How To Paint Crown Molding Without Brush Marks

Crown molding is a decorative trim most frequently placed at the point where the wall and the ceiling meet. Accenting your home with crown molding can add a classic elegant look. A fresh coat of paint on your new crown molding is the finishing touch to your project. When planning for your painting project, you may find yourself wondering about the best method for painting your crown molding without leaving brush marks. We've looked into this question to help make your crown molding project a success.
There's nothing more frustrating than examining your freshly painted trim to see brush marks in the dried paint. Use the following techniques to minimize, or even eliminate, brush strokes when painting your crown molding:
  • Proper surface preparation
  • Paint type
  • High-quality paint brushes
  • Paint consistency and additives
  • Painting technique
  • Paintbrush alternatives

Adequate planning for your project can make the process of installing crown molding as painless as possible. What color should you paint your crown molding? How do you get the smoothest finish on the trim? Can you paint over existing brush marks? What brush should you buy to paint my trim? Just keep reading for answers to these questions and a discussion of other closely related topics.

A ceiling moldings in a house with green wall, How To Paint Crown Molding Without Brush Marks

Techniques To Minimize Or Eliminate Brush Strokes

Ceiling moldings in the interior

Let's look closer at the techniques you can use to minimize or eliminate brush strokes. 

Proper Surface Preparation

For a finish that's free of brush strokes, you must begin with the smoothest surface possible. Begin with primed molding. Use 220 grit sandpaper to sand molding, moving in the direction of the grain.

Check out this 220 grit sandpaper on Amazon.

After sanding your crown molding, use a dust brush to clean up the dust left from sanding your surface. Follow with a tack cloth, a cloth specially designed to attract all remaining dust, as you want all foreign matter off your surface and out of your paint. 

Paint Type

The two types of paint that we will be discussing are oil-based and latex, which is water-based. Oil-based paints can drag, leaving brush marks, while latex paints tend to glide off the brush smoothly. An oil-based paint, if applied properly, can provide the brush mark-less look that you want for your crown molding. You must use light, even brush strokes, and leave it to sit and level for the proper amount of time.

Read more: Should Crown Molding Be Painted Flat Or Semi-Gloss?


Oil-based, once considered out of date, is making a comeback due in part to its glossy finish. It's high in fumes, so it should be reserved for small projects. Oil paint is durable and known for its glass-like finish. The oil paint actually is absorbed into the wood. Oil paint needs to be cleaned up using paint thinner instead of water. It stays wet longer, allowing you to work with the paint for a longer period of time. 

Click here to see this paint thinner on Amazon.


Latex paint is the more popular paint choice for walls and bigger projects due to the lower amount of paint fumes. It is known for its eggshell-like finish and easy cleanup using water. Latex paints can also achieve the brush mark-less look with thick smooth coats and proper technique.

High-Quality Paint Brushes

Using high-quality brushes is a very important factor in achieving the flawless look of no brushmarks. Better quality brushes offer a smoother finish and hairs from a high-quality paintbrush are less likely to come out while you are painting onto your otherwise flawless finish. Flag tipped brushes have also been recommended to minimize brush marks. 

Natural Bristle

Natural bristle paint brushes usually come from the hair of animals such as oxen, horses, and badgers. They should only be used with oil-based paints, as they have a tendency to absorb the water in latex paints. Ox hair paintbrushes are recommended for a flawless look, free of brush marks. 


Synthetic brushes are usually made from polyester and nylon and can work with either oil-based or latex paints. High-quality synthetic brushes can also give you the results that you are looking for.

Tips For Caring For Your Brushes

Always comb through the bristles of paintbrushes to ensure that there are no foreign particles that can stick in your paint prior to dipping the brush in paint. When taking a pause from your project, don't clean the brush every time you are done, just wrap the bristles tightly in plastic wrap. With proper care, high-quality brushes can last for years. 

