Tutorial: Painting Crisp Lines at Colour Changes

As I shared in August's WiP post I painted the living room last month with a picture rail line. I was so pleased with how sharp the line turned out, so thought I'd share how I achieved that. It's actually quite easy, although there are a few steps. This method can be used to get a crisp line at the ceiling, edges of walls (for features) or if you're going to really go for it geometric patterns in paint.


You will need:

2 (or more) colours of paint

Pencil

Spirit level

Ruler or scrap timber (optional)

Tape measure

Chalk line

Masking tape

Brushes and rollers as preferred

Paint the first colour to the final finish coat (I did one "mist coat," a water thinned coat you put onto fresh plaster as the plaster wants to suck up all the moisture from the paint which makes it really hard to use, and one final coat of full thickness paint) , painting beyond the point where the colour will change. My marker was the head of the windows.

White paint is brought past the level of the windows to overlap with the area of the wall which will be grey

White paint is brought past the level of the windows to overlap with the area of the wall which will be grey

Mark the line you want to paint to. On the shorter lengths between the windows I used a spirit level and piece of timber to get a straight horizontal line and marked lightly in pencil.

A longer spirit level would be better (!) but a length of timber and small one does the job fine

A longer spirit level would be better (!) but a length of timber and small one does the job fine

On the long walls I used a tape measure to mark the correct height from the floor at each corner and a chalk line. This ingenious bit of kit allows you to get a straight line over a long distance. Hold either end at the marked heights (get an adult to help you!) with the string flat on the wall, and then ping the string with your finger to fire a line of chalk onto the wall. The chalk line I used was in blue and you can see the line it gives you below. Don't worry about the bright colour; it's either getting painted over or will wipe away with a soft cloth.

pencil line with masking tape on the right, chalk line on the right

pencil line with masking tape on the right, chalk line on the right

Masking tape along the lines you've marked. Don't worry about buying the fancy masking tape that claims not to bleed, there's no need to worry about that here and frankly I've never found one that really works. If you have a tip though I'd love to know. I would recommend doing continuous lengths of tape along walls if you can, it will give you a better finish.

Taped up and ready to go

Taped up and ready to go

You don't need fancy non-bleed tape because the next step is to paint over the edge of the tape with the base colour. This means that any bleed you get doesn't show because it's the same colour as the base. How clever is that!

Leave to dry completely.

The tape edge is painted over with the base colour; it's still wet here so you can see where I've been

The tape edge is painted over with the base colour; it's still wet here so you can see where I've been

Paint your first coat of colour. I always find that after the first coat you have to go round with the filler again. The paint shows up a whole load of imperfections that will have been missed the first time. Although there was plaster under the wallpaper I stripped, the age of it and the fact that I was doing the first painted finish meant there were plenty of marks needing filled. Sand back the filler ready for the final coat.

First coat (careful to colour in the lines!) and then the second filler

First coat (careful to colour in the lines!) and then the second filler

Do your second coat and leave to dry completely. Now for the fun bit! Peel of the masking tape, slowly and carefully to minimise the damage to the base coat.

Mid reveal!

Mid reveal!

Stand back and admire your work!

Crisp, clean lines and no bleeds.

Crisp, clean lines and no bleeds.