If you just can’t get on with masking tape there are alternatives if you are cutting in or edging your paintwork.
To avoid using masking tape altogether:
A painters George is a long straight edge made of metal or plastic that you hold against the surface to be ‘masked’.
You hold the George in one hand and the paintbrush in the other, moving along the surface as you go.
It is especially useful for preventing overpainting in corners, and helps prevent any slips of the hand if you are cutting in without using masking tape.
It is a skill and it takes time and practice, but cutting-in without using masking tape is a very satisfying decorating skill.
Get a good-quality brush that will hold the paint, and with flexible not ‘springy’ bristles. If you are using water-based paint then use a brush with synthetic bristles. Natural bristle brushes soon get clogged with water-based paint.
Don’t use a brush that is too small, you are aiming for a long, even sweeping brush stroke to ensure even application of the paint ‘bead’ that forms at the ends of the bristles. Larger brushes hold more paint.
There are brushes with angled bristles which make cutting into to corners easier. They are not necessary – professional decorators don’t use them – but give them a try. Read more about the different types of decorators brush in our Projects section.
Don’t overload the brush with paint, as this makes it difficult to control the paint and can cause drips and paint pushing over the line you are trying to form. Dip the tip of the brush into the paint, and push lightly to break the surface – that’s enough!
Hold the brush comfortably in the hand – like a pencil if that works for you.
Visualise the line you are going to paint, start a centimetre away from the line and ‘draw’ with the brush, pressing down to form a bead of paint to form on the edge of the bristles. Work the brush towards the edge you want to make so the bead forms the edge of your line.
The motion you need works from the shoulder and is a smooth sweeping action, keeping the hand and wrist flexible and relaxed.
Carry a cloth to wipe up any mistakes.
If you go very badly wrong you can usually paint the opposite surface again eg. a white ceiling can be touched up again if your blue wall paint runs onto the ceiling while you are cutting in.
Like any skill you need to do it to get good at it, so practice on a wall that is going to be repainted or some spare sheet material until you feel confident in your brush mastery!
One final point about Masking Tape
Before we completely write off masking tape it is worth mentioning that the main problem people find when they are masking paintwork is that it pulls off the paint when it is removed, and there are a couple of points to help with that.
Only put masking tape on at the last minute before you start painting.
Only put masking tape on fully ‘cured’ paint.
Take masking tape off as soon as you’ve finished painting. Either very carefully while your paint is still wet, or once it is touch dry.
If you get frustrated using masking tape because paint ‘leaks’ underneath it then try Frog Tape which is especially developed to prevent this problem. Whichever tape you use, make sure you smooth the tape fully against the surface you are masking off.
When you need to remove masking tape, pull it off slowly and evenly, working from one corner diagonally, at about 45 degrees away from the newly-painted surface.