How to Use Painter’s Tape

how to use painters tape


If you’ve ever done any painting projects around the house, you most likely have used painter’s tape. It’s a ubiquitous part of any painter’s toolbox, though many professional painters like to show off their skills by painting crisp edges without tape.

If you don’t care about showing off your painting skills, and you want the crispest edge possible when you paint, you really should use painter’s tape. If you’ve ever gone into a hardware store, you may have noticed that there are many different types of tape. So, how do you know which one to buy?

This handy video by This Old House shows off the various types of tape you can find, and it goes over the potential uses for each one, helping you choose the best tape for your particular situation. In general, for the outdoors, you want to have highly adhesive tape since outdoor paint is more durable than indoor paint and can handle being pulled without flaking off. Indoor painter’s tape should be of medium adhesion, which is gentler on your existing paintwork.

Once you’ve got your tape in hand, you need to know how to use it correctly. Some situations may call for a high adhesion tape and some that call for medium adhesion tape. There are even situations where you won’t need tape at all. can help you navigate this maze of (blue) tape. They provide a comprehensive video on how to properly apply masking tape for the best possible results. It will show you how to avoid paint bleeding and other common problems encountered when using painter’s tape.

What You Need

  • Painter’s tape
  • A 5-in-1 tool
  • Paint
  • Ziploc bag

Step-By-Step Breakdown

1. Choosing the Right Tape

There are various types of painter’s and masking tapes, with multiple widths and adhesion levels. The color of the tape doesn’t matter since it doesn’t indicate either adhesion or usage instructions. Instead, check the label to see if you’re choosing the right tape. 1″ tape is great for trim and other excellent detail areas, while 1 ½” tape is exceptional for protecting large spaces, such as ceilings, walls, and even carpets. As you continue to use painter’s tape, you’ll soon get a feel for which tape is suitable for which job.

2. Storing Tape Correctly

Whenever possible, make sure to store your painter’s tape in a Ziploc bag or another airtight container. This keeps moisture out, which helps extend the lifespan of the tape. Moisture negatively affects the adhesive used in the painter’s tape and can make it stickier. Excessive moisture will also separate the adhesive from the paper portion of the tape. This means that when you start pulling the tape off the area you masked, you’ll pull off the paper part of the tape, but the adhesive will remain behind. And if you’ve ever pulled a sticker off a CD case, you know precisely how difficult it can be to remove adhesive from surfaces.

3. Preparing the Surface

Before you start, ensure that the area you’re working on has been thoroughly cleaned and doesn’t have any dirt on it. Also, use a detergent to remove any possible oils that can affect the bonding between the trim and the tape. This is particularly important if you’re masking off wooden items.

4. Applying Masking Tape on the Trim

Many times, people will use masking tape by merely pressing onto the trim, which doesn’t prevent paint from the wall seeping into the trim. To make sure that your trim remains pristine, keep the following tips in mind:

Only use short pieces of tape at a go. Try to use a length of tape that is comfortable to work with. It should not be longer than the space between your left and right hand or your arm.

When applying painter’s tape, bring in one hand while keeping the other end away from the wall. Also, keep the tension in the tape relatively low, you don’t want to be pulling very tightly, but you also don’t want the tape to be slack in your hands. Pulling too tightly runs the risk of introducing air bubbles and preventing complete contact between the trim and the tape. If it is too loose, you will risk getting wrinkles.

You will then stick one piece of tape to the trim, while the other hand is still away from the wall, not touching the trim.

Then gently stick the tape down on the other side.

Take your thumb and press down, roughly in the middle of the piece of masking tape.

Lightly use your thumb to press down the entire length of the tape. Start by sliding gently across the tape. On the second pass, you can apply more pressure and even more on the third pass.

You now have a piece of masking tape securely adhered to the trim you want to protect, but in general, this isn’t enough to stop paint from bleeding through. One of the biggest reasons for this bleed through is gaps between the wall and trim, which allow the paint to flow through and get onto the trim quickly.

To correctly protect your trim, use a 5-in-1 tool to press the masking tape near the wall down even more. By angling your tool, you can put pressure only on the back edge of the tape, or the edge that you need tightly sealed.

Painting Near Painter’s Tape

Painter’s tape isn’t infallible, and even if you’ve applied it and sealed it correctly, it can’t protect against a flood of paint. That’s why, when you’re painting near your painter’s tape, use less paint on your brush, almost as if you were dry brushing. This prevents paint from flooding in and bleeding through any weak areas.

When you’re near the area with masking tape, use more layers of less paint to ensure even coverage without unwanted bleed through.

Removing Painter’s Tape

When removing painter’s tape, use a slow, upward motion to remove the tape.

You don’t need to wait for the paint to dry before removing the masking tape entirely. The reason for this is that painter’s tape becomes more challenging to remove the longer it stays on.

If you do leave your masking tape on for too long, you can use a razor blade to score the tape at the edge of the trim to break the seal that has formed between the dried paint, masking tape, and the wall. If you don’t do this step, you run the risk of having the paint that’s dried on the tape being pulled up, ruining your perfect wall.


Using painter’s tape is a great way to ensure that your paint job looks perfect and your trim remains pristine. Painter’s tape can also be used to mark off various areas that you want to paint, for instance, if you’re painting stripes or chevrons on a wall.

While painter’s tape is a handy tool, it’s not foolproof, and you may find unwanted bleed through when misused. Be sure to apply tape in pieces about as long as your arm, and make sure that you firmly secure the tape to the edge that will be painted by using a 5-in-1 tool, or something similar.

Painter’s tape is an excellent tool. So, take the time to use it properly and reap the rewards of having clean, crisp lines in your home.

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