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?


10 Answers 10


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:


  • When are you painting?
    – Evil Elf
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 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
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 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
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 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
    Commented May 2, 2013 at 16:42
  • 1
    It's called cutting.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 23:32

+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


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!!


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?


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.


The way the pros do it is kinda hard to explain - but here goes...

Pretend the wall color is blue and the ceiling is white. First, paint blue into the corner overlapping into the white by enough that the entire corner is blue. Once that blue is completely dry, use 1" masking tape on the wall, with its upper edge as close into the corner as you can get it. Push the tape down with your finger to get good adhesion.

Next paint blue again over tape where it meets the ceiling - what you are doing is allowing blue to slip under the tape where it isn't sealed completely. Once that is dry, paint white over the tape and cover all the blue above the tape. Once that is dry - if the white covered the blue completely SLOWLY remove the tape for a perfect line.

  • 1
    I've never seen a "pro" do it like that. A steady hand, or a paint shield are the tools of a painter who wants to move on to the next job.
    – Tester101
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 11:23
  • I don't use tape but I do over-paint on the first go, filling the gaps. This gives you a flattened, nominal edge to cut over. Cut once; tape never.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 23:36

Tried the methods above and had no luck. Tape didn't work and the angled paint brush didn't transfer the paint efficiently while drawing a line. Finally I went to an art store and bought a cheap art brush about 3/8 inch wide and extremely fine. I can control that brush to create a straight line freehand along the ceiling line. If I were a better painter I am sure the above would work. But for my occasional job, the tiny fine brush saved me lots of frustration.


I use a variation of Evil Elf's technique, without the "wiggle". Load up paint on just the first inch of a good sash brush and spread the excess just a few inches below the wall/ceiling transition. Then feather the edges out and pull in a straight line.

I can usually manage a fairly straight line with it, although sometimes I get a "bump" that's a section about 6" long that's just a bit higher than everything else. To make this less noticeable, gradually slope up the the rest of the edges nearby for a smooth transition.

I uploaded this video of my technique to YouTube about a month ago, and just rediscovered this question.


Pro painters will probably scoff but I've been using one of these with the same pad for years and my ceiling lines look good to me. I use it on either the ceiling line or wall line depending on which one gets painted last. Just need to start a couple inches of your line and then bring the rollers down once you know it's not going to drip. Key is to not overload it with paint and make sure the rollers don't get any paint on them. Make sure to go over it with a nap roller or brush soon after and get as close to the edge as possible.

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  • I can never seem to find the fine line between "overloaded" and "not enough paint." After a bit of trial and error, I found using a sash brush to be much easier, plus I don't have to pay for pad refills. But hey, if it works for you, great!
    – Doresoom
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 21:31
  • I'm still on the original pad! Just wash it with water after use. For loading it, I carefully sit it on top of the paint in my roller tray and then rub a little off on the roller or the tray. I sure would like to try a sash brush though, because this roller doesn't work good for window trim, pretty much only use it for long straight lines.
    – dotjoe
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 14:28

The only way I have found is spend way too many hours removing the rock hard texture, bump by bump. It's either that or live with a cut-in that is not perfect.

I solved this by letting the ceiling color extend down the wall 1/8 to 3/8ths of an inch. It's not a crisp line, but its straighter then cutting into the apex. It took a while for my OCD to accept the final results.

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