27 Tips How to Paint Without Brush Strokes or Marks

how to avoid streaks when painting with a brush

While painting canvas, walls, doors or furniture we expect to have smooth and nice surface that look professional, fresh and clean. Brush strokes, marks, lines and brush hairs can absolutely ruin the look of your project.

How to avoid brush strokes when painting with a brush? Use the right, slow-drying and thinned paint, choose high-quality brushes depending on your project, and master good brush techniques. Always keep sand paper next to you to fix strokes or sand layers of paint.

If you need more details, read my simple but effective recommendations that will work both for painting canvas and for painting furniture. I also included some recommeded products.

Table of content:

  1. 27 Tips How to avoid strokes when painting with a brush
  2. Why strokes happen when painting with a brush?
  3. What to do if you already have strokes from brush or roller?

27 TIPS TO AVOID STROKES WHEN PAINTING

All tips are related to the choice of the good paint, brushes, proper painting process, and techniques, but they all will help beginners and pros. No matter what, remember: it is very easy to prevent brush marks and streaks, and it is absolutely possible to fix them.

How to paint without brush streaks or marks? There are a few tips to avoid marks from brushes:
  1. Use the right paint
  2. Thin your paint
  3. Paint in thin layers
  4. Try fluid acrylics
  5. Use a sprayer
  6. Use a roller
  7. Use the right brush
  8. Use the right amount of the paint
  9. Don’t press too hard on the brush.
  10. Paint the details first.
  11. Don’t paint over wet paint.
  12. Don’t “stretch” the paint.
  13. Paint in one direction.
  14. Go horizontal
  15. Stabilize your art project
  16. Apply 2 coats.
  17. Let paint dry.
  18. Use a sand paper.
  19. Learn good brush techniques.
  20. Paint in sections.
  21. Prepare the surface.
  22. Don’t mix different paint types.
  23. Tip off.
  24. Blend brushstrokes with a soft brush.
  25. Mist the paint with water.
  26. Try brush and paint before painting.
  27. Cover mistakes.

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1 – Use the right paint

Key takeaways: 
- high-quality paint
- lower-sheen paint for even and smooth surfaces
- flat paint for walls with imperfections
- slow-drying paint

Type of the paint.

There are a lot of paints available on the market. While you’re painting on canvas, or paper, choose one you master the best: oil, acrylic, gouache. Watercolor is very unlikely to leave any brush strokes if you thinned your paint properly. Basically, opaque and matte paint will help you prevent brushstrokes.

If you’re painting furniture or wood, the best way to paint without brush streaks is to paint with a matte or chalky paint. Chalky paint require more knowledge and experience, as some of them still can leave some marks.

Painting walls, take a look at lower-sheen paint and flat paint:

  • Lower-sheen paint still has a smooth and a little bit of gloss. Lower-sheen paint is less likely to leave brush strokes. But it does have one big do not: it works better with even surface. Lower-sheen paint will highlight all imperfections of the surface.
  • Flat paint is great for walls. It isn’t reflective and can mask all wall’s imperfections. This paint can be shiny, which means you need to master brush techniques and paint carefully.

Almost all indoor and outdoor paint are acrylic-based, as acrylic was first introduced to household projects. The most common paint for walls is latex (acrylic) paint. Oil-based paint can be used for wood work, acrylic paint is commonly used for wooden panels and furniture too.

Working time.

Working time, or open time is how long it takes this paint to dry to touch, so, technically it is how much time you have to paint.

The main reason we have brushstrokes or marks is because the paint hasn’t flowed out easily and completely before it’s dried.

Ex., acrylic paint is considered to be fast-drying, as it takes it 5-20 minutes to dry to touch. Painting furniture or walls you need paint that dries in 24 hrs. 

Choose paint with longer working time or use special mediums, like extenders. Don’t buy cheap paint, as price depends fully on the grade of the paint and the brand.

