How to Paint Without Brush Streaks or Marks: A Complete Guide

For most painters, whether they are doing home improvement or fine art, brush marks are typically looked down upon. In most cases, our painting projects are intended to have a smooth surface. Brush marks mar that smoothness and make a job look unprofessional.

How to paint without brush streaks or marks? There are a few things to keep in mind to avoid marks from brushes:  

  • Use the right kind of paint
  • Use the right kind of brushes
  • Pace yourself while you paint
  • Make sure your surface is primed and ready to be painted on
  • Don’t use several coats of paint
  • Use different brush techniques

Whatever your project, you probably intend for it to have a professional finish. Brush streaks, marks, drips and smears will give you a disappointing result. Keep reading to get a full and extensive guide on all of the dos and don’ts for keeping your projects smooth and streak-free.

The Do’s of Painting Without Brush Streaks or Marks

Use the Right Kind of Paint

You know that old saying, “you get what you pay for?” For paint, it is always better to invest a little more cash for a better quality product. If you are painting the walls of your home or furniture to put in your home, then you will probably want it to look the best that it can.

The general rule of thumb is to stay away from chalky paint. Chalky paint is known for leaving streak marks, and typically you will have to apply a few coats for you to get rid of them. Some matte paints are alright to use, but before you apply them to your piece, test to make sure you don’t end up with streaks on the final project.

Lower-Sheen Paints

For furniture, the best kind of paint that you can use is lower-sheen paint. Lower sheen paints have a nice gloss to them but are not too reflective. They are less streaky compared to other kinds of paints.

However, they are not the ideal paints if you are painting walls in a house. The shine in these kinds of paints really brings out the imperfections on the surface. So, if you have really textured walls, it will be more enhanced with this kind of paint.

Flat Paint

For walls of any type, you’ll want to use flat paints. Flat paints don’t reflect the light, so they won’t make your wall’s imperfections stick out. In fact, they tend to absorb light, so they kind of mask the dings and dent.

Most people don’t want a shiny wall. You may go with a slight sheen on kitchen and bathroom walls for ease of cleaning. If you do, keep in mind that your technique has to be more careful, as the shine on the paint increases the appearance of any marks or errors.


You will also want to look for slow drying paints. Paints that claim that they dry quickly or even immediately, often don’t dry evenly. They might seem like a good idea if you are in a rush to get a project done. However, long-term they are a bad idea.

Overall, low sheen and slow drying paints are the way to go. Low sheen paints are easy to work with and naturally leave little to no streaks or marks, compared to chalky paints. Slow drying paints will ensure that you get an even coat each time.

Use the Right Kind of Brush

Using the right kind of brush is also important to keep in mind while you are painting to avoid streaks. Pairing the project, paint, and application choice are the perfect recipe for a smooth end result.

The Right Brush for the Right Project:

Whether you are painting small jobs in your home, or are repainting a large room, you need to make sure you are using the right kind of brush.

  • For canvases and furniture, brushes with bristles work best
  • When painting walls, you will want to use foam rollers so you can cover more surface area and reach higher points on the wall.
  • For painting details, however, you should use brushes with bristles because they can get in smaller parts and you have more control over where the paint goes. 

The Right Brush for the Right Paint:

The kind of brush you get should also be dependent on the kind of paint that you are using.

  • For example, for oil and water-based paints you should be using a natural bristle brush because they will spread the paint more evenly.
  • For latex-based paint, you will want to use a brush with nylon or plastic-like bristles.

Length of Paintbrush Bristles

Another quality you should look for in a brush is long bristles. Shorter bristles tend to cause more streaks than longer bristles. You can also use a microfiber roller to paint flat surfaces, such as a tabletop or panel. Microfiber rollers are a great option for covering larger surfaces quicker and easier. With these, the paint will dry fast and with no marks.

Brush Quality and Age

You may also want to buy better brands of brushes. If you are doing a quick art project, then you may not want to throw some extra cash in for an expensive brush. However, investing in brushes where the bristles are sturdy, won’t fall out, and are of good quality will do your project wonders in the end.

Older brushes tend to lose their shape and become rough over time, even if they were once really soft. So you should also keep tabs on the age of your brushes and make sure they’re not too old. The bristles in old brushes tend to fall out and can get stuck in your paint.

If you do invest in good quality brushes, take good care of them. You can reuse brushes as long as you clean them well and keep the bristles in shape between uses.

Take Your Time

Another key to painting without brush streaks or marks is to take your time with it. Painting too fast can really cause streaks in your product. Even if you are on a tight deadline with your project, it is always best to take your time. We all know that more often than not, rushing never leads to good results. The same principle applies here.

When you paint very quickly, most of the time, you probably aren’t really paying enough attention to detail. You could be accidentally smear into paint that hasn’t completely dried yet, causing it to show marks and streaks. You could also be painting in an inconsistent direction, messing up the whole project.

Painting can really be a tedious process most of the time, but taking your time and paying attention to the way you are painting can make a huge difference in the way your project comes out.

