Masking Tape Vs Painters Tape: Which Is Better For Painting & Why?

Masking tape vs. painter's tape is an ongoing dilemma for painting projects because it’s important to get crisp, straight lines when painting. When should you use painting tape? When should you use masking tape?  

We break down the pros and cons of each type of tape as well as what style works best for each painting situation.  

Masking tape is not the same thing as painter’s tape. These are two different tapes though they can be used to accomplish the same goal. Masking tape is a paper tape that has a rubber side that “sticks” to whatever it touches.  

Painter’s tape is lighter than masking tape and is designed to stick to surfaces without bleeding to create a clean paint line. Masking tape has a sticky rubber residue that might get left behind or even pull paint off the wall.  

Masking Tape Vs Painters Tape: Which Is Better For Painting & Why?

Using Masking Tape For Painting

Painters and homeowners might choose masking tape for their painting projects if they want to save money, if they have excess masking tape lying around their home, or if they cannot access painter’s tape.  

Masking tape has a strong adhesive and will stick well to most surfaces; however, it can leave behind a sticky residue that is difficult to remove. We recommend using masking tape if painter's tape is not available or if you do not mind cleaning the surface afterward. Masking tape is best used for painting difficult surfaces. Masking tape is also a cheaper alternative if money is a consideration.  

Masking tape is a great choice for someone who wants to use the tape for multiple purposes. Masking tape is a versatile tape and can be kept for other uses. However, we strongly recommend using painter’s tape for all painting projects where a professional paint finish is desired.  

Pros

  • Affordable 
  • Versatile 
  • Cheap 
  • Readily available at stores 

Cons

  • Sticky residue  
  • Risk of paint bleeding  
  • Difficult removal  

Using Painter's Tape For Painting 

Painters and homeowners might choose painter’s tape for their painting projects if they want a professional paint finish. Painter’s tape is not as strong as masking tape, but it does have a tighter seal for a clean line. 

If you use painter’s tape, you can easily remove the paint when finished with the project and come away with a defined clean line. This is helpful for painting walls in rooms so that you avoid line bleeding.

This type of tape is more expensive than masking tape, though, and this is where the idea to skip it and use masking tape comes in. We recommend using painter's tape for all of your painting projects where a professional aesthetic is needed.  

Blue vs. green painter's tape is a question that we are commonly asked. The difference between the two tapes is the tack level. Blue painter’s tape has a medium tack level, which means that it will stick to most surfaces, but green painter's tape has a high tack level and is better for areas that need to be stickier.  

For example, wood trim or wood window frames would benefit from green painter’s tape instead of blue painter’s tape.  

man using painter's tape at home

Pros

  • Clean, professional line 
  • Easy to remove 
  • Designed specifically for paint projects 
  • Little to no paint bleeding  

Cons

  • More expensive 

Masking Tape Vs Painters Tape: Which Is Best For Painting? 

1. Tape Adhesiveness

Masking tape is stickier than painter’s tape and tends to stick better as well as stay stuck. However, masking tape also leaves behind a sticky residue and can pull paint off of the wall or off of furniture. Painter’s tape is designed to lightly stick to surfaces and to create a clean line.

2. Ease Of Removal

Painter’s tape is easier to remove than masking tape. It does not have the natural rubber adhesive that masking tape has, which makes masking tape “stick” harder to surfaces and therefore more difficult to remove. Masking tape can also leave a sticky residue behind that can muck up the painting project. 

3. Susceptible To Paint Bleed

Painter's tape is least vulnerable to paint bleed and provides the tightest surface seal. Masking tape has a tight seal, but it isn't a clean seal, meaning that the adhesive isn't evenly distributed along the tape, and therefore paint can get underneath the line of the masking tape and "bleed." 

4. Paint Blocking

When it comes to paint blocking, painter’s tape is the best choice because it has a neat, clean seal. Masking tape adhesive can allow the paint to get under the tape and bleed downward. This won’t result in the clean, clear line that you want on your painting project. 

5. Cost

Painter’s tape is more expensive than masking tape. In fact, in most areas, painter's tape is double the cost of masking tape. If you need to save money and don't mind a little paint bleeding, then masking tape can be used. 

masking tape ready for paint project

Other Types Of Tapes Compared For Painting 

Frog Tape Vs Painters Tape

Frog Tape is a brand of tape that is often used for painting and is considered by many to be "green painter's tape." Frog Tape is stronger than most forms of blue painter's tape and is an excellent option for projects that require more adhesive or a stronger seal. Frog Tape is typically overkill for projects such as walls, but for a 3-dimensional furniture piece, Frog Tape is a great choice. 

Washi Tape Vs Painters Tape

Washi tape is a tape that is often used for craft projects, and it works best for paper projects. Washi tape does have a strong adhesive, but it was created specifically for craft projects, and we recommend using it with paper, plastic, and metal projects. It is a decorative tape, so it comes in a variety of styles and can add to your project. It does come off of materials easily without leaving adhesive behind. Washi tape is similar to painter’s tape but tends to cost more. 

Painters Tape Vs Duct Tape

Duct tape is known for its strong and sticky adhesive backing. Although duct tape is a great choice when it comes to keeping pieces of material together, it is a terrible choice for painting. Not only is it prone to air bubbles, but it also can pull paint off of the wall and create chips and flakes in your project. 

Automotive Tape Vs Painters Tape

Automotive tape can be used on walls and is a generally safe alternative to painter’s tape. The problem with automotive tape is that it tends to be more expensive because it was designed to stick to a vehicle and not to a wall. Nevertheless, this is a good solution if you are painting a piece of furniture with similar material to that of the vehicle's exterior. 


Common Tape For Painting Questions

Can I use electrical tape as painter's tape? 

You can use electrical tape as painter’s tape in a pinch, but we would not recommend it. This type of tape is not designed to stick to walls, and the adhesive is designed to stick to plastic exteriors such as wall sockets. You will experience bleeding under the tape line with electrical tape.  


Why does paint bleed through tape? 

Paint bleeds through tape if the adhesion is not tight enough to create a clean seal. Sometimes paint bleeds through the tape because of the way that it is applied. If someone stretches the tape out too much, air bubbles can appear underneath the tape, and this allows the paint to get under the tape as well.  


How do I remove painter's tape left on too long? 

Painter's tape is designed to be left on while the paint dries and typically is easy to remove. However, if you struggle to remove painter's tape, we recommend using a hairdryer. The hairdryer can help loosen the tape and allow you to gently peel it back.  


Should I remove painter's tape between coats? 

Once the paint has dried, we recommend removing the tape and re-taping the area for the next coat of paint. This creates the cleanest line and will result in the best finished look.  

Conclusion

Painter's tape is better than masking tape for most painting projects. If you are going to be painting, whether it be a wall or a piece of furniture, we recommend painter's tape. If you do not have painter’s tape at home and it doesn’t matter if the paint bleeds (an object vs. a wall with straight lines), then masking tape can be used.  

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