How to Paint Clean Lines





Introduction: How to Paint Clean Lines

Have you ever tried to use masking tape for its intended purpose only to discover that, no matter how carefully you apply the tape, paint bleeds under it, ruining your efforts?

Making clean paint lines between two colors doesn't have to require a steady hand or special equipment. This technique is very simple and requires only paint, brushes and masking tape. This time, however, you will be controlling the bleeding paint and using it to create crisp lines that precisely follow the edge of the tape.

Step 1: First Color

Lay down the first color, extending past the area where the line will be. If you are using two layers per color, paint both layers.

Step 2: Taping

Once the paint is dry, place your masking tape. In this case, the bottom of the masking tape marks the location where the edge between the two colors will appear.

Step 3: Bleed Line

Using the same color, paint along the tape edge. This seems strange but, there will always be some bleeding under the tape. By deliberately painting against the tape, you seal the edge with the first color, allowing it to bleed under the edge, so the second color can't do it. The edge of the tape becomes the edge of your line.

Make sure the lower edge of the paint feathers softly away so you won't see a thick edge of paint later on.

Step 4: Second Color

When the bleed-under layer has dried, paint the second color. Make sure your paint overlaps the location of the tape line.

Step 5: The Reveal

Remove the tape by pulling it at a 90 degree angle. Do this when the paint is wet, if possible.

Tah-dah! Crisp, clean paint lines!

(I hate adding a caveat but it seems warranted here: I haven't had any problems with the line when removing the tape after the second color has dried BUT other people I know have. It has to do with paint setting up and binding to itself. So, if you cannot pull the tape while it is still wet or at least soon after it dries, you might consider using a craft knife and a straight edge to score the line before pulling the tape.)



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    We did this for a video shoot at HQ, and it turned out great! You can still see a little of the red coat underneath the black top layer, because we did a rush job and only applied one coat (it would have been see through with any other technique and only one coat too).

    But even with the rush, the line came out really nice, straight and clean. Thank so much, it looks awesome!


    Looks awesome. This gives me even more hope of this working for my son's car! :)

    any good tips on getting the line straight from wall to ceiling I never get it straight i hate taping because one way or the other,when I take tape down and paint comes off either the wall or the ceiling I can't cut in straight and it drives me nuts.

     when you paint the wall color, stop JUST before you get to the ceiling.  if you stay within a 1/16" away from the true corner, it won't matter much if your line isn't perfectly straight.  the actual corner will create an optical illusion that makes the transition between wall and ceiling look straight and crisp.  I learned this trick going through my apprenticeship as a professional painter.  Obviously, the success of this trick is dependent on  a number of factors including the ceiling height, lighting, wall texture and the intensity in the color difference between wall and ceiling...(example where it may not work as well:  a room that gets a lot of sunlight, with low ceilings where the walls are a dark chocolate and the ceiling is stark white)  Your mileage may vary.

    A 1/16 inch gap would be visible even if it's in a junction between the wall and the ceiling. Are you saying leave the very top of the wall unpainted?

    thanks i will have to try that im moving into a new house and all rooms have to be painted and of corse will not want to brake out the art brushes to satifiy my anel retentive straight line between cieling and wall so thanks again

    The secret to straight lines is to stick on the beginning of the tape at one end of your run, unroll and stretch it taut, and bring it down to stick at the other end. It should stick lightly along the full length, so you'll need to press it down gently so that it adheres well along the entire run. If you try to unroll the tape and stick it on as you go down the run, the edge will wander around.

    Yep this is how I did it when I painted boats :)
    It's kinda like the same method to pop a chalk line.

    thank you I will try that I hate the wave between the wall and the ceilings

    If the tape is taking the new paint off with it when you take it down you are waiting too long to remove it. If you remove it while the paint is wet it separates cleanly and as long as you are careful you won't get any paint on things you don't want to. If the tape is taking off the old paint you're using the wrong kind of tape.