Change your Brush Cutting Game

Written by on December 10, 2013 in Cutting Room Floor, Uncategorized with 23 Comments

The First Cut is NOT the Deepest!

brush cutting

Learn to use both hands…

Ok, I confess. I have been asked for advice on cutting straight lines a lot over the years.

I’ve offered many canned answers:

“Stare at the line. Until you see 3 lines. Cut the line in the middle…”




“It’s the brush…”


“I was taught at the Paint Academy back in the 80’s.”

And I’d laugh up my sleeve and move on about my business.

I have grown up a bunch since then, and I apologize to everyone who ever asked.

Here are some tips:

  • On entry: hook the line where it’s best for you
  • Pull forehand and backhand strokes
  • Don’t change wrist orientation, move from your center
  • Sneak into the line, successively closer
  • The straightest lines are pulled quickly
  • Point and pull
  • Learn to do it with both hands
  • It’s only paint…

These brush cutting tips help a lot…and it was only after about 25 years of painting that I even became aware of them.

Oh, and, I have been painting for 30 years.

In all seriousness, attitude is everything – it’s how you look at your cutting game. A  perception thing.

What brush cutting tips would you add to my list?




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  1. Mike says:

    I amazed at how many cutting tools have come out, and I’ve never seen one that has worked yet, have You?
    And even if they might, the time it would take to set them up negates any possible benefit they might have. I’ve gotta confess, I’ve relied on blue tape for a lot of my lines, but am now weening myself off of the stuff because of time and cost.
    It’s also pretty embarrassing if you have to work in front of guys who really know their stuff and can cut well.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Freehand cutting with a brush and no tape is one of the true measures of skill in the craft of painting. Definitely a skill worth developing. I can cut faster than I can pull tape, and tape does cost a lot.

  2. Mike says:

    Agree with the Caulking trick. I never do a new job without caulking. Besides the benefits of being able to draw a straight line, it keeps the cracks from showing once the house settles.
    Now, here’s one for you that most painters don’t know (wait for it…) When caulking, I almost always use either DAP Elastopatch or now they have Dap Flex that doesn’t “Flash” the paint (shine through). This is really critical when it comes to using flat paints, as the sheen from caulk can really show up, especially if you use your caulk to try to hide joints between wood panels that are not in corners, and don’t have battons to cover them. I could write a book about this but do some homework and you’ll find that almost all caulking has plasticizers that leach through the paint and cause all kinds of nasty results like flashing, dirt pick-up, and mold pick-up. If you lived in Hawaii like I do and have red dirt to contend with, you’ll notice it on exteriors wherever the caulking is.
    P.S. Elastopatch comes in caulking tubes as well as in a tub.

  3. Steve says:

    if I’m enameling trim such as crown molding base boards casings I always have a nice pointed putty knife and a tight knit rag and if I fall off the mark I wrap the rag tight around the putty knife and it takes a little practice and a light touch just run your putty knife down the edge and watch that line come back and your off

  4. mike says:

    great site, really helpfull
    cut -in i like to use 4 inch angled sash ( coronas are good)
    load up the brush so its almost dripping and cut in one long fast continuous stroke , usually i get straighter cleaner lines that way than trying to go slowly with a smaller brush

  5. Tim Peters says:

    I like to breathe out as I am running my cut line. It steadies the heart and the hand.
    Another tip at my age is to start wearing my glasses and not be so vain!

  6. JW says:

    On textured ceiling, Knock off the texture at the edge with your putty knife. At an angle to the wall, run the blade along the edge of the ceiling. This scrapes away the texture and leaves a small groove in the ceiling. Clean out the groove with a dry paintbrush, and rock and roll! This is a good trick

  7. H Rider says:

    Cutting thick paint helps. Not to the point that it doesn’t cover. But thinning some does help.

  8. Nick Dunse says:

    I usually close my eyes when I cut in…..sorry couldn’t resist. Seriously I remember teaching many newbies over the years or better yet refining someone’s technique who thought they could cut in. Cutting in pastels with a textured ceiling is cake walk cutting in a smooth ceiling line with a deep base separates the men form the boys.

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