‘Cutting In’ is the art of painting a straight line freehand. It’s a skill that’s needed in all sorts of situations. For example, if the walls are a different colour from the ceiling, when painting the edges of skirting boards or door frames, or when painting window frames. Many beginners struggle with it but with a little practise and the right technique, it’s not as difficult as most people think.
Loading the Brush with the correct amount of Paint
Firstly, dip the brush in the paint and then lightly wipe off any excess on each side of the brush on the rim of the tin of paint (or on the inside of the tin just above the paint level). You’re mainly doing this in order to prevent the paint dribbling from the brush when you move it towards the surface you are planning to paint. Don’t remove too much of the paint while doing this because if the brush is to dry it will be difficult to get a clean consistent line with the paint. Ideally you want to have more paint on the tip of the brush than at any other part.
Using the Brush at the Correct Angle
Most beginners make the mistake of using the brush at the wrong angle. The best position to hold the brush in is to have the line of the bristles parallel with the line that you are trying to follow (see photos).
You want to gently push the paint along with the brush, keeping the edge of the bristles parallel with the line you are following the whole time. It doesn’t really matter whether the direction of the brush stroke is towards you or away from you but I personally prefer the latter.
After you have cut part of a line in (for example the top of a wall where it meets the ceiling), before you dip your brush back in the tin of paint and move along and continue the cutting in, you’ll want to turn the angle of your brush 90 degrees and brush out any feather out and brush marks that were made when doing the cutting in, and also apply some more paint to widen the band of paint so that you won’t have to roll too closely to the edge of the wall. If your cutting in is too narrow then there is a risk that you’ll accidentally get paint on the ceilings or door frames when you roll the walls. The same goes for painting other surfaces such as glazing bars, skirting boards or window sills - you'll need to turn the brush 90 degrees to feather out the cutting in and to paint the rest of the adjacent parts.
Should I do the cutting in or the rolling first when painting ceilings and walls?
It’s nearly always better to cutting in first. This is because:
1. Sometimes there is a visible difference in texture between the roller marks and brush marks. If you do the rolling after the cutting in, then you are covering up/hiding some of the brush marks, helping to make them less visible.
2. Assuming you are painting ceilings or walls with emulsion, it’s likely that your cutting-in will be pretty much dry by the time you do the rolling. If you do the rolling first and then do the cutting in, it’s possible that you will be dragging the brush through only partially dry paint which will make it more difficult to cut in and may result in a poor finish.
Which brushes to use for cutting in?
For cutting in walls and ceilings, most decorators use a 2” or 3” brush. I personally like to use a 2.5” brush because it’s less heavy than a 3” brush, it drags less and I feel I have slightly more control.You can use a standard brush with a flat end or an angled brush. I’ve started to use angled brushes recently as they are useful for getting into tight corners.
When I’m painting skirting boards or door frames I tend to use 1-2” brushes, both for painting the flat areas and for cutting in edges.
For cutting in the glazing bars of windows, I’d recommend using a sash window brush. As the name suggests, it’s particularly useful for painting sash windows internally because you can get easily behind the sash cords.
Simmonds Decorating are painters and decorators based in Bath, Somerset, UK, who for 20 years have been serving both domestic and commercial customers in the local area. We carry out interior and exterior work and offer free no obligation quotes.