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Tips for How to Use Painters Tape

Painters tape is a specialized tape made to put in places where you do not want the paint to go. It is normally used:

  • Around window casings
  • At the top of the walls so you do not let paint bleed onto the ceiling
  • Around doors
  • Around fixtures
  • Over trim and corner molding
  • Around cabinetry
  • Around faucets
  • To cover door hinges
  • To cover door locks
  • To cover door handles
  • To cover hardware on cabinets

Most people are familiar with the blue painter’s tape. Painters tape also comes in a bright green color. The difference between painters tape and masking tape is the adhesive on the back of the painter’s tape is not as sticky so it does not damage the surface or pull any paint off of the surface when you remove the tape. Masking tape can damage the paint when you remove it.

Difference Between Masking and Painters Tape


Painters Tape Pros

  • Will not leave a sticky residue behind
  • Can usually stay in place for several days without becoming difficult to remove
  • Does not have a tendency to pucker when you apply paint on top of it
  • Leaves clean and crisp lines on the surface

Painters Tape Cons

  • It is more expensive than masking tape
  • Does not stick well to textured surfaces

Masking Tape Pros

  • It is cheaper than painters tape
  • It is excellent for masking windows
  • It adheres better to canvas

Masking Tape Cons

  • You need to remove masking tape within a few hours or it can form a bond that makes it very hard to remove
  • The paint will stick to the outer surface of this tape and this increases the possibility that when you remove the masking tape you are going to pull away sections of the paint
  • You cannot use oil based paints with masking tape because the oil base of the paints damages the tape and the paint seeps right through the tape to the surface below
  • It will leave a sticky residue when it is removed

Painters tape will stop paint from bleeding through the tape and onto the surface below. If you want to make a crisp straight line, like around the top of the wall where it joins the ceiling, then you put painters tape there. When you paint you can even get paint on the top of the tape. When you pull the tape away you will expose an unpainted surface below it.

Buy the right tape for getting a better result


Before you apply painters tape you need to make sure that you buy the right type of painters tape for the surface you plan to adhere it to.

Multi-Purpose tape

This tape will generally remove cleanly for a period of 14 days. You should use it when painting the following surface areas.

  • Painted walls
  • Trim
  • Woodwork
  • Sheetrock/drywall
  • Glass
  • Metal

Hard to Stick Tape

This tape is designed to be used on surfaces where the tape usually does not want to adhere. It is usually green in color instead of blue and it will be removable for about 3 days.

  • Use on textured walls
  • Brick
  • Stucco
  • Exterior walls

Delicate Surface Tape

Frog Tape Delicate Surface and 3M Scotch Safe-Release are both types of painters tape that is designed to do less damage to delicate surfaces when they are removed. Many of the professionals we talked to said that when they are creating stripes or designs they always choose this delicate type of tape. This tape can stay in place for as long as 60 days so you have longer working time. It is great for usage on:

  • Primed wallboard
  • Primed wallpaper
  • Freshly painted surfaces or surfaces that have been painted in the last 24 hours
  • Laminate flooring
  • Any faux finish

How to use Painters Tape – Step by Step Guide

Clean the surface before you apply the tape

Clean the surface before you apply the tape

Painters tape will perform better if you clean the moldings and walls prior to applying the tape. You do not have to scrub the area like crazy, but you do need to do some general cleaning before you apply the tape.

  • Dust any trim or molding to remove loose dust and dirt particles
  • Use a damp cloth to remove any grime or dirt that is adhering to the surface
  • If the surface is greasy, like a surface in a kitchen might be, then use a mild soap and water to cleanse away the grease and prepare the surface for the tape
  • Let the area you have cleaned completely dry before you attempt to put the tape up

Applying Painters Tape around the Tops of the Wall or to the Inside of Corners

Painters tape keeps the color of your walls from accidentally marring the color of your ceiling. When you use painters tape you get a clear crisp definition between the walls and the ceiling and there is no bleed over.

Step 1: Paint around the top of the wall with the first color of the paint.

Step 2: Allow this paint to completely dry before applying the tape. (If you apply the painter’s tape within 24 hours of applying this paint make certain that the painter’s tape you have purchased states that it can be used within 24 hours of painting.)

Step3: Apply your painter’s tape. You will want to keep the painter’s tape edge about 1/8th of an inch away from the corner. So if you are taping the top of the wall you want to place the painter’s tape 1/8th of an inch below the ceiling.

You will have an easier time establishing a straighter line with the tape if you do not try to place the tape edge directly into the corner.

