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As a DIY enthusiast, you may have heard the term “cutting in” at some point. This is one of the most challenging aspects of painting, particularly for those new to painting. Learning how to cut in paint is a skill that every painter needs to know, and we believe that this will take the quality of your paint jobs to the next level. Below, we have provided you with all of the information that you would need to learn about the best way to cut in paint, and much more!
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Cutting In?
- 2 Materials Needed
- 3 Preparing the Area
- 4 The Cutting In Technique
- 5 Tips and Tricks
- 6 Common Mistakes to Avoid
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Cutting In?
There is often a lot of confusion regarding the act of cutting in paint, but it is a very simple technique to understand. Cutting in painting is the act of outlining ceilings and walls before you begin with the rest of the wall, or painting clean edges on trim. Think of this technique as starting off with the border, as it is a crucial step to getting the best results. You will be tempted to skip this step, but we guarantee you that it is worth it.
Rolling vs. Cutting In
If you are still wondering, “what is cutting in paint?”, it is a painting technique that is often used by painters and it eliminates the need to use painter’s or masking tape. The reason for this technique is that rollers cannot achieve the same lines that a brush can, especially near the trim. The main purpose of this technique is to cut down on preparation time, but it is also a very useful skill to have if you do not have painter’s or masking tape.
Paint rollers also have their place as it will be a different nightmare to paint a large wall with a 2-inch paintbrush. Rolling will allow you to cover a large surface area in a significantly quicker timeframe. There are also extension handles that can be used to allow you to get to difficult-to-reach areas such as ceilings.
If you only have rollers at your disposal, it is possible to cut in using a plasterer’s finishing spatula with some masking tape at the edge and a small roller.
You cannot complete a good paint job without high-quality tools and materials. Each of the materials that are used in this process has a specific purpose, so it is best to use those that we mention below.
- 2-inch angled paintbrush: This is the ideal paintbrush and it is pivotal in learning how to cut in paint. Due to the angle of the brush, you will easily be able to reach difficult areas, which is incredibly difficult with a flat paintbrush. The 2-inch angled or sash paintbrush also holds enough paint, making it the ideal option.
- Cut bucket: This is a paint bucket with no inside lip to catch surplus paint. There are small industrial buckets available for sale, generally with a little handle for simplicity, but any kind of plastic bucket with straight sides would suffice.
For cutting in paint, the aforementioned materials are compulsory. However, you will also be painting the rest of the wall, and for that, you will require more tools and materials. The following will also be needed and you can easily get them at your local hardware store.
- Interior paint
- Drop cloths
- Painter’s tape
- Paint tray
- Paint roller
Preparing the Area
Preparing the surface before painting is an important part of the process. The last thing that you would want is to apply fresh paint on a dusty surface or one that has stains that can easily be removed. Start by wiping down the surface with a damp cloth and then dry it with a clean towel. If there was any tape on the wall, try and remove it with warm water or a hairdryer and a plastic scraping tool.
Despite possessing the minimal quantity of paint necessary for cutting in, spills and drips might occur. Start by preparing the space by protecting the flooring and other surfaces. It is best to use a drop cloth and move it around the area as you paint. Use low-tack painter’s tape in those uncomfortable or difficult-to-reach areas where you believe you will not be able to get clean finishes without taping.
Alternatively, avoid taping as it takes additional time, and if the tape is not correctly placed, the paint might seep below it or dry above it, resulting in a big mess when it is removed. There are also more tips and tricks that we have provided below to make the preparation process easier for you.
Preparation Tips and Tricks
When it comes to preparing the surface or a surrounding area before painting, less is not more and you should try and get the surface as perfect as possible before starting.
Unless you are working on a textured wall, you should also try and get the surface as smooth as possible, but we will get into that later.
Below are some of the best tips and tricks for preparing the surface before cutting in.
Cleaning the Wall
Cleaning methods differ depending on whether you are painting indoor or outdoor walls. When painting inside, start by wiping off the walls with a duster or dry cloth. Pay close attention to the corners as well as the points where the wall joins the floor and ceiling. This procedure will get rid of a significant amount of the cobwebs and dust that might build up as time passes. Then, using a moist cloth soaked in a solution of warm water and mild detergent, wash off the walls.
Avoid neglecting this step as you will want to ensure you have eliminated all dust, filth, and residue.
Kitchen walls may require extra care since they are frequently subjected to more splatters, oil, and smoke than other areas. To eliminate stubborn buildup, use a detergent that easily cuts through grease.
