icon Should I Paint Trim or Walls First?

Should I Paint Trim or Walls First?

paint roller pan and loaded roller bright yellow paint on drop cloth

When starting a paint job in your home, you always think of the results and how good your walls will look.

Not taking the time to figure out the correct order of events for painting a room can waste time, effort, and materials.

If you are wondering, should I paint trim or walls first? You are about to find the answer.

These chronological tips for painting will save you time and energy in your painting project and lead to beautifully painted walls and trim that you have been wanting.

1. Buy Good Supplies

When it comes to painting, you want to make sure you have the best possible supplies or end up with a messy paint job. The brushes, and type of paint, should not be the cheapest selections if you hope to achieve professional-looking results.


A roller brush allows for quick painting. If your roller absorbs too much paint, you will get sore from applying the paint using an extreme amount of pressure. You will also need a brush or sprayer for the trim and an angled brush for your edges. Remember, your paintbrush should help you do most of the work, not make it more challenging.


When looking for the right paint color and type of paint, make sure you have different paints for your walls and trim. Trim paints should be semi-gloss, and wall paint should be flat or eggshell finish. High-quality water-based paint will create an even layer, and some are formulated with a built-in primer.

Do not use oil-based paints as they are hard to remove from brushes and not forgiving of mistakes. 

2. Prepare Your Floor

As you start the painting process, you must prepare the space. Don't cost yourself more time and money because of poor planning. That means you should purchase a few canvas drop cloths.

Unlike plastic covers, these do not fold us and away from the corners. Paint will most likely fall from the ceiling, the walls, and even from the trim. This drop cloth will save your floors as paint drips.

3. Prepare Your Walls

Walls take more ware than the naked eye can sometimes see. Over time, they collect dust, oils, and dirt. Use a cloth to remove this buildup; you will have more success and a smooth surface for the paint.

Sometimes walls are in worse condition. Areas where children and pets have left fingerprints, food, and hair is stuck to walls are in need of cleaning. In these situations it would be best to prepare your surface using a deglosser. Apply deglosser in a circular motion using a lint-free cloth. 

4. Paint Your Ceiling

Painting the ceiling first allows all the paint splatters on the walls and trim to be covered later. Often ceiling paint stays in good condition and does not need a new coat as often as wall paint.

However, if you are trying to change the color, paint the ceiling using a roller with an extended arm. Remember when choosing a color that lighter colors in higher areas will help make a space look larger. 

5. Should I Paint Trim or Walls First?

Paint your trim first. Yes, that's right. Make sure your baseboards and crown molding paint are semi-gloss finishes. If you are painting over existing semi-gloss paint, you will need to sand the surface, vacuum, and clean the area using a tack cloth. When you paint the trim, you want to create an even layer.

Use a good quality brush and paint your brush strokes with the grain of the wood. Avoid letting the paint clump, and make sure to spread it in a thin, even coat. If you have a paint sprayer or are willing to invest in one, this can be great to help you get a professional-looking coat on your trim.

Gloss paint on a wood surface can show flaws. A paint sprayer helps to not show any brush strokes on the surface of your trim.

6. Add a Second Coat

After 24 hours, once the paint has dried, sand down the color using fine-grit sandpaper, vacuum, and wipe down the surface with a tack cloth. Then paint a second coat of semi-gloss paint, using a thin and even coat.

If the paint gets onto the wall, this is not a problem; the wall color will cover these brush strokes. As long as the wall paint and trim paints are both water-based paints, they will blend. The layering of the paint will not matter, even if the finishes are different.

7. Use a Primer

Before painting the walls, make sure that the surfaces of the wall are the same. If you cover a hole with a spackle, the texture is different from that of the wall texture. By using a layer of primer, you can create a similar texture over the entire wall.

Priming the surface will allow the paint to adhere evenly to the wall and ensure that you have a beautiful, cohesive texture. Additionally, if the new paint color is lighter than the older paint color, you will need to make sure that you prime the walls to get the correct color.

One coat of primer is usually enough, and some paints do not require primer.

8. Find the Method For Your edges

One of the most challenging parts of the painting is learning how to make a nice line on the edges where the wall meets the trim. People often mess up their borders and feel defeated and unhappy with the outcome.

Using one of the following methods will help create the perfect edges. The two methods of painting the edges of a wall are known as cutting in and taping. Both offer advantages and disadvantages, you have to find which method is right for you.

Cutting In

Use an edge brush and practice what we call cutting in. Cutting in does not require you to put painter's tape along the edges. Instead, fill the brush with paint, drip the paint off the brush, and do not rub the side of the paintbrush onto the side of the paint can.

If you remove too much paint, the remaining layer will not be thick enough to spread. Don't worry if the paint drips onto the wall; you can get a cloth and remove the excess paint immediately from the molding.


This method requires using painter's tape after the trim has dried. Apply the painter's tape over the dry trim making sure not to get onto the wall area. Taping can be a time-consuming process, but if you are nervous about your edges, this can help ensure that you do not get too much paint where it is not supposed to be.

If your hand is not steady, this could be the better option. But make sure your paint is completely dry before taping. After the edges dry, you can remove the tape using a blade to cut the tape from the wall and peel it off at a 45-degree angle. Sometimes, if the paint sticks to the tape, it will remove the paint when removing the tape; cutting ensures the paint stays on the wall.

9. Paint Your Walls

Before the edges dry, begin painting the walls, going as close to the trim edges as possible. When painting, the edges of the strokes need to overlap each other. Overlapping will allow any sides that feather out to dry evenly.

After the first coat of paint has dried, paint a second layer. Your goal is to create a perfectly even finish, which is usually best accomplished through the second coat of paint.

Let's Recap:

It's essential to make sure your paint your trim before you paint your walls, but if you hope to ensure the perfect paint job, there are several steps.

  • Buy the right supplies
  • Prepare the floors 
  • Prepare the walls
  • Prime the walls 
  • Paint the trim 
  • Paint the edges 
  • Paint the walls
  • Remove tape
  • Be proud of yourself!

Straight Lines Means Trim First

If you are looking for the easiest method to ensure straight lines and even paint, it is best to start with painted trim.

We don't all have steady hands, and you may be a beginner painter, but I understand that we don't always want to pay the professionals. Painting a room does not have to be daunting.

Preparing for your project and painting in the correct order will give you the straight lines you hope to achieve.

Next time your ask yourself, "should I paint the walls or trim first?" Remember these tips.

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