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MASKING 101 - Masking techniques for painting

Once you have cleared the furniture from the area to be painted it’s tempting to bring all the paint and equipment in and get stuck in! Before you do this, it’s worth considering the areas you don’t want paint on.

The floor coverings (ie carpet, tiles, wooden floors and lino) need to be protected from dust, glue, plaster and paint. If you are painting walls up to the woodwork or cabinetry these areas can be masked off making cutting in against them quicker and easier, leaving a neat professional looking edge to your paint work.

You can mask off anything that can’t be moved or detached, for example furniture, light fittings, freestanding fires, or mirrors.

Masking Equipment Duster Brush or an old 100mm paint brush.

Putty Knife sometimes called a filler knife, 40mm wide square end blade.

Snap off Blade knife small version. Know also as a N.T. cutter.

Masking Tape available in a range of widths with the 36mm being the choice of many professional painters because it’s easier to use and wide which helps with coverage and adhesion. There are low tack tapes for delicate surfaces, long life tapes which can remain stuck down for seven to ten days and still be removed easily.

Newspapers very useful on smaller projects and masking tape can be applied to the folded edge of a sheet then put in place.

Paper Masking rolls of paper pre-taped or refills for a Masking Machine.

Plastic Masking Fold Out rolls of plastic which unfold out to cover large areas. Note that these are not suitable to use on any flooring as it is a big slip hazard.

Masking Machine dispenses plastic or paper with masking tape.  


Before putting the tape on any surface, make sure it is clean and dry and check for grease or moisture. Vacuum any carpeted areas to be masked.

Masking floors

When masking carpet up to the skirting, lay the masking tape lightly 1 to 2mm onto skirting then using a duster brush tap the tape down into the edge of the carpet where it meets the skirting. This will firmly fix it in place ensuring that your paint will reach just below the natural line of the carpet. It will also prevent carpet fibre or dust being picked up by the paint brush and transferred on to the surface being painted. So it’s not just to keep the paint off the carpet.

Hard smooth surfaces like tiles, concrete, and lino need the tape laid with the leading edge position up to the skirting. Hold it down by running a putty knife along at an angle firmly enough to ensure a good contact and seal which will prevent paint seeping under the taped edge. After the tape is put in position, hold your putty knife at 90 degrees across the tape and rip it quickly. This should give you a clean straight edge to start the next strip.

Now that the perimeter of the floor is masked, how much of the rest of the floor will require covering will depend on how big the job is, for example if you are only painting the woodwork then laying newspaper and tacking it in place may suffice. If your project includes a ceiling and walls the whole floor can be covered with drop sheets or old curtains, blankets right to the edge of the masking and held in place by tacking them down with tape. There is also a choice of 500mm or 1000mm wide Self Adhesives Floor covering plastic you can purchase in rolls. Really good if there’s going to be a lot of dust, plaster or paint being used.


Masking the woodwork (window and door frames) is well worth the effort to get a straight, clean line, especially if you haven’t had a lot of experience of ‘Cutting In Free Hand’

What about aluminium windows?

A tricky edge to mask on some aluminium joinery can be masked this way:

  • Lay the tape 3mm to 4mm over the edge of the Aluminium and run your finger along the top.
  • Then run your thumb nail gently along this edge to secure and bed the tape in.
  • Use a sharp knife to lightly cut along tape.
  • Peel away and smooth down.

*This is when a wide tape will help span the gap.

Hinges and Barrels

It’s handy to know how to mask up hinges and barrels:

  • Make sure the surface is clean, dry and dust free
  • Cover the faces of the hinge plates and lightly trace the outline with a blunt pencil
  • Gently cut along edge of hinge then peel away
  • When masking barrels place tape on one side and secure leading edge down with putty knife
  • Trim off half the tape and fold remaining down along barrel, place other half on the other side of barrel and fold back down across original piece
  • Run putty knife down leading edge to secure and seal

*Note the barrels will not remain masked if doors are to be used.

Should I use a masking machine?

Masking Machines are well worth the investment if you have a large job or large areas to protect. They are easy to use and can use a variety of both paper and unfolding plastic in different sizes. There are smaller one-handed dispensers that take pre-taped plastic and paper rolls, again a must if you’re going to be painting.


Never leave masking tape on any surface longer than the painting job requires so just mask up the area you can finish painting within 3/4 days or the duration the tape is rated to.