DIY: Window Trim Painting Tricks

by Diane Henkler on 02/07/2012

I have a confession, one that I know a DIY’er should be ashamed of.  I have kept my problem to myself for some time, but now the truth must come out since I am redoing my studioffice and had to confront my problem head on. I dislike painting trim and woodwork!  Dislike is not a strong enough word – I truly, absolutely – hate it! I’d rather go to the dentist than have to paint trim, especially window trim!  Urghhhh…

I have lived in my house for 18 years and have only painted the trim in my kitchen, hall bath, and the baseboard and one doorway in my studioffice where I added the Faux Transom, yes I know – downright shameful.

How to make a faux window transom

All kidding aside -I do hate to paint trim and am lucky that the builder used a good oil based paint on all the trim in my house and it has held up great.  I have cleaned all of it with soap and water over the years, but have never painted it.  What I don’t like about the trim – it is Antique White and I have always wanted White White since the day we moved in. That tells you just how much I hate to paint trim!

How to paint window trim

With the new colors I am doing the studioffice in- the antique white just won’t go. I had to FINALLY paint the window trim.  I figured I would tackle it first, before I did anything else to the room, that way I wouldn’t find a reason not to get it painted.

The reason I dislike painting windows so much is that there is way too much detail and you have to be careful not to paint the sashes shut.  Lots of up and down of the sashes, waiting for them to dry, moving the sashes again, then once they are done, you get to move on to the jambs.  Painting window sashes in the Winter is not necessarily a good thing, either.

I tried to find something to be happy about and then I remembered I could take the mullion grids out – they don’t need to be painted.  That made the job a teeny bit easier.


I normally would use painter’s tape on the wall to protect it from getting any trim paint on it, but my brother-in-law who is a professional painter told me there is no reason to do that. All you need is a 1-1/2-inch stiff angled brush that are made to cut-in. I bought a Purdy one at Lowes.  It made a HUGE difference. The stiff bristles are very precision like and don’t splay out.

How to paint like a pro

To help keep the glass paint free as I painted, I learned a tip many years ago to add a thin coat of Vaseline on the glass right where it meets the trim. I found it too greasy and tried chap stick. It was less greasy and easy to apply with a Q-tip  When all the paint is dry and you clean the window, any paint that may have gotten on the glass wipes away easily – no razor blade scraper needed.

How to paint window trim

I also knew I was going to paint the walls a color called Pink Petal White. It sounds pretty, but in reality it just looks like white, but has a very faint cast of pink to it.  Since the walls were going to be painted white, I wanted the white trim to stand out from the white walls so I used an extra shiny gloss white paint made by Glidden.

Call me crazy, but this is an oil based paint. Since there was oil base already on the trim, I knew I would have to prime it if I used latex, so I went with this super shiny gel oil paint. It is very thick – so thick that a paint stirrer will stand upright in it.   It took awhile to get used to painting with it, but I got the hang of it and am very happy with the results.  The only downside of using oil based paint – it smells, takes forever to dry, and you need mineral spirits to clean your brushes.  I was willing to put up with the downside to get the super shiny finish it produced.

I also put a thick rubber band around the paint can, so I could wipe the excess paint off the brush instead of using the rim. This helps keep the rim clean so the lid can go back on the can perfectly when you are done painting.

Paint-Can-Painting Trick


Back before the holidays, I was asked if I would like to try out the new Precision Tips Q-tips.   I raised my hand high and said yes, yes, yes.  They are part of my paint toolbox. When I worked in display, I traveled with my display co-workers to  other stores to paint feature walls.   We always had a big box of regular  Q-tips in our supplies so that we could quickly clean up edges and paint  bleed through on the hundreds of walls we painted.

Precision Tips Q-Tips Ideas

The pointy tips are perfect, much better than the way I used to use the regular shape ones  – wetting the tip and twirling it into a point so I could easily clean up  where I got a smudge of wall paint on the ceiling right where the ceiling meets the wall.  Having the pointy tip makes it easy to swipe right into the crevice along the ceiling line and clean up the smudge without affecting the wet paint on the wall. Without the pointy tip you would end up wiping some of the wet wall paint off trying to take care of the smudge.

I keep them in my pocket when I paint – as I seem to always get paint where it doesn’t belong.  Here I accidently got a few brush marks on the wall when painting the trim.  A quick swipe with the point in the crevice cleans up the paint perfectly and doesn’t touch the wet paint on the trim.