When you are using painters tape you need to apply a little pressure to the outside of the tape to make sure that it adheres properly to the wall surface. If there is an air bubble, or if the tape does not stick properly then paint will be able to get under the tape which will defeat the purpose of putting the tape on the wall.

Applying Painters Tape to Baseboards

Applying Painters Tape to Baseboards

When you are painting you may want to apply painters tape to your baseboards so that none of the wall paint gets on this trim. Using painters tape is easier than removing the baseboards. There are a few things you should consider when you are applying the painter’s tape to a baseboard.

  1. Use strips of painter’s tape that are between 6 and 8 inches. These shorter strips can be overlapped to cover the board. The shorter strips will have a smaller chance of becoming twisted or developing an air bubble beneath them. Smaller strips of tape are easier to keep straight than longer strips are.
  2. Use a putty knife to run over the top of the painter’s tape to help the tape form a close bond with the trim board

Making Stripes


If you want to paint your wall in a striped pattern you can easily do so using painters tape. You will need to:

  • Measure the wall and make a mark with a pencil where each strip of painters tape should go. This will let you get the spaces between the stripes at exactly the distance you want them to be.
  • Place the tape on the wall where you made the mark. You might want to use a level or a straight edge to keep your line perfectly straight while you are doing this
  • Paint the areas between the strips of painters tape
  • Let the paint dry
  • Slowly pull the painter’s tape away and expose the unpainted area beneath the tape

Removing Painters Tape without Removing Paint

Removing Painters Tape without Removing Paint

If you want to remove the painters tape without damaging the painted surface of the wall then you can do the following things.

  • Remove the tape while the paint is still wet
  • When you are pulling tape from a dried wall then pull the tape off at a forty five degrees angle instead of pulling it straight
  • Use a putty knife and score the edge of the tape to make it easier to pull off
  • Buy a high grade painters tape that is designed to come off easily even if it has been on the wall for several days. This type of painters tape will cost a little more, but it is well worth the money you are investing in it.

Expert Tricks and Tips

  • Use Masking Paper and Painter’s Tape to create a Drip Catcher

When you paint you are very likely to have at least one drip. When these drips fall onto carpeting and some other surfaces, they can ruin the carpet. You can create a drip catcher that will almost eliminate the possibility of a drip accident.

  1. Cut masking paper into 3” strips. If the paper strips are wider than 3” they have a tendency to sag.
  2. Put your painters tape on your trim and allow a section of the painters tape to hang below the trim and not be stuck to anything
  3. Take your strips of masking paper and attach them by one edge to the portion of the tape that is not sticking to the wall
  4. Now on the other side of the masking paper create a fold line so that you create a flap that can catch the paint drips

Getting straighter edges for designs

When you are using painters tape to create a design or pattern you can ensure straighter edges if you apply the tape in strips and lay the strips side by side where they overlap slightly. Cover the entire area where the pattern will be. Then take a straight edge like a ruler, and a box blade knife and using the straight edge as a guide score the portions of the tape that do not need to be on the wall. Pull away the portion that you have scored, and press firmly on the edges of the tape with a putty knife to create an absolute seal before you begin to paint.

Creating a curved design

When you want to create a curved design using painters tape all you have to do is:

  1. Pen a stencil onto the area for you to follow or draw a very light line using a pencil
  2. Cut your painters tape into short strips so you can bend it or stretch it to fit the stencil or the drawn line

Applying Painters tape to Textured Surfaces

You are going to find that painters tape does not really stick very well on textured surfaces. The painter’s tape designed for hard to stick places, like the green 3M tape, will help you paint textured surfaces with ease.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use painters tape on a car?

You can use painters tape to tape over any portion of the car you do not want the new paint to touch. Cover door handles, windows, and any chrome with painters tape or masking tape prior to starting the paint process.

Can you use painters tape on freshly painted walls?

Do not apply painters tape to freshly painted walls. The paint must dry and cure on the wall before you can apply painters tape. Painters tape has a low adhesive but it can pull fresh paint off of a wall.

Can you put painters tape on fresh paint?

Never apply painters tape or masking tape to a fresh coat of paint. The adhesive on the tape will remove the fresh paint and leave you with an unsightly mess.

What is the fastest way to tape a room for painting?

One method of speeding up the process of taping a room for paint is to load your painters tape onto a packing tape dispenser. This will let you apply tape around baseboards and ceilings in far less time that you would use if you were pulling the tape off of the roll by hand.

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