Getting Clean Paint Lines With Textured Walls

Clean Paint Lines With Textured Walls

Have you ever gone to paint a wall and taped off your area, painted your wall with the perfect color then found that your nice chocolate brown wall has “blead” onto the next wall?  Like your newly painted wall is “growing” onto the next wall?  I have learned the hard way, having to go back with a little tiny brush to cover up those bleeding paint growths.  It never looks straight and takes forever. But now I have a little trick I do any time I am going to paint a wall or ceiling.

I know not all houses have textured walls, but mine does.  Texture presents a tougher challenge when it comes to painting because no amount of effort will get all of your tape down into those little recessions in your texture.  This leaves little gaps that paint will ALWAYS find and try to escape to the next wall.  I have tried just about every kind of tape, including the green stuff that is supposed to prevent any and all bleeding and still get those little bleeders onto the next wall.  The texture in my house is a nice medium sized knock down texture that is just big enough to make any paint job look like crap if you just tape it off and paint.

There are other methods to get good clean lines that involve painting over your tape line with the adjacent wall color, letting it dry and then painting with your new color.  This does the job of sealing those little gaps under your tape… but I hate cleaning up paint stuff and that is one more colors worth of cleaning paint trays and brushes that I would like to avoid. Plus, it makes the job take longer because you are waiting on an additional coat of paint to dry before you can even begin painting with the new color.

The key to my method is some Clear, Paintable caulk and a soar finger.  Make sure the caulk you buy is CLEAR and PAINTABLE or you are in for a big mess (paint does not stick to regular silicone caulk and white caulk will show after you remove the tape).  Look for the type that is generally labeled “Doors and Windows”.  I prefer to use the squeeze tube instead of the kind packaged for use in a caulking gun because:

  • You really don’t need that much caulk.
  • The squeeze tube tip can be cut for a much smaller opening than the caulking gun type (you need to stick the caulking gun needle into the opening to break the inner seal, which expands the hole).  The smaller opening makes it easier to get a nice thin bead of caulk.
  • It has a cap, so if you don’t use it all… you can save it for the next project.
  • I don’t need to haul around a caulking gun… just cap the squeeze tube and stick it in my back pocket while I move to the next section.

The steps are pretty simple….


1) Tape off your area like you normally would.  Since you will be caulking over your tape, don’t bother spending the extra money on the fancy tape.  Blue tape works fine.

2) Use the CLEAR, PAINTABLE caulk and run a thin bead along the edge of the tape.  I am painting a corner here, but you can run the caulk along the tape for non corner walls as well.  Notice that the bead of caulk is very light.  You don’t need a lot.

3) This is where the “soar finger” comes into play.  Using your finger, run it over the caulked tape and push kind of hard.  You want to make sure the caulk squeezes into those little recessions.  Don’t worry if you get little globs on the wall that you are painting.  Just use your finger and smear the caulk onto the wall to flatten it out .  Really, you shouldn’t have a lot of caulk on the wall and leaving it on the wall after smearing it is no big deal because it will be painted over.  I will also run my finger along the tape a second time (pushing pretty hard) to make sure everything is sealed.

***you might also want to grab a paper towel to wipe any excess caulk off your finger***

4) Give it a couple minutes to dry and start painting.  If you are doing a big wall, you should be able to paint immediately if you start painting where you first started caulking.  Frankly, you don’t even need to give it a couple minutes to dry but it usually works out that way.

5) After your last coat of paint, you should pull your tape off within an hour or two.  At this point the caulk is still soft and will not prevent you from pulling the tape off easily.  If you have to leave the tape up after your last coat for a while and the caulk hardens, just run a utility knife along your tape line to allow the tape to release easily.

Pretty easy right?  You end up with a nice clean paint lines, and don’t have extra wait and cleanup!

Clean Paint Lines - All

40 responses to “Getting Clean Paint Lines With Textured Walls

  1. Jo August 11, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Thank you! I have known this is an important step but didn’t know how. Your pictures and explanation is very clear and makes it look doable!! I have textured walls and have done a lot of painting in my house and have several walls that need repainted due to the messy lines. Thanks again.

