How to Paint a Straight Line (A Perfect Line)

People ask me all the time how I am able to paint perfect lines.  It is a huge pet peeve of mine when I see lines that are not properly painted.  In fact we were just at dinner with my in laws this weekend and I noticed a red wall that had a messy line that matched up to a yellow wall.  Made me crazy and, of course, once I noticed it I couldn’t un-notice it!!!

So today I am teaching you how to paint a perfect line so that your home can look like it has been professionally painted! {To see a video tutorial click here}.
No matter how well you tape it never works to just tape!  This is what you will get with just taping:
That’s a lot of touching up to do!
So here’s how to get a perfect line:

Step 1: Tape.  Take time and tape well because it does make a difference.

Step 2: Paint along the entire seam of where the tape meets the wall/molding.  The color you’ll use is the original color that you want to protect and that you don’t want to change.  Here’s what it will look like:
As you can see, I have white crown molding and baseboards so after I taped I painted the matching white color over it.
The reason you do this is because when you paint it always bleeds under the tape in spots (as seen in the pictures above).  So when you paint the original color over the tape that is the color that will bleed through, not your new color.
Step 3: Allow the paint to dry (I’m impatient so I usually only give it 30 min or so) but it’s really important that you wait long enough for the paint to dry completely.

Step 4: Paint your new color.

Step 5: Remove the tape.  I used to wait until the top layer of paint was dry but a reader told me you get better results if you remove the tape right away.  I tried it and it worked!  So once you have painted the final color remove the tape while the paint is still wet.  Remember to remove the tape at a slight angle for better results!

How to paint a straight line

This is what your perfect line will look like.  Isn’t it lovely? :)  No touch up painting here!  Who has time for that!?  On to my next project! :)

I know this is kind of a confusing process so if you have ANY questions please don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment.  Or to see a video tutorial of this painting method click here.
You can also see how I used this technique to paint my entryway stripes.  They are pretty awesome!!!
Have fun painting!!!
About the Author

"Hi I'm Anna! Welcome to Ask Anna where I love to answer your household questions! I have always loved to clean, organize and decorate and this blog is a fun way for me to help you love it too! I am a busy mom of a beautiful little girl and I'm married to the love of my life. Together we fill our days with projects , laughter and love. I serve an incredible God and overall I'd say I'm truly blessed!"

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Discussion

  1. 1

    Pretty cool. I hate the paint that leaks under the tape and that always happens to me. We will be painting my grandsons room this spring so this will come in handy!!Diana

  2. 2

    great tip! I always hate that when we paint. I will definitely do this next time we paint :)

  3. 3

    A very cool trick. I will try on my next painting job.

  4. 4

    Thank you SO much! Painting that 1st coat of paint is not anything I've ever thought of. I'm so excited to try it.

  5. 5

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. 6

    I stumbled on your blog after slapping on some more white trim paint, sans painters tape, to go over later. I'm at the end of my rope, honestly. The space is huge and my lines are horrible. So, question: can I still do this even though I've already painted the wall slightly with my paint I want to protect (white trim paint)? Meaning, will this still work if I tape, then paint a bit more white paint on the other edge of the tape THEN paint the gray wall? *sigh* Great tip, either way! Thanks for sharing!

  7. 7

    Bee- I don't have your email to write you back! Email me directly from your email address at askannamoseley@gmail.com.Annawww.askannamoseley.com

  8. 8

    Wow, what a helpful tip…I will definitely use this tutorial for my next big project: paining my living room walls!!katieshowto.blogspot.com

  9. 9

    Do you have any suggestions for corners that are rounded or "bull-nosed"?? Thanks…

  10. 10

    To the anonymous PP please email me your email address so that I can send you an answer. My email is: askannamoseley@hotmail.com.Thanks!Anna :)

  11. 11

    great tute! I KNOW what to do, but do I always do it? nah!silly me!gail

  12. 12

    Im sending your link to my husband. He is painting for me this week while Im on spring break at my friends. :) Thanks for linking up.TOniA bowl full of lemons

  13. 13

    Good tips! Thanks for linking up to Mad Skills Monday!