Painting Tricks and Tips


Precision- Tips Q-tips painting tricks


I am loving the newly painted shiny window trim, the only downside of painting trim is that now where the newly painted trim meets the old around the doorways – the old color looks dingy. Once you start painting trim – you have to keep going and going so it all looks the same.   I think I see more trim painting in the near future.

How to paint window trim

Now that I have the trim paint behind me, I can move on to the more interesting and fun aspects of decorating.

Here is a sneak peek of one of the fabrics I plan to use in my studioffice.

Robert Allen Fabric

How do you feel about painting trim in your house? Any tips or painting tricks to share.




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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dru Ange February 7, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Hi Diane, my husband and I bought a 70 year old house, and for the last 2 years have gutted and rebuilt it. I’m the designated painter and one thing that a tradesman taught me was to take a paint of caulk that you use, pull the stopper out of the bottom, and mix your wall color (or trim) in it, then place it back together. Then when you trim everything, the caulk dries the desired color and you have a perfect straight line. It has done wonders for me who can’t paint a straight line. Good luck!

Partner in Crime


2 Diane February 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Hi Dru-

What a great idea. Thanks for sharing it. Love to find new ways to make the chore easier while still getting professional results.


3 Merri Jo February 8, 2012 at 10:21 am

Wow–good idea!


4 kristin February 7, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Oh how I feel you! My hubby and I always fight over who is going to paint the trim when it goes up….He wins since he is the one putting the trim up guess it is only fair. I still love your transform as much as the first time I saw it! Thanks for all the tips!


5 Lesley February 7, 2012 at 11:50 pm

My only tip: Get the husband to do it
I hate it too. Happy to paint all the walls and ceilings as well as the furniture, but I’m not interested in anything else.
Hate it


6 Laura@Ms Smartie Pants February 8, 2012 at 12:56 am

I call it the house monster. I just painted my kitchen cabinets and now the trim look dingy so yes I will be painting it too! And yes I have to use oil paint too. I think I am waiting until spring when the dogs can stay outside. Great trips, especially about the paint brush, people don’t realize the brush is the key.


7 Connie@Connie Nikiforoff Designs February 8, 2012 at 1:28 am

I always wanted white trim in our old house. I finally did one room’s windows and loved the look…but not the work :-( Never did get around to doing any other window and/or trim painting of those stained & varnished windows and trim. Thanks for all the painting tips.


8 Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions February 8, 2012 at 6:53 am

I don’t so much hate painting trim as I do windows, Diane! Also for the reasons you mentioned {the up down of the sashes, not getting paint on the glass}. You’ve given a lot of useful tips here that I will definitely be keeping in mind. I can’t wait to see the wall color and how you use that fabric!


9 Debra February 8, 2012 at 7:36 am

Your “faux transom” is a brilliant idea!! Just trying to figure out where I could do one.


10 SueS February 8, 2012 at 8:33 am

Great post! I, too, love the transom idea. :)


11 Olivia February 8, 2012 at 9:12 am

I love your fabric! I have the exact fabric in blue and white for my family room curtains and LOVE it. You will not be disappointed.

And thanks for the painting tips! I also hate painting trim but love painting walls.


12 Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. February 8, 2012 at 9:15 am

Great tips! Painting trim is not my favorite either. I don’t even like painting walls. Give me a piece of furniture any day of the week! … We kicked off the new year with a Be Inspired link party. Hope you’ll come by and share sometime!


13 Merri Jo February 8, 2012 at 10:27 am

I detest trim painting so much that as we recently updated our master br, I bought new pre primed trim, painted it flat before my hubby put it up, and donated the old trim to the Habitat for Humanity Restore!
We did change style/height of trim, too, so the new stuff was a necessity ;-)


14 Catherine In NJ February 8, 2012 at 11:29 am

Dear Diane- I hate doing trim with a passion, as well! Learned about Purdy brushes and doing trim work from ‘Bless his Heart’ perfectionist “Hub of My Life”, years ago. I’m faster, and pretty accurate- but I still loath it! Purchased an 85 year old house, years ago. All the trim was stained and not a good stain. Most of it is now a glossy white—most of it. However, what I did not know was the Vaseline/Chap stick trick…Cut to cloudy skies opening to bright sunshine, with a choir of angels singing!! I hate to do this.. but OMG you have LIGHTENED my load again!!! Doing my daughters room and dreading where window meets wood portion! Is it to soon to say I love you?!!!


