Painting Trim White

LAST UPDATED: May 04, 2021 | PUBLISHED: Apr 19, 2021 | By:

Get my best tips and tricks for painting trim white, plus my favorite paint colors for white trim! This one simple update will instantly elevate any space.

Painting trim white is one of my favorite home updates, because it is so quick, easy, and budget friendly. It also makes a huge impact on a space!

A white bathroom with white trim.

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My husband and I have made over several homes. One of the first jobs I tackled in each one was painting, including giving the trim a nice coat of white paint. I loved the way white trim made each space feel clean and fresh.

I’ve started Painting Walls and Trim the Same Color of white, because it creates spaces that feels more cohesive, open, and welcoming. And of course, I love the subtle effect of white on white.

Through all of our remodeling, I’ve learned some helpful tips – everything from how to paint trim white, how to Paint Over Stained Wood Without Sanding, and How to Choose the Best Ceiling Paint and The Best Trim Paint.

Keep reading for my best tips and tricks for painting trim white, plus all of my favorite white paints!

A cream hallway with hardwood floors, in a tutorial for how to paint trim white.

Painting Trim White

Clean white trim instantly elevates a space and makes it feel brighter. A fresh coat of white paint is the perfect way to showcase your doorways, windows, and crown moulding. After all, creating a beautiful home is in the details!

It should come as no surprise that paint is one of my tricks to make an old home feel new and to add light in a dark room. Painting trim white is a lovely way to brighten and freshen up a space, especially when it’s paired with soft, neutral colors.

I’ve said it before – neutral decorating doesn’t have to mean boring! I think it’s the perfect backdrop to create a peaceful, welcoming home.

A hand painting trim white with a brush, next to a light wood floor.

White Trim Paint Colors

Of course, anyone who has tried choosing a white paint knows it isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. There are so many different whites! In other words, there are warm whites and cool whites, each with its own undertones that will affect the way your eye sees the final color.

Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. I tend to prefer whites with warm undertones, because I like the warmth and softness that they bring to a space. But here is a list of all of my favorite go-to whites – warm and cool – and why I love them.

A white bathroom with white trim.

Warm Whites

A hand painting white trim next to a light wood floor.

Cool Whites

  • Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White – a white with a touch of grey undertones, that in certain lights can soften without looking creamy
  • Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace – a crisp, clean white with some grey/blue undertones
  • Sherwin Williams Extra White – just like it sounds, this white is extra white, perfect for a more modern look

Materials to Paint Wood Trim White

  • Sand Paper (80, 100, 120 grit) or Liquid Deglosser, recommended
  • Cleaner and Cleaning Rag
  • Wood Filler or Spackling
  • Caulk
  • Painters Tape
  • 2″ Angled Brush
  • Paint Tray
  • Primer
  • Oil or Water-Based Trim Paint – I recommend a semi-gloss finish (learn more about Paint Sheens).
A cream hallway with hardwood floors, in a tutorial for how to paint trim white.

How to Paint Trim White

  1. Sand or degloss (for unpainted wood trim) – Follow the instructions on the liquid sandpaper or deglosser. Typically you’ll use a clean cloth to wipe the trim down with the deglosser, then let it sit for several minutes to “rough up” the surface.
  2. Thoroughly clean trim – Using a clean cloth and all-purpose cleaner, clean the trim well. Then dry using a clean cloth or let air dry.
  3. Fill Holes – Using your fingers or a small spackle knife, fill any holes with wood filler or lightweight spackling. Let dry completely, then sand smooth using 120 grit sandpaper. Tip: Using a lightweight spackle that goes on pink and dries white makes it easy to know when it’s ready for paint.
  4. Caulk – Use a paintable caulk to fill any seams or cracks in the trim or between the trim and walls. Run a small bead of caulk, then smooth it out with your finger or a wet cloth. Let dry completely.
  5. Painters Tape – Tape around all edges using painters tape, if desired.
  6. Prime – If you’re painting over dark wood trim, I recommend using a stain-blocking primer such as Kilz or Zinzer. These will keep the wood grain from showing through. Prime completely, making sure to watch for any drips. Let dry.
  7. Paint – Paint using a high-quality semi-gloss trim paint. I love Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic line, because it goes on smoothly and hides brush marks, dries to a hard finish, and is durable and easy to clean. Paint using long strokes in the direction of the wood grain.
  8. Sand Imperfections – Once paint is dry, check for any imperfections, such as drips. If needed, sand lightly with 80 grit sandpaper and wipe clean from dust.
  9. Apply Second Coat – Paint a second coat in the same manner as the first. Remove any painters tape before the paint has fully dried, to keep paint from tearing. Tip: Keep a box knife nearby to score between the edge of the trim and tape, if needed.
A close up of the side of a white toilet on a white floor, cream walls and white trim.
Can I paint wood trim white?