  14. 14

    Thank you for these tips. Very timely as I'm about to paint the ceiling one color and the walls another. Moni

  15. 15
  16. 16

    Brilliant!

  17. 17

    Being an anal retentive painter myself, what I normally do is paint a thin coat of clear polyurethane after taping to ensure that the color I am painting with doesn't "bleed" onto the wrong side. The poly helps to seal off where the paint would normally seep through. Works like a charm!

  18. 18

    You've got your talent I think. And I'm so glad that you have shared it with us not just to inspire us but also to let us learned from you. I'm so glad to have read your article.

  19. 19

    That is a great tip and I will definetely try it next time I paint. I would however like the suggestion to painting the rounded corners as well. My email is junglebuddies(at)gmail(dot)comThanks!

  20. 20

    It is so much easier if you buy Painters Caulk. I have found it at Home Depot and Lowes. You tape then apply a thin bead of the caulk and spread it out with your finger tip. Let it dry(usually an hour or so) then paint like normal. It gives you the straightest line and you can not tell where the caulk has been. It is only 3-4 dollars and a little goes a long way.

  21. 21

    Absolutely brilliant! Thank you so much for sharing this….found it on Pinterest (which is an addiction that I best keep under control or I'll NEVER get to painting that bedroom!!!). Cheers!

  22. 22

    Very interesting… I have lots of painting to do. I'll have to give this a go :)

  23. 23

    Thank you!! (and thank you pinterest for leading me here :) ) I am always changing up the colors of my rooms and always wind up just a tad frustrated with the edges of the wall. I can't wait to try this!

  24. 24

    Ingenious! Can't wait to try this. House hunting now so I imagine I'll have lots of opportunities soon. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  25. 25

    Brilliant!

  26. 26

    Have you had any experience with with new (I think) Frog Tape? I have heard it completely blocks the bleeding but I don't know of anyone who has tried it

  27. 27

    Anna, Do you have any advice about taping off wood trim and the paint leaking on it? I don't know what else to do besides take off the trim, and my husband doesn't like to do that because there is a possibility of cracking the trim.Thank you,Angie

  28. 28

    @Angie (previous comment)- please contact me with your email address, I have no way of contacting you to answer your question.Thank you!Annaaskannamoseley@hotmail.com

  29. 29

    Here's an additional tip if you don't have the original paint color to seal the tape with first…much like the poster above who uses polyurethane, I run a VERY thin layer of paintable caulk over the edge of my tape….works great! I like the idea of using the original paint if it's handy though….much quicker than caulk!

  30. 30

    Anna,Wow! Thank you! I'm always so frustrated with my messy lines, I will try your tip. Would the same tip apply for the corner between wall and ceiling? Also, I have the same issue as Angie with wood trim. I have lot of issues with wood edges, as I have a log house. When I texture the walls, you can always see the white texture under the paint at the choppy lines next to the wood trim. It looks ghastly. Suggestions???Thanks!Mollysjranch6@austin.rr.com

  31. 31

    Great tutorial. I actually usually paint lines this way, but a few times I've run into the paint peeling off some with the tape. So, I tried to remove the tape prior to it being completely dry. That helped some… Any suggestions on how to avoid the dried paint peeling off with the tape when you remove it since it's attached so to speak? (Email me if you can.)

  32. 32

    Love this tutorial….came across it on Pinterest. Slight problem — all the photos are not showing up on this post:)

  33. 34

    I found this on Pinterest and came right over! But for some reason your pictures are not showing up. :(

  34. 36

    I found you via Pinterest and love your tips. I am doing a white ceiling and dark teal walls in my craft room. The ceiling has already been painted white. How do I tape the ceiling so I can paint the walls without any bleeding getting on the white ceiling?

