Picture of 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

Picture of 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.
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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! :)

kaystone7 months ago
I find it a little difficult to understand the instructions is they any video.

You made the same reply four times. I don't think the problem is with the instrutions.

JenniferK65 months ago

wow! You just saved my plan to paint the panels of my raised panel doors a separate color. Trying to get a sharp line has seemed a bridge too far. No longer thanks!

kaystone7 months ago
I find it a little difficult to understand the instructions is they any video
starshipminivan (author)  kaystone7 months ago

Instructables produced a video of this which makes it very clear. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXblLq2B1Ag

kaystone7 months ago
I find it a little difficult to understand the instructions is they any video.
kaystone7 months ago
I find it a little difficult to understand the instructions is they any video

An oldy but a goody!

Thanks. I've had problems with bleeding before, when I painted my son's box car. There'll be more races this summer so a new paint job is due! Gonna try this technique.

ClayOgre2 years ago
I haven't tried this yet, but it looks like it should work quite well. THANK YOU!! This is an excellent idea.
jensenr304 years ago
great! i love this1
tinker2344 years ago
wow thank you
bikeboy4 years ago
Diddely darn! Just pulled off the last masking tape in baby room today. Whish I did it your way... Used 5 different colours too!
trocar_noir4 years ago
This is genius..thanks!
avaistheone5 years ago
Looks fool proof. Thank you for posting this.
starshipminivan (author) 5 years ago
I've also done this using spray paint. I know there are people who use other products such as glazes to control the bleed. I'm curious, are there other products that can be used to control the bleed with spray paint that anyone else knows of?
garling376 years ago
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.
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.
------ przemek5 years ago
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.
samandjan5 years ago
this may be even easir.  after you have put on your blue tape and rubbed it down apply about 1/2 in clear glaze.  the glaze fills the voids under the tape.   when the glaze is dry, just paint with the desired color.  this is a new fix for 20 yrs of being unhappy with wiggly lines, especially with textured walls.  works also where the ceiling meets the walls.
starshipminivan (author)  samandjan5 years ago
You're not the first to suggest that.  I still use paint wherever possible because glaze, if it creates even a slightly different sheen, can be noticeable--too dull, too shiny, etc..  But if you take this into consideration, it would certainly work. 

The point that most people don't understand is that it's about working with the bleed.  It's still good, of course, to put down your tape carefully but at least this back-up allows you get consistent results despite tape issues.
Yep, its works sooooo nice.  Thanks!
so simple!
den080886 years ago
I'm not certain, but I believe it was Frank Lloyd Wright who said (paraphrased a bit) that a good solution to a problem should be elegant. This painting tip is one of those "elegant" solutions. Thanks.
ODDJOBS6 years ago
Oops. It should be "TESAKREPP"
ODDJOBS6 years ago
You'll notice that the tape is blue. It is a special masking tape of superior quality which is also less sticky than normal, which can be left (even on glass) for several weeks and still be removed with no tearing, residue etc. The brand name I use is "TESAKREP 4438" or just Tesa tape. Available from Paint suppliers.
lampajoo6 years ago
JorritJ6 years ago
Great instructable! My thoughts: Always use the right tape for the job. Use the blue paper tape for masking lines, not the white tape because that will not stick to your surface without any gaps. Another tip if your painting a line on a small surface, or you can't paint the other side: use a template brush. Those are the thick brushes with short hairs. Just tap on the paint along the lines. This gives a great result, but will be a lot of work for big surfaces.
I have worked in construction ever since I was 14 and worked as a head painter for 13 years for a small outfit that was specializing in custom residential paint jobs. this is absolutely correct, the edge of the tape that you are painting to MUST be sealed to prevent bleeding. Excellent instructable. However, having said that, I did a large commercial job a few years ago and time didn't permit me to use that technique, after a long sleepless night I decided to use something from another profession, an arborite roller. It's about four inches long made of hard rubber and about twenty bucks. After placing the tape I ran over it with the roller to seal it to the wall and NO bleeding, the tape will work if it is good quality and placed correctly.
starshipminivan (author)  tommy tinker6 years ago
Thanks for the real-world reply. I think this is a valid point--as long as the tape's edge is sealed, that's how you get a nice line. I think that the initial coat of paint has to be fairly well cured for the tape to be used in this way--or it likes to stick (as I've learned in previous taping episodes). My father used to build custom cabinets for years and specialized in laminate (formica, etc.) so think I am familiar with the kind of product you are describing. That would certainly seal tape well. Brayers used in art are similar but smaller and cheaper and might work for someone doing projects at home. They are hard rubber rollers for applying ink and other printing uses.
The cheaper it is the better it is as long as it works. Excellent suggestion. And yes, I forgot to mention that the first coat needs to be cured first.
kkinney6 years ago
A very good idea for dealing with the problem. I like elegant solutions. Personally I use black electrical tape. Absolutely zero bleed. Plus, it's flexible enough to make curved lines or pinstripes. Also, when pulling off the tape pull it away from the second color. In your example, this would be in an upward direction. This way you don't rip off shards of the new color.
starshipminivan (author)  kkinney6 years ago
I will have to try electrical tape sometime. I love it when things have a uses outside of their intended purpose.
jossdw6 years ago
Best tool to use to get into corners and paint a straight line by hand is a 12 mm bevel paint brush - cost about a buck. I'm obsessive about straight lines - they sream of quality.
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