Buying the best brushes you can afford is the first step. After that, it’s a matter of learning how to use them effectively.
Keep your paint supply fresh and clean by pouring it into a small container lined with foil or plastic wrap. Fill it with just enough paint to go halfway up the bristles of your brush. This will be the supply you dip into as you work. Meanwhile, put the lid back on the paint can to keep out dust and debris.
A successful paint job begins with a proper grip on the brush. Hold the metal band, or “ferrule,” between your thumb and fingers. This grip gives you the most control, especially when you switch the brush to your weaker hand. Dip about one third of the length of the bristles into the paint, then press the brush lightly against the side of the can. Don’t drag the bristles against the rim of the can; that will cause bubbles. Let the paint pool on top of the bristles, but try not to overload the brush.
To spread paint evenly, start with a few zigzag strokes, then spread the paint out to cover the gaps. To finish an area, use just the tips of the bristles to smooth out the brushstrokes. This is called “feathering” and removes any unsightly overlapping marks.
You’ll be less likely to overload a brush if your paint can is only partly filled. The clear space at the top gives you the room you need to remove any excess paint by gently pressing the brush against the side of the can.
It is usually easiest to paint the ceiling first, then the walls, then finally the trim. Don’t worry if paint gets on the trim when you’re working on the walls: you’ll cover that up later. If you’ve got a steady hand, you can try painting the trim with the outer bristles of the brush right in the joint where it meets the wall. Otherwise mask the wall with masking tape.
The key to an ultra-smooth finish on trim is to apply several coats of paint, sanding with a sanding sponge (not sandpaper) between each coat. Sponges conform to the shape of the woodwork and get into crevices where sandpaper can’t reach. After sanding, vacuum, then wipe down with a tack cloth to remove the fine dust.
When painting trim, keep a flat-bladed screwdriver or putty knife handy, and a cloth dampened with the proper solvent. If some paint gets onto the wall or floor, fold the cloth around the tip of the tool and wipe it away.
If you’re left-handed, it’s best to paint from left to right. If you’re right-handed, work from right to left.
How to paint wood moldings
What you will need
Before you begin
Fill damaged woodwork with fine surface filler, then lightly sand. Protect carpets with drop cloths.
1. No dust, no drips
The gap between the baseboard and the floor is likely to be full of dust, so vacuum along the bottom edge before you start painting. A piece of cardboard slipped under the edge will help to keep paint drops off the floor.
2. Brush the board
Apply the paint with a 2 or 3 in. (5 or 7.5 cm) paintbrush, depending on the height of the baseboard. Paint so that the brushstrokes go lengthwise, following the run of the baseboard.
3. Paint the picture rails
Use a 1 in. (2.5 cm) brush for picture rails. For best results, apply two or three thin coats rather than one thick one, allowing ample time to dry between coats. Finish off with fine brushstrokes along the length of the picture rail.
Bolt a handle to a 500 g coffee can, coating the bolts with silicone to seal the holes. On the opposite side, drill two holes just below the rim of the can, slide a length of coathanger wire through them, and use to scrape excess paint off your brush. Now you have the perfect paint pot.
Turn old athletic socks into drip-catchers. Cut off the elasticized band at the top of the sock and stretch it across the body of the brush or around the can. The material will absorb paint trickles.
A fresh coat of paint can fill in and hide small nail holes, which can be a nuisance if you’re planning to rehang a picture in its old spot. To preserve a nail hole, stick a toothpick into it. Trim the toothpick until it protrudes by about ⅛ in. (3 mm) so you can brush or roll right over it. Remove after painting and reinstall the picture hanger.
When you wipe your paintbrush against the side of the can, paint eventually fills the rim and runs down the outside. Solve the problem by wiping your brush against a heavy rubber band stretched over the can. Excess paint will drip back into the can without making a mess or gumming up the lid.
Before painting a textured ceiling, drag a flat screwdriver around the perimeter to scrape off a narrow strip of texture along all four edges (you’ll never notice it’s missing). With the bumps out of the way, you’ll be able to achieve a crisp paint line where the ceiling meets the wall.
For those awkward spots that a brush can’t reach, put your hand in a plastic bag, slip an old sock over the top, dip into the paint and let your improvised tool do the job.
Remove a stray bristle from a window sash by stabbing at it with the tip of the brush and lifting up. To get rid of the annoying bristle for good, wipe the brush on some newspaper and throw it away.
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