One of the benchmarks of a good paint job is crisp, straight transitions of color where trim meets a wall or a wall meets a ceiling. I’ve found that cutting in these areas is as much about having the right tools as it is about having the right technique. It all starts with the right brush.
My favorite is a Corona 21⁄2-in. Excalibur angled sash brush. First, it works well with both oil- and water-based finishes. It’s also good for a wide variety of painting tasks besides cutting in, and its Chinex bristles are long-lasting and easy to clean (see “Building Skills”, FHB #210).
Most painters, pros and do-it-yourselfers alike, hate cleaning brushes; even some pros wrap their brushes in plastic wrap or aluminum foil for later use. Unless I’m in an extreme rush, though, I don’t do it. Clean bristles produce a much better finish, and it really doesn’t take long to clean a high-quality paintbrush.
Having a clean brush is so important that I wash my brushes both at lunchtime and at the end of the day. In hot or dry conditions, I may wash my brush three or four times a day. The problem with storing brushes in plastic wrap, foil, or even zip-top bags is that the paint near the top of the bristles dries in a few hours and becomes difficult to remove completely. Before long, the bristles don’t hold as much paint or flex as they should, which contributes to a rough finish and ragged lines where you’re cutting in.
Besides the brush, you need a paint pail. I like metal pails because they don’t flex unnervingly like plastic pails; however, the seams in metal pails make them more difficult to clean. If you find this a problem, look for a paint store that sells liners for metal pails. I use them whenever I’m changing colors several times a day.
I fill the pail about one-quarter full so that there’s plenty of room to tap off excess paint on the side. Generally, I find high-quality, well-mixed paint (I like Benjamin Moore) to be fine right out of the can, but in extremely hot or dry conditions, a paint additive such as Floetrol or Penetrol (www.flood.com
) can reduce brush marks and even the transitions between brushed and rolled areas. Follow the additive directions carefully to avoid problems.