Yes, wood trim takes white paint very well. To prepare, use a liquid deglosser to rough up the surface a bit, then do a coat of primer using Kilz or Zinzer. Your wood trim will be ready for white paint!

What is a good white paint for trim?

I like to use a high-quality trim paint, such as Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic in semi-gloss. It is goes on smoothly, dries to a beautiful finish, and is durable and easy to clean. Other brands also have good-quality trim paints.

Should I paint trim white or off white?

It is entirely up to you! Most whites aren’t actually a true “white” to begin with. They are either warm or cool, with different undertones that affect their color.

Cool whites (with blue/grey undertones) appear more crisp and are often well suited to modern design styles. Warm whites (with yellow/greige undertones) appear creamy and soft. Typically, if your wall color is a cool color (such as blue, grey, purple, etc.) then you should consider using a cool or neutral white.

If your walls are a warm color, however, they would look lovely with creamy off white trim.

Can I paint wood trim without sanding?

Yes, you can paint wood trim without sanding first! First, if it has a glossy finish, I recommend using a liquid deglosser to remove some of the shine. This roughs up the finish just enough to give the paint something to adhere to. Then use a good-quality primer, such as Kilz or Zinzer, to cover the wood grain. Finally, paint with a high-quality semi-gloss white paint.

A hand painting trim white with a brush, next to a light wood floor.

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More Paint Colors and Tips

A hand painting white trim next to a light wood floor.

Painting Trim White

Get my best tips and tricks for painting trim white, plus my favorite paint colors for white trim! This one simple update will instantly elevate any space.

Materials

  • Sand Paper (80, 100, 120 grit) or Liquid Deglosser, recommended
  • Cleaner and Cleaning Rag
  • Wood Filler or Spackling
  • Caulk
  • Painters Tape
  • 2" Angled Brush
  • Paint Tray
  • Primer
  • Oil or Water-Based Trim Paint

Instructions

        1. Sand or degloss (for unpainted wood trim) - Follow the instructions on the liquid sandpaper or deglosser. Typically you'll use a clean cloth to wipe the trim down with the deglosser, then let it sit for several minutes to "rough up" the surface.
        2. Thoroughly clean trim - Using a clean cloth and all-purpose cleaner, clean the trim well. Then dry using a clean cloth or let air dry.
        3. Fill Holes - Using your fingers or a small spackle knife, fill any holes with wood filler or lightweight spackling. Let dry completely, then sand smooth using 120 grit sandpaper. Tip: Using a lightweight spackle that goes on pink and dries white makes it easy to know when it's ready for paint.
        4. Caulk - Use a paintable caulk to fill any seams or cracks in the trim or between the trim and walls. Run a small bead of caulk, then smooth it out with your finger or a wet cloth. Let dry completely.
        5. Painters Tape - Tape around all edges using painters tape, if desired.
        6. Prime - If you're painting over dark wood trim, I recommend using a stain-blocking primer such as Kilz or Zinzer. These will keep the wood grain from showing through. Prime completely, making sure to watch for any drips. Let dry.
        7. Paint - Paint using a high-quality semi-gloss trim paint. I love Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic line, because it goes on smoothly and hides brush marks, dries to a hard finish, and is durable and easy to clean. Paint using long strokes in the direction of the wood grain.
        8. Sand Imperfections - Once paint is dry, check for any imperfections, such as drips. If needed, sand lightly with 80 grit sandpaper and wipe clean from dust.
        9. Apply Second Coat - Paint a second coat in the same manner as the first. Remove any painters tape before the paint has fully dried, to keep paint from tearing. Tip: Keep a box knife nearby to score between the edge of the trim and tape, if needed.

Notes

I like to use a high-quality trim paint, such as Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic in semi-gloss. It is goes on smoothly, dries to a beautiful finish, and is durable and easy to clean.

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