I'm going to paint another room in my house this weekend, and I have most of the prep work completed (walls cleaned, holes spackled and sanded, covers/vents removed, a few odds and ends taped off).

One thing I very distinctly remember from the last major painting job I did (I took a full week off and painted most of the rest of the house) is how incredibly painful my wrists and elbows were for a few days after painting. I am pretty sure my 'cutting in' (hand-painting corners, sills, along molding, etc.) was the culprit, because actually rolling on the paint on the larger areas was a breeze (comparatively).

What are some techniques that I can use to make cutting in easier and faster?

  • Narrower or wider brush? (I have a 2" brush right now)
  • Angled or flat brush? (I'm using an angle brush right now)
  • Long or short handle? (I have a long-handled brush, but sometimes I 'choke up' on it)
  • Should I dampen the brush before starting?
  • Should I mix in any paint additives? (Like Floetrol?)

I use a step stool to reach along the ceiling and higher in the corners, but everything else is easy enough to reach from the ground.

  • 2
    Probably one of the most significant issue contributing to fatigue is we amateurs holding onto our brushes with a deathgrip. It takes a pro (or a lot of conscious effort by the less-than-pros) to hold gently and let the stroke and paint flow.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 22:32
  • @bib - That makes sense to me and is probably the greatest reason for my fatigue. The funny thing is I sometimes paint for artistic reasons, and I have a pretty good feel for small brushes. I just feel like anything 2" or wider needs a lot more force! I'll try to relax the grip a bit. Probably get straighter lines that way too. Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 1:54

1 Answer 1


This verges on "opinion based..."

  • Brush width depends what you are working on - for wall corners, 2" is probably fine. On our last project, my assistant finally figured out that using an overly tiny brush on window muntins was slower, not faster or more precise, but for that job a 1/2-5/8" brush was "about right."
  • I go for the long handled angled - how much that is the physical characteristics .vs. how much that is one of the better quality brushes I own is possibly debatable.
  • If the brush needs a haircut, give it a haircut - while this ties back to brush quality to an extent, any brush can get "flyaway bristles" - cut them off ruthlessly. For lower end brushes, this can improve them a lot, practically speaking.
  • Dipping the brush in water (latex) or thinner (oils) and then flinging/brushing out the water/thinner will tend to reduce clogging of the brush "cavity" or reservior for paint, .vs. just dipping it straight into paint. It's not absolutely required, but it make through cleaning much easier, and through cleaning is the way to keep a good quality brush alive for a long time. A good brush costs enough that you should take care of it.

  • Personally, I thin the paint a bit if it needs it, but figure if it's quality paint it already has whatever additive package the paint manufacturer thinks best.

@bibs comment about the death-grip is probably relevant to your pain the last time. The other thing, which does get better, is that this is one of those things where practice really does make perfect (or at least you learn how to make it look more perfect, even if the process isn't quite that perfect) and as non-professional painters most of us simply don't do it enough to build the skill to a high level. As such, just the stress over "doing a good enough job" can make you tense up (and that also makes it harder to paint well, on top of hurting.) Admire an amateur painter's paint job and they will nearly always wander off into to pointing out invisible and virtually invisible flaws which they perceive as if neon-lit with giant arrows pointing at them, even in the face of compliments about how nice it looks.

  • "pointing out invisible and virtually invisible flaws" - nailed it. Every time I think about the other parts of the house, I immediately think of the 20 or so areas where I missed the line by 3-5mm or forgot to sand a second coat of spackling, and now there's a slight bump in the wall. Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 1:55

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