These two ornate wooden porch brackets will fit together in the opening at the top of the stairs to give it the look of a Gothic arch.  They came unprimed, and if I wanted the contractor to install them, it was up to me to prime and paint them since the painter isn’t coming back until everything is finished.
I started out painting the sides of the first one and realized I had made a mistake.  When I was ready to start the second one, I came up with a much better method which I will share here.

Besides a can of white latex primer, these were my tools:  one 3″ paint brush for latex paints, an artist’s brush with soft bristles about 1/2″ wide, and an artist’s brush for fine detail work.

First, I used the tiny brush to fill in the smallest cut-outs (see top photo).  As I finished painting the inside of each small cut-out, I used the 1/2″ brush to smooth out any over-runs of paint on the flat side of the bracket.  Then I immediately turned the bracket over and painted inside the smallest cut-outs from the other side–and of course, brushed out any over-runs.

This shows what I mean by “over-run.”  These places must be brushed out immediately or they will dry; if you try to sand them off later, the latex paint will peel away and leave a bare area that is difficult to touch up.

The next step was to use the 1/2″ brush to paint inside the bigger cut-outs.  After I painted each one, I immediately brushed out over-runs and flipped the bracket to do the other side.  While still on that side, I painted the next large cut-out, brushed out over-runs and flipped the bracket again to do the second side.

By only painting one cut-out at a time I was able to brush out over-runs and fill in skipped areas while the paint was still easy to work with.  It meant more flipping back and forth of the bracket, but it made for a neater job.  When all the cut-outs in a bracket were painted, it looked like the photo above.  You can see the areas where I brushed out over-runs, but the paint is brushed out so thinly that it did not affect the appearance of the final coat.

Because the paint was brushed out so thinly on the sides, I was able to lay the bracket flat on one side to paint the top side with the 3″ brush.  I brushed in all directions to apply an even coat, filling in around the cut-outs.  Before the paint could dry, I did a final brush-over all in one direction, following the shape of the bracket rather than trying to follow the wood grain.

In order to paint the final side, I set the bracket up on its end.

Because the edges of the bracket were still unpainted, I was able to hold the tip of the bracket to steady it and to turn it so I could see it in the best light.  The final step was to paint the curved edge, still holding the bracket by its tip, until the tip was the only unpainted bit.  Using light touches of the brush, I painted the tip without budging the bracket.

Note that I did not paint the two flat edges in order to allow them to fit flush against the inside of the window without a thick layer of paint preventing a tight fit.

The last step was to look the bracket over carefully and gently smooth out any uneven paint.  By sticking the handle of the smallest artist’s brush through one of the tiny cut-outs (the paint was dry by this time), I was able to lift the bracket and move it out of my work area to a safe place to dry.

The next day, I applied a second coat of primer using the same method.  Because I paid meticulous attention to “neaten” up my work as I went, the primer is nice and smooth and will provide an excellent base for a final coat of trim paint.

Working as carefully as I did, I was able to put one coat of primer on in an hour (less for the second coat because it went on more easily).  That’s all there is to it!