Painting a straight line between ceiling and wall
March 25, 2017 8:20 PM   Subscribe

What do you guys use to make a straight line in between the ceiling paint (white) and the wall paint( gray) I use frog tape but it does not seem to be super straight. I don't know how to touch up. Any suggestions?
posted by barexamfreak to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what not knowing how to touch up means. Honestly though none of the tricks or tools work as well, in my experience, as a quality paintbrush, a wet bead, and a steady hand. It's not quick, but it works. Video demo.
posted by supercres at 8:27 PM on March 25, 2017 [11 favorites]

I used to do that, but after too many arm cramps from masking the ceiling (or wall, I've been through this multiple times), I taught myself how to freehand it. If you get the right amount of paint and a little bit of a steady hand, you can run the brush down the line in 18-24" segments. MeMail me if you'd like to seem some pictures.
posted by rhizome at 8:39 PM on March 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

I have a paint pad with little rollers on the side that's meant to run right along the adjacent surface and create a straight(ish) edge, but it depends on having smooth surfaces. It works pretty well under ideal conditions, but if the wall is textured... not so much.

The trick with using tape is to put the tape on, then paint over the edge of the tape that you're using for your line with the existing color, let that dry, then paint the new color. The original color fills in any gaps under the edge of the tape, so when you paint the new color it will get a nice clean edge.

For example, let's say the walls are already painted and dry. Put the tape on the wall, with the top edge right up at the ceiling. Now paint wall color over the top edge of the tape where it meets the ceiling. Once that's dry, paint the ceiling, overlapping onto the tape. The wall color seals the edge, so when you (carefully) peel off the tape, you've got a nice edge.

I've used that technique on walls with the godforsaken knockdown texture, and gotten satisfactory edges.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:43 PM on March 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

Freehand - but a good brush is really essential for this. Cheap paintbrushes are awful at cutting in - they lose fibers, the fibers stiffen and/or spread badly, they don't hold paint properly, the coverage is uneven, the weight of a plastic handle is bad, etc. A good brush, properly loaded, will glide along nice and steady for the 18" or so mentioned above - then, drop the hand slightly and curve downward, and pick up a bit before that with a freshly loaded brush. You'll get the hang of it.
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on March 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Freehand with a small angled brush with a short handle, so I have perfect control.
posted by padraigin at 9:04 PM on March 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

We've been repainting an entire 1903 bungalow this month and I've had a lot of success with painting pads like these.

The trick is to paint ceilings and trim first and overlap the ceiling and trim onto the wall by like a centimeter or so, and then come around and do the darker wall color with the paint pads. By letting them roll against the angle, you get these long, clean, straight strokes very easily.
posted by mochapickle at 9:16 PM on March 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

And we've still had to go back in and touch up here and there with supertiny art brushes, as you do, but you really don't have to deal with all that tape.
posted by mochapickle at 9:21 PM on March 25, 2017

Paint the ceiling. Paint the walls almost to the top.

Then while standing on a ladder such that you're at a slightly-bent arm distance from the wall, paint horizontally from the already-colored area. As you move across, slowly nudge up into the very top (unpainted) part of the wall.

I tried those painting pads. I tried a bunch of other methods. They all sucked - my mother-in-law with shaky hands who can't feel her feet so ladders really are awful went back and touched up all my messes. And showed me how to properly cut in walls.
posted by notsnot at 9:32 PM on March 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I took a class once from a professional housepainter and she said they never use tape or anything- they just use brushes (as said above, GOOD brushes). There are probably youtube videos showing how to do it without messing up.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:11 PM on March 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

My hand isn't steady enough to freehand it, so I use this method. The trick is to keep the joint knife clean and to not overload the brush.
posted by Knappster at 11:32 PM on March 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

The very best quality brush, around 3" wide is a good size. They'll be several times more expensive than cheap brushes. Paint the ceiling first, right into the corner and a bit of the wall. When all coats completely dry, do the cutting in:

Put a decent amount of paint on the brush, and spread it over about 2-3 feet along the wall but an inch or so away from the ceiling line (you can do this quickly). This pre-loads the paint into the right area. Now with the other side of the brush, pointing the bristles upwards at 45 degrees put it against the wall and push into the wall until the last of the bristle tips exactly touches the line you want. Drag the paintbrush along the wall, using pressure into and out of the wall in order to adjust the line if necessary. The brush won't run out of paint because it's always picking up the big dollop line you painted first. You should be able to do at least 2-3 feet at a time (assuming you're on a small stepladder) fairly quickly and once you practice you should be able to keep within less than 1mm of the perfect line. Less than 0.5mm if you're careful and the edge is straight.

