How to cut in when painting a wall or ceiling

It’s best to start any painting job by cutting in with a paintbrush to achieve clean lines at the corners and edges. Follow this step-by-step guide to cutting in when painting a wall or ceiling to ensure a professional result

TODO alt text

The area where your walls meet the ceiling is a tricky place to paint, and if you don't take your time to do it properly you could end up with a pretty dodgy looking paint job. We want to see crisp, clean, clear edges all along the top of the walls and to get that perfect finish you need to learn how to cut in when painting a wall or ceiling.

Need more advice on painting? You'll find everything you could ever need in our guide to how to paint rooms and walls. There are plenty more tips, tricks and inspiration over in our decorating hub, too. 

Everything you will need to cut in while painting 

1. Clear the area and protect furniture

If you are looking to learn how to cut in, we are going to assume you are painting at least one wall, so make sure you move away anything that could suffer from paint splatters. 

Also cover any light switches and plug sockets that could face the same fate, and cover the floor and larger pieces of furniture in plastic sheets.

2. Paint the ceiling first 

It's advisable to paint the ceiling before the walls as it's a slightly trickier task and you are more likely to make errors that can be cleaned up later when you start painting the walls.

Wait until the ceiling paint has dried before you start painting the walls as to cut in you will need to apply tape to the ceiling. Wet paint and masking tape? Not a good idea. 

Browse our specialist feature if you're looking for step-by-step instructions on how to paint a ceiling.

3. Tape off areas

Unless you’re confident that you have a very steady hand, it’s best to use frog tape to tape off the areas where the ceiling meets the wall to ensure you get clean lines. To do this start by places a strip of tape in the corner of the ceiling, right where the ceiling meets the wall. 

Press down on it firmly until it lies flat against the ceiling. Then slowly drag the tape along the length of the ceiling in a straight line, flattening it as you go. If you are doing the entire room as apposed to one feature wall, repeat until the whole ceiling has a ring of tape around it. 

Top tip: Make sure there are no air pockets, otherwise you run the risk of paint seeping through onto the ceiling. 

4. Start painting the edges

Pour some paint into a small paint tray – you don’t need much at this stage.

Dip your brush straight down into the paint, until the paint covers roughly a third of the bristles. Then gently tap each side of the brush against the side of the paint container to avoid any drips.

Holding the brush with a pencil grip for control, make a brushstroke on the wall about two inches away from the edge you’re cutting in, to remove the excess paint. This should be about 12 inches long. Then turn the brush so that you’re using the narrow edge and paint your downward stroke up to 12 inches long right next to the Frog tape.

Top tip: Make sure you don’t apply too much pressure as the paint ooze from the brush and create drips.

5. Paint the rest of the room

After you have finished cutting in, continue to paint the rest of the room with a paint roller. 

Just make sure you reach as high as your initial 12 strip of wall paint. Do not push or drag the roller all the way up to the ceiling.

6. Remove the tape

Once the paint is dry you can remove the tape and voila, nice clean edges. 

Looking for more painting and decorating advice?