Recommended Paint brands :
PaintUsePrice
Golden Open Acrylics set of 8Acrylic paint with longer working time. For painting on canvas, paper, wooden panels.
More suitable for artists
$38
Benjamin Moore Advance(satin or eggshell) with longer working time. For household: furniture.$55.99
Fusion Mineral Matte Acrylic (matte) with longer working time. Available on Etsy$22.99
Country Chic Chalky Paint Chalk paint with longer working time. $22.95
Rust-Oleum Painters TouchFlat paint suitable for large variety of surfaces, including metal, ceramic, etc. Premium latex paint.from $6

2 – Thin your paint

Some paints, as acrylics for example, needs to be thinned in order to perform better. Thick paint is drying slower, but it will be also harder to control the even thickness of each layer. Shifts in dry time between layers can cause cracks.

Painting with no-thinned paint can lead to brush strokes.

How to thin paint? The easiest but least recommended way for acrylic paint is to use tap or distilled water.

The most effective ways are flow improvers and fluid mediums. Each paint, ex. oil, acrylic, paint for outdoor project has its own ratio to be thinned.

Thinned paint is easier to control, will dry faster, will create even layers and smooth surface.

A full guide on How to thin acrylic paint for beginners with all questions answered is here. If you use airbrush or a sprayer, you will still need to thin your paint. Check the guide, it has How-to thin for spraying, pouring and airbrushing too.

How to thin acrylic paint

Thinning, you can control the consistency, so you can even imitate watercolor with acrylics. Oil-based paint needs to be thinned with linseed oil or special thinners.

Floetrol is a great product to thin latex and acrylic paint: 8 oz of Floetrol per 1 gallon of paint.


3 – Paint in thin layers

Thin layers are the best way to paint no matter what medium you use, except abstract art and some techniques when you intentionally apply thicker layers.

A thin layer is the best choice for a beginner. Thin layers dry faster than thick ones, it is easier to control the paint flow and the results. It takes more time, but in the end, you have more predictable outcome. Thin layers are easier to cover mistakes.

Sometimes, beginners believe that a thick layer means darker and brighter color. With acrylics it is not always the case, as they dry darker.


4 – Try fluid acrylics

Fluid acrylics are acrylic paint with increased flow, they are actually fluid. They are thinner, which means less likely to leave brush streaks.

I’d choose Golden High Flow Acrylic Paint for painting, but they will also work for pouring, drawing, staining, glazing, inking, hand lettering, spraying.

As they dry faster, sometimes you need to make paint dry slower, here are 15 simple ways to do it.


5 – Use the right amount of paint

It is important to use right amount of paint: don’t let paint drip, but don’t let your brush bare too.

  • Paint dripping = > too much paint
  • Bare brush = > not enough paint 
The right amount of paint = the brush is fully loaded, the paint stays on the tip of the brush without dripping.

6 – Use the right brush

Price

It is quite obvious that the success relies on the quality of the brush. Cheap brushes are more likely to leave bristles on the surface, bend, leave brush strokes. A good brush worth the investment!

Brush or roller?

  • Brushes are usually great for canvases and furniture, and for painting details
  • Rollers and sprayers are better for walls and large projects. Microfiber rollers are a great option.
  • For abstract painting and experiment artists also use knives, airbrush, paint shapers, etc.

Types of bristles material

There are 2 main types of brushes: natural and synthetic.

  • if you are working with oil-based paint, use natural bristles.
  • if you are working with latex, acrylic, water-based paint, choose synthetic brushes (nylon, taklon, etc.).

Shapes and sizes

There are 8 main shapes of brushes. Each shape can be represented by a variety of sizes. Each shape is used to some specific purposes.

Paintbrush Types

When you’re starting painting your first canvas you’ll probably need only 3 types of brushes: round one, flat, and a detailed round brush, or to directly purchase a brush set.

Small sized brushes are great for detailed work.

When you’re painting furniture or walls with a brush, you will need flat brush, and a 2-3 inch angle brush for details, frames and edges.

The full brushes buyer’s guide for painting is here.

Length of bristles

Choose brushes with long bristles as short bristles are more likely to leave streaks and marks.

Brush age

Even if you are an experienced painter, you need to renew brushes. The older a brush is, the more likely it will begin to lose bristles. Over time a brush become rougher, even if you clean it properly every time, it is still affected by all the times you used and cleaned it.

If you see that the brush can no longer hold the shape, it is time to buy a new one.