    Also, how do I keep the tape from peeling off the dry paint from behind the tape when I peel it off?

    Thank you in advance!

    • 37

      Here is a video tutorial I did on how to get that perfect line you’re looking for. You would do the exact same thing, just around the ceiling, so in your case put the tape all around the ceiling, paint the white paint all around the corners (where the ceiling and wall meet), let it dry for an hour or so, then paint the teal. Remove the tape right away so that the teal doesn’t dry too much and peel off the white. Watch the video, it will make more sense.

      I’d love to see a picture of your craft room after it’s painted, it sound like it’s going to be fabulous! I love those colors!!! :)

      Anna

  35. 38

    This can also be achieved with clear caulk. A handy trick if you don’t have the original paint color. It also works wonder on spatter texturized walls or rounded corners.

  36. 40

    This is awesome, thank you! Will this technique work for textured walls, too? We are having SUCH a tough time with our (builder) textured walls. (We didn’t know they were doing this!?)
    Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting recently posted..Big Families: How Do You Do It? {One-On-One Kid Time}My Profile

    • 41

      It’s definitley a little harder with rough textured walls but this will work. I had pretty textured walls in our last house and I was able to get a straight line using this trick. Just make sure you tape carefully and then let the {original color} paint dry completely dry before painting you new color. Good luck!!

      Anna

  37. 42

    Hi Anna!! Amazing tips! Can’t wait to do this!!
    I’m from Brazil, this was linked through Pinterest.
    Awesome website, congratulations!
    Tainah.

    • 43

      Thank you so much! I love hearing I have readers from all over the world! :)

      Anna

      • 44

        Happy 4th, Anna! Thanks for the great tip! Will this work with paints that are different finishes? My trim is a semi-gloss, but the walls are eggshell. How would I paint first with the semi-gloss trim paint and then on top of that with the eggshell? Thank you!

      • 45

        Yes it will! I’ve done it with 2 types of finishes too. You might have to just do a second coat on the lighter finish. :)

        Anna

  38. 46

    I used to do this until I tried the new FROG tape! It is amazing! I painted my bathroom a deep red and the ceiling and trim where white. It looked the lines were cut with a knife!

  39. 48
    Darlene says:

    Also, if you don’t have the original color of paint you’re trying to protect you can use painter’s glaze. It dries clear so you don’t have to worry about the bleed, as well as not having to keep gobs of paint around, just one can of glaze will do ya!

  40. 49

    Thank you!!!! I tried what you said and it turned out amazing!

  41. 51

    Anna–I really enjoyed your tip on painting a perfect line–and will browse the rest of your site and see what other info you may have that’s great. I wanted to ask you to consider changing the color of your text–the light gray is difficult to read, I find. Anyway– keep up the nice site!!!

  42. 53

    Anna! This tute saved my living room. I’ve refused to paint b/c I knew I could do it myself and save money but I was anal about those wavy lines! I wouldn’t dare risk it. I found this site via Pinterest and now my living is a perfectly lined mint green. Thank you sooo much :)

  43. 55

    I have done this, but I needed to use 2 coats of paint and when I pulled off the tape, even when the second coat was still wet (the first coat had to try) some paint above the tape peeled off too leaving a terrible jagged edge. (I’ve since fixed it or else I’d put a pic to show what i mean, hard to explain it.) Any suggestions here?

    • 56

      I’ve had this happen a few times but only in little sections. I think sometimes it’s caused by cheap tape that’s maybe too sticky or the paint has dried too much, but not enough. Does that make sense? I think the paint either needs to be wet and pulled off all the way or completely dry. If you pull it off when it’s still kind of tacky, it will stretch and just pull right off.

  44. 57

    I do not have crown moldings like you have in your picture, so when I took my tape off between wall and ceiling, (1 hr. after second coat) the wall paint came off. In some spots several inches of paint came off, so I still had to go around with a small paint brush to touch up. I used a self priming paint, which makes a thicker surface making it harder to get the tape off.

