How to Paint a Perfectly Straight (and Level) Line

I recently shared our staircase makeover, but I never really got into the details of how we painted it. For the most part, it was pretty standard: we spackled the dings and dents, sanded down the high points, cleaned and prepped the walls, primed them and painted them, but whenever someone comes over, I get the same question: How did you get such a crisp level line between the green and the white?

I alluded to my painting secret briefly in my post about painting the risers of the stairs, but I thought I’d go into this painting tip a bit more in detail today, since it comes in handy so often. This trick is great for any time two colors meet on a wall, but especially handy when painting things like stripes or other accents.

We are currently in the process of painting my son’s room (as well as son-to-be’s nursery) so we met another opportunity to cut a line between ceiling and wall. This room is on the 2nd story and the walls do NOT meet at a 90 degree angle, so the “line” is a little vague and is slightly unleveled. I would rather create a level line that would please the eye than follow along an unleveled line and have a distracting line in the end.

So without further rambling on my part, here is my secret to cutting a perfectly straight line:


I start by measuring from the floor up to make the line level with the ground. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m in a crazy old house, but I find the floor is the only thing that IS level sometimes. For the line around my son’s room, I measured 69 1/2″ and made markings every few feet around the room to create my straight line.Cut_Straight_Line_Painting_Measure_Up

Then I use about an arm’s length of tape at a time to “connect the dots” of markings I made on the wall. I don’t use more than an arm’s length at a time, because it reduces the risk of bending and holes.


After each segment of tape is places on the wall, I quickly “seal” the tape by running over it with a spackle knife or something else flat.


Then I check with my level to ensure the line and tape are straight. If it is off, I redo the previous two steps.


Now here is the BIG secret for creating flawless paint lines! Paint over the bottom edge of the tape with a thin coat of the color you have on the¬†other side of the line. For me, it was Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter. If there are any holes where the paint can leak under, this coat will fill them in.


After your thin coat has dried, paint at the tape line using the color you actually want below the line. For me, it was Benjamin Moore’s White Dove. I did two coats to ensure enough coverage.


After 15-30 minutes you can remove the tape. Peel slowly and at an angle, as pictured below. Don’t leave the tape on too long after painting. Try to complete all steps in one day. The longer the tape is left on, the weaker the adhesion will be and the more likely you will have paint leak through.


And that is my favorite painting trick! What is yours?


Leave a Reply