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Category: painting

Once your wall is ready to be painted and it has been filled, sanded and or cleaned, you need to think about how you are going to avoid getting the paint on the surfaces that are not going to be painted. This is tricky part where you get to the edges, such as where the wall meets the ceiling, or a skirting board.

There are three things that you can do to avoid getting paint over these edges, ensuring only what needs to be painted is actually painted:

  1. Remove what should not be painted – remove light fitting, switches and even radiators so that you can paint behind them without getting paint on them.
  2. Masking up – This is where you put a low tack masking tape along the edge that you don’t want to get paint on. You can then paint right up to it, and over it, and when the paint is dry you can remove the tape to leave a crisp, clean edge.
  3. Cutting in – To cut in, you use a brush to paint, freehand, a straight line up against the edge that you do not want to paint. This technique takes skill and practice to get right so is favoured by professional painters and decorators.
Preparing for painting

Preparation is the key to a great paint job – whether you mask up or cut in (Image: True Value Projects)

There is no doubt that if it is possible to remove whatever it is that shouldn’t be painted, then this is what you should do. However this is often simply not feasible, so this begs the question….

Is it Better to Mask Up or Cut In?

Each has their place; professional decorators will favour cutting in because they are practised and know that they can cut in without getting paint where it shouldn’t be. Masking up is a safer option for an inexperience painter, however there are places where even an experience decorator will mask up.

Remember that you will also Cut In to fill the gap between the edge and where you can reach with the roller. Whether you get your straight edge with masking tape or by cutting in free-hand, there will be some further cutting in to fill this gap – we go into more detail about this in our project all about cutting in linked to above. Here we’re focusing on the straight edge part of the technique as this is the tricky and important part.

To answer this question properly it will depend on what you are most comfortable with. If you have a reasonably steady hand and have had a bit of practice, cutting in will be effective, but if you are not so confident, or the edge you are painting to absolutely must not have paint on it, then you ought to mask up .

Masking up around ceiling

Using Masking Tape will protect the surface you are not painting and give a crisp, straight edge. (Image: Home Tips)

Top Tip: When masking up, use a putty knife (or similar) to press along the edge of the masking tape so that it is securely stuck down. This will ensure that paint will not ‘bleed’ under the masking tape and ruin your clean edges.

Consider cutting in where in is not practical or feasible to mask up. This might be because the edge is too short and simply not worth the effort, or it’s too long and if you do get some paint on the non-painted surface it can be wiped off relatively easily.

Conversely, mask up where you cannot afford on any account to get paint on the surface not to be painted. This is generally because if you do, you’ll never get it out again, or not easily at least. There’s no point masking up glass generally as any paint flecks and splodges can easily be scraped off when dry using a razor blade.

Essentially, the decision all comes down to the time it is going to take you. Masking up takes a little time up front, but you can be confident that if you have done it properly then there will be nothing left to do but pull away the masking tape once the paint has dried. Whereas cutting in will be quicker to get started and to do, but if you make a mistake you can quickly lose any time you have save and more.

Cutting in around ceiling

Cutting In can be quicker than masking up but you have to be skilled!

Top Tip: Smooth and flatten the edge you are cutting in on by running a screwdriver tip along it. This will create a sharp corner to paint up to and remove any small lumps and bumps near the edge which will allow you to paint a really crisp, clean straight line.

Pros and Cons of Cutting In Versus Masking Up to get a Straight Edge

Like most home improvement techniques, there are pros and cons to both, and which you choose to use will depend on the circumstances you are painting in.

Cutting in is typically quicker, if you don’t make any mistakes, of course! This is why professional painters will opt for this approach in most cases.

The problem is that cutting in is difficult and take practice to do a good job. If you make a mistake, it can take time to rectify it which is where masking up is a more satisfactory solution.

Masking up is the safer option, and if done right will leave you with a perfect straight line every time. There is more time required up front to stick down the tape properly, but if you don’t have a steady hand and know that getting the paint on of the surface that shouldn’t be painted is going to be tough, then it is the best option.

Masking up skirting

There are times when masking up is the ‘safer’ option than cutting in free-hand (Image: Dulux)

Cut in or Mask Up – The Verdict

Both are going to be use for most projects as there are going to be times when you can cut in, and then there are times when you need to spend the extra time to mask up. Remember you are going to have to cut in any way to fill the gap between the edge and where the roller (or paint pad) can paint up to safely.

So this is not exactly conclusive, but these are both very valuable techniques to have in your painting armour. Find out more about Masking up in our project mentioned above and also get tips on Cutting In from our project linked to above.


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