How to Paint Clean Lines

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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 elemen...

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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    91 Discussions

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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!

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    FloF9

    3 months 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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    caramountpics

    Question 8 months 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

    9 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.

    7 replies
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    Morganbarkergarling37

    Reply 8 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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    nehmoMorganbarker

    Reply 1 year 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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    garling37Morganbarker

    Reply 8 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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    przemekgarling37

    Reply 9 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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    ------przemek

    Reply 8 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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    finfan7garling37

    Reply 9 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

    2 years ago

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

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    Ccincalifornia

    2 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

    2 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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    KirkF8CraigS69

    Reply 2 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

    3 years ago

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

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    WeeRedBirdkaystone

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

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

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    JenniferK6

    3 years ago on Introduction

    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!