Getting Rid of Mildew
You might think that this falls under the same category as cleaning the wall, but this is a vital part of the process. Mildew is a fungus that thrives in wet environments such as damp basements, behind sinks, and bathroom fixtures.
Mildew stinks and is said to make people ill, so you should get rid of it as soon as you see it in your house.
Wash a mildewed wall with some warm water and antifungal dish soap before painting it. You may also kill the mildew with vinegar. Make a vinegar-water solution for minimal mildew coverage, or use undiluted vinegar for spots where mold is heavy. If your external walls have mold or mildew, use a store-bought mildew remover or create your own by blending one part bleach with three parts of water.
Consider the Humidity of the Room
The humidity of the room is something that is generally overlooked, but the humidity level is something that has to be considered. Painting in a humid room can be catastrophic as it prevents the paint from drying properly.
As a general rule of thumb, use a dehumidifier to get the ambient temperature between 40 and 90℉ with a 40 to 70% humidity level.
Smoothing the Edges of the Tape
Believe it or not, there is a wrong way to use painter’s tape. So, when learning how to cut in paint, it is important to know how to use tape as it can be very difficult to perfectly cut in a tight space. Start by cutting 1-foot-long lengths of tape for better handling. Apply them in a straight path to the desired area. Begin in the center of each piece, flattening it with your finger or a putty knife while you go.
It is better to remove any parts that bubble or lie unevenly and start again.
The Cutting In Technique
Using the cutting in technique is not as simple as picking up a paintbrush and driving a line near the edge of the wall. Instead, this requires a steady hand and you will need to practice before you will be able to do it perfectly without the need for painter’s tape. There are a variety of benefits that come with being able to cut in, this includes the following:
- You will be able to start painting with very little preparation
- You will save money on painter’s tape
- You will see quick results while also being able to make the necessary adjustments
Below, we have provided all of the steps that are needed to ensure that you do the best job possible. As we have mentioned before, you will need a 2-inch angled brush and a cut bucket, but everything else is completely optional.
Step One: Load the Brush
Start by filling a cut bucket no more than half an inch full of paint. When there is too much paint inside the bucket, it is more difficult to prevent overloading the paintbrush.
Leave the bucket’s sides free so you can wipe extra paint from your brush.
To remove extra paint, dip the tip of your brush into the paint and drag its fibers across the edge of the container. As you will merely be painting minimal sections at a time, the brush should be quite dry.
Step Two: Painting the Line
Hold the brush lightly near the bristles, much like you would a pencil. Form a wedge shape using the bristles and place them on the surface. Begin the paint line with the pointy end of the wedge. Drag the bristles across the desired painting line and allow the bristles to form a fan shape as you move the brush.
The line is drawn by the outermost bristles, not the whole surface of the bristle. Begin by creating flat crescent patterns with the paint while you master the cutting in method. These crescents will begin slightly off the line, then move over and track down the line for a few inches before gradually pulling away from the “risk area”, which includes trim, glass, or whatever is not being repainted, and toward yourself.
By combining more of these flat crescents, you may create a long straight line. As you gain more experience, the crescents will become smaller and flatter, up until you reach the point where you can draw an extended line with just one linear brush action.
Step Three: Start Broadening the Paint Line
If you are going to paint the flat part of the surface with a roller, you will need to expand the paint line to provide yourself a safety margin while rolling the walls. After painting an even edge up to the line, broaden the line by two inches or so and paint with the entire width of the brush. For this kind of job, some people choose a straight brush over an angled sash brush.
Step Four: Clean Any Mistakes Made
The final step is to wipe off any paint that has gotten onto undesired surfaces or clean up a sloppy line with a fresh, white cloth that has been lightly wet with water. If you wash the paint off as soon as it has been applied, it can be removed easily. Waiting even a few minutes might make it more difficult to remove.
It is a good idea to have a moist towel nearby at all times, especially since some mistakes are unavoidable, at least when learning.
Tips and Tricks
There are a variety of helpful tips and tricks that you can use that will make it very easy for you to get to hard-to-reach areas. We have provided some useful information below and we strongly suggest that you use it.
Wiggling the Brush into Corners
Wiggling the brush slightly helps the paint flow into tight corners while painting corners. Wiggling the brush while making a second pass is also a useful method for filling in missing areas. Do not wriggle too much. A small amount of movement is all that is required to get excellent outcomes.