Make Sure Your Surface is Ready to be Painted

Even if you have all of the right supplies, you also need to make sure that your surface is ready to be painted. If you are working with wood, you have to make sure that it is sanded and primed smoothly. If you don’t, then you will see all of the grooves of the wood and your product won’t be smooth.

If you are painting walls, also make sure that the surface is completely smooth and free of any holes or bubbles. If there are, you may have to sand and fill them in to ensure that your paint goes on just as smooth.

All paints, especially glossy paints, can really bring out the imperfections of your surface. If you don’t make sure your surface is prepped, primed, and perfect before you start painting, you are running the risk of getting marks. Therefore, you have to make sure that your surface is just as ready as you are for this project.

Sanding Between Coats

Some people also use the sanding technique on their finished project regardless of whether they are trying to avoid streaks and marks or not. Some painters will sand right after their primer dries and also in between each coat.

Each time you rough up the surface gently, the next paint layer will adhere better. Make sure the surface is allowed to dry thoroughly between each coat. Once the final coat has completely dried, you’ll end up with a smooth, streak-free surface.

Stabilize Your Project

Another problem that a lot of painters have is stabilizing their surfaces. More often than not, when you are working with a surface and accidentally move it or bump into it, it will cause your paint to get everywhere or drip and make a mark. 

The best thing that you purchase to help you stabilize your surface is a clamp. You can find these in your local home improvement store for pretty cheap. These clamps are built to hold what you are painting to a table or another flat surface, so you don’t have to worry about doing it, and you can focus on painting.

Just holding it and not using a clamp is fine, but having your surface as stable as possible is a better option. If the surface moves accidentally while you are painting, it could potentially ruin the whole project.

Brush Up on Your Techniques

Another important tip to keep in mind to avoid streaks in your paint is to have the proper brush techniques. Once you know how to use your brush the right way, you’ll be one step closer to painting without brush marks.

The Right Pressure

Applying the right pressure with your brush is key to preventing brush streaks and marks. Pressing down too hard and using too much pressure will cause the brush to fan out, which can cause streaks.

Depending on the brush you use and its thickness, you’ll need to figure out what the right amount of pressure is. Typically, with thicker brushes, you can apply more pressure without the bristles fanning out. Thinner brushes, on the other hand, are much easier to spread apart.

If you are painting with a thinner brush, make sure you don’t press too hard and keep a light stroke.

Get Down to Details First

Despite the urge to paint the larger empty spaces first, it is actually ideal to paint the details first, and then move on to the rest. If you start with the details, you can always smooth over any paint that made its way outside of the lines afterward without getting any streaks or marks.

Even the most experienced painters know that if you paint the details last, then you run the risk of messing up the rest of the piece. So to always be safe, paint the details first.

Work in Sections

Working in sections is also always a good idea because you can still work while your paint is drying. We all know that going back over wet paint with more paint is one of the biggest “Don’ts” in the painting rule book. So when you are working in sections, paint in one section can be drying while you tackle another.

If you have to paint any details over the base paint, make sure it is completely dry. Depending on the kind of paint that you use, you may have to wait a full 24 hours before touching the paint again. If your paint isn’t completely dried, it will smear.

To recap:  Focus on your details first. You should always a smaller brush to paint in your details, so you have more control and make sure your paint is completely dry before painting any details overtop the base color.

Let Paint Dry Completely Between Coats

Painting over already wet paint is rarely a good idea, mainly because this leaves streaks. Despite the urge that you might have to try to finish your project as quickly as possible, it’s never a good idea to go over the wet paint with more paint.

Doing this is sure to leave you with streaks and marks throughout your piece. The best way to prevent streaks and marks is just to avoid doing this all together. It is actually recommended that you wait at least 24 full hours before painting over the first coat to ensure it’s completely dry.

Stick with One Direction

It’s important to always paint in one direction for the entire project. Even the most experienced painters still have trouble keeping consistent with this rule. Even though it may seem obvious to seasoned painters, painting in different directions causes streaks and marks every time.

If you don’t paint in a consistent direction, then you will be able to tell in your final product. This is especially true if you try to paint in a different direction over already wet paint. Doing this will cause your paint to smear and dry with marks and paint bumps.

You should also always paint with the grain of your surface, especially if you are painting on a textured surface like wood. Painting against the grain will typically result in marks that are hard to cover up.

Try Out Rollers

If you have tried all of these suggestions and are still getting streaks, you should try using a paint roller rather than a brush. Paint rollers are best for larger surfaces, and then you can touch up the details with a paintbrush. Just like with a brush, you have to use the roller in the same direction or else you’ll see the change of direction in the paint.

You should also load up on the paint with your roller and not stretch out the paint. Because rollers are made of foam, they absorb the paint, so you have to make sure you have a lot of paint on your brush.

However, the only downside to painting with a roller is that rollers aren’t for everyone. Painting with foam or microfiber rollers takes some skill and some practice to be able to use them properly. If this is going to be your first time working with a roller instead of a brush, we suggest practice using the roller on a piece of cardboard to get a feel for how to use it.

