Okay, 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.
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.
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.