Best Trim Paint to Use for Windows, Doors, and Baseboards

Painting Window Trim
Painting Window Trim. Brad Killer / Getty Images

Even though interior trim doesn't cover much space compared to walls or ceilings, it's a small thing that really calls big attention to itself. Window sills are where you place your morning cup of coffee; door casing you pass a million times a day as you go from room to room. It's usually close-up and closely examined, and that's just the visual aspect of it. It also has to perform. Have a dog? Then you'll know that they love to stand on hind legs--front paws on the sill--to...MORE check outside activity. If you have kids, you'll know that door trim gets bumped all the time.

Because these are such high-impact areas, there are special trim paints you should buy for these critical surfaces. 

  • 01 of 05

    What Is Trim Paint?

    Sometimes paint companies helpfully title it "trim paint," but usually not. That's because, like so many other types of niche products like ceiling paint, it's a formulation that, due to its properties, could work in a number of places. The only reason why it might be labeled "trim paint" is to make it easier for consumers to identify.

    Trim paint falls within the category of interior paint, with a gloss of satin, semi-gloss, gloss or high gloss. In the paint's...MORE specifications, companies may say that the paint is suitable for trim, cabinets, doors, furniture, and windows.

    Trim paint usually comes pre-tinted in bright white and in base colors that can be custom-tinted.

  • 02 of 05

    Properties of Trim Paint

    Avoidance of Brush Marks: Nobody likes seeing brush marks on their trim. By its very nature, oil-based paint helps to level out brush strokes (its longer drying times help the paint settle). Acrylic-latex paints do show brush marks. The flatter the sheen, the less visible the brush marks will be.

    Gloss: Gloss is an important feature in the trim paint. Glossier paints have a tighter molecular structure, meaning smaller pores for dirt and other debris to work into it. Thus, there is no designated...MORE flat or matte trim paint. Trim paint finish glosses are satin, semi-gloss, gloss and high gloss.

    Sag Resistance: Paint sags don't happen as readily when the paint is thinner and can be rolled on. But the brush-painting--your method of paint application for trim--means that big globs of paint may develop and sag before drying. Thicker consistencies of paint help prevent sagging.

    Non-Yellowing: Most trim gets painted white. Window trim, in particular, gets blasted with the sun, which can yellow the paint. That's why many paint companies advertise non-yellowing properties with their pre-tinted white trim paint.

  • 03 of 05

    Types: Oil and Acrylic/Latex

    Trim paint comes in two main varieties, oil-based and acrylic-latex.

    Alkyd/Oil Based

    In a sense, this is the classic trim paint. If you have a house that is at least a few decades old, chances are good that the trim was painted with oil-based paint.

    Oil-based trim paint gives superior, glass-like finishes, with minimal-to-zero brush marks, but at the cost of slow drying times, fumes, and solvent-based clean-up requirements. Because of its thick consistency, it's good at filling in minor holes....MORE Due to laws passed beginning around 2000, many localities now ban oil-based paints in sizes above quarts.  Only use a brush with natural bristles, as the oil formula will affect synthetic bristles.

    Oil-based paint can be difficult to use, especially since you must use petroleum-based solvents to clean up afterwards.

    Acrylic Latex or Enamel

    Water-based paint can produce a good finish and minimal brush marks, but not nearly as good as oil-based paint's properties.

    Brush marks will be visible. The surface will not have the rock-hard shell texture of oil-based paints.

    Water-based trim paints afford easy clean up with soap and water. Use either synthetic or natural bristle brush. Use a paint comb to aid in clean up.

  • 04 of 05

    Brands

    • Behr:  Premium Plus Ultra Interior Semi-Gloss.  Enamel.  Soap and water clean-up.
    • Benjamin Moore:  Regal Classic Premium Interior Paint - Semi-Gloss Finish.  100% acrylic resin.  Soap and water clean up.
    • Dutch Boy:  Cabinet & Trim Interior Gloss Paint.  Enamel. 
    • Glidden:  Trim and Door Paint.  High Gloss.  Oil-based.  Solvent clean-up.
    • Olympic:  ICON Interior/Exterior.  High Gloss.  Soap and water clean up.
    • Sherwin-Williams:  ProClassic Acrylic Latex.  Soap and water clean-up.
    • Valspar:  Ultra...MORE Paint + Primer.  Acrylic latex.  Soap and water clean up.
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    FAQs

    Q:  Which is better--the water-soluble or oil-based paints?

    "Better" depends on what you want. Maximum ease? If so, water-based paints are the way to go. When you want the absolutely best-looking finish, even at the cost of time and your convenience, go with the oil-based paints. If you have any aversion to the painting process, then go for the water-soluble paints.

    Q:  How much should you buy?

    While it depends on whether you're painting just a room's worth of trim or the whole...MORE house, it's likely less than you think. Most people buy just a quart or a gallon of trim paint, rather than the many gallons required when painting room walls. One quart will cover two doors,150 linear feet of long/narrow trim such as crown molding or baseboards, or 50 feet of stair railings.

    Q:  Which type of gloss to buy?

    Many homeowners are averse to the idea of glossy items in their home. This is one area where you might want to compromise a bit because you're only making more work for yourself as you go for the flatter finishes. Semi-gloss is the classic trim finish, and it works in a variety of applications.

    Q: What about flat paints for trim?

    Because flat sheen paints have far fewer resins than the glossy types, they are not as good at resisting dirt and stains. Along with this, they are hard to clean. Dust and dirt tend to stick to flat paints. There is nothing inherently wrong with painting trim in flat paint. But you should know in advance its limitations. Rather than trying to clean flat trim paint you may want to have a spare can at ready so that you can touch up scuffs.