The catch-22 of painter’s tape

by Jessie K on October 15, 2012

So I’ve been trying to turn June’s bedroom into a toddler oasis sometime before she turns 18. I painted the walls. I invested in new shelving. I bought new carpet. Last weekend, I finally got around to pulling off the painter’s tape that is supposed to help me cut in corners, and AAAARGH, IT LOOKS HORRIBLE. Look at that trim line! It’s all tattered and nasty looking! The ugly grey primer shows through like a giant cavity in a rotting tooth.

I have come to the conclusion that painter’s tape is the frenemy of painters. It’s the girlfriend who tells you how cute you look in those jeans when you really have a six inch strip of toilet paper dangling from your butt.

Painter’s tape makes the job more messy, not less because it tricks you into thinking you can slap paint on the walls and not worry about bleeding over into the trim because the tape will stop it. Ha! Ha! Ha! (That’s the sound of laughter through tears.)


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Doug October 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm


You just have to make sure to peel the tape off while the paint is still wet so it doesn’t “tear” off.

Paula October 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm


I’ve never used painter’s tape. Thanks for showing what can happen. The TV and magazine ads make it look like the second coming, don’t they?

kirsten ufkin October 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm


Painting sux to me no matter what kind of tape I use. It always looks like heck when I am done. :(

jodi October 15, 2012 at 7:01 pm


I have one word for you: Purdy. As someone who used to paint for a living, it comes down to a really good brush, a steady hand and NO tape!

Charlotte October 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm


Exactly! I painted my kitchen during my enforced layoff from work last Christmas week (hello carpal tunnel!) and my sweetheart, the building contractor, got me two really good brushes. Made all the difference. I’m not enormously skilled, but I managed to cut all my corners beautifully without tape. Which was very satisfying …

Peggi Lee October 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm


What Jodi said. Spend the money on a good angled sash brush and take your time. Tape is a waste of money and time. It takes less time to slowly cut in your trim with a sash brush than it does to tape, paint, remove tape and cry.

Jessie K October 16, 2012 at 8:46 am


So, so, so TRUE! Consider me an anti-tape convert.

Rebecca October 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm


Not helpful now, but as someone said above, removing tape while paint is still wet is the key to the crisp finished look. I only use frog brand tape since it provides total blockage with no bleed through.

GinnyN October 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm


yep – you gotta pay the big bucks for good tape for it to work …. and take it off within a reasonable time. i’m NO expert, but i forgo tape except for around windows, esp. old windows with lots of pains. (yep – that’s the way it should be spelled when you have to scrape the darn things.)

Kelsie October 15, 2012 at 11:55 pm


Agreeing with Jodi, here. I teach college, but I make extra money (TAKE NOTE, COLLEGE) by doing interior painting. I have used tape ONCE…and only once. The first time I ever painted (my own house). I peeled the tape off and freaked the hell out about how terrible it looked. For every other room, I free-handed. And I got damn good at it. Now, when I paint for other people, I don’t even use a dropcloth (unless they have carpet). No tape, ever. And a great brush. A great brush makes all the difference in the world. I have two Purdy angled sash brushes and a Sherwin Williams short-handled angled brush that I use for tight spaces. I am the cleanest, neatest, most precise painter I know (and the cheapest, actually). Hire me. :) :)

Jessie K October 16, 2012 at 8:44 am


Wow, I would hire you in a heartbeat. Where are you located?

Kelly October 16, 2012 at 7:41 am


I love this tutorial from Ask Anna. She paints the edge of the tape with the underneath color first, so that any bleeding that occurs is the original color. Then paints the new or trim color once that has dried. She has a nice video explanation:

DarcC October 16, 2012 at 7:48 am


Considering the time it takes to apply the tape neatly in the first place, I prefer to take my time and cut in edges by hand. Keep a cloth handy if you screw up, you can wipe it right off if you do it right away. The only place I find tape to be time and effort effective is when painting windows, because razoring paint off of glass is tedious and the glass can easily be broken.

Cindy October 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm


No,no! You need to buy the blue painters tape at home depot. I use it on my paintings for straight lines and it works wonderfully—no bleed.

Brandee October 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm


I never use tape when painting. That said, I have used Frog Tape at work and it works pretty darn good for clean lines. It has a substance on the edges kind of like what is in disposable diapers: when it gets wet, it expands. It’s not noticeable, but it keeps paint from bleeding under the tape. Not perfect, but a lot better than regular painter’s tape.

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