Buyer’s Guide: Painter’s Tape
Get clean, crisp results on your next paint project by using the painter’s tape best suited to your surfaces.
For a pro-quality paint job, you’ve got to focus on the areas you don’t want to receive paint as well as the ones you do—and that’s where painter’s tape comes in. A special kind of masking tape designed for easy removal, painter’s tape is placed where surfaces meet—such as walls and molding, or around a ceiling medallion or light fixture—to ensure sharp, even edges when you peel it off. Painter’s tape lets you work with confidence, leaving you with fewer painting mistakes to correct.
Painter’s tape is slightly thicker than ordinary masking tape, so as not to tear and leave remnants on surfaces. High-quality versions are also embedded with sponge-like polymers to absorb moisture, thereby preventing bleeding onto unpainted areas. It’s also available in different widths and levels of adhesion, tailored to various uses. To choose what’s best for your project, consider the main factors detailed below, then read on to see our top five picks for painter’s tape.
- BEST MULTIPURPOSE TAPE: ScotchBlue Original Painter’s Tape, Multi-Use, 1.88 inch X 60 yard
- BEST FOR HARD-TO-STICK SURFACES: ScotchBlue 2097-36EC Exterior Surfaces Painter’s Tape, 1.41 inch X 45 yard
- BEST FOR DELICATE SURFACES: Frogtape Delicate Surface Painter’s Tape, with PaintBlock, 1.41 inch X 60 yard
- BEST FOR WOOD AND DETAIL WORK: ProMask Blue Painter’s Tape with Bloc It 0.94 inch X 60 yard
- BEST BUDGET DEAL: Double Bond 14 Day Clean Release Painter’s Tape 1.88 inch X 60 yard
The Key Considerations for the Best Painter’s Tape
Job Duration. How long your project will take to complete and cure may affect the type of painter’s tape you use. Check the packaging to determine how long adhesive backing will stay fresh and lift off easily without damaging the surface or splintering into pieces. Because of their stronger adhesives, waterproof and exterior tapes should be removed within seven days to prevent surface damage. A medium-adhesive, multipurpose tape should remove easily up to 14 days after it’s applied, even if exposed to direct sunlight. For delicate surfaces and detail jobs, low-adhesive painter’s tape can last up to 60 days, depending on the brand and degree of sun, heat, and humidity exposure. Label info will give you duration estimates, as well as any environmental factors that may impact tape effectiveness.
Adhesion Level. Painter’s tape has different degrees of stickiness and may be safely left in place for different periods of time. The guidelines below will help you choose the right adhesion strength.
- Low: A low-adhesion tape is best for delicate surfaces (and may be labeled as such), including faux finishes, wallpaper, and decorative or patterned paint jobs. These tapes can remain in place for a week to two months, depending on brand.
- Medium: A medium-adhesive, multipurpose tape suits most common indoor surfaces, such as drywall and plaster. It’s also a good choice for easily scratched surfaces, including painted and unpainted wood, metal, glass, and stone. These tapes can typically stay in place for up to two weeks.
- Heavy-duty: A heavy-duty adhesive (sometimes labeled “for exteriors”) is best for outdoor work, as well as for securing heavy drop cloths and protecting such stick-resistant surfaces as concrete, brick, stucco, and lacquered paints. Weather-resistant tapes should be removed within seven days.
- Special purpose: If your room has laminate or wood floors (unfinished, or coated in polyurethane or lacquer), protect the floors with rosin paper and tape specially designed for these materials.
Tape Width. To tape off windows, trim, and molding when painting walls, the ideal widths for the job are 1.41 and 1.88 inches. These popular widths create a perfect edge without covering too much of the surface you want to paint—or too little of the trim you want to protect. For corner areas and detail/pattern work, a slightly narrower width of 0.94 inches is preferred, because it fits more easily into tight spaces. When using a smaller brush for detail work, a narrower tape is also more versatile, as it covers less surface area, making it easier to create stripes and other geometric patterns. Extra-wide painter’s tape (from two to three inches) is useful for taping floors and ceilings. A wider tape will catch more accidental splatters, as well as protect floors and ceilings from contact with the brush or roller.
