How to Get Rid of Brush Strokes When Painting Trim

Painting trim is a common DIY project that can enhance the look and value of your home. However, if you are not careful, you may end up with unsightly brush strokes that ruin the smooth finish of your trim. Brush strokes are caused by various factors, such as using the wrong type of paint, brush, or technique. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks that can help you avoid or eliminate brush strokes and achieve a professional-looking result.

The best way to get rid of brush strokes when painting trim is to use a high-quality paint, a fine-bristle brush, and a thin coat of paint. You should also sand the surface before and after painting, and apply a primer if needed. These steps will help you create a smooth and even finish that hides any imperfections and enhances the appearance of your trim.

Choose the Right Paint

One of the most important factors that affect the quality of your paint job is the type of paint you use. For painting trim, you should use a paint that is specially formulated for this purpose, such as a semi-gloss or gloss latex paint. These paints have a higher sheen and durability than flat or eggshell paints, and they are easier to clean and maintain. They also dry faster and smoother, which reduces the chances of brush strokes.

You should also pay attention to the quality and consistency of your paint. Cheap or old paint may have lumps, clumps, or impurities that can create uneven textures and brush marks. You should always stir your paint well before using it, and strain it if necessary. You can also thin your paint slightly with water or a paint conditioner, such as Floetrol, to improve its flow and leveling. However, do not over-thin your paint, as this can affect its coverage and adhesion.

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Choose the Right Brush

Another factor that influences the appearance of brush strokes is the type of brush you use. For painting trim, you should use a fine-bristle brush that is designed for latex paint, such as a synthetic or nylon brush. These brushes have softer and smoother bristles that can hold more paint and spread it evenly. They also have tapered tips that can reach into corners and edges without leaving marks.

You should avoid using a natural-bristle brush, such as a hog or horsehair brush, for latex paint. These brushes have stiffer and coarser bristles that can leave visible streaks and ridges on the surface. They also absorb water and swell, which can affect their shape and performance.

You should also choose a brush that is the right size and shape for your trim. For narrow and detailed trim, such as window sills and door frames, you should use a small and angled brush, such as a 1-inch or 2-inch sash brush. For wider and flatter trim, such as baseboards and crown molding, you should use a larger and straight brush, such as a 3-inch or 4-inch flat brush.

Choose the Right Technique

The way you apply the paint can also make a difference in the outcome of your project. To avoid brush strokes, you should follow these steps:

Sand the surface of your trim lightly with a fine-grit sandpaper, such as 220-grit, to remove any dirt, dust, or imperfections. This will create a smooth and even base for your paint to adhere to. Wipe off the sanding dust with a damp cloth or a tack cloth.

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Apply a primer if your trim is bare wood, stained, or painted with a different color or sheen. A primer will seal the surface and prevent the paint from soaking in or peeling off. It will also improve the coverage and adhesion of your paint. Choose a primer that is compatible with your paint, such as a latex primer for latex paint. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for applying and drying the primer.

Dip your brush into the paint and wipe off the excess on the edge of the can or a paint tray. You should load your brush with enough paint to cover the area, but not so much that it drips or runs. A good rule of thumb is to fill your brush about halfway with paint.

Apply the paint to the trim in long and smooth strokes, following the direction of the wood grain. Start from one end and work your way to the other, overlapping each stroke slightly. Do not go back and forth over the same area, as this can create ridges and marks. Try to maintain a wet edge, which means that you should paint the next section before the previous one dries. This will help you blend the paint and avoid lap marks.

Apply a thin and even coat of paint, and avoid applying too much pressure on the brush. A thick and heavy coat of paint can sag and create drips and brush strokes. A light and gentle touch will help you spread the paint smoothly and evenly.

Let the first coat of paint dry completely, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not touch or disturb the paint while it is drying, as this can mar the finish. Sand the surface lightly with a fine-grit sandpaper, such as 320-grit, to remove any bumps or imperfections. Wipe off the sanding dust with a damp cloth or a tack cloth.

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Apply a second coat of paint, following the same steps as the first coat. A second coat will provide better coverage and durability, and hide any brush strokes that may have occurred in the first coat. Let the second coat of paint dry completely, and enjoy your smooth and flawless trim.


Painting trim is a simple and effective way to improve the look and value of your home. However, if you want to avoid brush strokes and achieve a professional-looking result, you need to use the right paint, brush, and technique. By following the tips and tricks in this article, you can get rid of brush strokes when painting trim and create a smooth and even finish that will impress your guests and yourself.