Painting Without Using Painter’s Tape

The bulk of DIY painters rely on using blue painter’s tape to cut straight lines when painting. However, with a little understanding and some tips and tricks, they could break their reliance on this time consuming and costly dependence. There are those paint applicators, such as faux decorators and sprayers, who must rely on tape. But, for the straight painting applications, tape shouldn’t be more than a mask to protect objects not getting painted or strike a line on a rounded surface. It’s really not too difficult, as I was able to explain it to a friend over the phone and he achieved some good results.

How to Handle a Paint Brush

The first necessity is understanding the brush and how to hold it properly. A good quality brush has balance. Try using a paintbrush without a handle, it’s a little tricky. It also has a resevoir characteristic, in that it holds paint in its interior. If you wipe the brush against the rim when you dip it, you rob the resevior of replenishment. Instead, tap the brush back and forth against the inside of the can, as this action helps to keep the brush full. When holding a brush, hold it lightly, and hold it somewhat like a pencil (see photos). I should be able to knock it out of your hand when properly gripped. If it is gripped too tight, the tension created can cause your hand to shake and your motion is less flowing. Remember, you’re pushing a liquid around, liquid flows and your motion should flow as well.

Cutting a Paint Line-General Tips and Setting up

A paint line is the point where two colors meet, wherever that is. Sometimes it seems imaginary. Cutting a line requires two steps, the drawing of the line and the tweaking, the first and second coats, respectively. It helps to have stable footing and be supported. On especially difficult cuts, I position the ladder perpendicular to the wall so I can lean against it for support and be facing the work head on, as opposed to working turned sideways. The angle of view is important too. I sometimes spend the first few minutes trying to find the best angle of view. Up a step, down a step, left, right, sort of like tossing and turning in bed. Sometimes, the constant staring will cause a lack of eye focus. If so, just stop for a minute and then resume. Now we’re ready to start.

Painting a Cut Line

Starting Point for Cutting a LinePictured here is a doorframe. In this case, I painted the trim first and cut the walls into the trim. Regardless, the concept is the same. There’s only a slight difference between vertical and horizontal cuts. Notice that I overlapped the trim paint onto the wall, as you would if installing wallpaper. Had it been reversed, the wall paint would have lapped onto the trim, or the ceiling paint would have lapped down onto the wall. Always overlap where colors change.

The first step is to apply some paint to the wall, about a half-inch out from the cut. This paint will be pulled into the cut as you proceed. Now prime the brush a little bit, dip it into the cutpot slightly just to wet it. Go to the top of the cut, put the brush to the wall, slightly out from the line, and wiggle it to the line. Once you get to the line, lock your wrist and let your hand slowly drop, slowly, down the edge of the frame. Your working with only the tips of the bristles, which should be as far away from the line as the paint edge is thick.

Applying the cut paint

Applying the Cut Paint

If there is a buildup of paint, stop and wipe your brush. As you go down the frame, keep your focus on the leading edge of the brush, right on the line, adjusting as you go. Remember, on the first coat we are drawing the line. Expect to have some tweaking to do once the line is established. When cutting vertical lines, we’re employing gravity by allowing the hand to drop, and holding the brush on line as we go. It’s important, whether cutting vertical or horizontal, to keep the wrist locked. Movement is done from the elbow, shoulder, or hip, by bending or turning the body. When you come to the end of the cut, roll the brush between your fingers to turn it sideways.

Cutting in a Doorframe

Cutting Along a Doorframe

Rolling the Brush to Finish the Cut

Rolling the Brush to Finish the Cut

Finished Cut Line

Finished Cut Line

The primary difference between cutting vertical and horizontals is that we’re not using gravity, but body effort. All of the other principles are the same. When cutting horizontal lines, it is easier, and more effective, to pull the cut toward you, rather pushing it away. It allows for greater control and stability. As an example, when I cut baseboards, I sit on the floor with legs extended, flat on the floor, and parallel to the wall. I reach out ahead about two feet, set my brush, and pull the brush toward me and into the just painted section. Slide forward and repeat.

Prior to starting the second coat cut, the tweaking of the drawn line, examine the cut from the floor for deviations. The view from the floor is what counts, and it is helpful to know, before you climb the ladder, which areas need straightening. Some areas might be below the line or above the line. If you’re below the line, simply push it up a bit. If above, fade the overage into the adjoining areas by going to the highest point and re-cutting each way to zero, to the point where the line is good. Like shaving a board from 1/4′ to zero. Remember, a line is less faulty for its location than for its deviations. The waviness is what catches the eye. If your painted line is slightly above or below the actual line, that’s okay, as long as it is consistent and straight. From the floor, your eye will not be able to determine a problem. However, technically, you want to be right on.

With a little application, you should be sailing along, as my friend did, by the time you do the tweak cut. Take your time, apply yourself, and pay close attention and you’ll soon be cutting straight, crisp lines.

Cutting a Line Under Crown Molding

Cutting a Line Under Crown Molding

Finish Cut on Chair Rail

Finish Cut on Chair Rail

Please email for any clarifications or questions.

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