6 Secrets to Silky Smooth Paint

By Scott Sidler • May 25, 2015

6-secrets-to-silky-smooth-paintOkay, this isn’t really a secret like professional painters are guarding this information jealously, hoping and praying you’ll never find out. There are no secret paint police to prevent the average homeowner from knowing their tricks.

It’s just plain good sense to know how to get a super smooth coat of paint when you need it, and that’s what I’ll show you today. Trim, cabinets, woodwork, these all need smooth paint without brush marks and globs of paint scattered throughout. Follow these tips and you can get beautiful results.

 

1. Prep the Wood

Sand any bare wood to 120-grit and no finer. This will give the primer good “tooth” to hold on and create the right base to start with. A good paint job is all in the prep before you even touch a paint brush.

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2. Sand Your Primer

Without a smooth base, you can’t get a smooth finish. I always use oil-based primer on woodwork and cabinets so that I can sand it down to a super smooth feel before beginning my finish painting. Use 220-grit paper or fine sanding sponges to sand everything down once the primer has dried enough that it generates dust when sanded. If it’s gumming up the paper, then it’s too early to sand. Make sure to blow off any remaining dust when you’re done.

3. Use Additives

I’m a big believer in products like Floetrol and Penetrol, which are additives for your paint that slow down the drying process and make the paint less gummy. Thinner paint lays down better and helps hide brush marks. Thick, gloppy paint will look…thick and gloppy. Fast drying is not a positive thing for paint when you want a silky smooth finish. If you’re not using these already, look into them.

 

4. Buy The Right Paint

Don’t skimp on paint. It truly does turn out that the more you pay for paint, the better it is. And for finish work like we are talking about, don’t buy bargain paint. For woodwork and cabinets, consider Enamel paint which dries harder than regular paint. Oil-based paints along with water-based options both have their place here, depending on your comfort.

 

5. Strain Your Paint

The first pour out of the can is usually clean and clear of boogers, but every pour after that has a good chance of globs scattered throughout. You likely won’t see them until they are on your beautifully prepped surface, at which time, it’s too late. Paint stores have lots of cheap strainers in stock for good reason. Don’t kid yourself that this step doesn’t apply to you.

 

6. Put it On, Leave it Alone

Put the paint on and once it’s smoothed out, leave it alone. Don’t go back and work the paint relentlessly. The quicker you can get the surface covered and “tipped off”, the more time the paint has to smooth out as it dries. Don’t go back and mess with drips that you notice while things are drying. You’ll have to fix it later with the next coat. Put it on, smooth it out and leave it alone. Don’t go back.

Try one of these and you’ll see better results. Try two and you’ll be amazed. Do them all and you’ll have flawless silky smooth paint. Remember that some of these are techniques that take a little practice to get just right, so don’t be frustrated if it takes a little time to get perfect. Even the pros don’t get it perfect every time. But in painting, as in everything else, practice makes perfect.

 

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80 thoughts on “6 Secrets to Silky Smooth Paint”

  1. Hi, I’m painting my kitchen cabinets, I did everything by the book, cleaning, sanding, primer, sand again, ect. I’m at the end of the process finally. For the final sanding before applying poly, should I wet sand? I tried it on one door with 1500 grit wet sandpaper & it just made it dull. I want to make sure I’ve got it right before applying the poly. I used a cabinet paint. Thanks

  2. I’m using water based enamel to paint cabinets. At clean up, the enamel paint has begun to dry on the inside of the brush, making cleanup a real chore.
    Any suggestions? I’ve wondered if I am using a brush that is just too think.

    1. Start with dipping your brush in water and removing water so that its barely damp. Keep your brush wet (with paint) dont get too much where it’s on the brush. Clean it every hour or if you see it starting to dry on bristles.

    1. If you get to bare wood, sand down any high spots, and re-primer. And then sand again. If you get to bare wood again, repeat the process until you don’t have any more bare wood.

  3. I am a paint manufacturer but I need to advance my knowledge on paints productions hence I need referrals on where I can get better training. Please kindly assist with the referral thanks.

  4. I sanded a wood dresser that had been painted and put on 2 coats of primer. Applied the primer with a roller and it did not dry to a smooth finish. Trying to sand (primer has been sitting for 1 week) but primer is gumming up the sandpaper. What grit should I use? Any other suggestions?

  5. Unfortunately, I read up on all these tips, AFTER I painted the new metal exterior door. I used a paint with primer, it is awful looking…..only one coat, but hideous! Used a small roller, every stroke is showing….so guess I will remove the paint as good as I can, prime with a good automotive primer, wait, and begin again…..Gosh, I wish I had read a bunch of these tips first!

    1. I would try dry sanding and then wet sanding with a sanding sponge. Could be time consuming, but you wouldn’t have to remove the paint.

  6. Painted cabinets after priming zinser 2, these were plywood vyneer, an sanded in between 2 coats of primer. Now i top coated with behr premium plus. I’ve noticed a couple spots that look like a grain of sand dried in finish, i want to give another top coat. How do i address these few grains of sand so to speak. Thanks woody

  7. Hi!

    Thanks for the tips! Unfortunately I decided to read up about painting doors *after* I sanded them down to an ultra smooth surface. Now I’m reading that I should have used a medium grit so the primer will hold. Can I use my random orbital sander again with a medium grit to get that roughness back? Also, for exterior doors, do I need to have primer? I can’t really remove the doors, but I’m only painting the exterior side (French doors with glass in the middle). Will these tips all still work in preventing brush lines? TIA

  8. While I don’t consider myself an expert I will add several observations and a few questions. I didn’t notice any comment about the best brush to use nor the preferred ambient temperature nor the observation that brands do differ. Always use a high quality brush. On the can I just bought it says temperature should be above 50 deg. Within my house I have trim some of which I painted 30+ years ago and it leveled to an absolutely smooth finish. Today I bought what was labeled the same but the leveling is poor (although it has yet to dry). We all know that formulations of paint have changed and that solvent based paints have suffered the most. Has anyone observed changes in leveling which could be attributed to the paint itself?

    1. Hi Lee, I’m not comparing old paint to new but I can tell you that I have had amazingly smooth leveling results with the Benjamin Moore AF (affinity) line of paint. I’m an experienced (unprofessional though) painter, having used it all on multiple surfaces, primed, unprimed chalk .etc… this paint is literally like liquid velvet! I will never choose a different product for doors (interior) and trim! It’s $$$ but worth every dime!

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