The Best Paints for Trim and Baseboards

Person painting trim with drop cloth on ground

When contemplating a home makeover, identifying the best paints for trim and baseboards is a crucial step often overshadowed by the excitement of choosing wall colors and furniture.

These choices have the same impact as the jewelry that completes our outfits. Walls might command the most attention, but it’s the trim that wraps the room in elegance

The Benefits of Painting Trim and Baseboards

Painting trim and baseboards isn’t just about beauty; it provides practical defense for your wood. Trim shields walls from scrapes and bumps. It hides the joints where walls meet floors, windows, or doors, ensuring a seamless and polished look to your interior.

In essence, while walls serve as the canvas, trim and baseboards provide the fine, detailed outlines that pull the entire look together. And trim paint helps define those lines while also serving as a hard, protective barrier against the bumps and bruises of everyday life.

What Makes a Trim Paint Unique?

Not every paint is suitable for trims. Paints formulated for trim possess distinct attributes. They boast a lustrous sheen, ranging from satin to high-gloss, giving them a touch of brilliance. And their sturdy finish repels moisture, ensuring they stand the test of time.

Trim paint is also thicker, so it doesn’t run or drip while drying.

Many of these specialized paints are infused with anti-yellowing agents. This feature is especially beneficial for window trims that bear the brunt of sun exposure, ensuring a consistent shade all year round.

Understanding Paint Types for Trim and Baseboards

Person choosing paint can at store
Photo Credit: jchizhe / Adobe Stock / License

Surprisingly, trim and baseboards are not all about color but also about the type of paint you select.

It’s a choice that has an enormous influence on the final look and longevity of your project. So, let’s dive deeper and unravel the mystery of paint types suitable for trim and baseboards.

Paint TypeProsCons
Oil-based– Durable and long-lasting
– Resists chipping and fading 
– Easily cleaned
– Longer drying time 
– Strong odor 
– Potential for yellowing 
– Cleanup requires mineral spirits
Latex– Quick-drying 
– Low VOC 
– Easy cleanup with soap and water 
– Wide range of colors
– Not as durable in moist environments
– Potential for chipping and fading 
– Adhesion issues on some surfaces
Acrylic-alkyd hybrid– Durable
– Low VOC
– Quick-drying 
– Resists chipping and fading
– Limited availability 
– Not ideal for very cold temperatures

Oil-Based Paints: A Durable Choice

Historically, oil-based paint has been the darling of many homeowners and professionals alike. Stepping into a home with decades under its belt, chances are you’d find trim bathed in this type. Why? Well, oil-based paints bring with them a resilience that’s hard to beat.

From the hustle and bustle of hallways to the constant footfalls in entryways, these paints stay steadfast, resisting water damage and fading. That glossy, seamless finish is its signature, making any space radiate sophistication.

But with this robust nature comes a longer drying time. The unmistakable scent lingers long after you set down the paintbrush. So, while it offers a classic and enduring finish, it also demands patience and a well-ventilated space.

Latex Paints: Convenient

Swinging to the other end of the spectrum, we have latex paint. If patience isn’t your strongest suit, this might be your ally. Drying at a much swifter pace and emitting a fainter odor, latex paint is a favorite for many DIY enthusiasts. It’s also quite the charmer when cleanup time rolls around. A dash of soap, a splash of water, and voila, your tools are as good as new.

Yet, with all its convenience, latex does have its foibles. While latex paints are a delight in many rooms, think twice if you’re considering them for moisture-rich spaces like bathrooms or kitchens. Their aversion to humidity might just let you down.

Acrylic-Alkyd Hybrid: The Best of Both Worlds

Taking center stage are acrylic-alkyd hybrid paints, uniting the rapid drying benefits of latex with the sturdy finish of oil-based paints. This multifaceted choice doesn’t just offer you durability and convenience but also delivers a stunning finish that stands out on any trim or baseboard in any room of your home.

But remember, perfection comes with its nuances. While this hybrid paint is mighty and versatile, its availability might be a tad limited. And for those painting in the chilly embrace of winter, this blend might not be your best bet.

Types of Paint Finishes: Reflecting Your Style

Person painting window trim white
Photo Credit: Greg / Adobe Stock / License

It’s not all about the type; it’s also about the shine. While you might opt for a certain paint based on its durability, the sheen you choose can dramatically alter the appearance.

Semi-gloss paint is usually the go-to option when it comes to trim. It’s very easy to wipe clean and provides a subtle shine. You can also use gloss paint, which gives it a bit more of a shiny appearance, but this is best used on small surfaces as it might become overwhelming in large areas.

Paint SheenProsCons
High-gloss– Very shiny and reflective
– Resists stains and moisture 
– Easy to clean
– Highlights imperfections 
– Might be too glossy for some tastes
Semi-gloss– Moderately shiny
– Resists moisture and stains
– Easy cleaning
– Can still show some imperfections
Satin– Velvety finish 
– Good for high-moisture areas 
– Easy cleaning
– Can show imperfections
Matte or Flat– Hides surface imperfections 
– Suitable for low-traffic areas
– Not as durable 
– Harder to clean

High-Gloss: The Shining Star

Bright and reflective, high-gloss paints make trim pop, offering a protective barrier against life’s daily wear and tear. It’s a radiant choice for areas that encounter frequent scuffs and moisture.

