Painting Clean Ceiling Lines

Sometimes doing the job right requires a few extra steps. Often it may seem at first to take more time, but in reality painting efficiency will increase the job will come out beautifully done.

There are a lot of factors that change the way you cut in the ceiling with a brush. To name a few are ceiling texture, existing caulking, brush type, sheen, color, ceiling height, color contrast (wall to ceiling), crown moulding, newly painted ceiling.

In this example  the ceiling is 8′, freshly painted ceiling, new orange peel texture, and a high contrast from white ceiling to a dark wall. The problem with a lot of texture on the ceiling is that you cannot paint straight lines unless the surface is straight. The first thing we need to do is caulk between the ceiling and wall. Use a medium amount of caulking so you do not get to much on the ceiling.  This will cause color change over time. Run your finger over the caulking creating a smooth line to paint. I like to keep masking paper and a damp rag handy to keep my hands clean. The wipe excess caulking onto the masking paper (It’s easier to see). The rag is used to keep excess caulking off the ceiling and my hands. Remember caulking will flash when the sun reflects. Keep it in the seem, and never use it for patching, it is made for seams.

An experienced painter will be able to brush the upper wall seam efficiently without masking. This can be a gray area because a painter who know how to mask efficiently can minimize the skill of brush work. Also, if it is a guaranteed two coat job, this can make more sense. Depending on your skill level of the painters, I’d make the judgment call. If you are managing the job, I’d understand how long it would take to caulk 100 linear ft, or how long it takes to mask etc.

If you do mask, make sure the tape is slightly closer to the ceiling line and not on the wall. The line will show cleaner towards the ceiling. Also, because the color is dark, I would recommend sealing the tape with more caulking on the newly masked seam, or using a small brush with the ceiling color onto the wall side. Brushing here does not need to be perfect. The last thing you want to do is get bleeding behind the tape after all your prep. Taping should be done in one long piece except when you need to tear it to finish the corner.

If you are not masking, make sure you push the brush slightly higher in the seam as I mentioned in the taping example. This will minimize imperfections. I recommend brushing a long stroke about 18″ approximately 1/2 inch from the seam in one stroke, return the opposite way brushing slightly lower where excessive paint is, and a third stroke to create your straight line. Remember you know you will need a second coat, but make sure to leave the brushing consistent. Long brushing strokes are ideal. On the final coat, you do not have to be perfect, but you still have to be good. I paint a lighter coat about 1/8 inch from the original line. This will allow you to paint a little faster. This is also a good time to touch up the original line as needed.

FYI, make sure you brush before rolling. Minimizing brush marks is part of the end goal. You may be able to get away with it on flat paint, but why risk it if it take the same amount of time.

Finally make sure you pull the tape just as the paint is drying. This will ensure you that the tape does not stick to the ceiling or pull off texture. I’d recommend using blue tape for this type of job, but white is good if it does not sit long.

Feel free to comment, and please share!

Jaime Torres

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