls. The one you want to paint is blue, and the other is a white wall.

  1. Place tape on the white wall, right at the edge of the 2 walls.
  2. Paint the edge with the white color. If it bleeds through the tape, it will be fine as you have the same white as what is on the opposing wall.
  3. Wait for the white to dry.
  4. Paint the blue wall blue.

If done correctly, the dried white paint will prevent any blue paint from seeping underneath the tape.

When everything is dry, I like to score the edge with a razor knife, and then remove the tape by peeling at an angle.

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That is just brilliant. I've never liked to use tape because of the bleeding issue, and have always been able to cut a fairly clean line without it. But for those cases where you need tape (I'm thinking in particular of painting a pattern like a checkerboard, or anywhere you need a straight line in the middle of a wall) this technique seems ideal! –  Mike Powell Nov 17 '10 at 3:08
    
I'm afraid I have to disagree. If you wait for any paint to dry before pulling the tape you're sure to chip the paint. Scoring with a knife, is a bad idea as well as you will see where the edge was cut with the knife, it will not blend in at all. 3M does a new "blue and orange" paint that performs a lot better than any other tape out there and it doesn't pull the paint. –  md1337 Aug 4 '12 at 1:29
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To expand on NotDan's answer:

  • Use an angled brush (I generally use a 1.5").
  • Hold the brush close to the bristles, not by the handle.
  • Dip the brush about 1/2" into the paint, and wipe the paint off one side of the brush.
  • Start your line with the longer bristles (the "point" of the brush) on the line, and the shorter bristles about 1/4" away from the line. The brush should be closer to flat against the wall than perpendicular to the wall.
  • Apply just enough pressure so that the longer trailing bristles are fairly curved as you pull the brush along.
  • Think about whether you want to overshoot or undershoot your edge: for example on a window casing, where you're less likely to see the edge of the trim, it's better to overshoot and get a little wall paint on the trim than to leave trim color on the wall where it can be seen from the middle of the room.
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Rereading this I still don't think it describes the technique very accurately. To be a bit clearer, you're not brushing the paint with the flat of the brush as you might paint a fence, you're sort of dragging the end of the brush sideways to apply the paint. –  Mike Powell Jul 26 '10 at 17:45
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I do it with just a 3-inch brush (Wooster). Get a small bead/line of paint on one side of the brush and then wipe the other side clean on the paint tray. Then pull the brush along the edge as straight as possible.

One thing I have learned is that when you are up on a ladder with your face a couple of inches from the spot you are painting, the newly painted edge will never look perfect. But trying to make it perfect will just make it worse. Pull the edge out once (as straight as you can) and then move on... you'll find that when you are down off the ladder it will look pretty good.

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If you have a textured ceiling, you don't have much choice than to learn how to cut paint into a corner. Once you get the hang of it, you'll wonder why you ever bothered with tape before. –  spoulson Jul 23 '10 at 11:50
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I've had success with this Paint Edger it's nice because it has little tabs that flip up when you put paint on the pad, and then flip back down to glide along trim or the ceiling. Because the tabs flip up it is less likely you will get paint on them, which makes it less likely you will get paint where you don't want it.

But I still don't think there is any substitute for a steady hand, and patience.

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Nobody has talked about a bad edge where the wall and ceiling meet. If it connects poorly and there is not a good edge... It's a real pain! It will be hard to make perfect. I would recommend a very nice brush or if you are really shaky, tape is your answer. If there are a few bad spots after you take the tape down, touch it up with your brush. Always take the tape down before the paint is dry for your best results.

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A pro painter I've worked with caulks all such corners. In his opinion it's simply not possible to get a good edge where textured wall meets textured ceiling. A small bead allows for a straight, crisp line. –  Matthew Sep 12 '12 at 21:15
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This trick is specifically for edges where two walls meet that are different colors.

  1. If you are painting both colors, paint lighter color first and wait for it to dry enough to apply masking tape without paint sticking to back of tape when you remove it.

  2. Apply masking tape

  3. Apply thin layer of paintable silicone so that it overlaps the tape and the wall you will be painting. The silicone prevents paint from seeping under the tape which is crucial when painting textured walls.

  4. Paint the wall, overlapping the silicone and the masking tape

  5. As soon as you are done painting, preferably while the paint is still wet, peel off the masking tape and you will have a factory edge straight line.

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