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Painters Tape 101 - How to use painters tape like a pro

Painting with painters tape on baseboard trim

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

Clean moldings before using painters tape
  • 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

Applying scotch blue painters tape
  • 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

Putty knife
  • 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 painters tape from trim
  • 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

Painting using a plastic drop cloth
  • 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

Painters Tape for Multi-Surfaces

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

The Original 3M Scotch Blue Painters Tape is great for multiple surfaces:

  • Painted walls
  • Trim
  • Woodwork
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Removes clean for up to 14 days
Painting around Textured Surfaces

Painting around Textured Surfaces

3M Scotch Painter's Hard-to-Stick Green Masking Tape

Regular painters tape will not stick well on textured surfaces like stucco and brick. For those hard-to-stick surfaces, you'll need 3M Scotch Painter's Green Masking Tape. Multiple sizes are available to fit your needs.

  • Sticks to textured surfaces, such as brick or stucco
  • Great for exterior use
  • Not made to be used on wet surfaces
  • Removes clean for up to 3 days
Create Designs with Painters Tape

Create Designs with Painters Tape

Stripes and other designs should be made using FrogTape Delicate Surface Masking Tape or 3M Scotch Safe-release with Edge-lock Painters Tape.

FrogTape Delicate Surface is best for these surfaces:

  • Freshly painted surfaces (24 hours old)
  • Faux finishes
  • Primed wallboard
  • Primed wallpaper
  • Laminate flooring
  • Removes clean for up to 60 days

3M Scotch Safe-Release is best for these surfaces:

  • Freshly painted surfaces (24 hours old)
  • Glass
  • Primed walls
  • Trim
  • Cabinets
  • Removes clean for up to 60 days

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

Painters Tape

Painters Tape Advantages

  • Leaves no sticky residue
  • Most tapes can stay on for several days and come off cleanly
  • Clean lines once removed
  • Won't pucker when painted over

Painters Tape Disadvantages

  • Costs more than masking tape
Masking Tape

Masking Tape Advantages

  • Cheaper than painters tape
  • Great for masking windows
  • Great for masking canvas

Masking Tape Disadvantages

  • Leaves a sticky residue
  • Must be removed within hours to come off cleanly
  • Paint sticks to masking tape and may cause peeling paint when removed
  • Water-based paint causes masking tape to pucker
  • Oil-based paint causes damage to masking tape and paint will seep through

Paintbrush and Roller Buying Guide

Now, you're ready to start painting! If you're unsure what type of paintbrush or roller to use for your paint project, we've created a Paintbrush and Roller Buying Guide to help! This guide lays out the different types of painting materials, what size of brush or roller will work best for each type of painting project, and it even tells you what type of brush or roller works best for every surface! Happy painting!

Where can I buy painters tape and drop cloths?

You'll find a wide selection of painters tapes and drop cloths in store or on our website.