Wandering through the aisles of a paint store trying to pull everything together for your DIY painting project can feel overwhelming. From painter’s tape to drop cloths and paintbrushes to sponges, the options are practically endless. Some of these things won’t make a difference in your end product—the plastic you put on the floor probably won’t mess up your walls—but things like brushes and tape can make a huge impact on your lines and finish.
Let’s focus on the tape
Painting without tape is like trying to color in the lines on a tiny picture with a giant marker. It’s going to end in tears. Painting with the wrong tape can be just as bad. If it’s not sticky enough, you will end up with squiggly lines instead of straight ones. If it’s too sticky, you can end up with glue residue on the walls and other adhesion issues.
Recommended types of tape
Most of the tapes that we recommend are 3M™ products, the makers of Scotch® brand tape. These types may be more expensive than other options; but you really will get what you pay for. Cheaper means less quality when it comes to tape.
Scotch® Masking Tape for Production Painting 2020 is a high adhesion tape with a 3-day safe release.
Where: Use this tape in places that require high adhesion, mostly exteriors or hard to tape places inside.
Why: With 2020, you won’t have to worry about the wind blowing down your paper or plastic once you’ve stuck it to your trim and windows. You’ll have three days to use and remove this tape without risking sticky, messy residue on your surfaces. This is the shortest release period and the stickiest tape we’ll recommend, so be careful where you choose to use it. Make sure to take it off promptly.
ScotchBlue™ Painters Tape for Multi-Surfaces 2090 is a medium adhesion tape with a 14-day safe release.
Where: Use this tape for most of your painting projects, especially if they’ll take more than a few days, both interior and exterior.
Why: With 2090 you’ll have good adhesion without worrying about removing it in the three-day time window that 2020 provides. While you’ll have two weeks to finish your project before being concerned with adhesion issues, you also won’t have to worry about the tape coming off before you’re done.
ScotchBlue™ Painters Tape 2080 is a low-medium adhesion tape with a 60-day safe release.
Where: Use this tape for interiors, especially on delicate surfaces or on projects that may take a few weekends.
Why: With 2080 you’ll have an easy to work with tape that produces awesome straight lines. This tape is our favorite for interiors both because of the two-month safe release and because you don’t have to worry about paint seeping (bleeding) under the tape as much as you would with 2020 or 2090. We’ll warn you that this product is a lot more expensive than either 2020 or 2090, however. Like we said before, you get what you pay for!
Frogtape® is not a 3M product and can be purchased in a variety of adhesion levels (multi-surface or delicate surface).
Where: Use this tape for interiors and special projects, like painting patterns/geometric murals. There is also a variety specifically for heavily textured surfaces.
Why: With Frogtape® you’ll get the added bonus of PaintBlock® Technology, which is a special film on the tape that reacts with wet paint to form a seal. The idea is that this will mean no bleeding, or minimal bleeding, and straighter lines. Our painters have mixed feelings about Frogtape®; but, if your lines are the most important part of your project, it may be a good choice for you. They also offer Shape Tape ™ which lets you create custom designs with much less work than standard tape as it’s already patterned in a couple of different shapes.
Once you’ve picked the tape that’s right for you, all that’s left is to decide what width you’ll need. As professionals, we use one or one-and-a-half-inch tape. As a homeowner, using tape as wide as two inches gives you a bit of wiggle room—not that we’d ever accuse anyone of being sloppy!
It’s pretty much downhill from here as far as the tough choices go. Our painter’s tip to you: make sure to take the time to tape off properly and run your finger along the edge of the tape once you’ve applied it. The friction from your finger against the tape will create heat to activate the glue. This helps to achieve the straight lines you’re looking for.