15 Diane February 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Hi Catherine – Oh! that dreaded space when window meets the wood portion :) I hope your daughter’s room comes out beautifully.


16 Shauna@ Satori Design for Living February 8, 2012 at 11:51 am

Yes, the dreaded trim painting. Thanks for sharing your tips and I can’t wait to see what you do with that lovely fabric!


17 Molly February 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Great tips! The next time I’m painting a room, I will have to try using precision Q-tips!


18 Diane February 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Hi Molly – they are the best. Now I don’t have to wet the original ones and twirl the tip to make it pointy. I love the person who came up with the idea. A painter? My cat thinks Q-tips in general are lots of fun to play with and hoard :)


19 MellyB February 8, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Some really great tips. You will be so glad you used oil based paint. Yes it is a pain but it holds up so much better. I love that fabric. I need some to make a lumbar pillow for my bed. Did it come from HL?


20 Diane February 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Hi Melly- I special ordered it from JoAnn’s Fabrics when it was 50% off. It is a Robert Allen fabric called Cat’s Cradle. Color: Grass


21 C.A. @ How To Be A Heroine February 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Wow! Those are great tips! I will definitely be using them next week. My husband and I are going to be redoing the bedroom as a Valentine’s present to each other. We’ll have lots of pics and details up on the blog. :)


22 Diane February 8, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Hi C.A. What a nice present you both will get to enjoy when you are done painting. I look forward to seeing your photos on your blog.


23 Pam February 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Diane you laways come through with the best tips just when I need them. Just repainted my entry and realized all the doors and windows and trim are in desperate need of unifying paint as I have haphazardly painted them with differing white as I finished projects. As most of the commentors, I hate it too. I sent hubs out for all the supplies you recommended. I do all of the painting so I figured he can do the shopping, haha. Thanks for this post. You saved me from making another slapdash hit at the trim.


24 Diane February 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Hi Pam – Thanks. While you are painting – know that you are not alone – I will be doing the same thing in my entry.


25 Emily R. February 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Hi Diane,

It is hard to believe you hate it so much when you have such great ideas. I completely understand. My 87 year old house came with yellowed oil based paint on the trim. I decided to go the oil based primer and latex paint approach. I was worried about it yellowing again and glad to be done with oil based paint. Your tips are definitely helpful. Thanks!


26 Diane February 8, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Hi Emily-
I think it is the windows that truly drive me crazy since they have all the detail to paint around. I helped a friend many years ago paint her yellowed trim in an old house she had bought. The trim was yellow from age and the fact that the previous owner was a chain smoker. We had to sand everything to try to get rid of the smoke smell before we painted.


27 Nicki February 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Hi, Diane! I guess I’m one of those crazy people who actually enjoys (loves even?) painting trim. LOL… I don’t mind cutting in walls either; it’s the rolling that I don’t like. I admit though, windows are not my favorite, so thanks for the hints! BTW, yours is one of my favorite blogs!


28 Diane February 8, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Hi Nicki – Thanks so much XO Maybe someday I will begin to like painting trim. It does look so nice now – and was worth all the prep and time it took.


29 Centsational Girl February 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Great tip with the chapstick, pinning!! xo


30 Diane February 8, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Hi Kate-

Thanks so much. Always looking for ways to make painting the window trim easier :)


31 christine February 8, 2012 at 9:55 pm

You have THE best ideas!


32 Kelly February 9, 2012 at 10:19 am

Hi Momma-la!

Your blog is…as always, awesome! I really did use the rubber band on the paint can thing the other day while painting a mural…and it was amazing! The paint here is awful awful awful oil based stuff and I don’t have a paint can opener, so the old cans were pretty much impossible to open…but now all my new cans are nice and clean :)


33 MeganV February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am

Just found your blog through pinterest. I love the faux transom and your tips. Thanks so much for posting. I’m definitely following you from now on! :)


34 Sheryll & Critters. February 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I admire the patience you have to do all of these updates. Trim, I have done it, don’t want to do it again, but I know I have to sometime in the near future. Great job and always you are so neat and it looks so perfect.