    • diydad August 12, 2014 at 10:56 am

      No problem. Hopefully you won’t need to repaint the whole wall when fixing the little messes. Your comment reminded me that I have a method of patching drywall that has been textured without having to sand that I need to make a blog post about. 🙂

      • Ivelisse December 29, 2019 at 7:15 pm

        How do you fix the problem when it seeps through?

      • diydad January 2, 2020 at 10:31 pm

        Are you talking about the caulk seeping through? Or the paint that can occasionally get through the caulk barrier? If you get a little bit of paint leaking through, I just use a small paint brush (like from the kids’ water colors) to touch it up.

  2. Jen September 22, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Totally works! Tried this out with a garnet red wall in our family room && finally was able to get those clean lines that painters talk about. Thanks!

  3. Glenda&Roscoe February 20, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Many thanks I will do

  4. John March 26, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Why didnt I look this up last week!!!!!!!!!

  5. Nor Carnevale June 13, 2015 at 6:44 am

    You are a master teacher, clear explanation and great review photos! I am eager to try this and looking forward to much better results!

  6. florida1 January 16, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Wow….googled TONS of ‘answers’ on ‘blogs’ to this basic question. YOURS is the ONLY one to Cut all the WORDS and get to the point! So Clear. So simple. So easy!!! thanks!

    • diydad January 16, 2016 at 9:03 am

      Thanks for the nice words. To be fair… The actual post was a little “wordy”, but I tried to keep the illustration graphic succinct.

  7. Rachel May 2, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    If you are one wall a much darker color- do you use the caulk
    Method again after you retape
    to reapply the second color?

    • diydad May 3, 2016 at 9:33 am

      If I am doing multiple colors (like a darker accent wall), I will paint my main color without taping/caulking where the two walls meet. I do tape/caulk for the main color everywhere else. I just paint into and over the corner making sure the paint gets onto the adjoining (the one you want darker). After letting it dry for a day or so, then i will tape/caulk for the accent. I suppose it depends on your climate, but in Colorado it is so dry that usually a day is long enough to let the paint dry to the point that I can put tape on it without it peeling off the wall.

      Hope that helps!

  8. Joseph Mistry May 19, 2016 at 12:58 am

    When I paint Iuse to cut in frist and it would leave a lighter color than the rolled , I even would turn the roller side ways and get close to the ceiling. I now roll frist then cut in with a inch or inch and half brush, recommended by an Sherwin Willims employee and it works great. How do you quote rooms and hole houses? I’m getting into painting for living and any info would help. Thank You so much

    • diydad May 19, 2016 at 8:17 am

      I can see how rolling first would help. It would probably save paint too considering when most people cut in, they put a few inch strip of paint that gets re-covered by the roller (except for the last inch closest to the wall/ceiling).

      I don’t do this type of work for a living anymore but I have been around lots of painters and have done more than my fair share of painting. I can’t help much with quoting an entire job, partly because it depends on the market, but I have built a spreadsheet to figure out how much paint I will need that takes into account the wall height, number of doors and windows and the square feet per gallon of the paint (generally 300 sqft per gallon). You could easily create something that also takes into account your other materials costs based on the size of the room/job. Then you are just down to labor. Hope that helps a little.

  9. Melanie August 3, 2016 at 10:03 am

    ShouLd have looked this up yesterday! After using an artist brush to fix my leaks, I will use this technique from now on! My walls are super textured, will this still work on them?

    • diydad August 3, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      Glad this could help! This method isn’t 100% foolproof, and the bigger your texture… The bigger chance for a leak. To get the best result… Go a little heavier on the caulk and REALLY push it into the wall.

  10. Marla Tomchuk May 3, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Can you elaborate on the steps involved in your method if I’m painting the ceiling white and the walls a different color? I’d like a nice crisp line where the wall color meets the ceiling color, but I’m not sure of the steps, and how long I need to let the ceiling dry since it will be painted first. Thanks!

