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How to Choose and Use Painter’s Tape

Ask This Old House painter Mauro Henrique explains the uses and techniques for different types of painter’s tape

Choosing and using painter’s tape

1. Only use painter’s tape if it’s really needed. If you plan to paint the whole room, it may not be necessary. Start with the ceiling and work your way down. With a careful hand, you can cleanly paint an entire room without risking peeling any of the paint off with tape.
2. Don’t use masking tape in place of painter’s tape. It has a high adhesion, which can peel off or chip some of the surface being protected.
3. Read the labels on the tape to determine which one will work best for your project based on the following guidelines:
a. Use very high adhesion tape for exterior projects
b. Use medium adhesion tape for interior projects that will require a longer period of time to complete.
c. Use light adhesion for interior projects with delicate surfaces (ex: wallpaper) or that will only need to be up for a day or two. Light adhesion tape is least likely to damage the surface underneath, so aim to use that kind as much as possible.
4. The different colors of painter’s tape only indicate which manufacturer they belong to and don’t necessarily have different purposes.
5. To apply the tape, use long sections of tape at a time, at least 18”. Press hard against the edge being protected to ensure no paint can slip underneath the tape, but don’t press all the tape down on the surface if you don’t have to.
6. When painting, paint just as carefully as you would if there were no tape at all. The tape is really just meant to act as extra insurance.
7. As soon as the paint is dry, remove the tape. Peel off one corner and pull the tape away from the wall at roughly a 45 degree angle to prevent damage to the surface.


Mauro demonstrated a variety of different painter’s tapes. He suggests simply reading the label of the tape to see where each tape is best used. The color of the tape varies by manufacturer, not by application.

Each of the tapes Mauro demonstrated can be found at home centers and painting supply stores.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by Mauro’s Painting.