35 Debbie~refreshrestyle February 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I hate painting trim too, that’s why my trim is still Vanilla Ice instead of white~which I would prefer. Love your fabric and can’t wait to see your finished space.


36 Diane February 12, 2012 at 11:07 am

Hi Debbie- It is nice to know I am not alone in my dislike of painting trim. It does look so much better now that it is painted. Maybe that will give me the boost I need to do the rest of the house. :)


37 Nancy@Life: Designed February 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I LOVE that fabric! I used to work in a textiles company and this was one of my favourites! Can’t wait to see it all done up!!


38 MelissaJane February 14, 2012 at 8:26 am

I hate painting windows (don’t really mind the other trim), but I LOVE the way it looks when finished! I am thrilled about the Vaseline/Chapstik trick – I cannot wait to try it. I’ve been putting off a painting project because of this and now I’m all excited to do it! Going to invest in a good stiff brush, too. I always wind up using cheap brushes and now you’ve given me a reason to get a good one. Taping off takes SO long! The Q-tips, too – this whole post just made my day.

I got my copy of your book the other day and I’ve really enjoyed it! The photos made me laugh – the 80s and 90s don’t seem so long ago, but wow do the fabrics look dated. Ideas are great, though! So glad I found your blog, and the book as well.


39 Diane February 14, 2012 at 8:34 am

Hi Melissa -

Thanks for the nice note. The best painting tip ever is to get the best brushes. You may spend more on them initially, but if you take care of them -they will lasts years. In the long run you are not only saving yourself money, but getting a better paint finish on all of your projects.

It is funny how fast fabric and color schemes date – every 5-7 years. Pretty soon Oil Rubbed Bronze and Quatrefoil print fabric are going to go the way of flowery chintz and bows. :)


40 Suzanne February 21, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Anybody have tips for painting trim next to carpet?


41 Carla August 28, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I just sweated out trying to tape the windows in my spare bedroom. Started cussing and decided to Google. So glad your blog came up on the hit list. My sister will appreciate the fact that I decided not to give up on redoing the room before she moves in.


42 Regina November 4, 2012 at 5:38 pm

When preparing to paint the ceiling, I come down the wall from the ceiling about 4 to 6 inches with a line of painters tape all around the walls. This gives the illusion of the ceiling being larger. Better yet, I always paint the ceiling the the walls the same color – no more white ceilings!


43 Diane Henkler November 8, 2012 at 8:06 am

Hi Regina – thanks for sharing your tip. I bet it kind of looks like crown molding – but a lot easier to do.


44 Hollie @ I'm Busy Procrastinating March 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Saw this tip about the Chap-Stick on the Hunted Interior blog. Hadn’t heard of using that or petroleum jelly before! Luckily our house was built new so I won’t have to paint windows for a while, but I was just this week scraping paint off our windows because the professional painters didn’t do it. We’ve lived here for six years and it finally started annoying me!

Glad to have the reco on the trim brush, too. Even when painting walls, I hate cutting in. I bought a 2″ angled brush before I just painted our powder room, but it did not work well. I’ll have to try out that 1.5″ trim paint brush your brother-in-law likes.


45 TJ March 9, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Duct tape over the top of the can works much better than a rubber band, which has to go under the can. Duct tape is stiffer, so it’s easier to wipe a brush across, and there are no paint-covered flying rubber bands when you are ready to put the lid on :)


46 Diane Henkler March 10, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Thanks TJ I will try the duct next time I paint. Thanks for sharing the tip.


47 Kimber May 16, 2013 at 8:32 pm

We also have oil based paint trim that I would love to paint white. What do you know about oil paint yellowing over time? I love the finish of oil and it would be a lot less work, since it is painting oil over oil. What do you think? Are you worried about yellowing?


48 Diane Henkler May 16, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Oil paint will yellow or darken over time, but it takes a looooong time and it is usually when it is in dark rooms. On light and bright areas – less yellowing. If you don’t want to use oil, just apply a good primer over the oil. I use Glidden Gripper or Kilz Original, then use latex.


49 Sahar GH June 24, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Just bought a 100 year old house and need to paint lots of windows and walls. I will definitely use your tips. I love your wall color. Do you remember what it is called and what brand it was?


50 Diane Henkler June 25, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I think it was Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige SW 6106. The walls are no longer that color and I don’t have the paint can anymore, but that is the name that comes to mind. Enjoy decorating your new to you old house.


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