How to Tape a Room for Painting

Older couple taping, preparing to paint
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When you’re painting a room or an area in your home, one of the most effective ways to get neat, professional-looking lines is with painters tape. This special tape serves as a barrier on surfaces you don’t want painted, letting you work quickly without worrying about making mistakes—essentially, it helps you to paint between the lines!

While the concept is simple, it can be a bit challenging to apply painters tape, especially if you’ve never done it before. Here’s what you need to know to tape a room for painting.

Gather Your Supplies

You’ll need a few things to tape the edges of a room, the most important of which is painters tape. There are a few types of tape to choose from, and the best option depends on what surface you’re painting.

For your average painting job, you’ll be fine with a multi-surface painters tape, which features medium-strength adhesion and can be used on trim, baseboards, regular walls, and even glass. If you’re taping off a textured surface, such as brick or stucco, you’ll want to look for painters tape that’s designed for rough or hard-to-stick surfaces. Finally, if you’re using painters tape to paint designs, such as stripes, your best option is an ultra-thin tape that will create sharp, precise lines.

Some people use regular masking tape in place of painters tape, as it’s often more affordable. However, there are a few disadvantages to masking tape. These include the sticky residue it leaves upon removal, it must be removed sooner, and it can pucker or leak if you use certain types of paint.

In addition to tape of your choice, you’ll also want to gather:

  • A damp sponge or rag
  • A putty knife and/or utility knife
  • Drop cloths
  • Masking paper (optional)

Prep the Room

There are a few steps you should take before you apply painters tape to a room. At the very least, you’ll want to run a damp sponge or rag over any baseboards and trim, removing dirt and dust that may be lingering. If a surface is dirty, your tape won’t stick as well, and you may end up with leaky lines.

If you’re painting a room that hasn’t been used in a while, you may also want to wipe down the walls with warm water, as paint goes on more evenly when the walls are clean. Let the walls and trim dry completely before proceeding.

Finally, remove any light switch covers, hooks, and other fixtures from the walls to avoid getting paint splattered on them.

Start Taping Off the Room

It’s time for the main event! Unless you’re a pro painter, you’ll probably find it challenging to apply long, continuous strips of tape, so experts recommend ripping off foot-long sections to apply.

Start to frame off the area where you’re going to paint by carefully placing tape flush with the wall. Overlap each piece a little bit to ensure there are no gaps, and be careful not to stretch the tape as you apply it, as this may cause it to leak.

Once the tape is in place, use your putty knife or fingers to firmly press it down, making sure it’s stuck on there good. If the edge of the tape is hanging off the baseboard or trim, you can then fold it down over the surface, but you don’t have to. Use these same basic steps to tape around windows and doors.

Here’s a trick for getting crisp corners or taping awkward areas: When you reach a corner, use a longer piece of tape than you need, and run it up (or down) the wall. Press it snuggly into the corner, and use your utility knife to gently cut along the crease, then remove the piece of tape on the wall. This will give you a neat line every time!

Additional Protective Measures

Painters tape helps you get clean lines along the edges of a room, but it doesn’t necessarily protect against splatter or drips. For this reason, you’ll want to lay down drop cloths or plastic to protect the floor after you’ve taped the room. You can also use masking paper—sticky brown paper strips that are a few inches wide—as an extra layer of protection around windows, doors, and fixtures like ceiling fans.

Removing Painters Tape

When you’re finished painting, you’ll want to remove the tape as soon as possible. Gently pull the tape off at a 45-degree angle, and use slow, steady movements. If the tape doesn’t want to come off, don’t force it. Instead, use a putty or utility knife to gently score the area, cutting through any dry paint.

If you can’t remove the tape before the paint has dried, it’s best to take extra precautions to prevent peeling the beautiful new color off your wall. In these situations, use your putty or utility knife to gently score where the tape and paint meet. This will allow you to remove the tape easily and achieve professional-looking paint lines.