Color. Painter’s tape comes in a variety of shades, but the colors are largely arbitrary and don’t signify qualities of the tape. The one exception is blue painter’s tape, popular for indoor and outdoor uses because it is UV resistant—important if your paint job will be exposed to sunlight. Ultra-violet rays can melt some adhesives to melt, making the tape more difficult to remove. Follow instructions for use and this won’t happen with blue painter’s tape.
The Best Painter’s Tapes
We selected painter’s tape in a range of widths and adhesion levels based on quality, price, and customer satisfaction.
1. BEST MULTIPURPOSE TAPE: ScotchBlue Original Painter’s Tape, Multi-Use, 1.88 inch X 60 yard (two-pack for $11.99)
This painter’s tape has been on the market for more than 30 years—and it’s still the gold standard, rating 4.5 stars on Amazon (73 percent give it a full five stars) and 723 customer reviews. UV-resistant, medium-adhesion ScotchBlue promises clean removal after 14 days, with no surface damage. While it comes in a range of widths, from 0.7 to 2.82 inches, the 1.88 inch is ideal for a range of surfaces, both flat and curved, including wood, glass, and painted or textured walls and ceilings.
Available on Amazon.
2. BEST FOR HARD-TO-STICK SURFACES: ScotchBlue 2097-36EC Exterior Surfaces Painter’s Tape, 1.41 inch X 45 yard ($6.84)
For exterior and stick-resistant surfaces like brick, stucco, and concrete, trust the heavy-duty adhesive power of ScotchBlue’s Exterior Surfaces Painter’s Tape. It has a waterproof backing and can withstand sun, wind, and rain, earning it four stars from Amazon customers, who use it for a variety of purposes, including automotive repairs and indoor paint jobs. Its 1.41-inch width is highly versatile, but there’s a 1.88-inch version, too, if you need extra wiggle room. Be sure to remove within seven days for clean results, and never use it on delicate surfaces, as the added adhesive power will lift decorative finishes and wallpaper.
Available on Amazon.
3. BEST FOR DELICATE SURFACES: Frogtape Delicate Surface Painter’s Tape, with PaintBlock, 1.41 inch X 60 yard (four-pack for $36.99)
To tape wallpaper, finished wood, and fresh paint (as long as it’s dry to the touch), rely on Frogtape Delicate Surface. This low-adhesive tape is embedded with absorbent polymers that react with latex paints, forming a gel barrier that stops paint from bleeding. The tape can stay in place for up to 60 days and is best for interior use. The 1.41-inch width is highly versatile, especially for trim, windows, and detail work. Amazon customers give it a solid four stars, and expert testers at Consumer Reports were also impressed: Compared to its leading competitors, Frogtape Delicate Surface Painter’s Tape was the easiest to remove and created crisp, beautiful lines.
Available on Amazon.
4. BEST FOR WOOD AND DETAIL WORK: ProMask Blue Painter’s Tape with Bloc It 0.94 inch X 60 yard ($4.12)
Using proprietary technology, ProMask Painter’s Tape has specially designed edges that prevent paint bleeding and seepage, especially when applied to wooden, lacquered, and laminated surfaces. This nicely priced tape is UV resistant but should be removed within 14 days for best results. Its slightly narrower width (0.94 inches) makes it ideal for corner and detail painting. Amazon customers award it 4.1 stars, and it also received the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval in 2010.
Available at Amazon.
5. BEST BUDGET DEAL: Double Bond 14 Day Clean Release Painter’s Tape 1.88 inch X 60 yard (four-pack for $20.99)
Good value plus good quality equals a great painter’s tape—and Double Bond Painter’s Tape delivers both, netting a 4.8-star Amazon rating. Some customers quibbled that it’s thinner than 3M ScotchBlue (our Best Multipurpose pick) and may tear slightly on removal but were happy with finished results overall. It comes in a range of widths, from 0.71 to 1.88 inches, and you can buy in bulk for real savings. Designed for both interior and exterior paint jobs, Double Bond is UV resistant and can handle temperatures ranging from 40 to 130 degrees. If you’re not 100 percent happy with the results, the company promises a full refund.
Available on Amazon.