The Viral “Seashell Method” Painting Trick Will Help Get You Through All Your 2022 Paint Projects

published Jan 5, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Couple painting house wall
Credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

There’s no such thing as an unwanted paint hack. Even though painting a room is one of the the most high-impact ways to give it an upgrade, the truth is that tackling a fresh coat can be tough — and it’s easy to tell when this job got the best of a DIYer. So when TikToker and pro painter @kdcares1 shared the “seashell method” of a fanned brush getting paint into the crevasses of a wall, it’s no wonder that it went viral.

Plenty of other painters already use this handy trick, including Don Alexander, owner of Integrity Custom Painting LLC. It’s a simple skill that can help you cut down on both prep and cleanup — and when Alexander talks about it, it sounds remarkably soothing.

“Years ago when I lived in San Diego, I’d get out on the water and surf,” says Alexander. “I liken the ‘seashell’ method to how a surfboard pushes a wave. I call the paint the wave. You get the brush behind the paint and push it right up to where you need it to go. Take your time and have fun with it. Remember, paint is very forgivable and can easily be redone, if needed.”

Pressing the brush against the wall so that it resembles a seashell allows a few bristles to follow a corner or a seam more efficiently, Alexander says, without potentially getting paint on unwanted surfaces. “It’s really just about manipulating the bristles of the brush to get into that area,” he notes. “With a steady hand and a small brush — I’ve had instances where it’s even been helpful to use a one-inch brush or an artist’s brush — you are able to go right around the curves and the bristles will follow.”

It’s important to use less paint than you think you’ll need so that you have more control, and to either tap or wipe off any excess before applying the brush to the wall. Alexander also recommends lighting the room well before starting, so that you can see the surface you’d like to paint properly. And like any surfer, he says that it’s a good idea to “stay calm and breathe” so that you can be relaxed while working.

While you may be able to cut down on taping time, “seashell” painting might go a little more slowly than plain old painting at first.

“One downfall is that this method may take a little more time,” he adds, especially for newbies. “As you distribute less paint, you will have more streaking that’ll have to be covered with later coats. Once you’ve done your first coat, though, the second coat is much easier because you don’t have to follow the curves, corners, or seams as closely.”

As you plan your projects for 2022, take Alexander’s advice to heart. Try the seashell method and just ride the wave, man — by the end of the year, you’ll be painting like a true pro.