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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Art of Cutting In

No, not the art of cutting in line, because who isn't good at that?  My best attempt at a cleanly cut line of paint after getting wise tips from local painting pros.

Three weeks ago I made a huge commitment, which forced me to learn a few things about myself. That commitment? I bought a house. (More on that in coming posts). The lesson? I realized I have no idea how to paint.

This came as quite a shock considering I spent a good 10 years of my theater career lurking around the paint shop. Don't get me wrong, I can paint a faux wood grain all up and down. You want a marble entryway? From 15 feet (a.k.a., audience distance) I can make sheetrock look like a Grecian temple carved of stone, but paint the ceiling in my living room with White Dove? You've got to be kidding! There wasn't a lot of ceiling painting or precision accuracy in those 10 years.

Thankfully, while I had a decade in theater, other more industrious types had spent those years gathering valuable house painting skills. A couple of my friends, house painter Robert Araujo and former house painter Patrick Barry, roused me from my fear coma enough to teach me the art of cutting in.

Cutting in is the first step in the interior house painting process, and to my knowledge, the most difficult. As a theatrician I am a huge fan of blue painter's tape. If you want a clean edge, tape it! Well, try taping the ceiling, the floor, the windows, the outlets, the trim and the doggy door - in seven rooms. Instead of wasting all the time of taping, actual house painters use a precision technique called "cutting in," which basically amounts to free-handing it. Perhaps you had the same reaction as I did: yeah, right. But no, this is a tried-and-true method that leaves a lovely living room even from 5 fet away. How is it done? A lot of practice. Beyond that there are a few tips I gathered from my expert friends to share.

Tip 1: Caulk it!
Robert's number one helpful hint to get a clean line between windowsill and wall was a nice bead of caulk. By creating a smooth seam between the wall and window or trim, he was able to get a long clean line of paint, as well as seal any cool-air cracks. A double-win in my book.

Tip 2: Chisel your tip
This is all about the brush. A chiseled tip brush with an angle is best. Dip into the paint about a quarter of the way up the bristles and as you withdraw your brush from the paint, slide it against the flat edge of the paint container to get a semi-loaded fine chiseled tip. Now you're ready to apply.

Tip 3: Get a good bead
When you first apply the brush to the transition between wall and ceiling or trim, a small bead of paint should appear between the chiseled tip and the corner. Run this bead down the seam for a clean line of paint. Haven't got a good bead? Gently pull the brush away and start again. Often the bristles will "load" in the second stroke.

Tip 4: Move with the brush
Nothing tires your arms more than hours of precision painting. Instead of moving just your arms, get your whole body into it. Your brush strokes will be more accurate and your view of the paint will be better if your entire body moves with the paint, not just your arm.
With a fully painted new house I can safely say it was worth every fear-filled stroke.
And I will never underestimate the value of a few good friends (or a few dollars shelled out to a pro for peace of mind).

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