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white trim with paint brush

Fastest Way to Paint Trim for Great-Looking Results

One of the easiest and fastest ways to paint trim is to paint it before it’s installed, but in many cases, that’s not possible. If you are planning to paint the interior trim of your home, knowing how to paint it quickly can keep you from getting discouraged.

Finding the right tools and learning a few professional techniques can save time, without sacrificing appearance.

Suggested Tools

  • Hand masker tape applicator
  • Painter’s tape
  • Angled 2-inch paintbrush (a natural bristle brush may reduce visible paint lines)
  • Angled, stiff 1-inch paintbrush (for narrowest spaces)
  • Paint (typically semi-gloss or satin finish)
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Bucket with water and non-sudsy cleaner
  • Sandpaper, 120-grit to 180-grit
  • Putty knife
  • Caulk/spackle
  • Tarp or drop cloth

Choose the Right Paint

Determining the color and amount of paint you need is a good first step. Depending on the look you wish to achieve, you may want to match trim to your wall color, or you may choose a bold, contrasting color to accent your window or door. Check out our blog on how much paint to buy, or figure that you’ll need roughly one gallon of paint to cover 350 square feet. To determine the square footage of your trim, multiply the length by the width (in inches) and then divide by 12.

Another factor to consider: What type of trim do you have? Although interior trim is usually made of wood, it can also be made from other materials including medium-density fiberboard, vinyl, or metal. Exterior trim is often wood, metal or vinyl.

Choose a paint that is appropriate for the material. Semi-gloss or satin finishes are good for interior wood or fiberboard trim. Exterior metal or vinyl trim will require preparation and specialty paints designed to withstand a variety of weather conditions.

Preparing the Surface

Although it may be tempting to jump in and start painting, preparation is essential for best results.

If the trim has peeling paint, use a putty knife to scrape it away. Remove hardened caulking and re-caulk. Fill in holes or gaps with spackle and allow to thoroughly dry. Hand sand to smooth the surface. Wipe down with water-detergent mixture and allow surface to dry.

If trim is unfinished, stained, or heavily patched, paint with appropriate primer first. Allow to dry. Lightly sand, wipe with damp cloth, and let dry.

Prepping the Space

Before proceeding, you may want to use a hand masker to apply painter’s tape to walls along the edge of the trim, especially if the trim will be painted a darker color than the surrounding walls. (If you are painting both walls and trim, and the trim will be a lighter or matching color, there’s no need for painter’s tape on the walls. Paint trim first, followed by surrounding walls.) Cover floor under window or door with tarp or plastic sheeting.

How to Paint Trim Quickly

Now you’re ready to paint! Here’s how: paint the top first, followed by sides, window ledges, and any narrow parts/sides of trim:

  1. Dip your brush into the paint, with bristles almost completely immersed. (This “fully loads” the brush, so you can quickly get more paint where it needs to go.)
  2. Instead of wiping brush on rim of can, lightly and quickly slap brush on the inside of the can a few times to reduce dripping.
  3. Apply paint to surfaces in long, steady, one-way strokes.
  4. When painting vertical framing, work quickly from top to bottom.
  5. Switch to a 1-inch trim brush if painting narrow pieces of trim that may run perpendicular to the window glass.
  6. If you are applying multiple coats, allow to fully dry, gently sand, and re-apply following the same steps.
  7. Remove tape before paint fully dries. Start at one corner and remove in an even, steady manner.
  8. If you are painting a window sash in which the window opens and closes vertically, keep the window open until the paint is fully dry.
  9. If you are painting exterior trim, the outside temperature should be between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit for best results.


Or … Hire an Expert

Although these tips will help you get the job done, painting trim can be a tedious, messy, and frustrating job. The best—and fastest—way to paint trim is to get a professional to do it for you. Five Star Painting can get the job done quickly, with guaranteed professional results! To schedule a free estimate today, visit us online or call (888) 261-3633.

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So you've saved time painting your trim? Why not do the same for cleaning your tile floors? Our friends at Molly Maid can help with more timesaving advice!