However, its reflective nature also means it magnifies imperfections. If you lean toward high gloss, ensure a smooth and well-prepared surface. Be prepared for its longer drying time and potentially higher price tag.

Semi-Gloss: The Balanced Performer

If you’re craving shine but want a little less luster, semi-gloss paints strike the right chord. This paint sheen provides a gleam without being too overpowering. Easy to clean and usually pocketbook-friendly, semi-gloss offers the sheen and protection you desire without the intense reflection of its high-gloss counterpart.

Satin: The Subtle Sophisticate

Offering a smooth, velvety look, satin paint bridges the gap between glossy and matte. It gently captures light, lending a sophisticated touch to your trim. Ideal for spaces with moderate traffic, satin remains understated while offering good resistance to wear. However, for high-traffic areas, it might need a touch-up now and then.

Matte or Flat: The Modest Maestro

While traditionally reserved for walls, a few brave homeowners venture to use matte paint on trim. It’s a choice that masks imperfections splendidly, giving off a soft and muted appearance. But be wary; while it provides a unique look, it also calls for gentle handling, as cleaning can be a bit challenging. Read our guide on cleaning flat paint for more information.

Baseboards and Trim Paint Color Options

Entrance room with light brown paint and white trim
Photo Credit: Curtis Adams / Pexels / License

Paint isn’t just a practical choice; it’s also an opportunity to express yourself, allowing distinct colors to enliven your interiors. Let’s explore some options suitable for baseboards and trim:

White: The Timeless Classic

White paint, the most conventional choice, gracefully adopts the role of a universal enhancer. It blends with any color scheme, allowing other hues to shine while it remains quietly elegant in the background.

From cool, crystalline tones to warmer, creamier shades, white trim finds its place in any home, proclaiming a sophisticated, timeless appeal.

To maintain the pure elegance of white, it’s important to choose a paint with additives that prevent yellowing. This is particularly important for window trims, which are constantly exposed to direct sunlight. Such additives help protect this immaculate hue from unsightly discoloration.

Pops of Color: A Splash of Joy

Dive into a world of bright and playful hues. Whether it’s a lively teal in a child’s room or a soft lavender in a cozy reading nook, a colored baseboard and trim can infuse a space with character.

The trick? Balance. Ensure that the boldness of the trim complements rather than competes with other elements in the room.

Matching Colors: Seamless Elegance

For a seamless and modern ambiance, consider painting your trim or baseboard the same shade as your walls. This strategy blurs boundaries, creating an illusion of space, particularly in rooms with lower ceilings. The outcome is a cohesive and expansive atmosphere.

Dark Hues: A Bold Statement

If you’re feeling adventurous, delve into darker hues. A deep charcoal or jet-black color against a lighter wall can deliver a touch of drama and sophistication. It’s a bold move reminiscent of luxury and opulence, making your space truly unique.

But as always, balance is key. Ensure the rest of the decor harmonizes with this striking choice.

FAQ About Painting Trim and Baseboards

Should you paint baseboards or walls first?

Generally, it’s recommended to paint the baseboard first, followed by the ceiling and then the walls. This is because you can apply painter’s tape to protect the freshly painted baseboards when painting the walls. 

If you were to paint the walls first, there’s a higher risk of the wall paint splashing or dripping onto the baseboards, especially if you’re using a roller.

Can you use wall paint on the trim?

Wall paint is typically not recommended for trim because the finish and sheen are different. Walls are usually painted with a satin, eggshell, or flat finish, whereas trim is traditionally finished in semi-gloss or gloss. However, it is possible to use the same color on both walls and trim for a put-together look.

Can you paint the trim without sanding?

Yes, you can paint wooden trim without sanding if you are using the right supplies. While preparing to paint the trim, it’s often recommended to sand for proper paint adhesion, but you can bypass this step by using a high-quality primer designed to adhere to glossy or sealed surfaces. 

However, keep in mind that skipping sanding might lead to durability issues in the long run. Follow our guide on sanding wood before painting for longer-lasting results.

Do I need to prime the trim before painting?

It depends on the existing finish. Priming is generally not required when painting already painted trim unless there are stains and marks that need covering up. If your trim is made from wood, sand it before applying a coat of primer.

What’s the best paintbrush for trim?

The best paint brush for trim has an angled edge, usually one to two inches wide. This allows you to get into small corners and crevices when cutting in for clean lines. 

Natural bristle brushes are typically better quality than synthetic brushes, ensuring you can obtain the best finish possible with your trim.

DIY or Hire a Pro

The journey of a successful interior painting project begins with knowledge and understanding. Selecting the best paint for trim and baseboards isn’t merely about aesthetics; it’s about functionality, durability, and ensuring that every stroke enhances the overall appeal of your interior space.

Not sure where to start? We can help you connect with a painting professional in your area who can provide expert guidance and execute a flawless paint job for your trim and baseboards.

Main Image Credit: jan walter from / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Adrian Nita

Adrian Nita, a former marine navigation officer, has transitioned his precision and attention to detail into the world of painting and color. With over four years of writing experience, he brings a unique perspective, specializing in painting techniques and innovative color trends. When not exploring the latest hues and painting techniques, Adrian enjoys annoying his wife with new painting projects in their home.