Best Painter’s Tape For Every Situation And A Guide To Using It
When you’ve made the decision to paint a room in your home, it may be surprising how many “little” things go into it.
What type/brand of paint, shade, the best painter’s tape, or kind of paintbrushes to use are non-optional for the job. While some of these factors are more important than others, they all are a piece of the puzzle and each factor can make or break your DIY paint job.
When it comes to the best painter’s tape, it’s important to understand that this is somewhat based on your needs and the type of paint job you’re performing. If we go a layer deeper, we find that the “best” paint tape may differ for two people painting the same exact shade in the same type of space.
That said, the difference can be pretty minimal and there are a few options you’ll be generally safe opting for, so it sometimes comes down to personal preference.
If you are one of the many DIY home improvement enthusiasts not interested in learning everything there is to know about painter’s tape – I’ve conveniently placed my top picks immediately below.
Please note that this article contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
Overall best painter’s tape
Frog Tape is recommended by experts everywhere, and for good reason. It’s a cost effective option that all of my contractors swear by. The tape reacts to the water in latex paint and turns to gel, which forms a micro-barrier to help prevent paint bleed.
This gel action is what sets Frog Tape apart from other painter’s tapes – it’s ability to prevent or minimize bleeding paint along the masked edges by creating a waterproof seal at the edge where the tape and your painting surface meet.
When it comes to the cons of Frog Tape – there truly aren’t many. Most of the complaints you’ll notice involve people who felt that the tape was not sticky enough and/or left residue on their walls. While these are definitely fair concerns, they’re not the norm.
This type of painter’s tape is available online on Amazon, as well as local and chain hardware stores such as Home Depot and Lowes.
Comparable multi-purpose painter’s tape options
#M Scotch Blue 2090 Multi-Surface Tape
This type of painter’s tape is just about as popular as Frog Tape (if not more), and is closer to what people tend to think of when they imagine painter’s tape. It looks like blue masking tape, and works as such.
It is a little bit pricier than Frog Tape (at least in some places), so be aware of this. This tape can be left in place for up to 14 days and won’t cause surface damage – even when exposed to sunlight. It can work effectively on surfaces such as walls, trim, glass, and metal.
3M Original Blue Painter’s Tape
This painter’s tape is considered one of the “originals”, and has been known and trusted for a long time. It is a multi-surface tape that can protect wood trim, painted walls, glass windows, and/or tile flooring.
With this tape you have a few options in size, depending on whether you want to stick to the normal 1.5”, or want the extra room that 2” provides. 3M Blue Painter’s Tape is tough, durable, and it applies easily.
Best outdoor painter’s tape option
Scotch Exterior Surface Painter’s Tape
Finding large exterior surface tape is more difficult than finding typical painting tape, although it is still very accessible. Keep in mind, this type of tape is best used outdoors, and shouldn’t be left on for more than about 10 days.
Best painting tape for delicate surfaces
Scotch Delicate Surface Painting Tape
This tape is best used for surfaces such as painted drywall, freshly painted walls (within 24 hours), wallpaper, veneers, cabinets, and wood floors.
To be safe, keep this tape affixed to a surface for up to 60 days without leaving a sticky residue behind.
While this tape appears to have a lot more benefits when compared to some of the others, it is definitely not the right tool for many surfaces and projects due to its light adhesion.
What factors go into choosing the best painter’s tape?
Material being painted
As you can easily see from the myriad options we’ve covered, different surfaces require different levels of adhesion.
This is an incredibly important point to consider because using the wrong strength of adhesion could end in residue being left behind, or damage to the surface you are painting.
For example, multi-surface painter’s tape may stick well to a normal painted wall surface, but maybe not adhere very well to wood or wallpaper.
It is usually fair to assume that, unless marked otherwise, most painting tape is meant for painting normal walls. Multi-surface tape typically sticks better to harder surfaces, but they’re more likely to damage surfaces like wallpaper or new paint.
If you’re unsure, it’s worth considering playing it safe and using a tape meant for a delicate surface.
As you’ll see, there are many different widths for tape. I recommend sticking to tape that is between 1.5-2 inches if possible (especially if you aren’t very experienced with painting). Wider painting tape is typically more expensive than skinnier tape, but you’re more likely to get a job done correctly and efficiently if you aren’t skimping on tape width.
With that being said – remember that there is such as going overboard with your tape width. The wider you go, the greater the likelihood of cleaning excess adhesive off the wall when everything is said and done.
Additionally – there ceases to be a benefit to going wider at some point, so you’re only giving yourself the potential for more work – not less.
