Updated: 10 hours ago
Unsure if you need masking tape, painter's tape or Frog tape…read this to find out which tape is best for painting.
Have you ever been perusing the aisles of your local DIY store and wondered which tape is best for painting? The answer to that is probably not! Well, I’m here to tell you there is actually a difference between masking tape and painter’s tape and Frog tape and it’s enough to ruin the lines on your painting project (& your day) if you pick the wrong one.
Do I need painter’s tape? Aren’t all masking tapes the same?
It's a common misconception that all masking tapes are equal. In fact, it's highly likely if you're embarking on a painting project that you don't actually need masking tape at all, but rather painter’s tape or my personal favourite Frog Tape. Getting the right tape for your DIY can prove to be a bit of a minefield as there is a huge variety of colourful products available in most DIY stores, which can add to the confusion.
What is masking tape used for?
Masking tape is a useful tool for DIYers. It's great for things like sticking your dust sheets to skirting boards when painting a wall or for covering the metal part of the handle of your paintbrush to save it from getting covered in paint (and inevitably getting rusty). It also has other uses, but, and this might come as a surprise, I don't recommend using masking tape for covering areas and making neat lines when you're painting rooms inside your house.
The reason for that is that masking tape can be quite high tack, so can damage the paint surface underneath when removed. This is due to the type of adhesive that it’s made from, as it’s purpose is to stick well and can therefore leave a residue behind (not what you want on your beautifully painted walls) and can actually pull the paint away from the wall when you remove it - another arghhhh! moment for DIYers!
Similarly, as masking tape is not designed to be used for this purpose, it doesn't give the same quality finish along the edge. Most painter’s tapes have anti-bleed functionality that gives those lovely crisp lines.
What is painter’s tape?
Painter’s tape is a product specifically designed for painting, making it ideal for masking off areas that you don't want to paint in order to achieve neat, straight lines. Painter’s tape is often blue, less papery than masking tape and made from materials that will stop paint from bleeding under the edge of the tape and won’t stick too hard to the wall. As well as the usual masking jobs, painter's tape is really useful for more adventurous painting projects, like creating a colour block effect from different coloured sections of the wall or introducing geometric patterns or wall murals with paint.
Painter's tape is more expensive than masking tape but it's money well worth invested investing in my opinion.
Why is painter’s tape so expensive?
It’s true painter’s tape is more expensive than masking tape and Frog tape is even more expensive again, but this is for good reason as they are a far superior product that has been specifically designed for the purpose of aiding the painter and making their job much easier.
If you keep an eye out, you can often find deals and offers on painter’s tape and you can pick up bargains from your DIY store or on Amazon or eBay for example, buying in bulk is often a good way to reduce the individual item price.
What is Frog tape?
Frog tape is a brand rather than a product category, and in my opinion, it is far superior to many of the other brands of painter's tape available to buy in the UK. There are several different varieties of frog tape, each with their own specific purpose yellow frog tape is my absolute favourite because it's designed to use on delicate surfaces, so it's absolutely brilliant to use on a relatively newly painted wall. That said, you still need to allow the paint to dry sufficiently before applying the delicate surface frog tape; I recommend leaving at least 24 hours.
What do the different colours of painter’s tape mean?
The different colours of painter’s tape can be for a number of reasons. Sometimes the colour is specific to the brand that made it so it’s always worth reading the packaging to check the type of surface each tape is recommended for.
Masking tape is often an off-white colour making it easy to recognise, it has a more papery texture and can be picked up really cheaply often in bulk. Painter’s tape is often blue and Frog tape comes in three main colours, the differences of which we’ll look at in a minute.
Looking at Frog tape specifically, the colours indicate which surface they have been designed for and it goes as follows;
Green: multi-surface (cured painted surfaces, wood trim, glass and metal)
Orange: Gloss and satin (cured painted surfaces, glass, carpet, stone)
Yellow: delicate surfaces (Freshly painted surfaces, coated wallpaper)
How long should you leave painter’s tape on the wall?
The key to success here is not to leave the tape on for too long. I prefer to remove the tape before the paint completely dries, this is usually after about 30-60 minutes. If you leave the tape on too long, the glue can start sticking to the wall and leaving a residue that can ruin your perfect paint job. Of course, it might not be a wall that you are painting, but the principle still applies even if you are painting a fireplace or painting a hard-to-reach ceiling. If you have a textured ceiling you might like to think about skimming it before painting, I have a whole post about smoothing a textured ceiling in case of interest.
Tips for success when using painter’s tape…
Here are some top tips on how to get the best out of your masking tape, Frog tape or painter’s tape, depending on what you're using. Check out my paint hacks post for other painting hacks.
Thoroughly clean the surface before applying painter’s tape. Dust, dirt or grease can cause the tape to lift, ruining your paint job. If the surface is greasy, use a baking soda solution or diluted white vinegar to clean as it will cut straight through.
When you apply the tape, run your finger along the edge, ensuring a smooth flat adhesion to the wall with no gaps.
Never overstretch the painter’s tape because this will reduce its effectiveness and can result in wonky lines.
Store Frog Tape in the box it comes in to protect it from getting damaged.
Don’t take it off too soon or as we mentioned, don’t let it dry out too much either.
A painter's tape vs masking tape experiment
Below, you can see the results of the experiment I conducted using each of the above types of tape. You can watch the Instagram reel I shared about this test here. The making tape resulted in fuzzy lines where the paint bled under the tape's edge. The blue painter's tape had a better finish but wasn't quite as crisp as the yellow frog tape.
Masking tape, painter's tape or Frog tape?
I thought I would do a quick blog post outlining the different types of tape and what they are best used for eg, masking tape, painter's tape or Frog tape because when I shared this information on Instagram a while back people were quite surprised to hear there was a difference other than the colour, so I hope you'll found this useful too.