The Don’ts of Painting

Don’t Use More Than Two Coats

For most paint jobs, the general rule is to use only two coats of paint. However, some people still like to paint a third coat just to be safe. More isn’t always better! A third coat can actually do more harm than good. Having too much paint on your surface can make it look chunky, thick, and unpleasant looking.

Third coats are only really needed for flatter or darker paints, for instance, if you are painting walls. Third coats on glossy paints just look bad. If you used a third coat of paint to try to cover up any imperfections that you may have found after painting your second coat, you will probably notice that it starts to lose its sheen and will become smeared.

As a general rule of thumb is to steer clear of several coats of paint. Two coats is a good number to stick with; it enhances the color of the paint and also fixes any potential imperfections.

Don’t Mix Types of Paint

If you are running out of paint and try to mix or use a slightly different color or finish, you will quickly realize that this is a bad idea. Mixing paints can throw off the color or sheen of the overall product and look messy and streaky.

There are different kinds of paints, from oil-based to water-based to latex-based. So, mixing these bases can actually create a strange look with your final product and make those streaks look worse.

In short, it’s best to just stick to one type of paint for your multiple coats. This will keep everything consistent and help you hide those streak marks better.

Don’t Stretch the Paint

With painting, more is always better. You should always buy more than enough paint. You don’t want to risk running short or finding yourself in a position where you try to stretch the paint by mixing or adding water. And you don’t want to apply lighter coats of paint just to make it through without having to buy more paint.

Never try to stretch out your paint supply for your project. Stretching out your paint supply can ruin your project in a number of ways, for obvious reasons.

Frequently Asked Questions:

If you are still lost or have any questions about paint streaks at all, here are a few questions that people often have that may help you as well:

Why Does Paint Streak/Leave Marks?

We’ve covered this one in detail. It comes down to your technique and the tools you use. The most common error a painter makes that results in brush marks and streaks is rushing through a job. Rushing through a job allows for the following mishaps:

  • Sloppy technique that leaves traces of your brush strokes in the paint
  • Drips that end up in marks on the wall
  • Not allowing the paint to dry between coats

Do the Streaks Go Away When the Paint Dries?

To answer this question, it is completely dependent on the kind of paint you are using. Some paints, such as flatter or chalkier paints, will dry smoother than others. However, it is still all about your technique with the paint.

If you applied too much pressure on the paintbrush or painted too quickly, those streaks are inevitable, no matter what kind of paint you used.

Are There “Streak-Free” Paints Out There?

As of right now, there aren’t really any paints that say they are “streak-free.” There are some paints that claim they are “fast drying.” However, these kinds of paints are usually lower quality. You can’t count on a manufacturer to create a streakless paint. It’s really all about how you use the paint.

If you can’t rely on the paint to avoid the streaks, then you have the right brushes, paint, and techniques to make sure you don’t get marks. As you read above, it’s not an easy task to paint around them. It takes skill and practice to be able to master that. Some expert painters even mess up from time to time.

The best way to avoid streaking or marks in your paint is just to try your best to paint the right way. However, if you still end up getting these marks, there are ways to fix them.

How do I get Rid of Streaks if I Already Have Them?

If you are here because you noticed that there were streaks from your brush throughout your project, don’t worry- there are solutions!

Sand and Try Again

The best option there is for you to get rid of streaks is to just sand them down with sandpaper and paint right over. Sanding will remove any bubbles, ridges, and protruding imperfections. Make sure you let the paint dry thoroughly before you attempt to sand.

After you sand, you will probably lose a little bit of color and shine from your paint. However, before you start painting over it, you have to make sure it is completely dust free and clean. If you paint over the dust, it will stick in the paint, and you will see it in your finished product and just have to start all over again.

Touch Up With a Brush

If you got your streaks from painting with a roller, then you can always go in and touch it up with a brush. Some painters prefer to use rollers because the product typically comes out smoother. However, they aren’t perfect, so sometimes you’ll still experience streaks and marks.

Going in with a paintbrush after using a roller will let you fix your streaks with more detail and control. However, you have to make sure that the paint is completely dry before doing this, or else you will just create more streaks. You should also be careful of drips, as they can dry unevenly too.


In short, if you want to paint without brush streaks or marks, it is up to your choice of products, as well as your techniques. There are things you can do to prevent streaks and marks.

For instance, you want to make sure that you are using the right products, from brushes to paints. You also want to have the right techniques while you are painting.

Pacing yourself while you are painting is key, as well as applying the right amount of pressure and sticking with painting in one direction.

You also want to make sure that your surface is smooth, especially if you are painting on something like wood and is textured, and also stable so you can’t accidentally move it and mess it up.

Despite popular belief, paintbrush streaks and marks aren’t impossible to avoid or impossible to fix.  Hopefully, this article has helped you figure out why you have brush streaks and how to fix them.

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