Paint Consistency And Additives

Paint additives can make a world of difference in your painting project. Whether you are using latex or oil-based paints, paint additives, conditioners, and extenders lengthen the drying time. It does this by thinning out the paint, allowing adequate time for proper leveling of the paint. Leveling allows the paint to lay down for a smooth look, free of brush marks. Floetrol is the most popular paint conditioner for latex paints. 

For details on this latex paint conditioner, see this product on Amazon.

Penetrol is the most popular for oil-based paints.

For details on this oil-based paint conditioner, see this product on Amazon.

Straining your paint additive will ensure that there are no foreign materials in your paint that can drag across your smooth finish. When the paint is the correct consistency, paint should flow off the brush evenly and smoothly, not in clumps.

Painting Technique

Applying a thick coat of paint over the entire surface of your project is the first step to a flawless finish. Use minimal pressure when painting and always paint in the same direction to improve your results. Tap the sides of your paintbrush on the sides of the paint can or container to removed excess paint and maintain bristle integrity.

Once your entire surface is coated with a thick coat, go back over with a second coat of paint at 45-degree angles down the entire length of your surface. After removing as much excess paint from your brush as possible, lightly glaze over the entire surface in the same direction with the grain of the wood for the third and final "tip-off" coat.

Prevent brush marks at the edges of your project by using a feathering technique, a painting technique that helps to minimize the lip of paint at the edge of the project surface. This technique consists of simply lifting your paintbrush from the surface at the end of your brush stroke. Once you have applied your final coat to the surface, leave it alone. Brush marks can remain if the paint is manipulated when it is drying. 

Paintbrush Alternatives

Consider the use of paint rollers or sprayers as an alternative to painting with a brush in order to prevent brush marks. 

Paint Roller Kit

For details on this paint roller kit, see this product on Amazon.

Paint Sprayer

For details on this paint sprayer, see this product on Amazon.

What Color Should Crown Molding Be Painted?

It is recommended that crown molding match the existing trim as closely as possible. White is the traditional color for crown molding and trim, providing a contrast with colored walls.

Reversing this and using white on the walls with colored crown molding or trim can provide an interesting color combination. 

Your options are endless. Ultimately, the color choice is up to you as it's your space. You should pick a color that fits your vision, even if it's not deemed a "popular" choice. 

For more information about paint colors in the house, check out our article: Should Ceiling Paint Match Trim? [Design Options Explored]

Can You Paint Over Brush Marks?

If brush marks are already present on your crown molding, it is possible to brush over them. Achieve a flawless finish by following these three steps prior to painting over brush marks:

  1. Use 80 grit sandpaper to scrape off brush marks.
  2. Then use 120 grit sandpaper to smooth out the scratches from the 80 grit sandpaper.
  3. Finish off with 220 grit sandpaper for a smooth finish prior to painting.

Always finish sanding in the direction of the grain of the wood. 

How Do You Get A Smooth Finish On Your Trim?

Start by identifying dents and scratches in your trim by shining a light on your trim. Then fill in small imperfections with spackling compound and larger dents and defects with a wood filler. Sand your trim using the method discussed above. Finally, use the paint techniques discussed earlier to complete your flawless look. 

Spackling Compound

Check out this product on Amazon.

Wood Filler

Check out this product on Amazon.

What Is The Best Brush For Painting Trim?

Angled brushes are recommended for painting trim. Some experts recommend shorter 1-inch to 2 1/2-inch brushes for trim painting. Be sure that the brush is high-quality. Quality plays an important role in painting brush mark-less trim.

Click here to see this angled paintbrush on Amazon.

There are also trim-specific paint brushes available.

Click here to see this trim paintbrush on Amazon.

In Closing

Crown molding, seemingly a small detail, can add elegance, color contrast, and value to your home. When adding crown molding to your home, painting the molding can add the finishing touches to your project and make a huge difference. Having some prior knowledge of some of the tips of the painting trade can help your crown molding project go as smoothly as possible. 

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