Recommended brushes and alternatives to paint without brush streaks:
BrushUsePrice
ZEM Brush Golden Taklon Wash Brush (3 brushes)for artist’s painting (Acrylics, Watercolor, Tempura, etc) and household projects (for details).$14.90
US Art Supply 3 Pack of Variety Size Synthetic Bristle Paintfor flat areas$7.96
Microfiber rollerAn alternative to brushes – a roller. For large, flat areas (such as cabinet panels, drawer fronts$8.00
Bates Paint Brushes – 4 Pack4 brushes for household projects
$6.95
* HomeRight 2412331 Quick Finish Paint SprayerAn alternative to brushes – sprayer. No brush marks, bristles or streaks.$49.99
Mont Marte Art Paint Brushes Set of 15A set for artist’s painting, better for beginners.$16.95

7 – Don’t press too hard on the brush.

Do you press too hard on the brush? It is a common beginners mistake in painting. If you notice that that bristles start to fan out, it means you’re pressing too hard.

Be gentle, the pressure will not make the paint application smoother. To make an even, smooth and mice surface, we need to let paint flow. The pressure doesn’t let the paint flow and distributes evenly.

If you already painted with pressing too hard:

  • let this area dry,
  • sand the area, and
  • paint over it.

8 – Use a sprayer instead of brush

The easiest way to paint canvases or furniture without brush strokes or marks is to use a sprayer.

It is not really common to use sprayers for painting canvases or paper, but it is more used with painting flat areas, furniture and wall.

A sprayer will be more expensive than a set of brushes, the simple one will cost around $50 on Amazon. But it will use less paint, as it will be thinned for spraying, and it will save you time, as spraying is faster than painting. It is also almost guaranteed to have even, smooth finish while painting with a sprayer.

YATTICH Paint Sprayer has about 1,500 reviews and costs $59.99, not including paint. 

9 – Use a roller instead of brush

Another good alternative to a brush is a roller. Rollers are commonly used to paint walls.

They are cheap, easy to use and replace. Apart from a roller, you will need a tray too.

If you are just planning to paint some pieces at your house, buy a set: for example, the set of 3 foam rolls, 1 roller and 1 tray will cost only $8.99 on Amazon.

If you are looking for more professional rollers, check reviews and Homedepot.

The size of the roller depends on how large the surface you’ll paint on is.

Painting with rollers, make sure you use the right amount of paint: paint is not dripping, but the roller is fully loaded.


10 – Paint in the details first

This approach works with painting furniture and walls. The best way to avoid streaks when painting with a brush is to paint the details first, and then paint larger areas.

Painting details first, you let yourself the option to smooth all paint later, when you will paint large.

BUT! This advice do not work with painting on canvas or other artistic surfaces. When you paint acrylics or oil, you will paint large areas first and all the details and highlights in the end.


11 – Don’t go back over semi dry paint

Every paint has its own dry time. Read labels carefully and make sure you do not paint over semi-dry paint, as it will cause a mess.

If you made a mistake or you want to repaint an area, wait until it dries, sand it gently and paint over again.


12 – Don’t “stretch” the paint on the brush.

We need to use the right amount of paint, a brush should be fully loaded, but it should also be reloaded often. A partly loaded brush, a bare brush, a brush with not enough paint left on it will create uneven coat, that you will want to go over immediately, but you cannot do it!

So better reload often and check the brush.


13 – Always paint in one direction.

This “rule” is more for painting furniture, but sometimes it works for artistic painting too, especially when we paint on wooden panels.

The right direction is to follow the grain for wood.

14 – Go horizontal

If you’re painting a flat or large surface, do not place it vertically, as thinned paint or excessive amount of fluid paint can run down.

Protect the floor and place your project horizontally. This way you see the whole surface and it is easier to paint and control the painting process.


15 – Stabilize

No matter vertical or horizontal is your project or painting, or how big is your furniture piece, you need to stabilize it, as any random movement can ruin the whole painting.

  • While painting on canvas, paper, boards, use an easel to fix your painting. Step back often to check the whole image.
  • When you’re painting furniture, panels, doors, etc, make sure the surface on what it stands is even and you can stabilize door or window when it is open. You can also use clamps.
  • when painting high walls make sure your ladder is stable.

16 – Apply 2 coats

This rule is more about household projects, as artistic painting is more free, creative and suggests itself painting in multiple layers.

For most paint project on furniture or walls, you need to use only 2 coats of paint. 

