What is Masking Tape?

Mary Elizabeth

Masking tape is a removable adhesive tape used to provide temporary protection to an area while an adjacent area is being worked on. Originally designed to mask one part of an automobile’s two-tone paint job while the other part was being completed, this tape has found many other uses since. Besides masking, it can be used to seal packages, splice poster board or other material, hold a drop cloth in place, bundle items together, and label material, among other uses.


In the basic product, adhesive is supplied on a crepe backing to create an easily torn manila-colored tape. Basic products come in widths of 0.5 inch (1.27 cm), 0.75 inch (1.9 cm), 1 inch (2.54 cm), 1.5 inch (3.81 cm), 2 inches (5.08 cm), and 3 inches (7.62 cm). Masking tape is sold both in individual rolls and in packs of several rolls, and the cardboard core has a characteristically large diameter, making it possible to carry or wear the tape like a bracelet. Black colored tape is also available.

Recommendations for removing masking tape cleanly include pulling it at a moderate pace and at a 90-degree angle, working at a time when the surface is neither too hot nor too cold because either temperature extreme can cause problems. If it is too hot, some adhesive residue may be left; if too cold, the tape may tear easily. While standard products are good at a maximum temperature of around 150°F (66°C) for about an hour, high temperature tape handles heats of up to 350°F (177°C) for an hour. It is important for users to choose a tape designed for the ambient temperature as well as the particular material being masked in order to avoid any sort of damage.

A special type called painter’s tape is formulated to be cleanly removable after long periods of time, with some brands claiming to release well up to 60 days after application. Some painter’s tapes are labeled with phrases such as “clean removal” or “safe release,” and shippers can often pick them out by their color, which is usually blue or green. Another specially formulated version is made with particularly strong adhesion properties to allow it to stick to surfaces that resist tape.

Masking tape is also available in a range of colors, which can be used for color-coding shipments and inventory, decorating, marking floors, making signs, mapping, and art projects.

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Discussion Comments


Painter's Tape is used for the UV properties. You can buy different level adhesives that are in a manila color for less that do the same job.


I buy masking tape and use it as an alternative to the more expensive art tape. I do a lot of charcoal and pastel drawings on paper, and I have to secure them to the mat frame with some type of tape that won't damage the paper.

Ordinary tape would destroy the drawing if it were ever removed. Art tape is designed to be removed without doing anything bad to the paper or the medium. However, it can be costly.

Masking tape does the exact same thing, and it is less than half the price of a roll of art tape. I place a small piece of it over the top eighth inch of my drawing and stick it to the back board. This keeps the art from shifting around and getting crooked while I apply the mat frame.


My kids get off the bus at my husband's shop and have to stay there until he gets off work. They get really bored, so he lets them use one of his colored masking tape rolls to do creative things.

They sometimes line the floor with it and play hopscotch. I've also seen them create tic-tac-toe boards on the concrete with it.

He uses a lot of colored masking tape in his profession, so he has plenty of it on hand. Letting the kids go through a roll of it now and then sure is less expensive than paying for daycare!


@seag47 – I didn't know you could apply masking tape on top of a painted canvas. That really is a good use for it. I know I couldn't paint a straight line without help, either.

I recently repainted a few rooms in my house, and I used painters' masking tape to protect the baseboards. I used latex paint, so I had to remove the tape as soon as I got through painting. Latex paint turns to rubber after drying, so the tape could have easily torn the paint away.

This tape that I used absorbed the paint that got onto it. So, when I pulled it off the wall, I had a really straight edge, which was just what I wanted.


Cheap masking tape is a great tool for artists who have to paint a lot of straight lines. It is safe to use on top of acrylic paint, so you don't have to worry about your work getting destroyed.

I recently painted a house on canvas. I used a ruler to draw all the straight lines in the structure, and then I placed masking tape along the outside of each line as I painted.

The only drawback was that I had to wait until an area of paint had dried before I could put masking tape on it. Otherwise, it would make a muddy mess.

Without masking tape, I never would have been able to get the lines perfectly straight. I have very shaky hands, so I need a physical guide to prevent my paintbrush from straying.


Is masking tape safe to use to hold a contact used in connectors,made of copper alloy and hard gold plated with a thickness of .000050 minimum plating?

Will adhesive come off without damaging plating?

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