Painters Tape 101 - How to Use Painters Tape Like a Pro

A young woman sitting on a wooden floor covered by a drop cloth surrounded by painting supplies and a bright yellow wall behind her

How to use painters tape for interior painting

Finish your paint job faster and with fewer mistakes using painters tape and these step-by-step directions for taping off a room before painting.

Clean Moldings and Walls Before Applying Painters Tape

Woman wiping white wall from dust with dry rag, back view. CLeaning service or regular clean up concept
  • Dust trim or molding
  • Use a damp rag to clean surface
  • If greasy, use soap and water
  • Let dry fully
  • Start taping

The biggest mistake that can be made when taping walls or trim for painting is to skip the cleaning process. Even the stickiest painters tape won't stick to dusty, dirty, or greasy surfaces. Simply use a damp cloth to remove dust or dirt, and let your surface dry fully before starting your taping process. If you find grease, you'll have to use soap and water to successfully remove all of the residue before beginning.

How to apply painters tape to ceilings or inside corner walls

A man applying blue painters tape to the top of a wall underneith the ceiling
  • Paint around the corner with the first color
  • Let dry fully (usually 24 hours)
  • Tape your line 1/8" from the corner
  • Apply pressure to tape to make sure it's sealed
  • Start painting

You'll find it's very hard to get a straight line, even with painters tape. The trick to paint corners or around ceilings is to paint around the corner with the first color. Once the paint dries, tape off the painted side using tape that is safe on 24 hour fresh paint. Instead of trying to tape perfectly down the center of the corner, move the tape about 1/8" from the corner where it'll be easier to get a straight line. No one will ever notice that your line isn't perfectly centered in the corner! The last step is to press down the edge of the tape to make sure it's sealed.

How to apply painters tape to trim and baseboards

Professional painter prepared for painting by taping off the bottom baseboards with painters tape
  • Pull tape about 6" off roll
  • Place on trim board
  • Use a putty knife to apply pressure
  • Repeat the process

When applying painters tape to baseboard trim, it will seal best when a flexible putty knife is used to apply pressure as you lay your tape line. Start by laying about 6" of tape against your surface, then unroll about 6" more. Laying small sections of tape at a time will help to keep your tape as straight as possible.

How to remove painters tape without peeling paint

Removing masking tape from wooden door trim after painting the walls
  • Remove tape while paint is still wet
  • If paint has dried, score the edge of the tape with a putty knife before you pull it off
  • Remove tape at a 45-degree angle

If you know you won't be able to remove your tape while the paint is still wet, it's very important to make sure you spend the extra money for a good quality tape that can be safely left on for several days. Depending on your type of painters tape, you should have at least 3 days before tape would need to be removed.

How to paint in a room with carpet

Young woman carefully spreads a drop cloth on the floor as she prepares to paint a room in her home.
  • Cut 3' strips of masking paper
  • Apply painters tape to trim leaving an overhang
  • Stick 3" masking paper to painters tape creating a flap
  • Lay down a plastic or canvas drop cloth on entire carpet

Masking paper is a great tool to keep paint off of carpet or other flooring. First, you'll apply painters tape using the tricks listed above. Then, you'll add about 3" of masking paper to the painters tape. This will create a flap that will catch most paint drips from brushes and rollers. Any flap wider than 3" will most likely sag, which will not catch your paint or protect your floor.

Drop clothes can also be laid out to protect the entire room. For painting best practices, cover the entire floor with a plastic sheeting, and then top that with a canvas top. The canvas is more durable to withstand foot traffic while painting, and it will absorb paint splatter better.

Choose the right painters tape every time!

Not all painters tapes are created equal.

Painters Tape for Multi-Surfaces

3M Scotch Blue Multi-Surface Painter's Masking Tape

Painting around textured surfaces

What's the difference between painters tape and masking tape?

Read next

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.


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