Taping is one of the foundational skills for a painter (DIY or professional).
If you cannot tape a perfectly straight line that pulls clean and leaves perfect edges, you cannot expect to produce a great looking paint job.
In this post, I am going to show you simply, yet effectively how to tape for painting. This is a way to tape off trim and baseboards that will not only give you a perfectly straight line, but will (in time) drastically speed up your trim taping.
Before You Begin
Any tape job is only as good as the adhesion between the tape and the trim/baseboards that you are taping.
If the trim is dirty, dusty, or greasy, then the tape won’t adhere properly and it will pull off during painting and allow for paint to seep under the tape and get on your trim.
I always go around a room and dust off the trim and baseboards with a dry brush or vacuum them with a shop vac.
If they are really dirty, such as in kitchens, I will wipe them down thoroughly with a wet rag. Make sure to allow them to completely dry before taping!
What Tape Should You Use When Taping Trim and Baseboards
In my experience, 1.5″ wide Frog Tape painter’s tape is the perfect tape for taping trim and baseboards for painting.
Frog Tape is made with a super absorbent polymer (like those water beads your kids love!) that expands when water-based paint hits it. This expansion helps to seal the edges of the tape and give you a perfectly straight tape line with no bleed through.
Frog Tape also has a 21-day clean release, meaning that it won’t leave behind a sticky residue if you remove it within 21 days and will pull off easily within that time frame. Honestly though, nobody should EVER leave tape on for that long. 1-2 days tops!
Lastly, the 1.5″ width is perfect for taping trim and baseboards. This width is easier to work with than 1″ or 2″ tape and goes out far enough from the wall to catch most drips and splatter, keeping the baseboard, floor and drop cloths clean.
You can read more about the best painter’s tape for every surface here.
How To Tape For Painting – The Right Way
I am going to explain for right-handed workers. Just go the opposite if you are left-handed.
Start by pulling out roughly 8″ of tape from the roll, do not rip it off the roll.
Take your time and place the first 4″ of the tape perfectly onto the baseboard where it lines up with the edge of the trim and the wall.
Run your index, middle, and ring finger on your left hand over the tape that you just applied to the trim to help seal it down.
During the entire taping process, you will want the roll of tape pressed flat against the wall above the trim or base that you are taping.
While your left hand is holding down the tape that you have already applied to the trim, pull another 8″ out from the roll of tape.
After you pull out the 8″ of tape, slightly roll the roll of tape backward towards where you started until the tape is coming off the roll at the bottom and the sticky side is facing the trim. Do this all while the roll of tape stays flat against the wall just slightly above the trim.
Slide the roll of tape down the wall until the bottom side of the roll touches the trim with the sticky side of the tape.
Now use your left hand and three fingers to press down the 8″ of tape that you just put onto the trim.
Repeat this process slowly until you get the end of the wall. You should have one long strip of tape for every wall.
When you get to the end of a wall, use your painter’s tool to press the edge of your tape into the corner and pull on it for a perfect cut.
Now take your painter’s tool and gently slide over all of the tape that you just applied to the trim and baseboards. This will help seal the edge closest to the wall to prevent paint from bleeding under the tape and onto the trim.
Repeat the process for every wall.
PRO TIP: When I use this method of taping, I do a lot of rubbing with the fingers of my left hand onto the tape to press it down while I go. This can start to wear off your skin and/or fingernails. To prevent this, I will wrap a strip of tape around my left index, middle, and ring fingers to prevent them from friction burn.
Pro Tip 2: Do not fold the tape down onto the trim. I see many people doing this. Let the tape stick straight out from the wall. This way it can catch more splatter and will be easier to remove when you are done.
Pulling The Tape
I mentioned above that Frog Tape can be cleanly pulled from your trim for up to 21 days, but how long should you actually wait before pulling tape?
I have found that if you pull the tape too soon, while the paint is still wet, paint can splatter and make a real mess when pulling the tape.
If you wait too long and find out that paint bled under your tape and onto your trim, it may have already started curing and is now very difficult to remove from your trim.
I have found that the perfect time to pull tape is roughly 1-2 hours after you finished painting the room.
This allows for the paint to be dry to the touch, but any paint that may have gotten under your tape and onto the trim will not be fully cured and will still be very soft. At this point, you can easily clean it off with a rag or worst-case scenario it will scape off easily with a fingernail or painter’s tool.
Hopefully, with some practice, you will rarely have any bleed through.
PRO TIP: If you find that your wall paint is peeling off the wall when you pull your tape (usually after trim has been painted and the paint isn’t bonding well to the glossy surface), try running a razor blade slowly along the line between the tape and the wall. This will cut the paint and allow the tape to be removed without pulling paint off the wall.
Did you try this method? Do you have a better method for taping trim and baseboards for painting? Got a question? Let me know in the comments below. I answer every question!
I’ve been a professional painter since 2001 and spent the last 12 years specializing in kitchen cabinet refinishing. I started the DIY Painting Tips blog in 2015 to start sharing everything I’ve learned over the years and help all the people who’d rather tackle their painting projects themselves. In 2019 I started the DIY Painting Tips Youtube channel where I publish in depth videos all about kitchen cabinet painting, painting gear reviews, and interior/exterior tutorials.