blue masking tape

Blue masking tape: Top 10 tips

I’ll be honest with you, for many years I didn’t use masking tape.  Being young and full of myself, I thought, (dare I say it), that it was strictly for amateurs! Oh the ignorance of youth. Then I discovered , and now I know better.

And I know better because masking tape got better. Or rather I found a better one, i.e. the aforementioned blue masking tape. It’s massively superior to regular yellow masking or painters tape. If you don’t have a ‘blue’ masking tape in your neck of the woods, ask the guys in the store for a tape which is low tack and can be left in place for a few days and you’ll probably end up with something very similar. I hear good things about … for those in the USA

Now, my previous experience years ago with the regular yellow masking tape was horrendous. The paint ‘bled’ or leaked around the edge of it, getting into the floor or trim underneath. Plus, if the job took a while for one reason or another, the tape was very difficult to remove, breaking up or worse, pulling the finish off whatever was underneath.

Enter blue masking tape; the king of painters tapes…

But the tape can’t take all the credit, I did make the time to learn a thing or two about how to properly use masking tape too. There’s not much to learn, but learn it you must, if you don’t want to face disappointment when you’re all done painting and looking forward to the great ‘unveiling’ of your masterpiece; only to find that the paint has somehow ended up on the very thing you supposedly masked off. Bloody annoying and time consuming to fix.

The No.1 tip when using blue masking tape is…

You must, must, must press down the very inner edge of the tape. And I don’t mean run your finger along it, because (unless you’ve got very weird fingers) the round end of a finger will not get right onto the edge. The best way to ensure the edge is sealed down to the surface is to gently and lightly run your thin, flexible paint scraper or putty knife along the very edge of the tape where the paint will go.

use a paint scraper for blue masking tape edges

I’d be gutted to lose my scraper, it’s worn in to perfection, the edge is honed by time itself. Perfect for filling, scraping and yes, pressing down the edges of blue masking tape…

Or use an old kitchen knife or even the back of a finger nail if you absolutely insist on not using tools!

press down edges of blue masking tape

But wait, we are getting ahead of ourselves; we need to do this properly.
Lets make a list:

How to use blue masking tape… (or any other colour come to that 😉 )

  1. Store the tape in a safe place. If you chuck a roll of blue masking tape, (or any tape really), into your bucket of tools what is going to happen? I’ll tell you. IT WILL BECOME USELESS. Why? Because the edges of the roll get bashed, boshed, binged, and…    i.e. buggered. And when you roll it along your soon to be new, crisp, paint edge, you’ll find it’s about as clean and straight as a wandering worm. I keep mine in thick polythene bags like this… 
    Keep blue masking tape safe from damage, use polythene bags...

    You absolutely must protect the edges of the roll to keep them crisp (if you want great end results)…

  2. Clean the place you’re going to stick the tape. A very slightly damp rag works well (and let it dry afterwards). I know you’ve already cleaned down the paintwork prior to painting, but that might have been a couple of days ago and now, whilst the area was drying, there will be dust on any horizontal surface (unless you keep your house unnaturally clean…).
    wipe down before applying blue masking tape

    I’ve been reliably informed that dust lives here, no seriously, I’ve seen it…

  3. Hold the roll of masking tape tight against one surface, usually the larger side, (the wall for example, around a trim). This old wallpaper was going to need a lot of paint (I know, not my choice either, but hey; the client is always right huh?) so I decided to mask off the pre-painted/finished trims around the new window as the paint really needs working into the fibrous surface. Cutting in with a brush on this kind of paper is impossible. hold blue masking tape roll tight to the wall
  4. Don’t press the whole thickness of the masking tape down onto trim, just the inside edge is fine. On narrow trims (skirting boards etc.), leaving it sticking out will protect the trim from paint splatter from a roller way better than if you press it down tight. don't press the whole blue masking tape down
  5. Don’t pull masking tape too tight whilst applying it either. It’s quite easy to stretch the tape, putting it under tension. This tension will pull the tape off the trim, usually at the ends.
  6. Tape over holes. It’s difficult to paint over holes without getting runs as the paint comes back out of the hole. Simply put a small square over the hole and paint right over masking tape over holes
  7. Run a lightly loaded paint brush up to and onto the tape a little way. Never, and I mean never, run a fully loaded paintbrush onto the masking tape, as you’ll end up with thick, dried paint in the corner and the tape will be very difficult to remove cleanly. Start parallel, a short distance away from the tape and work your way down, spreading out the paint as you go, until your brush is almost out of paint by the time you’re running on to the tape (not totally dry, but nearly dry).
    dripping paint from a brush

    Don’t do it, you’ll be in serious trouble with your other half… And it’ll be hell to get the masking tape off…

  8. Before removing blue masking tape, run your paint scraper gently along the edge of the tape to ‘break’ the paint in the corner (you’re starting to see the importance of this little tool, yes?).
  9. Very similar to No.8 above I know, but if the paint on the tape is too thick for the scraper to ‘break’; then use a craft knife or other sharp blade to actually ‘cut’ the paint. You’ll need to do this if the tape tears or pulls the paint up a lot.
    Cutting heavy paint on blue masking tape to free the tape

    Too much paint here where the roller ran wide (Oops!). A light score with a blade fixed the problem.

  10. Removing masking tape. Pull the tape at an angle to the run of tape, usually somewhere over 90 degrees works well. i.e pull the tape right back and towards itself again… removing blue masking tape

Anything else about masking up? Hmmm…

Oh yes, another ‘kind-of-tip’ for blue masking tape is… don’t use it! What I mean is, don’t use it if you don’t have to. Removing stuff is nearly always the best option. Things like door or window handles, key escutcheons, electrical fronts, light switches, vents etc. Most of these are easy to remove (or at least loosen and lift up a little) and paint around without masking off.

If you do remove stuff prior to painting around them, do wait a while before you put them back. Paint stays soft for quite a while and if you put stuff back too soon it’ll stick and make taking them off next time difficult. Minimum 48 hours for most paints, and a day longer than that is even better.

Now, having said all the above about using blue masking tape, I’d still recommend learning how to ‘cut in’ with a paintbrush, as it’s a great skill to have.  Especially if you paint the trims first and then cut in the larger wall area up to the trim for example.

In conclusion…

Masking up takes time to do properly, and tape, (especially the blue masking tape) isn’t particularly cheap, the more you can ‘freehand’ the better (IMHO), so go on, learn how to tape up by all means, (this post is pointless otherwise lol!).

But promise me that on your next paint job, you’ll ditch the blue masking tape and practice cutting in. I’ll give you a head start, use a (not a regular old brush) and don’t use a small one either. Little brushes are more difficult to keep straight… use a 1 1/2″ brush minimum, preferably a 2″ or even 2 1/2″… Oh, and then keep that brush just for cutting in (and nothing else) aaaand, keep it scrupulously clean.

Hope that helps!

Stay well


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