Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
achievePainting crown molding is one way to make a dramatic change to the look of a room, but sorting through the information to find the right paint can be daunting. Just looking at the paint section of a hardware store proves there are enough choices to make your head spin. Not to worry, we'll break it down for you and let you know precisely what kind of paint you want.
The best paint for crown molding is a quality trim paint made from acrylic. Paint that is labeled for trim has several properties that regular ceiling or wall paint may not. Acrylic paint is durable and easy to clean. Some of the best choices out there are:
- Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec 500, Semi-Gloss Finish in White.
- Behr Ultra Pure White Semi-Gloss Enamel Paint and Primer in One.
- Valspar Professional Interior Latex Semi-Gloss in Hi-Hiding White
- INSL-X Cabinet Coat Enamel, Satin Sheen, White
- Zinsser Perma-White Mold & Mildew-Proof Satin Interior Paint.
- Majic Paints Acrylic Enamel High Gloss Paint in Gloss White.
- True Value Premium Decor High Gloss Water-based Acrylic Enamel in Gloss White.
Acrylic paints come in two major types, both of which are featured on this list. Keep reading for the breakdown of our recommendations, what makes trim paint different than wall paint, and the qualities you'll be looking for when selecting paint.
In painting, there are two standard choices - oil-based or water-based (also known as latex or acrylic). Oil-based was once considered the standard for trim.
However, in recent years, environmental concerns have led to oil-based paints falling out of favor. Many areas limit the availability of oil-based paints. Simultaneously, due to these changes, paint manufacturers have been reformatting many of their water-based formulas. A lot of progress has been made with new products that get similar results to the old, oil-based paints.
The two standard acrylic paints available are:
- Acrylic latex. The more acrylic in the blend, the more durable it will be. However, acrylic latex is more expensive. Avoid the "too good to be true" cheap blends, as they will not hold up.
- Acrylic-alkyd blends. These blends most mimic the desired properties of oil-based paints, while still being easy to clean up like water-based paints.
What Makes Trim Paint Different?
Trim paint is just a label for the consumer to be able to easily identify which paint would be ideal for use on trim (though it may work for other jobs equally well). Paints marked as trim paint usually have the following characteristics:
- They are non-yellowing. Since many people go with light or white trim and want to avoid frequent repainting, this is an important quality.
- They are designed to reduce visible brush marks.
- The consistency is made to avoid sagging.
- They have a glossy finish.
Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec 500
Benjamin Moore is known for excellent paint. This particular selection is zero VOC (volatile organic compound, a harmful chemical that off-gasses from paint). That makes it a low-odor, healthier, and more environmentally-friendly choice.
Behr Ultra Pure White Semi-Gloss Enamel
Like the previous selection, this one is zero VOC for a healthier and more environmentally-friendly choice. Extra features include the paint and primer in one (saving a step) and mildew resistance.
Valspar Professional Interior Latex Semi-Gloss
Valspar brings extra power with this high-concealing latex paint. It's durable and has one of the best gloss retentions out there.
INSL-X Cabinet Coat Enamel
This one was selected for its hardiness. As a urethane acrylic, this is a solid choice for those who prefer a satin finish. It's smooth, durable, and resists chipping and scuffing. Another advantage - it labels itself as paint and primer in the fine print.
Zinsser Perma-White Mold & Mildew-Proof
Zinnser backs this paint with a 5-year guarantee. As a mold and mildew-proof paint, it's a great choice for a kitchen, bathroom, or other high moisture areas.
Majic Paints Acrylic Enamel High Gloss Paint
This acrylic enamel has a finish that is resilient and durable enough to be used outside and inside. With a smooth finish and superior shine, it makes an excellent choice.
True Value Premium Decor High Gloss Waterbased Acrylic Enamel
Another high gloss finish that is durable enough for indoor or outdoor use, this Premium Decor paint is also low VOC and quick drying.
What About Primer?