Most importantly, when you've done go back along the same portion of the wall, placing the brush fairly flat and parallel to the ceiling line, "laying off" the paint. Stay about 5-10mm away from the ceiling line to avoid stuff-ups. The paint right in the corner will be good, see, but the paint below that will be unevenly applied. This laying-off brush stroke fixes that and means that the entire width of the brush (3") is good paint evenly spread.

Cut around all walls (use the same technique with the baseboards/skirting boards, but keep a little further away from them as gravity will help the paint down which you don't want). With wall-wall joints just slap lots of paint both sides and lay it off as above. Once the entire wall is cut in you can roll it.

A normal sized room should take around an hour to paint -- 40-50 minutes for the cutting in and 10 minutes for the rolling.

Second coat is the same but usually much faster as you don't need to be quite as precise with the cutting in. You can usually stay 2-3mm from the edge although you can creep up and down a little to fix any slight imperfections in the line of the first coat.
posted by tillsbury at 12:31 AM on March 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

I cut everything in with a brush. Almost never use tape. The key is a good angled brush and you want to be always pushing a little bubble of paint in front of the brush. You use the surface tension on the edge of the bubble to rather than the bristols. Take your time and pay attention is all that's needed.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:27 AM on March 26, 2017

Yes, freehand is the way to go. If there are slops that bug you when you're done, get a cheap art paintbrush (like the 1/4" round that comes with a kids watercolor set) and just go back over it to touch up after everything's dry. Then - and this is key - forbid yourself from looking at the ceiling for a month. There were spots that bugged the crap out of me right after we finished painting, and I don't think I could even find them today.
posted by aimedwander at 7:36 AM on March 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

What tillsbury said. I worked as a professional painter for eight years and that's exactly how we did it. We only used tape to cover things like outlets, varnished baseboards or marble window sills that we didn't want roller spray to get; the cutting in we always did free-hand.

Seriously get a good brush. I use a 3" Purdy Nylon Angled Brush with a wood handle but some people prefer to use straight bristles rather than the angled ones. The wood handle is important as you need the balance of the heavier material. When you're done, clean the brush with a wire brush in warm water with a drop of Dawn and put it back in the cardboard sleeve when it's dry.
posted by octothorpe at 7:45 AM on March 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you hand isn't steady enough for freehand, Instructables has a great workaround.

1. Paint color one before taping. Extend the paint area slightly beyond your desired border line.
2. Tape your border.
3. Paint over your temporarily extended border and tape with color one. The paint will "bleed" into the small gaps under the tape and seal them so that color number two can't follow suit.
4. Paint color two, making sure paint area overlaps onto your tape.
5. Remove the tape.
posted by Karessa at 9:25 AM on March 26, 2017

2nding the 3" angle purdy brush...they have them at home depot and they run 7-15$ depending on quality...I like the cheaper ones...the expensive ones are a bit 'floppy'

(Also, the reason to not use tape: the human eye is really really good at finding perpendicular lines (it's like step 2 in our optical proceessing) such as the ones made by little spurs of paint wicking under masking tape makes. We're not as good at telling if a straight line is perfectly straight. It's less noticeable if a line is a little wavy than if it has (even minor) imperfections sticking out of it.)
posted by sexyrobot at 11:03 AM on March 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Whenever we've done this, we've ignored the actual border between ceiling and wall and have taped a straight line about a quarter inch down from the ceiling. The ceiling color actually wraps onto the wall a little bit, but no one notices, and the line is nice and clean, which doesn't draw your eye to it.
posted by chazlarson at 11:59 AM on March 26, 2017

what chazlarson said
posted by patnok at 1:13 PM on March 26, 2017

Also remember that the line between the ceiling and the top of the walls is pretty far away normally - you won't see small imperfections unless you are REALLY looking for them.
posted by trialex at 3:23 PM on March 26, 2017

Thirding what chazlarson said. Often ceiling and wall textures are different, so this "cheat" will keep the presumed line nice and steady. I have several of the square rollers and use them on all tight spots (corners, at floor, near windows and doors), but there is always that little gap that takes a tiny touch-up brush immediately to close. And then I use a 12-inch roller on the whole thing, so I usually touch up spots on the ceiling, too.
Painter's tape is only for areas that must not be painted (trim work, fixtures if I absolutely refuse to remove them) and removed as soon as possible so that it does not adhere or rip off paint. Why don't they make painter's tape in clear?
posted by TrishaU at 7:44 PM on March 26, 2017

To make more sense: brush ceiling paint down an inch onto the walls. Let dry. Come back around with the square roller on the wall (maybe hold a 12-inch or larger drywall spatula in place to keep ceiling clean, be careful not to scratch wall). Job done.
posted by TrishaU at 7:50 PM on March 26, 2017

« Older How to round off our trip to Ireland (travel by...   |   I already have 2 versions of OS X. Can I run an... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.