How to Paint Clean Lines

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Introduction: How to Paint Clean Lines

About: I'm a Renaissance woman. I love to create things with a fantasy, medieval, or geeky edge. I'm also a math/science nerd. I have a passion for all things Halloween. I like to build props, create costume elements…

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.)

1 Person Made This Project!

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93 Comments

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StumpChunkman
StumpChunkman

11 years ago on Introduction

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!

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marydecorator
marydecorator

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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

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FloF9
FloF9

3 years ago on Introduction

ok but what about painting a circle?? How to make it perfecty sharp? Impossible with a tape technic cause it s round!

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Texan786
Texan786

Reply 6 months ago

Circle? I am an amateur, but I would try the clear rubber sealant technique that someone mentioned. First paint the a circular blotch in the color and location you want the circle to be, but a little bit bigger than you want. Now cut your circle out of say a stiff piece of plastic. Optionally maybe poke a nail through the approx center facing out to use as a handle for pulling it off the wall. Before sticking it, on the underside of the plastic circle run a thin bead of rubber sealant or maybe kids paste and smear it with your finger to remove the excess. You want this thin and invisible - just thick enough to hold the plastic to the wall and seal the edge. Stick it in place and run your finger around the edge to stick it down. When it's dry enough to hold in place paint the edge. The rubber will seal out leakage under the circle. In fact, a little will rubber will seap onto your wall and be painted. When dry run a blade around the plastic edge to cut the rubber sealant with the new paint at that circular edge and pull away the circular template. Did you find a better way?

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Texan786
Texan786

6 months ago

Let me try to rephrase and blend wisdom from several other commenters This is not intuitive at first but it's very effective. I've previously tried several different tapes and pressures etc. Some paint always seeped it's way under the tape, especially since I have a slight popcorn finish on my walls.

Here's a (hopefully) more intuitive description instead of a video. I'm painting my ceiling white and my wall dark blue.
1. I paint the ceiling white going past the corner edge and splashing the white paint down onto the top of the wall (the wall can either be the old color or the new beautiful blue). Let it dry thoroughly.
2. Tape against the ceiling onto your fully dry white paint. Use painters tape (usually blue) as it's made to stick to paint but not pull it off the wall. Be sure to at least reach the corner edge. If you can't hit the corner exactly then over-run onto the wall a little, it's barely visible. Tape in long-ish stretches so you have less wiggle in your line.
3. Now you expect to start painting your wall blue but DON'T. Paint *more* white on top of your wall. Some of this white will slip under the tape onto the already white ceiling. (Other people point out that you could use something else here like clear sealant or something but you have the white paint right there, right? Exact match.)
4. Let the white paint mostly dry as you obsess compulsively over how invasive that ragged white line looks trespassing onto your wall. Once dry, cover up the white up to and onto the front edge of the tape as you have been waiting to do. The blue paint cannot run under the tape because the white paint already did that and sealed up the gaps. A darker color will more easily cover the white. If you have to paint a light color over dark, let the first mostly dry and do a second coat at this point before pulling tape.
5. Let the paint mostly dry but for slightly better results, pull off the tape while it is still moist enough to tear cleanly and easily. If the white over tape dried fully, no problem, the new paint will moisten it up slightly so it tears cleanly.
6. Lie to your friends that you 'just eyeballed it' but think it came out pretty good.

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caramountpics
caramountpics

Question 3 years ago on Step 5

Very excited to see how this turns out!

Question though: My first colour is a light grey. My second colour is a white. I want the white to be really bright and poppy, which means I want to do two coats of the white. I've already taped, applied the light grey and have let it dry.

Now, should I:

1. Paint the 1st coat of the white. Then while it's wet, peel off the tape. Then once it's dry, retape the edge and apply the second coat? (with no light grey?)

OR

2. Paint the 1st coat of the white. Let it dry. Paint the 2nd coat of the white, then while it's wet, peel off the tape?

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garling37
garling37

12 years ago on Step 5

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.

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Morganbarker
Morganbarker

Reply 11 years ago on Step 5

 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.

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nehmo
nehmo

Reply 4 years ago

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?

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garling37
garling37

Reply 11 years ago on Step 5

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

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przemek
przemek

Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

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.

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Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

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

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garling37
garling37

Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

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

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finfan7
finfan7

Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

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.

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cfedonczak
cfedonczak

4 years ago

Genius trick, filling the tape edge leakage with the color that you are masking.

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Ccincalifornia
Ccincalifornia

5 years ago

Fabulous! Easy to understand and can't wait to try it on my black trim next to a white wall. Thank you

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CraigS69
CraigS69

5 years ago

why not just use the brown then pull tape back? Doubling uo with the green first then brown seemed to np be an extra step!! What am I missing?

Looks as the brown covers all the lighter color either way!

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KirkF8
KirkF8

Reply 5 years ago

this is old but I'll comment anyway.. by painted the tape edge green also you are controlling the paint that will bleed under the tape do to the texture of the surface and this fills in the tiny spaces with the same color. If you put brown on directly it would bleed in those tiny spaces and you will have a jagged line. So you're making a jagged line but of the exact same color and filling in the gaps, then when you paint the next color it doesn't bleed because the tiny gaps are already filled in so you get a nice crisp line... Cheers

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kaystone
kaystone

6 years ago

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