    • diydad May 3, 2017 at 7:15 pm

      I would paint the ceiling first, and paint over the edge (onto the side walls) by an inch or two. Depending on your climate, I would let that dry for at least 24 hours. If you are in a humid climate, it may take longer. Then I would just follow my post with the taping and caulk.

  11. Marla Tomchuk May 3, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    What is the name of the clear paintable caulk you use?

    • diydad May 3, 2017 at 7:23 pm

      DAP Dynaflex 230 (clear) that I get at Home Depot. Really… any clear paintable caulk will do. It is often labeled “doors and windows”

  12. Andrea fullmer May 10, 2017 at 5:53 pm


  13. Bob Derc July 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    How many times can you do the caulk method for sharp wall/ceiling lines? My wife seems to want to paint every 3 years. Will the caulk have to be removed or do I prime it and just caulk over it?

    • diydad July 13, 2017 at 11:15 pm

      You are a lucky man. My wife has had me repaint 2 weeks after painting. I don’t have an exact number but we have some walls that have been painted 4 or 5 times and there is really nothing noticeable in terms of caulk. Keep in mind that I really push the caulk in so there isn’t a thick layer left behind.

  14. Lu Bielefeld August 20, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Why didnt I look this up last week! Thank you for sharing. Now the next time I paint I’m going to do the right thing.

  15. Susan August 24, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    diydad, do you think I can use your method where my textured wall meets door trim? My interior doors and trim are stained and varnished wood (not painted). There is no caulk around the trim (same goes for my stained/varnished baseboards), so although I have a steady hand and never accidentally touch the trim with paint, the line still looks like crap because of the textured, bumpy surface of the wall.

    • diydad August 24, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      It should work great, but you should make sure you really push the caulk in and not apply too much.

      • Susan August 26, 2017 at 3:44 pm

        diydad, it worked like a charm! I am very please with the results. What a great tip for rookies like me, who are also perfectionists. I used Sherwin-Williams 950A clear drying caulk (just a little bit, as you advised), then painted almost immediately after applying the caulk. So happy I stumbled upon your post. Thank you!

      • diydad August 26, 2017 at 11:28 pm

        Glad it worked out!

  16. Suckatpainting October 17, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    I have semi gloss white wall and I want to put stripes on it too but I found out the color for the strips is a s I gloss too. When I did my second coat of paint then took off the tape it took off almost all of my paint. What should I do?.

  17. Daniel Atwood February 23, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    This is fantastic – thank you. One clarifying question: do you do this method each time you do a coat on the wall you’re painting, so that the caulk doesn’t dry? (i.e. tape/caulk/paint/remove, repeat). I know you mentioned that if the caulk does dry you can cut it with a utility knife, but curious what the best approach is, overall, when doing multiple coats. Thank you again!

    • diydad February 23, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      I suppose it depends on how much time in between coats. I generally try to get the second coat up within a day and don’t re-tape/caulk in between. It takes a few days for the paint to harden but the tape will still come off. You may just need to go a little slower and be more careful.

  18. yvette March 5, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    pictures are unclear. can’t see if its a corner or a long wall. instructions not specific and steps are unclear

    • diydad March 5, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      The pictures are actually mixed. Some are of a wall transition to a ceiling (brown to tan) and some are in a corner where I am painting one of the walls and leaving the other. I would be happy to explain anything that is unclear.

  19. SCOTT September 24, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    Do you mean “sore” finger? Also, I have not tried this but instead of using your finger for the initial smearing of the caulk, I would think a dull putty knife dragged along the edge might save your finger. You could then follow up with a light finger-drag for even things out.

    • diydad January 2, 2020 at 10:37 pm

      Wow… I missed this! The problem with the putty knife; and I have tried it with one of the cheap plastic ones, is that it doesn’t push the caulk into the small crevasses enough. The sore (thanks for the correction) finger is from pushing it into the holes… so I just go straight to that and skip the putty knife. If you are careful laying down the caulk, you won’t have a lot of waste.

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