View Full Version : Best tape for painting?

Dave B
02-03-2010, 12:37 AM
I did a little painting on my hull today and ended up with an unacceptable amount of bleed through under the painters tape that I was using. I was using 3M Blue and had it as well stuck and burnished along the edge as I could get it.

It seems to me that this has been answered here before, but I did a search and couldn't find anything. Any advice as to the best tape to get a nice fine, clean line between colors?

Bob Cleek
02-03-2010, 01:14 AM
Yes, 3M "Fine line" for razor sharp edges is the industry standard. It ain't cheap, though and isn't foolproof, since you have to make sure it is adhered perfectly or it, too, will bleed. An alternative when using "blue tape" is to lay the tape and then paint the edge with a thinned mixture of the paint it covers. That may bleed through, but won't be noticeable. Then you paint over the tape and carefully remove it. That should give you a pretty sharp line. Remember that when using the modern "hot" coatings that are full of solvents which will attack the tape adhesive, you should use 3M lacquer proof tape. This is the lime green stuff. It is a bit more expensive than the blue, but it will give you a finer edge with any coating system.

02-03-2010, 04:27 AM
It also depends on the surface that you are painting. If it has orange peel or a pronounced brush texture, the paint will try to find it's way in and around the texture. Sometimes, you will have to paint carefully up to the tape as if it isn't even there, perhaps even using a finer bristle artist's brush. Sometimes, sanding the division area beforehand if it is less than smooth makes for cleaner lines as well.

02-03-2010, 04:49 AM

I have had good results with the yellow "razor edge" tape at the local hardware store, although the blue stuff has worked well, most of the time, for my standards, anyway! ;) In almost all cases of bleeding, the problem has been irregularities in the paint surface, not the tape. If you have any degree of orange peel, it will bleed.

When I put the boot stripe down this winter, it went over existing paint (System Three's two-part WR-LPU), so I had to wet-sand the piss out of that area in order to get good adhesion. This had the serendipitous effect of removing the orange peel ... got the crispest lines ever. Oh, yeah, the boot stripe paint was solvent-based, so the yellow stuff may be a close cousin to that 3M "lacquer-proof" stuff someone mentioned.

I enjoy applying paint, but I hate the prep work ... in my case it was the prep work which eliminated the bleeding problem.

02-03-2010, 09:01 AM
I like the green "Gator tape".

Paul Girouard
02-03-2010, 09:04 AM
Anything by Mozart, or if it's a big wall some "Free bird" will get-er-done. :D

Ian McColgin
02-03-2010, 09:28 AM
Bob's method is the short version of several pages in WoodenBoat in the last year or so. Worth the look-up as it reminds you of other things, like keep the tape in plastic baggies so the edge on roll will remain good.

If you're good and like going slowly, you can cut to some sort of change in wood - like the paint under a varnished caprail or even the paint in a cove stripe and even a boot stripe if the upper and lower marks are scribed in the wood, as they often are. But a freehand boot looks like a freehand boot.

Bill Huson
02-03-2010, 10:11 AM
As others mentioned - 3M Fine Line tape. Comes in a variety of widths from 1/16" on up. If your paint edge does not have sexy curves 1/4" - 3/-8" Fine Line is good and allows plenty of room to tape masking paper on to block off non-painted surfaces.

Fine Line is sort of a sick green/gray color and very flexible. Do NOT pull the tape as you stick it down, sort of gently lay it on the line and tap it every few inches to hold it in place, and when your done taping the line go back and burnish the tape down, being careful not to push a wrinkle or hump in it.

I bought my Fine Line at auto paint supply stores but I think I saw it for sale at the big block lumberyard paint dept. - like Home Depot and Lowes.

Lew Barrett
02-03-2010, 11:45 AM
Ian's comments are worth re-reading. Here is some amplification. Taping is worth an article in it's own right. Remember when using Fine Line that in addition to it's backing material, which is what makes it "fine," that it has a lot of tack. Therefore, it can only be used safely on exceptionally well adhered surfaces or you can easily get "pulls."
And, like all masking tapes, it should not be left on any longer than necessary.

In respect to pulls, it really pays to experiment with your technique. It also pays to use the tape with the least tack that you can get away with. Paul's (Pipefitter) comments should be heeded.

And I agree with Bob about bleed, but have a slightly different technique...use this or Bob's as you wish.......I always try to paint from the tape to the surface. In other words, painting up into the tape forces paint under it. If you start on the tape and stroke off of it, you'll do much, much better. Seal the tape at the edges (and only there) using your fingernail or equal sharp pressure at the mating surface. This is especially important with lower tack tapes.

As in all work with boats.....getting good tape lines is a mix of technique, materials and application.

There is more to say on this topic. One last thing to remember is that "not all blue tapes are created equal."

02-03-2010, 12:04 PM
I think it is of note that there are two kinds of blue 3M tape... the standard "paper" type that does not stretch well or very little and the "smooth surface" type with orange labeling on the interior of the cardboad center ... which stretches easily and makes for a fine edge.

I too have used the Gator tape that comes in a nice plastic container... and it works well for $11/roll.

The 3M fine line is of course the best, but the 3M blue "smooth surface" tape (from Home Depot) works fine on fiberglass boats and most most other epoxy glassed surfaces I have painted. As long as I burnish the edge, I seem to avoid problems with bleed through.

I too keep all my tapes in quart sized zip lock bags which is a very good way to protect the tape until you use it.


Dave B
02-03-2010, 12:23 PM
Thanks all for the great advice. It's much appreciated. Looks like I'll be making a trip to town today for supplies.