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Masking Tape vs Painters Tape: What’s the Difference?

Preparing your workspace is one of the most important steps in any DIY painting project. That’s especially true when it comes to taping off edges, covering baseboards, and protecting areas you don’t want to be painted. Knowing the right kind of tape for this job will help you achieve professional-looking results.

Read on to find out all about masking tape vs painters tape and how to choose exactly what you need.

Masking Tape vs Painter's Tape

What Is Painter’s Tape?

This tape is formulated to strike a delicate balance. It is a highly pressure-sensitive tape, meaning that it can be removed with very little effort. However, the adhesive is also strong enough to form a barrier against wet paint.

Painter’s tape is generally found in the paint supplies section of home improvement stores or online. Since it’s a specialty item, you might not have any readily available at home–unless it’s left over from a previous painting project, of course.

Easy Release

One of the most important factors when marking off your trim and edges is how easily you’ll be able to remove the tape when you’re done painting.

You don’t want to end your project by scrubbing off the stuck-on adhesive. Even worse, tape that’s too difficult to remove could damage your wall.

When deciding whether to use masking tape vs painter’s tape, keep in mind that the latter is specifically designed to lift up with only a gentle tug. This allows you to remove the tape without harming your freshly painted surface.

Painter’s tape can also safely remain in place for days at a time. There’s no need to worry that your tape will dry out or become too gummy to remove while you finish painting. While manufacturers will have their own recommendations for specific products, some can remain on the wall for weeks!

Smooth Lines

When considering masking tape vs painter’s tape, keep in mind that both will adequately cover the surface underneath. However, only painter’s tape is designed to actively resist wet paint.

Painter's Tape

Polymers in the customized adhesive will expand upon contact with water. When wet paint touches the edge of this tape, the adhesive will react by creating an even tighter seal. The result? Clean, crisp lines that look like a professional paint job.

Investment Per Project

Because of its specialized nature, painter’s tape is slightly more expensive than more standard, all-purpose tapes. However, using the right product can actually save money in the long run. Think of it as an investment in your hard work.

What Is Masking Tape?

When it comes to masking tape vs painter’s tape, think of the first option as a “general purpose” solution. More flexible and less permanent than duct tape or packaging tape, this is what many homeowners reach for when they need a temporary fix.

It’s easy to unroll, easy to tear by hand, and typically fairly easy to remove. It’s tacky enough to stick to a wide variety of surfaces, such as tile, carpet, vinyl, stone, and brick.

However, some tapes will cause permanent damage to delicate surfaces, such as painted walls or woodwork.

Stronger Hold

If you’re trying to hold up anything heavier than a piece of paper, masking tape is usually the way to go. This is a quick and easy solution for hanging party decorations, labeling bins and boxes, and even as a temporary fix for a dragging hem.

Masking Tape

For DIYers and painters, the stronger hold may be useful for taping up plastic or drop cloths. It can also be handy for marking off less-sensitive surfaces, such as glass windows and brick walls.

However, it’s best not to apply to bare drywall, painted drywall, painted or varnished wood, or plaster. Because masking tape is designed to adhere to many different materials, it can bond too tightly to the wall and cause damage when removed.

Readily Available

Even if you don’t have a roll or two of masking tape in your junk drawer, it’s easy to find in just about any store. If you’re in a hurry, it can be found in pharmacies, grocery stores, or even on loan from a helpful neighbor.

However, you’re likely to hit the home improvement store anyway for paint trays, brushes, and rollers, not to mention the paint! It’s just as easy to add tape to your list and get all your specialized painting supplies at once.

Cost Effective

Experienced DIYers will likely recognize the expression, “Only a rich man can afford cheap paint.” This is true of most painting supplies.

When you’re already investing your time in painting a room, it just isn’t worth it to try marking off your walls with masking tape for the sake of saving a few bucks. The expense of repairing damaged walls or trim is too great a risk!

Masking Tape vs Painters Tape: How Do They Compare?

When marking off walls and moldings, painter’s tape is the right tool for the job. However, for less delicate surfaces, you might want to keep a roll of masking tape handy as you prep the room for painting. It would be a great choice if you’re trying to firmly secure a drop cloth over flooring or fireplaces.

Knowing the right time to use masking tape vs painter’s tape will save time, money, and frustration on your project. Keep reading for the most important factors to keep in mind.

Easy to Use

Painter’s tape is simple to apply and remove. It won’t pucker or wrinkle while you’re painting, and it’s less likely to twist and stick to itself as well. Feel free to pull it off and reapply several times as you’re taping.

Using Painter's Tape

It’s also flexible enough to handle a little extra tugging as you get your lines just the way you want. Careful application saves time during prep work and after painting. Check out our tips on getting a perfect tape line.

Specialized Formula

When weighing whether to use masking tape vs painter’s tape, be sure to consider the texture of the surface you’re protecting. We know that some surfaces are sturdy enough to stand up to a little pulling and tugging from strong tape.

Other surfaces need extra care. Look for tape that has been formulated specifically for these tricky situations. For example, if you will be taping over veneers or painted cabinets, you may want to use tape specifically created for delicate surfaces.

If you’re covering smaller pieces of trim, such as picture frame molding, tape is also available in a narrower width. This can be especially useful when painting in tight spaces and around detailed work.

Professional Results

At the end of your DIY painting project, it’s so satisfying to pack up the drop cloths, pull off the tape, and admire the results of your hard work.

Painter’s tape will release easily, revealing a clean, crisp line. Unlike masking tape, you won’t have to clean off extra adhesive. Knowing the correct tape to use means you’ll minimize any touch-up work at the end of your project.

Painter's Tape

If you do have a few drops of paint on wood trim or floors, try to address it within a few hours of painting. If the new paint hasn’t fully cured, you may be able to remove it with a damp cloth.

If not, use the edge of a flathead screwdriver to scrape off the dried paint. Use a piece of tape over the screwdriver head to keep the tool from scratching into the wood.

No need to worry about whether to use masking tape vs painter’s tape for this small task. Because you used the correct tape when marking off your walls, you won’t be spending much time doing these touch-ups! Just make sure you wash off any extra adhesive from your screwdriver when you’re done.

Wrapping Up Masking Tape vs Painters Tape

Ready to start planning your DIY painting project? Check out our DIY Paint Project Calculator! We’ll help you figure out how much paint, money, and time you’ll need to invest in your project.