Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a first-time painter, tape is your friend when you’re coating your walls with a new color. While it might be tempting to test your handiwork unprotected, applying tape when painting is almost always the best way to go. It’s easy to use, and it protects all kinds of fixtures throughout your house from unwanted marks.

While using tape can be quite simple, a few pointers can help you figure out how to use tape when painting like a total pro. From corners to timing to getting those perfect lines, add these tips and tricks to your arsenal to take your DIY skills from good to fantastic.

1. Plan, Plan, Plan

How much planning does it take to slap some color on the walls and call it a day? In truth, quite a bit if you’re doing it right. To cover all your bases, you should know exactly where you’re painting, have an idea of your measurements and double-check everything before you get started. That way, you won’t end up with bare corners and uncovered light switches.

2. Keep It Clean

Do you remember the last time you dusted? If you don’t — or even if you do — it might be a good idea to do a bit of a once-over before you stick your painter’s tape down. Dust, dirt and residue can stop your tape from sticking correctly and get in the way of the paint itself. When in doubt, clean any surface before you tape.

3. Make Tidy Corners

If you have trouble adjusting and sticking tape in the corners, there’s an easy workaround for that. When approaching a corner, make your piece of tape a little long. Using a putty knife, press the piece of tape down into the corner. Cut along the line, and soon, you’ll have a perfect square. Start with another piece, and your corner will be as close to perfect as human hands can get.

4. Use an Applicator

If you struggle with shaky hands from time to time, or you want to make sure your edges are as straight as possible, using a tool or applicator for your tape could be your best bet. It takes much less time and effort to apply tape with an applicator. If you’re painting multiple rooms or looking to be as accurate as possible, it could be worth your while to get an applicator.

5. Don’t Remove Too Soon

After you’ve finished your painting project, you may find yourself in a rush to get the tape off and start enjoying your freshly painted space. However, you shouldn’t get too hasty. Removing the tape before the paint thoroughly dries can take some of the paint off with the tape and leave gaps. Or, extra-wet or extra-thick coatings can drip down. It’s best to wait until the paint is fully dry before you go at removing the tape.

6. Don’t Leave It on Too Long

While immediately taking the tape off can give you trouble, so can leaving it to wait indefinitely. By leaving tape on for too long, you risk leaving adhesive residue, ripping it when you try to remove it or even getting the tape stuck altogether. Try to get to your tape soon after the paint dries, as even a few extra days can make the removal process much more difficult.

7. But If You Do, Get It off With a Hairdryer

If you do happen to leave the tape on for a bit too long, or you naturally ended up with a bit of extra adhesive stuck to your walls, you can use a hairdryer to remove it. By putting the hairdryer on medium heat and going in sections, the adhesive will relax and come off much more smoothly. It works much better than scraping and won’t damage the surface underneath.

8. Choose the Right Tape

Plenty of different types of painter’s tape are available — from cheaper bargain brands to quality, long-lasting tapes that are easier to handle and more likely to get the job done. While you might feel tempted to pick your least expensive option, consider your project and your long-term priorities. You might find tape isn’t a place you want to skimp.

Using Tape When Painting Your Home

Plenty of pro tips can help you use your painter’s tape to its fullest potential. Once you get the basics down, it’s much easier than meets the eye. All you need to do is plan, stick to a few simple rules and get to coloring your world.

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