How long do you intend for this painting project to take? It is not easy to remove and reapply painter’s tape, so you’ll want to make sure you only apply what you can finish in the allotted time the painting tape can stick.
What makes a good painters tape?
There are going to be pros and cons regardless of the painting tape you choose, and the factors that you’ll want to look for are somewhat universal – regardless of the painting job.
We recommend looking at factors such as ease of application, residue left when the tape is removed, and how “crisp” that border between the masked and painted areas is.
While each painter’s tape is different, there are some common adhesion levels found in the industry.
Any adhesion strength is “right” enough for the right job, so don’t assume you need to purchase heavy duty adhesive for everything. Here are some of the common adhesion levels, and what kind of painting jobs the are typically best for:
- Low: A low-adhesion tape is best for delicate surfaces (such as wallpaper or patterned paint), and is sometimes labeled as such. This type of tape can typically remain in place for anywhere from one week to two months depending on the brand.
- Medium: Medium adhesive multi-purpose tape is typically used for for common indoor surfaces like drywall and plaster. It is also recommended for surfaces that can scratch easily – such as painted and unpainted wood, glass, metal, and stone. This tape has a recommended stay time of 2 weeks.
- Heavy-duty: This adhesion level is best for outdoor work and/or stick resistant surfaces such as concrete, brick, and stucco. This tape is sometimes labeled “for exterior”, and should be removed within a week.
- Special purpose: This type of tape is typically used for laminate and/or wood flooring that is unfinished or coated in polyurethane. This tape is usually labeled as being special purpose.
Does painter’s tape color matter?
In most cases, no. The color of the tape does not typically signify a certain UV-resistance, thickness, or adhesive level.
With that being said, choosing a tape that contrasts from the wall will help your accuracy in placing and removing the tape.
Masking Tape Vs. Painter’s Tape
Many people make the mistake of thinking masking tape and painters tape are the same thing.
While they’re similar, they’re not the same.
Masking tape is easier to tear, relatively cheap – but it does have the potential to leave residue adhesive behind. As we’ve already discussed, there are a ton of different varieties to painter’s tape (such as UV resistant).
Masking tape may work in a pinch for a regular paint job (with the understanding that you’re risking residue on the walls), but many jobs will be easier and turn out better with painter’s tape.
How to Use Painter’s Tape
If you’ve ever tried to use painter’s tape in the past, you may have experienced the frustration of not being able to get the tape to lay straight, or perhaps you’ve dealt with painter’s tape that doesn’t have strong enough adhesive, or maybe leaves residue behind.
Regardless, here are the steps for using painter’s tape to make using it easier.
1. Clean the area well
Your painter’s tape will not stick to a dirty surface, so make sure you take the time to clean and dry it first. Usually a damp rag is enough, but if you’re dealing with something like grease spots, you can use a degreasing agent.
2. Apply the tape
This is the tough part. You’ll want to make sure the painter’s tape is only applied to the edges you’re trying to protect from paint drips and splatters. Having it consistently straight and right up to the edge is incredibly important, but a tricky thing to accomplish.
I’ve found a painter’s tape applicator can be a lifesaver, as it allows you to use the edge of your surface as a “guide” that you can roll the tape on. When you’ve reached the end of one of your sides, you can cut the tape with the built in sharp edge on the applicator.
3. Press down tape
The step is incredibly important step if you want to prevent paint from getting underneath your tape. This is less of a worry with Frog Tape, but still a good idea. You can use a flexible putty knife or something similar to press down the edges of your tape. You’ll want to press down at a slight angle and pull the knife along the tape.
Tips for Getting Clean Lines With Painters Tape
The best tip I’ve found for getting clean painter’s tape lines is to make sure you re-measure the area you’re going to tape, and use smaller pieces. The longer the tape, the increased likelihood of it getting crooked as you work further down the line, or creating air pockets/folds in the tape where paint can bleed through.
The other thing that has made a big difference for me when placing painter’s tape is to go slow, and don’t be afraid to remove and replace sections of your tape.
Most painter’s tape will stick at least four times before it looses its stickiness and bleed-prevention qualities.
When should I remove painter’s tape?
You have two choices here – remove the tape when the paint is wet, or wait until it is dry.
Typically I recommend removing it when the paint is still wet, but some paint dries quickly and it may start drying before you can get it removed.
The benefit to removing it wet is that you’re much less likely to peel away parts of your paint job that have dried together with paint on the tape.
If you must remove the tape when the paint is already dry, use a putty knife to gently score the edge of the tape before pulling it off – this will help prevent peeling off any of your new paint job.
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