2 coats are optimal. More coats can make your surface dry slower, look messy, thick and unprofessional. do not overdo things.

More coats will NOT COVER mistakes, but new coat can create more and enhance the imperfections of the previous coat. If you want to cover mistakes, let the surface dry, sand it and paint again.

2 coats will still make colors shine and will last longer, than heavy weighted 3 or more coats.


17 – Let it dry

Most of mistakes, imperfections, cracks and even strokes happen when we do not let each layer dry properly. Every paint has its own dry time, so please read labels or official brand’s website carefully.

For ex., for acrylic paint the drying process includes 2 main stages and rely on water evaporation and on bond formation between binder and pigments. Once you alter the drying time, you affect this process.

When you are too impatient, it can happen that you’ll start painting on semi dry paint, which will immediately create brush streaks.

Dry time is important no matter what kind of medium you use and if you use brush, sprayer or a roller. Always wait. If it is a large area, wait at least 24 hours.


18 – Get a sandpaper

A 220 grit sandpaper is your loyal friend while painting on canvas, wooden panels, furniture or walls.

  • a sandpaper helps you prepare the surface (we’ll talk about it later).
  • it can help you caver mistakes.
  • you need to sand painted area between layers to get even and smooth surface.

If you made a mistake or you notice too much paint somewhere: let this area dry, sand it and paint over.

To make sure you finished project will look great, smooth and professional sand every layer after it’s dried.


19 – Master proper brush technique

A proper brush technique starts with buying a good brush or a brush set. For painting artists, it is important to be comfortable with holding and working with a brush – cheap handles can be less comfortable.

To buy the right brush, handle, shape, make sure you know everything about how to choose a brush for painting.

Some brush technique tips for artists:

  • Hold a brush like if you hold a pencil
  • While painting do not press on the brush too hard, let it flow gently with the paint
  • While painting hold your brush at an angle to the painted surface.
  • Dip the tip of the brush in jar with clean water before you dip it into paint.
  • Keep 2 jars with water while painting, keep brushes wet and clean.
  • Move from dark to light with oil and acrylics, and from light to dark with watercolor.
  • Large areas first, details – the last
  • Use appropriate brush shape to achieve needed effects:
    • if you need to cover large areas use flat brushes
    • to paint details use liners, pointed round brushes
    • angular brush to paint edges, filling corners, etc.

Some brush technique tips for household projects:

  • do not hold a brush with your whole wrist
  • do not press on the brush too hard, let it flow
  • hold your brush at an angle to the painted surface.
  • Dip the tip of the brush in jar with clean water before you dip it into paint.
  • Dip only a third of the brush into the paint.
  • Tap the brush to get rid of excess paint.
  • Paint details and small areas first, like corners
  • Use appropriate brush shape to achieve needed effects:
    • if you need to cover large areas use flat brushes
    • to paint details, frames, etc. use angular brush

20 – Paint in sections

As we know, a paint can dry fast, any uneven application, going over semi dry area can cause marks. There is why, it is smart and effective to break large area in sections.

Paint one section at a time instead of trying to cover the whole area at once. It makes the process easier to control and prevents brush streaks.

A section should be quite evident, if it a panel door, you can’t break one panel into 2 sections.

For artistic painting this approach will sound a bit different: we paint from big, large areas to details. First, for example, for a sunset, you will blend background and only then move to trees, sand, any other details on first plan.


21 – Prepare the surface 

Both for household projects and painting on canvas, prepared surface is the key to the best results. Saggy canvas, wall with imperfections will ruin you painting.

Preparing wooden surface

To prepare wooden panels or furniture for artistic painting, you need to follow this full guide, in general there are 3 steps: clean it, sand it, apply at least 2 coats of sealing, 2 coats of priming, and start painting. If there are knots, seal them with a knot sealer.

Always sand wood following the direction of the wood grain! DO NOT use colored sand sandpaper, as it can tint the surface.
TypeProductPriceLink
SealerGOLDEN’s GAC100$24.23 for 32 ozClick
SealerGOLDEN Acrylic Gloss Medium$25.19 for 32 ozClick
SealerPVA glue, e.i. Mont Marte PVA Glue$24.99 for 1LClick
PrimerGesso Old Hollands$28.25 for 0,5LClick
PrimerGOLDEN Acrylic Gesso$24.23 for 32ozClick
PrimerLiquitex white acrylic gesso$22.35 for 32ozClick
Preparing wooden surface
Preparing canvas

Some professional artist use raw canvas, but for a beginner it is highly recommended to use primed canvases.

