How to Mask a Room Before Painting

Five Star Painting painter painting wall in properly masked room.
Painter’s tape is a DIY painting project’s best friend. It helps you achieve crisp, clean lines and professional-looking results. However, contrary to popular belief, running a strip of painter’s tape on the ceiling, floor, or around trim won’t guarantee perfect results. There is a learning curve on how to apply and remove painter’s tape correctly for great results.

Before you start masking off your walls, learn everything you need to know about using painter’s tape and masking for paint from the experts at Five Star Painting®:

  • What’s the best painter’s tape?
  • Are painter’s tape and masking tape the same?
  • What color painter’s tape do I need?
  • How to apply painter’s tape
  • Masking a room for painting
  • How to remove painter’s tape

What’s the Best Painter’s Tape?

Painter’s tape comes in different widths and adhesion strengths to suit different types of painting projects. The best painter’s tape will depend on the type of paint, where you’re painting, and the condition of the surface. Read on to learn how to choose the best painter’s tape for your project.

Hand pulling off painters tape masking crown molding on freshly painted wall.

Painter’s Tape Adhesion

When it comes to selecting the best tape, it’s important to consider its adhesion level: low, medium, or high.

  • Low adhesion level tape can remain in place for longer periods and is best for delicate surfaces, wallpaper, or paint with a faux finish.
  • Medium adhesion is considered multipurpose and works for interior or exterior projects. This tape can remain in place for up to two weeks.
  • High adhesion works best for exterior surfaces or rough, textured ones. It’s also great for securing drop cloths. This tape should be removed within seven days.

Painter’s Tape Width

The width of the tape can also affect your paint masking in certain areas of the house.

Hands applying painters tape to window trim.

Examples include:

  • Windows, trim, and molding: Look for painter’s tape that is 1.41 to 1.88 inches wide. These widths give you enough tape for a clean edge.
  • Tight spaces: A narrow-width painter’s tape of 0.94 inches would work the best.
  • Floors and ceilings: Wide painter’s tape (2.5+ inches) is best for hanging plastic and tarps to protect floors and ceilings. If you don’t want to buy multiple widths, then a roll of 1 1/2-inch tape should do the job.

What Color Painter’s Tape Do I Need?

The color painter’s tape you buy will depend on where you’re going to place it. For example, blue painter’s tape resists UV light, which degrades the tape and glue over time. If you’re working outside, always use this type of tape. For more information on which color of tape would work best for your project, visit our article on Blue Versus Green Tape.

Are Painter’s Tape and Masking Tape the Same?

No, masking tape is not the same as painter’s tape. The two may look and feel similar, but they do not serve the same purpose.

Painter’s tape is designed to be removed and leave no residue. It also won’t wrinkle or shrink when it comes into contact with paint. While masking tape may work in a pinch, if it’s left on a surface for a long period , there’s a good chance it will leave behind a sticky residue or wrinkle when it comes into contact with paint.

How to Apply Painter’s Tape

It’s imperative to apply tape correctly to avoid any painting mishaps.

Steps to follow:

  1. Paint won’t stick to a dusty or dirty surface. So run a damp rag around the area you’re masking to remove dust and debris that could prevent adhesion.
  2. Once the tape is applied, run a small, flexible putty knife along its length to press the adhesive into the surface. Don’t skip this step or substitute your hand for the putty knife.

How to Mask a Room for Painting

Masking for paint requires extra prep time, but it will save time and effort in the long run. Professional painters with a steady hand and proven methodology can cut in ceilings and trim without masking. However, this is a risky move for a DIY painter, and you are better off spending the time and money to mask off the area as much as possible to prevent mistakes.

Hands applying painters tape to mask outlet.

How to mask a room to spray paint or texture:

  1. If you’re spraying paint or texture, you’ll need to mask off entire rooms or walls. The easiest way to do this is to run a strip of wide painter’s tape (2.5+ inches) around the perimeter of the ceiling. Only adhere the top edge of the tape, leaving the bottom edge exposed.
  2. Slide plastic under the exposed edge and gently press it into the tape. We recommend using lightweight and thin (.31mm) high-density plastic sheeting.

How to mask trim:

  • To paint floor trim such as baseboards, run a strip of wide painter’s tape on the floor along the trim.
  • A strip of painter’s tape combined with a sheet of 6-inch-wide masking paper will give you more room for error.
  • If you’re installing new trim, it’s always easiest to paint the trim on a set of sawhorses before installation.

How to Remove Painter’s Tape

Just as with applying the tape, removing it requires some patience and practice. It’s best not to leave painter’s tape on longer than is specified by the manufacturer. If you wait too long, the adhesive can harden and remain stuck on the surface when you try to tear it off.

For best results, you should remove the painter’s tape while the paint is still wet. Make sure to tear the tape off at a 45 degree angle to the surface for a clean line.

If you wait for the paint to dry, it’s important to score the edge of the tape to break off any dried paint on top of the tape. Forgetting to do this may give your edge a rough and ragged look. Simply swipe the corner of your putty knife along the edge of the tape to break this seal.

Five Star Paiting service professional reviewing color pallet options with home owner.

Five Star Painting Professional Services Near You

Are you fed up with trying to find the right painter’s tape, paint finish and color, tools, and techniques? Even then, you will still need to prepare the room properly.

Rest assured, that’s what we’re here for. When you hire Five Star Painting, you can enjoy the peace of mind that you have a team of professional painters with years of experience committed to your satisfaction. Take back your free time and give us a call at or request a free estimate online to learn more about our interior and exterior painting services.