The TikTok Painting Hack You Have to Try

A woman painting a wall with a paint brush

Oscar Wong / Getty Images

It seems like every day brings new trends, ideas, and DIY projects for the home. From debunked cleaning hacks to game-changing trends, sifting through the noise to find new ideas, adopt new practices, and ultimately upgrade your home improvement game is a daily task. 

But sometimes you come across something new that actually works. This is why the so-called seashell method painting hack by TikToker and pro painter, @kdcares1, is all the rage right now.  

Here is everything you need to know about this painting hack, how and why to do it, and the ups and downsides, according to painting gurus and your resident DIYer.

What Is the Seashell Painting Method?

As the name suggests, the seashell painting trick is all about the placement of the brush and the shape of the bristles. When done correctly, the bristles make a shell shape that actually allows the paint to more evenly and loosely distribute across the surface.  

The idea of the seashell method is that, with gentle and repetitive hand movements on the brush, the texture of the paint can be anywhere from spongy—without the weird pockets that are missing paint—to smooth and circular, depending on the painter’s hand movements.  

Rather than traditional up and down strokes—which often fade at the top or the bottom or create thinned streaks if the painter isn’t careful—this method allows the painter to carefully cover the full surface as well as create a more unified, often bolder color.  

The second coat is often easier as well because there are fewer gaps, thinned areas, or curves and corners to go back and cover. 

Why Is the Seashell Trick Popular?

As the TikTok shares, this method is not only visually effective, but it’s aesthetically pleasing too. In fact, painters, home reno experts, and DIYers alike praise this trend for how easy and pretty it makes painting your walls or surfaces. And the best part is that it’s actually effective.

“The seashell method is a great way to reach the small gaps that a brush might leave behind if painting normally,” says Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy Painters Chicago.

“To do this [method], you press your paint brush onto the surface to make it as round and flat as possible, creating a seashell shape. Then, you slide the brush through the small slits. This gives you an even coat of paint even in tiny spaces.” 

However, there are some mistakes you can make with this method, and this is mostly when you're not being careful or using the wrong brushes. "I don't recommend doing the 'seashell' technique with an expensive brush, as it will damage the brush over time," says Tony Adams, Certified Interior Designer and Painter for "Use a soft and cheap brush for this method. You brush should be able to fan out and create a 'seashell' form."

"The way this method works is that it spreads the paint equally into the wall, and allows only a few bristles of the brush to get under the gap," Adams says. "However, if the paint is too thick, or the gap is very small then you have to thin the paint or use a smaller brush."

How to Try the Seashell Method at Home

If you’re ready to attempt this hack in your home—don’t stress. As far as painting trends and tips and tricks go, this is on the easier side. However, if you’re worried, it may be a good idea to start with a smaller test surface first before jumping right to your walls.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t skimp on brush quality. Although it’s relatively easy to hold your brush flat and press against the surface to make the seashell shape, having a low-quality brush (missing bristles, scratchy or uneven surface, or other imperfections) can make this method far less smooth and effective. Only use brushes that are new or completely clean and soft.
  • Tape surfaces you don’t want to be painted. Whether you’re painting a wall, dresser, decor item, or something in between, be sure to tape over areas, corners, and edges you don’t want to be painted. It’s best to do this with masking tape to prevent damage to the surfaces. This will ensure that even if your strokes go awry, they won’t mess up any unwanted surfaces.    
  • Apply even coats to your brush and surface. Before you begin, it’s important to add an even coat of paint to your brush. Be mindful of how you dip and flatten your brush—not too heavy-handed, no globs of paint, and don’t press too hard that you completely flatten the brush head. Remember that a gentle hand is key for the best paint quality.
  • Take your time. Once you get a hang of the brush and circular spreading feel, it’s easy to want to move fast. While moving fast won’t cause as much streaking or thinning as traditional painting often does, rushing doesn’t guarantee quality. The best move is to take this painting style slow and ensure that as you have a circular motion, you aren’t missing any areas.