How to paint trim - the fast way to refresh your decor without doing a total redecoration

Expert advice on how to paint trim and achieve a professional finish to a brilliantly on-trend design

dark blue trim around some white wall panelling
(Image credit: Future)

Trims and borders have seen a resurgence. From breaking up empty expanses of space to highlighting architectural details and framing features, it's a fun way to enhance an interior. Once you know how to paint trim, you can revamp a room in a weekend.

If your walls are in good condition and you like the existing color, it may not even be necessary to go all out with your paint ideas - this fine detailing could be all you need. Whether you want to paint a trim around a certain feature, such as a headboard or artwork or repaint the walls entirely, consider the best color combo for your room.

'Contrasting shades like dark green and pink work really well, or a deep blue and mustard yellow,' says Sophie Smith, founder of Zhoosh Paints (opens in new tab). 'Grey, or colors with a hint of grey, are eternally popular, as well as white borders and trims too. 

'It depends on the style of the property and the size of the room of course. Don't be scared of going dark in smaller spaces, with the right lighting and accessories it can create a room with real warmth.' 

How to paint trim - step by step

bathroom painted in Annie Sloan Carnaby yellow wall paint

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

What you'll need:

Frog tape -  this Frog tape for delicate surfaces (opens in new tab) is the best for trim

Ruler

Pencil

Spirit level

Microfiber cloth - we actually think the trim on these microfiber cloths (opens in new tab) is quite cute in its own right

Paint of your choice

Dust sheets

1. Prepare your surface

painted trim around artwork

(Image credit: Earthborn )

As with any time you're wondering how to paint a room, the surface needs to be clean and dry before you apply anything to it. So once you've cleared the area of furniture and laid your dust sheets, wash the walls and woodwork with sugar soap, then wipe with a clean, dry cloth. 

Once the surface is clean and dry, paint your base color and leave it to dry for 24 hours. If you're not repainting the wall entirely, you can move to the next stage.

'Decide on the size of the trim you want,' says Jason Burns, MD at Frog Tape (opens in new tab). 'You'll need to pencil it in first. The size will depend on the height of your room - houses with higher ceilings suit deeper trims and borders.'

2. Measure and mark your trim

Living room painted in Benjamin Moore Knoxville Gray and Peanut Shell

(Image credit: Benjaomin Moore)

If you're painting trim lines onto a wall, then to create crisp, straight lines you'll need to measure meticulously with a steady hand. 

'Use a pencil and metal ruler to draw in your outline, as well as a spirit level to ensure it is straight,' says Jason Burns at Frog Tape. 'Once your trim lines are drawn in, apply frog tape to the outside edge of the pencil marks. This way, the paint will cover up the markings.'

We suggested the delicate surfaces Frog Tape up top, but this one (opens in new tab) is good if you're trying a gloss or satin paint.

'If you're an experienced painter, unroll the tape in one long section and keep the roll flat against the wall. For less experienced painters, apply the tape in shorter sections to avoid stretching the tape,' Jason says.

'To eliminate any gaps and seal the edges of the tape, ensure it is stuck fully to the surface by running your fingers firmly over the edges.'

3. Paint the second color

Dark grey skirting board painted with a pale grey trim

(Image credit: Little Greene)

With your trim lines marked out and the area next to it protected by frog tape, you're ready to paint in your trim or contrast color section.

'Slowly paint a few feet of your trim at a time, then repeat, overlapping the previous section to ensure blending,' says Jason Burns at Frog Tape. 

'Check how long your tape can stay up for and remove the tape while the paint is still slightly wet for the best results. 

'Pull the tape off slowly at a 45-degree angle. Don’t forget to control the end of the free tape so it doesn’t drag along the freshly painted trim. If you hear ripping noises, it means you’re going too fast.'

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites


A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.