  45. 58

    A professional painter I know recently told me about this trick after I used the caulking method to get straight lines in my striped hallway! Can’t wait to try this method out this weekend! Would be much faster than caulking along lines!

  46. 59
    CC MCCART says:

    GADS how freakin’ easy is this? So thrilled to run across this as I’m just on the verge of painting stripes on the kitchen cabinet doors. I just knew there had to be a secret to getting it done RIGHT!

    THANK YOU!
    CC

  47. 61

    everyone already knows this tip

    • 62

      I didn’t, and I didn’t know you should take the blue tape off while it was still wet. Would have saved me a lot of trouble in my kitchen. But the textured swirled ceiling never is right because there is no straight edge.

  48. 63

    I know this is old, but we recently moved and my daughter wanted stripes on her wall. I looked around on the internet for how to do that well, and came across this post. So I did what you suggested, painting the white (her undercolor) on the tape before the color, and it looks amazing!! Thanks for a great tip!

    Lori

    • 64

      Awesome! I’m so glad I was able to help you out. :) If it makes you feel any better, even though it’s an old post I get comments all the time on it.

  49. 65

    What if your trim paint is an oil base or a latex gloss and you have painted that first. The wall is next and it is a latex flat or satin. Does that matter or affect the coverage?

    • 66

      This is the problem I had in my kitchen. It works the same, just try to do a really thin layer of the latex paint and then do a double coat of the flat paint. When you’re done you won’t even notice!

  50. 67

    Fabulous idea! I had given up on tape because I did a better job without it. I found this just in time to paint the trim in two rooms and still have half the house to do afterwards. I’ll be sure to give you a shout out when I post!

  51. 69

    We never have the undercolor or original color so we use paintable caulk, very thin and spread well usually with a finger, on top of our painters tape. Once it has dried, it makes that paint barrier and prevents leaks. Good thing too since walls in the SW are all textured.

  52. 70
    Nancy Collingwood says:

    thanks

  53. 71

    Hello, I read your tutorial on straight edges. I am A horrible painter to begin with, but I have A difficult situation. I am trying to paint A straight edge with latex paint against oil based molding. I don’t want to even attempt to do as you suggested,and paint with oil before i tape. My lines came out horrible and Im not sure what to do…… Any ideas or solutions to this particular scenario?
    Thanks,

    Jimmy

  54. 73
    MARY BETH WILSON says:

    You mention when painting a straight line on a ceiling to pull the tap away from the wall when the paint is still wet….what if I want to do a second coat….do I re-tape after it is dry or leave the tape up and pull off while the second coat is wet?

    • 74

      I would do the second coat right away so it both coats don’t have time to dry, then remove the tape. You might have a few places that will pull off, but you can touch them up easily. :)

  55. 75

    I just remodeled an entire house (took 2 rooms down to studs)….everything in every room has been redone. I have caulked up all the new crown above and below, and am about to finish caulking the baseboard and shoe moulding above and below. I wish I could tape all of it to do this straight line trick, but I would be out hours and hours and major money on expensive painters tape to do it. :-( Luckily, my lines look straight, unless you get on top of some of them and stare. Hopefully I will be able to do a decent job…..my lines get less straight the older I get. :-)

  56. 76

    That you for this great tip! We will be painting our wall very soon.
    May I ask what paint color is that on the wall. My husband & I really like that color for our living room. Thank you so much!

  57. 78

    Another way is to tape and then go over the edge of the tape with clear calk and it won’t bleed under the tape

  58. 79

    Hi Anna,

    Could you please re-post the video tutorial? When you follow the link it says it’s not found.

    Thanks! :)
    V

  59. 81

    Oh my gosh, I can’t believe how simple this painting technique is! I have done so much painting both in and outdoors and have even avoided certain areas and came up with something different just because I didn’t want to have to retouch a straight line. It never occurred to me to first paint the original color. Thank you so much!