I have a painting tip to share today to help you get an extra smooth finish on trim, woodwork, and furniture.  This tip helped me get the finish on our DIY board and batten to match the professionally painted finish on the rest of the trim in our house.  I also received quite a few questions on the type of paint I used, so I will start with that, but I am convinced the secret ingredient is more important.

We wanted to match the paint of the existing baseboard trim exactly.  Although you can match a paint color to any brand of paint, we decided for the perfect match and the perfect sheen to use the exact paint our builder used for the rest of the trim.  The paint was Sherwin Williams ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex in Satin finish.  The color is Divine White.  It was the most expensive gallon of paint I have ever purchased, but you can tell immediately it is quality paint.

In addition to quality paint, the secret ingredient to my smooth paint finish is Floetrol.  It is a paint conditioner for latex paints designed to make the paint application smoother and reduce brush strokes.  It totally works!  I painted all the battens with a brush and they dried with an ultra smooth finish.  Floetrol does not water-down the paint, but it makes it smoother and you can tell it applies differently.  Floetrol can reduce the sheen of the paint slightly.  I did not notice a difference with the satin finish paint, but it is probably more noticeable with gloss.  For oil-based paints use Penetrol.

Floetrol for smooth paint finish

I think another important key for getting a smooth finish is to use quality brushes.  Using an angled brush is a must for painting trim.  I use Purdy brushes.  They are some of the more expensive brushes you will see at the home center or paint store, but they are high quality and will last a long time.  There is a little paint residue on my cleaned brushes, but I tell you those bristles are still baby soft and ready for the next paint job.  Sherry, from Young House Love, tipped me off to using a short-handled brush.  The one I use is called the Purdy XL-Cub Paintbrush.  It has been a game-changer.  I used to always clench my brushes at the base of the handle.  For me the short-handled brush is so much more comfortable to hold and maneuver with.  I have much better control with the short-handle.

Floetrol for smooth paint finish

So, in a nutshell, my tips for getting an extra smooth finish on woodwork and trim are:

  • Sand and prime your surface properly
  • Use a quality paint recommended for interior trim
  • Use a paint conditioner (Floetrol or Penetrol) to minimize brush strokes
  • Use high-quality angled brushes and give the short-handle a try for better control

Any tips you would like to add?

Sharing this tip here:
House of Hepworths
Shabby Nest
Tatertots and Jello
Domestically Speaking

The opinions in this post are my own.  I was not compensated for writing this post or any of the opinions contained within it.  This post contains affiliate links.   I may receive a commission on purchases made after following an affiliate link.  



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19 Responses to How To Get a Smooth Paint Finish on Trim and Woodwork

  1. lesley says:

    These are really good tips. I discovered Floetrol through Centsational Girl, she uses it for painting furniture. However, I have been so frustrated with the quality of Valspar trim paint I purchased that next time I am going to shell out more $ and get the Sherwin Williams or Ben Moore. I also want to try your tip and use the short handle brush. My trim looks better with the Floetrol but I defiantly think I higher quality paint will do the trick to an even better finish. Lesley

  2. Karen says:

    What a great idea! And so timely…. I’m about to start painting. How much of the Floetrol do you use?

    Thanks for the tip!

    • Jackie says:

      Karen, the directions are on the Floetrol. It does not require a lot. I only have the gallon size because my local paint store was out of the quart size.

      • Karen says:

        Thank you! I will be sure to check it out.

        • lesley says:

          You can find it at your local big box hardware store too. In the paint section in the smaller sizes. A little goes a long way! And Jackie is spot on it is the secret ingredient. But make sure you get a quality paint as well. I won’t make that mistake again.

  3. Oooh!!! Awesome and timely tip. I am currently working on repainting many scratched wood window sills and other trim in our house. I did not know about the Floetrol additive! So excited to try it. I agree about the quaility of Sherwin Williams paint. I signed up as a preferred customer (it’s free) and get emails about their special deals. They have a 30% off deal right now (or maybe it starts tomorrow) for two weeks. I also agree about the short-handled brushes. A saleperson at Home Depot tipped me off about that!

  4. Brooke says:

    Thanks for the Floetrol tip! I have also used the ProClassic from SW and couldn’t agree more on your comments. After using the Duration paint, which was my goto, I think I’d have trouble going back from ProClassic. My jaw dropped at the checkout when 2 gallons on 30% off was $75. But it’s good, real good. I am a huge fan of the short handled brushes, they give excellent control. Also, rinse your brushes REALLY well. Rinsing till the water runs clear and then adding a dash of liquid fabric softener to a bowl or cup and re-rinsing gets any extra paint out and conditions the brush.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for posting this. I am a convert to the short-handled brush. I bought one last spring when painting my nephew’s room and I will never go back! I also clench at the base of the handle. :) I am considering adding some board and batten to our bathroom, so this is a great tip.

  6. Hi Jackie,
    I’m going to read your post more thoroughly when I get home, but I wanted to let you know that I nominated you in the “Best DIY Blog” category in the 2012 Homies through Apartment Therapy. They are reviewing your website and then will add you to the list. I’ll vote for you then. As you are well aware, you are at the top of my favorite DIY blogger list.

  7. I’m so glad I found you!!!!!! I wish I had found you a year ago when I was painting the insane amount of crown moulding in my LV!
    do you have any tips for prep? do you sand or degloss the trimwork or moulding before you paint?
    http://wp.me/p1sapf-2w I still can’t believe I completed all that painting! but I still have 1 bedroom, 3 baths and 1 playroom to paint! any tips would help!

  8. Definitely going to use this for our basement project to get the nice smooth finish on our trim and doors. Thanks for the tips- you’re the best!

  9. I’m going to try out Floetrol when I paint my doors and trim this summer. I can’t wait. I wonder if it can be used in acrylic paint. I didn’t add anything and I definitely had the brush stroke dilemma.

  10. I just finished painting some trim exact same way and can ditto your comments that it totally works. Just a little Floetrol and it does wonders. My very favorite brush is the little Cub too, but mine has seen so much use lately I think I need to splurge on a brand new one.

  11. MichelleC says:

    I recently started down the DIY road on my own home re-do and found your blog a couple of weeks ago – the name alone made me check it out – 2 of my favorite colors ;). I have enjoyed reading many of your previous posts. I am so thankful I checked in this morning, I am starting to repaint my trim this weekend and had already purchased the same paint. I will be heading to Lowe’s shortly to pick up the Floertol and short handled brush. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jackie says:

      Michelle, So glad you found Teal & Lime. I hope you will keep coming back for more tips and inspiration. I am off to Lowes today too for project supplies.

  12. Aimee says:

    Floetrol really is a fabulous product. It also makes a great glaze. I’ve mixed it with shimmer paint to glaze over a wall.

  13. Misty says:

    Great post! I was a painter for a contractor that specializes in historic restorations for ten years. These are some great tips. I always sanded between each coat with 220 grit sandpaper to get a wonderful result. A trick I always use also, is to put cheap hair conditioner on my brushes after cleaning. Shape them and leave conditioner on until next use, rinse and use! Makes brushes soft and proper maintenance of expensive brushes will make them last indefinitely.

  14. GiGi says:

    I am getting ready to paint a buffet and had planned to spray paint it to get a smooth finish, but life and weather have gotten in the way. can you also roll the paint on when using Fletrol and if so are the results equally as good?

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