Light Is Critical
To paint an exact cut-in line, you must get your body into a position that will allow you to see the line well, and you will need to ensure that you work in good light.
We would recommend that you use a decent-quality headlamp, which is quite helpful.
Get your head near the ceiling to get a great perspective of the cut-in line while cutting in across the ceiling.
Get Rid of the Texture on the Edge of Textured Ceilings
Painting immediately adjacent to rough-textured ceilings is nearly impossible without smearing paint on the ceiling. Applying tape to the ceiling is also ineffective, so what is the solution? Using a putty knife or specialist painter’s tool, remove all of the textured surface around the edge.
This can be done by holding the knife at an angle of 45 degrees to the wall and running the blade across the ceiling’s edge. The texture is scraped away by the blade, leaving a narrow groove. Using a dry paintbrush, clean up the groove.
When you start cutting in along the top part of the wall, the brush bristles will begin to slide into the groove, allowing you to paint a neat line avoiding paint on the ceiling.
Only Cut In a Single Wall at a Time
When you have a brush in hand, it is enticing to cut in across the room’s trim, ceiling, as well as corners. However, you will get much better results if you cut in only one wall, and then instantly roll it out before cutting in the next.
Since you roll out the wall immediately while the cut-in paint remains wet, the cut-in paint as well as the wall paint will merge much more effectively, decreasing the possibility of lap marks.
A Dipping Pail Is More Effective
Instead of dipping your paintbrush into the paint bucket, put a tiny quantity into a dipping pail or painter’s tray. This is a piece of essential painting equipment and you can start by filling the bucket with just under an inch of paint.
A modest quantity of paint keeps your brush from dipping too deeply, minimizes weight, and speeds up cleaning if you spill it.
You may get modified plastic paint pails featuring built-in handles or one made of metal. An old paint can that has its rim removed works well as a dipping pail too and a kitchen can opener can be used to remove the rim.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Mistakes can often be viewed as lessons; however, we would like to skip the clean-up and jump straight into the best results. Fortunately, there are a handful of common errors that can easily be avoided. Below, you will find some of the most common mistakes that should be avoided at all costs.
Do Not Use a Cheap Paintbrush
To some of us, it might make sense to save a few dollars on a paintbrush, but this is one of the worst mistakes that you could make. You will not be able to use a cheap paintbrush to cut in when you need to. Furthermore, much like using cheap paint, the overall quality of the paint job will be bad when compared to a premium brush.
A high-quality angled brush will make the job much easier and your cutting in technique will be much more precise.
The better the brush, the less painter’s tape you will need to use, so you will indirectly be saving money in that department.
Less Is More
You might think that using as much paint as possible would be a good idea, but by using too much paint, you will end up with paint dripping all over the place. This is the last thing that you would want when trying to use a precise painting technique such as cutting in.
Only dip an inch of your brush into the paint and if you are using a flat brush, this should be done at a 45-degree angle. Too much paint will also result in your brush being caked in dry paint that can spread as you paint.
Maintain a Consistent Pace
Paint will dry relatively quickly when you are working under optimal conditions. For this reason, it is best to work quickly as you will need to start rolling once you have finished cutting in. If you do not work quickly, you will be left with a visible track that will need to be repainted. By rolling over wet paint, it will seamlessly blend, yielding a much better result.
Learning how to cut in paint is an incredibly useful skill that can make a huge difference in the quality of your work. While it will require a lot of practice, it is not impossible to learn and you do not need to be a professional to use it. Always remember that you will need the correct brush and bucket, as this will make it much easier for you to learn. We would like to wish you like with your next paint job, as cutting in is a great challenge.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Cutting in Paint?
When we mention cutting in painting, this refers to the act of painting a straight line around trim, in corners, and where the ceiling meets the wall. This is done without the use of painter’s tape, and it is often regarded as one of the most challenging aspects of painting.
Is It Easy to Use the Cutting In Painting Technique?
Using the cutting in painting technique is incredibly challenging for novice painters. However, as is the case with many styles, you will need to practice before you will be able to do a flawless job. Another critical factor to consider when learning to cut in paint is that you will need to ensure that you use the proper tools.
What Is Considered to Be the Best Way to Cut In Paint?
By focusing on pulling a straight line while not using too much paint, you should get the hang of the technique quickly. However, most novice painters get caught up in their own heads, which makes the technique seem more challenging than it actually is. We would recommend taking a deep breath with each brush stroke and carefully painting each line.