With both interior and exterior painting, painting walls, ceilings and exterior siding is only part of the job. Painting the trim surfaces can take almost as much time and effort as painting the larger surfaces. Interior trim includes baseboards, wainscoting, window frames and door frames. Exterior trim can include shutters, trim boards, window frames and door frames.

While the trim areas can be painted first or last, generally painting trim last will require less in the way of masking preparation using painters tape or masking tape than if they are painted first.


Clean the areas to be painted thoroughly before beginning. This will help the paint to adhere and last longer. Areas such as door frames that see a lot of contact may require the use of a mild detergent. Make certain to rinse wherever any detergents are used with clean water and a sponge. Next using a fine grit sand paper or sanding sponge, roughen the surface to be painted lightly, again to obtain good paint adherence. Use painters tape to mask off walls, ceilings, flooring and other areas you don’t want to apply or drip paint on. Painters trim guides can also be used to avoid getting paint on walls and ceilings.

Brush Selection

There are paint brushes designed specifically for painting trim which are usually 2 inches in width and some are angled. Trim brushes contain fewer bristles than other paint brushes. Trim is no place to use a cheap brush. To obtain a good finish, spend a little more for a quality trim brush.

Painting Tips

When painting interior trim, start at the top and work your way down to ground level. Start at a corner and work towards the opposite corner. Dip the brush into your paint bucket or tray about an inch and remove excess paint by wiping the brush bristles on the edge of the paint container. Cover narrow edges first and then work on the wider areas. Paint about six inches of trim at a time, ensuring a smooth complete coat free of drips and runs. Follow the surfaces orientation as you apply the paint. For horizontal trim, apply the paint in horizontal strokes and for vertical surfaces apply the paint with up and down strokes. After the coat of paint has dried, evaluate whether a second coat is needed which is typically required when painting trim. Once the final coat has dried, remove any painters tape from the surrounding surfaces and clean up.