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How to cut in when painting

Person cutting in when painting

If you’ve ever ventured into the world of painting in any capacity, you’ll have come across the phrase ‘cutting in’. So, what exactly is ‘cutting in’ when painting? What tools do you need for cutting in paint? And how do you cut in like a professional? Read on for our comprehensive guide to cutting in.

What is cutting in?

'Cutting in' (okay, we’ll stop adding quote marks to it now) is the term used to describe the technique of outlining walls and ceilings before you start to paint the rest of the surface. Essentially, it means starting off with a border. Kick off a paint job by cutting in and (if done right) you’re guaranteed to achieve neater corners and an overall crisper and cleaner finish. 

Cutting in may feel like an extra step but, trust us, it’ll save you time and result in a more flawless paint finish.

Tools for cutting in when painting

Start by gathering your preparation tools and prepping the space and surface:

  • Lay a protective decorators canvas down on the floor
  • Move your furniture out of the way and cover it with a biodegradable dust sheet
  • Scrub the walls with soapy water and fill in any gaps and holes. Sand down so they’re smooth and ready.
  • Put masking tape over any edges and skirting boards that you don’t want to get paint on (read our tips on how to paint skirting boards).

Can you use a small roller to cut in?

As part of your cutting in process, use a smaller version of the roller that you plan to use to paint the rest of the room. Getting another model may result in a different effect for the cut in area - not what you want!). Invest in a small paint roller - about 4 inches should do the job. 

What is the best paint brush to use for cutting in?

Grab a small angled 1" or 2" cutting in paint brush that allows you to get into all the nooks, crannies and corners. Get yours in our Single-room painting kit or Multi-room Decorating Kit.

Do you cut in before or after rolling?

Our expert decorator recommends cutting in prior to painting the main sections of the wall and then rolling as close to the cut-in edge as possible (whilst the paint remains wet), to make any differences between the brush marks and rolling as minor as possible.

What is the best way to cut in when painting?

TOP TIP: Cut in just before you start to paint. A freshly painted cut-in section blends in a lot more seamlessly when it’s not yet dry.

Step 1:

Stir your Lick paint in the tin and load your brush halfway up the bristles. Careful not to overload.

Step 2: 

We’d recommend starting to paint an inch away from the first corner you’re cutting into. Using your small angled brush, draw along the line of the corner and move inwards to paint a crisp line along the edges of the masked surface. Taking care not to miss any edges, paint back the other way to add more coverage and fill in any gaps.

Step 3:

Leave the edges loosely brushed so you can easily blend the trimmed area in with the rest of the surface. We’d recommend using your small paint roller to roll out the paint you have cut in. This way, you’ve got the roller effect blending into each other. 

Top tip: What you want to do is cut in and immediately start rolling the coat whilst the cutting in remains wet, this allows the two brush types to blend much better.

Step 4:

Ready to paint the rest of the surface? Using your paint roller, start painting on top of the cutting in so you blend both sections together. Remember, you don’t want your cut in section to be visible.

Continue to work your way around the room, tackling one section at a time. Make sure you cut into the corners where two walls meet (even if you’re planning on painting both those walls) - you won’t be able to squeeze your larger paint roller in there.

Why have I got picture framing on the area I've cut in?

With a pigment-rich paint like ours, differences in shade will be visible depending on the amount of paint applied to your surface, rather than a brush creating a different colour. That’s why we always recommend applying two coats of paint to get the perfect colour. 

Note: A difference in shade between cut-in areas and the main part of the wall (also known as picture framing) won’t be due to the paint itself, but the amount of paint applied.

Learn how to avoid and fix picture framing on a painted wall.

Watch our tutorial below