You can always buy a ready-to-use canvas in any store - choose properly stretched, triple-primed with gesso, back stapled canvas. Cotton canvas will be cheaper than linen. Best stretched and primed cotton canvas is Blick Premiere Cotton Canvas.

This is a real hand-made canvas for a very good price. For me, it is one of the best options on the market. An EXCELLENT choice for beginners with really unique features compared to all other canvases on the market for this price.

If you have an unprimed canvas:

  • make sure it is clean and even.
  • prime it with 3 coats of gesso. Let each coat dry!
  • you can sand each coat to make the surface smoother.
  • let it dry over night and paint.
How to prepare other surfaces:
  • sand surfaces with 180/200 grit sandpaper,
  • wash with a degreaser,
  • allow the surface to dry and
  • apply paint

How to prepare walls:

  • remove all imperfections and dirt
  • repair all holes
  • sand the surface with a 220-grit sandpaper
  • wash the area with a sponge
  • prime
  • sand primer
  • clean again. The surface should be dust free before you paint.
  • let it dry and paint

22 – Don’t mix different paint types

Even before you start painting, make sure you have enough paint. If you accidentally run out of oil-based paint, you cannot use water-based on the same area.

First of all, drying process is different. Then, colors can be different. Besides brush strokes, you will have uneven look, If you paint large area there is a big chance that the line between 2 different paints will be visible.


23 – Tip off

Tipping off is a brush technique used to prevent brush marks.

  • choose small section
  • apply small brush marks with paint quickly to cover all section
  • pull your brush across the painted area at the angle about 45 degrees to the surface to smooth the surface
  • leave it to sit and dry

Tipping off helps create smoother finish and it is widely used, even for boat painting.


24 – Blend brushstrokes with a soft brush

Blending is one of the advanced skill you need to master while painting art works. To cover brushstrokes when painting backgrounds, for example, use a soft brush and blend paint gently. It will create smooth surface, the colors will create a sort of a gradient.

Use a mop brush for blending. A cheap makeup brush can work too, if it holds the shape and do not lose bristles.


25 – Mist the paint with water

Misting works to slow down the drying of the paint, but generally it is a way to go for artists, not for household projects.

Use an old spray bottle, from any beauty product, clean it, fill it with water, and spray palette, paint or even canvas to keep them wet and give yourself more time to work.


26 – Try brush and paint before painting

When you are about to paint walls, furniture, canvas, especially for the first time or with new medium you’ve never used before, try brushes and paint on smaller area to test it. It would be sad, if you mess up your own wall.

  • get you brush, a small amount of paint.
  • try it on the surface similar or exact same that you will paint onto.
  • let it dry and see the results.
  • if everything is ok, paint your project.

27 – Cover mistakes

Even if you see some marks or brush streaks, try to cover it while the painted area is done. Don’t apply another coat if you know that there were some strokes.

Let the layer dry, sand the streaks and paint them again. Don’t use thicker paint application to cover mistakes. Only sanding!


Why strokes happen when painting?

Normally, strokes happen because of 5 main reasons:

  • the surface was not prepared and had imperfections, dirt, was uneven.
  • you do not apply proper techniques, and press too hard
  • you choose wrong paint or brush.
  • you use too much paint.
  • you do not wait until layers are dried.

Some streaks are inevitable like when you apply too much pressure on the brush. Some techniques can cover up brush strokes, but there is no guarantee, in general, that any brush mark will go away once the paint is dried.


What to do if I already have brush strokes?

The most effective way to fix strokes and marks that already happened is to sand it, as sanding can remove all the imperfections.

  • let the area dry completely
  • sand it with 220 grit sandpaper
  • clean the area from dust
  • paint over.

What to do if I already have strokes from roller?

If you’re painting with a roller and you left some streaks, it is worth trying to touch the painted surface with a brush and smooth it.

  • let the painted area dry fully
  • don’t let paint dripping, touch up the strokes with a brush
  • let it dry.