Many paint projects start with a primer, a necessary coat of special paint that helps the final coat stick, and helps cover up any prior paint jobs or discoloration underneath. It's important to note that if you have selected an oil-based paint instead of acrylic/water-based, you can not use a water-based primer. You will need to choose an oil-based primer instead.
So do you need a primer? Let's look at four scenarios:
- If your crown molding is currently stained or bare wood, it will need to be primed before painting. Consider using BIN Advanced Synthetic Shellac Primer in White. This is also available in clear, but since crown molding is frequently painted a light color, white primer works well.
- If your crown molding was already painted, use a latex bonding primer like the KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer in white.
- If you have established that you need a primer based on the previous scenarios, but you have an oil-based paint, you will want a primer like KILZ Odorless Interior Oil-Base Primer, in white.
- If your crown molding is factory primed, or you have selected a paint/primer mix, you do not need any further primer. Please note one exception: if you are trying to cover a very dark color with a very light color, you may still want to add an extra coat of primer.
What Is The Best Paint Finish For Crown Molding?
Crown molding is usually painted with a semi-gloss or high-gloss finish, and more rarely, satin.
- High gloss paints are the most durable and shiniest. They also reveal any imperfections and show everyday wear and tear soonest.
- Semi-gloss, though not quite as lustrous, does the best job of concealing any dings or scratches. A more amateur painter will want to err on the side of semi-gloss, which makes any flaws less obvious.
- Satin finish paint is gaining popularity in recent years (though still not used anywhere near as often as a glossy finish). It does not give the same 'pop' to crown molding that glossy finishes do, and is not as durable. It does provide a more contemporary look and also can work well in a more rustic design where a glossy finish may seem out of place.
Should You Paint Crown Molding?
Painting your crown molding to coordinate with another feature in the room will help draw the room together and create a uniformed, orderly appearance. The paint you select can also trick the eye, like to make a low ceiling seem higher. There are a few options for painting crown molding.
Painting to match the ceiling.
This tends to take away from the effect of the molding and make the ceiling heavier. It is typically not recommended. Crown molding exists to help distinguish the space where the wall is ending, and the ceiling is beginning, and blending it into the ceiling mutes its message.
Painting to match other trim.
This gives the room a cohesive appearance. The only drawback is rooms with low ceilings already, as it draws the eye to the low ceiling.
Painting to match other walls.
This is the preferred option in cases of low ceilings. This method enhances the vertical appeal of the wall. You may want to pick a shade that matches your walls but isn't quite the same, to help the crown molding stand out.
Can You Use Ceiling Paint on Crown Molding?
Ceiling paint is not the best choice for crown molding for two significant reasons.
- Ceiling paint is designed to be low-sheen. It has a flat appearance, and that's the exact opposite of the finish recommended for crown molding.
- In most cases, you can achieve the best visual by matching the crown molding to other trim or, occasionally, the walls. It shouldn't match the ceiling, so there's no reason to use ceiling paint.
What Are The Best Paint Brushes For Crown Molding?
To paint crown molding, the best brush is a high-quality varnish brush that has tapered edges. Varnish brushes hold more paint without leaving behind brush marks. The tapered edges make it easier to reach into small corners or hard to reach areas.
This kind of brush is also commonly called an angular brush, a sash brush, or a trim brush (or any combination of these words, depending on the manufacturer). For oil-based paints, use a brush with natural bristles. Select synthetic brushes for latex or water-based paints.
Brushes for latex paint
- A traditional sash brush like this Wooster Double Angle Sash Brush is a good choice.
- Perfect for small spaces, try the Richard Trim Brush With Soft Grip Handle (shown in 5/8" size)
Brushes for oil paint
For oil-based paints, a brush like this Purdy White Bristle Angular Trim Paint Brush will work well.
Painting your crown molding to match your walls or other trim can enhance the look of a room in a dramatic way. The best paint for crown molding is acrylic paint (acrylic latex or acrylic-alkyd blends) with a high or semi-gloss finish. Make sure to pick the right tools such as primer and paintbrushes, to keep your project easy and looking good.