The Weekender: picture-perfect paint lines

Don't fight paint bleed, learn to embrace it and conquer.

A bold, graphic inspired or patterned paint job is a great, budget-friendly way to add some excitement or interest, but how to get crisp, perfect lines? If you’re as meticulous as me, the slightest bleed marks under your tape-lines will drive you to the brink of insanity. Here’s how to avoid mental collapse and nail your paint lines every time.

Want to tackle a patterned paint job, or simply want your paint edges perfect right down to the microscopic level? Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Frog Tape (or other high quality painters tape)
2. Base paint color (the original wall color)
3. New Paint color(s)
4. Rollers (I’m a fan of 3/8″ nap) and the tray
5. Black Sponge brush for touch-up

For a lot of people, simply using frog-tape is enough to leave them satisfied with their paint job. If you’re like me, however, or if you’re going for a bold pattern or graphic, just taping off the lines is not going to cut it. You end up with little bleeds as the pattern gets more complex and your new paint-job goes from stunning to looking a bit, well, hack-y. So here’s a trick I learned to stop the bleeding while building sets for photo-shoots where the stakes are high and perfection is the standard.

Step One: Start by painting your base coat, in my case, I was using the standard contractor’s white wall that came with my apartment, so I get to skip this part.

Step Two: Next, tape off your design. For my home office, I went with some intersecting lines with a few lines broken to give it that random geometry look that is, for whatever reason, starting to trend (maybe it has to do with the bird’s nest stadium at the Beijing Olympics and the like?)

taping down the lines

Step Three: Now comes the trick, instead of painting down your new color, go over your tape with the base color that is already on the wall. So, in my case, I rolled over the tape with the same contractor’s white. What’s happening here is the paint is going to bleed a bit under the tape, but since it’s the same color as the wall, it’s doing so invisibly.

embracing the paint bleed

Step Four: Once that dries, the tape is sealed and the bleeding that would happen with your new color has already happened but with the base coat. Now you can lay on your new color as thick as you want. For me, it took three coats of dark grey to really get that heavy saturated look. Also, it makes my uber-crisp paint lines even more apparent. Yes, I am a showoff, sue me.

Step Five: Let it all dry, then the fun part; peel that tape back and enjoy the tactile perfection of your new paint job.

revealed paint job

I threw in a cheap second-hand desk (pretty sure it’s Ikea), set up my new mac, bought an Eames shell chair replica, grabbed my favorite framed piece, and then softened up those modern, sleek lines with some vintage ski poles for coat-hooks and a few raw wood elements to tie it all together.

So there’s my new home office, done on a budget of under $300 and now I have the joy of working even when I’m not at the day job. Yay?

final office reveal

Show us your favorite paint jobs, or let us know how this trick worked for you!

Eli Chamberlin
  1. I love this tutorial, but you changed the URL and now all the images are broken! So disappointing.

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