How to Use Painter’s Tape the Right Way

Ensure perfectly crisp lines by choosing the right painter’s tape and knowing how to apply it.

By Savannah Sher | Published Mar 28, 2022 9:26 AM

how to use painters tape

Photo: istockphoto.com

Painter’s tape is used to create crisp lines, protect ceilings and trim, and make a painting job look like it was done by a professional. Using painter’s tape, however, can be trickier than it looks.

While experienced painters sometimes cut in without tape, beginners usually use painter’s tape to mask off areas that they don’t want to paint and then peel it off to reveal flawless lines for the best result.

Keep reading to learn about the different styles of painter’s tape to ensure you choose the right one for the job, and find out how to use painter’s tape for a flawless end result.

RELATED: 13 Top Tips to Make Any Paint Job Go Faster

5 Types of Painter’s Tape to Know

Before detailing how to use painter’s tape, let’s explore the five most common types on the market. The best painter’s tape for you depends on the task at hand.

1. Multipurpose Painter’s Tape

how to use painters tape

Photo: Amazon.com

Multipurpose painter’s tape is suitable for most common household projects. It has a medium level of adhesion that allows it to stick to standard painted walls without causing any damage. It can also be used on floors, trim, baseboards, tile, and glass. Some brands use colors to differentiate their painter’s tape varieties, and most blue tape is considered multipurpose tape.

Our Recommendation: ScotchBlue Original Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape on Amazon for $7.90
ScotchBlue’s Original Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape is an excellent all-around pick with medium adhesion that works well for a wide variety of surface types.

2. Textured Surface Painter’s Tape

how to use painters tape

Photo: Amazon.com

When masking textured surfaces for paint, it’s important to use a style of tape with a higher level of adhesion that’s ideal for rougher materials like brick, concrete, and wood. Many brands make their high-adhesion tape green.

Our Recommendation: Scotch Rough Surface Painter’s Tape on Amazon for $7.35
This option from Scotch adheres well to rough and textured surfaces like concrete, brick, stucco, and rough wood.

3. Delicate Surface Painter’s Tape

how to use painters tape

Photo: Amazon.com

One of the risks of using painter’s tape is potentially damaging the surface. With delicate surface painter’s tape, however, that’s not a concern. Some brands use the color purple to designate their delicate surface painter’s tape.

Our Recommendation: FROGTAPE Delicate Surface Painter’s Tape on Amazon for $9.98
This low-adhesive tape is easy to tear and easy to remove without damaging a delicate surface underneath.

4. Exterior Painter’s Tape

how to use painters tape

Photo: Amazon.com

When working outdoors, the highest level of adhesion is necessary—especially if your project takes a few days. Exterior painter’s tape is designed to withstand the elements and won’t peel off if it rains.

Our Recommendation: Scotch Exterior Surface Painter’s Tape on Amazon for $9.28
This tape adheres well to common outdoor surfaces like metal, vinyl, painted wood, and glass, and it’s ideal for when you need a high-adhesion option.

5. Decorative Shape Tape

how to use painters tape

Photo: Amazon.com

Those attempting crafty DIY projects may appreciate thinner rolls of painter’s tape, which allow them to create thin lines for a design. Some decorative tapes come in unique patterns like chevrons, which can be used to create a graphic effect on walls and other surfaces.

Our Recommendation: Chinco 6 Rolls Fine Line Tape on Amazon for $12.99
This set of six tape rolls comes in a variety of widths so that users can use them for a variety of artistic painting projects.

RELATED: The 8 Painting Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

How to Tape a Room for Painting Walls

how to use painters tape

Photo: istockphoto.com

When masking for painting walls, painter’s tape is used to protect ceilings, baseboards, and trims. The following steps will help ensure that your lines are crisp and that no paint splatters onto unwanted surfaces.

STEP 1: Prep and clean walls, ceiling, and trim. 

Before starting any painting project, it’s important to ensure that all of the surfaces are clean and free of dust. This is especially important when using painter’s tape since it won’t adhere properly to dirty surfaces.

After cleaning, make sure everything has dried completely before moving on to the next step.

STEP 2: Apply the tape to the trim and ceiling. 

The next step is identifying the areas you need to protect. In most rooms, this means the ceiling, the trim around windows and doorways, and baseboards.

Rip off 1-foot-long pieces of tape, which are easier to handle. Apply them to the intended area in a straight line. Start in the middle of each piece, smoothing it down with a finger or putty knife as you go. If any pieces bubble or lay unevenly, it’s best to remove them and try again.

STEP 3: Remove the tape as soon as you’re done painting. 

While painter’s tape can usually remain in place for hours—or even days—without causing any damage to the surface underneath, it’s best to remove it as soon as possible to ensure the best results.

Slowly peel the tape off the trim at a 45-degree angle. If any sections don’t come off easily, a putty knife usually helps.

How to Use Painter’s Tape When Painting Trim

how to use painters tape

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When it’s time to paint your trim, you’ll need to protect your walls, floors, and ceiling from becoming covered in paint.

STEP 1: Apply tape to the floor—whether it’s carpeting or a hard surface. 

When painting trim, painter’s tape can be used to protect hard flooring like wood and tile as well as carpeting. It’s especially important to protect wall-to-wall carpeting from paint.

Ensure that the floor is clean, and then apply a wide piece of painter’s tape along the edge where the baseboards meet the ground, working one foot at a time. For carpets, use a putty knife to tack the tape down so that no carpeting is exposed to paint while you work.

STEP 2: Use tape to protect your walls from paint. 

The next step is applying painter’s tape to the walls where they meet the trim. Ensure that walls are clean and free of dust before applying the tape along all of the trim.

If you painted your walls first, it’s important to wait 24 hours—or until the paint has dried completely—before using painter’s tape to ensure the paint doesn’t peel off when it’s removed.

STEP 3: Apply painter’s tape to the ceiling. 

If your trim includes crown molding—or any other style of molding that abuts the ceiling—the ceiling will need to be protected. It would be easy to assume that white trim paint won’t be noticeable on a ceiling, but trims are typically painted with semi-gloss paint, whereas it’s generally recommended that ceilings are painted with flat paint.

Apply paint along the upper edge of the trim, smoothing it down as you work.

How to Use Painter’s Tape When Painting a Ceiling

how to use painters tape

Photo: istockphoto.com

When painting a ceiling, protect your walls—especially if they’re freshly painted. Similarly, if the space has crown molding, tape can be used to maintain its crisp, white color.

STEP 1: Apply tape along the edges of the ceiling. 

If the room in question doesn’t have an upper molding, apply painter’s tape directly onto the walls where they meet the ceiling. If the walls have recently been painted, make sure they have dried completely.

Ensure the tape lies perfectly flush with the edge of the ceiling and doesn’t have any bubbles or ripples. Take your time—it’s important to ensure the tape is straight.

STEP 2: Apply painter’s tape to the crown molding.

If the room has a molding that meets the ceiling, use the same technique detailed above, applying the tape to the molding instead.

Press down the edges of the tape using your fingers or a putty knife, ensuring it adheres to the molding. When working with a particularly detailed molding, this may require a bit more time.

STEP 3: Remove the tape as soon as you’re done painting. 

Once you’ve finished painting the ceiling, remove the tape from the walls or moldings as soon as possible. If the paint has already dried, you may need to use the straight edge of a putty knife to score the tape in order to cleanly peel it away without causing the ceiling paint to chip.

These tried-and-tested painter’s tape techniques help ensure that your room looks like it was painted by a professional—even if you did it yourself. Painter’s tape is the ideal tool for inexperienced painters and ensures that edges are crisp and clean every time.

The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on 3/28/22.