“How do I get rid of brush strokes?”
That’s one of the most common questions I get from readers and customers!
Typically, as long as my finish is smooth, some light brush strokes don’t bother me much. But, when the brush strokes are really heavy and thick with texture, or when the paint finish is streaky and you can see obvious places where the brush started and stopped . . . Those issues can make a piece look messy!
So if you’ve been plagued by a messy paint finish in the past, I’ve got some tips today to help make sure your brush strokes are minimal and don’t distract from the smooth, professional finish of your piece.
1. Use the Right Brush for your Paint
To get a smooth finish you don’t have to use the best brush out there, but you do have to use a good one–and the right one for whichever paint your working with.
For milk paint, I recommend a synthetic bristle brush.
You can use an angled or a flat, whichever is your preference (I tend to prefer an angled), but the synthetic bristles are the key. Milk Paint has a very high water content and so if you use a natural bristle brush, the bristles will soak up too much water and your paint (and finish) will get thick and streaky.
For Fusion Mineral Paint or a chalk-type paint, I do prefer to use a rounded brush.
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My favorite round natural bristle brush has been discontinued by my manufacturer (boo), but you can find a whole host of round bristle brushes on Amazon.
If you’re willing to pay a bit more though, my favorite brushes by far for Fusion and chalk paint are the Staalmeester brand brushes.
These brushes are a combination of tightly packed synthetic and natural bristles. The synthetic bristles help your paint lay down smooth while the natural bristles help hold a lot of paint in your brush–which is key to painting smoothly with Fusion or chalk paint. Too little paint on your brush will cause streaks and texture quickly.
The biggest thing to remember about your brushes is to keep them clean and in good shape! Always wash them out immediately after use (thoroughly) with warm water and dish soap, and if you are using a natural bristle brush be sure to condition your bristles every so often with a product like Fusion’s Brush Soap. Dry them hanging upside down and try tying a string around your round bristle brushes to help them keep their shape.
If you are using an old brush and the bristles have gotten wiry and frayed, or are dirty with dried paint, it will not give you a nice smooth finish! Time to get a new brush, my dear.
2. Use Good Brush Technique
Once you have a good brush to use, practice holding it and working with it until you are comfortable. Don’t grab the brush with your whole fist, but rather grasp it similarly to how you hold a pencil.
When applying your paint, hold the brush at an angle to the piece, not straight up and down. It’s best also to gently lay down the paint with the brush and not push too hard onto your surface.
Another good trick is to try dipping the tip of your brush in a tad bit of water before you dip it into the paint. Keeping the tips of your bristles moist can help them be more pliable and gentle as they lay down the paint.
3. Paint in the Same Direction as the Wood Grain
This is especially important if you’re working with a wood that has a heavy grain, like oak! As much as possible, you want to brush in the same direction that the grain runs. Brushing against the grain will create texture as the paint reacts to natural texture of the wood.
If you’re painting a piece that the grain is not very deep or a smooth piece like a laminate, do your best to paint each section or area of the piece in only one direction. For example, if you’re painting the side piece of a dresser, don’t paint the top and bottom horizontally, then fill in the rest of the side with vertical strokes. Make sense?
4. Lightly sand in between each coat of paint and after final coat
This is one of my simplest tips to offer if you want to better your painted finish!
After each coat of your paint dries, smooth it out by running a fine grit sandpaper (at least 320) over the surface, then wipe with a damp cloth. Even if you can still see some brush strokes, this will help your piece feel nice and smooth.
5. Try Rolling On, Laying Off
If you’re wanting a super sleek, brush-stroke free surface, then I would suggest skipping a brush all together!
I’ve had a lot of success using a microfiber roller with Fusion.
First, you use the roller to apply a thin coat of paint to an entire section of your piece, then very quickly, go back over the section with your flat synthetic brush and lay off the paint.
Laying off is really just a fancy term for dragging the tip of your brush super lightly over a rolled surface, from one end to another to smooth out any texture left by the roller.
I used this method when I painted my set of MCM dressers and the end result was fantastic! The finish was super smooth and had that modern, sleek look I was going for.
6. Give Yourself Some Grace!
Yes, this is my last tip for how to minimize brush strokes! I honestly think the furniture painting world has gotten a little too worked up about them recently and we’re losing out on some of the fun and creativity that comes from hand-painting a piece of furniture.
It’s important to understand that if you’re using a DIY Furniture paint (Fusion, Chalk-type paint) that those paints are not formulated to produce a super sleek, glass-smooth finish.
If you’re seeing pictures online of furniture pieces with a high gloss, factory-smooth finish, my bet is that the painter is using either an oil-based or enamel paint along with possibly a paint sprayer. Those are the tools that you use to create those kinds of finishes.
Those pieces are stunning! But for most of us that’s not the look we are going to achieve using our DIY furniture chalk-type paint–so don’t be so hard on yourself!
To be honest, I tend to not worry too much about brush strokes and more about the overall smoothness of my finish. If you look closely at my pieces, you will see some brush strokes! But I still believe they are well-painted, smooth, and professionally finished pieces.
So for those of you who are new to the furniture painting world and feel like your pieces have a lot of brush strokes, here’s my word to you–
Get a good brush.
Practice using it.
Try some of the techniques above.
Then step back and stop judging your piece so much!
As painters, we are always our own worst critics!
I hope this post has given you some ideas to try but also some freedom to know that if you’re using a brush, your piece doesn’t have to be glass-smooth to be painted well. The most important thing is to enjoy the process and work each time to get a little bit better at your craft.