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Using Masking Tape

Masking Tape On the left is Tamiya masking tape made specially for modellers.  On the right is commecial masking tape made for interior decorating.

Introduction

Most modellers have to use masking tape on a regular basis.  This tutorial contains two tips for the price of one.  How to reduce the tackiness of masking tape and how to get a good clean line.

Types Of Masking Tape

Masking tape can be divided into two broad types.  Some is made specifically for modellers and some is made for general household and D-I-Y use.

Masking tape made for modellers by the likes of Tamiya normally has a thin width (although it is available in a variety of widths) and generally is far superior to general D-I-Y masking tape.  However, it is more expensive and more difficult to obtain.  For this reason, I use Tamiya masking tape for most modelling purposes, but may use ordinary masking tape for general jobs such as masking a scenic base.  It is worth remembering that masking tape is also very useful for temporarily holding parts together while the glue sets and ordinary masking tape is fine for this.

Commercial masking tape intended for interior decorating comes in much larger rolls and can be quite cheap.  Be aware that there are different types and the quality varies enormously.  In addition to normal masking tape, it is possible to buy ‘low tack’, flexible (for goiing around bends) and also varieties that are intended to be left in place for a long time.

Masking_tape_reducing_tackiness Laying a strip of masking tape on a trouser leg, or other piece of fabric will reduce the amount of adhesion.

Reducing Tackiness

One of the biggest fears when using masking tape is that when it is removed, it might pull off a coat of primer, or other previous layers of paint.  To work well, masking tape has to be rubbed down, especially along the edge and this increases the risk of damaging previous coats of paint.

This problem can be reduced by removing the masking tape as soon as possible.  Generally, the longer you leave masking tape in place, the more difficult it will be to remove it.  I sometimes find it useful to reduce the tackiness of masking tape, so that it sticks well, but does not grip too strongly.  To do this I tear off a strip of masking tape and stick it to my trouser leg.  When it is removed the surface will have thousands of minute pieces of lint that will reduce the adhesion.  If the tape is still too tacky then I repeat the procedure until I am happy that the tape has the right amount of adhesion.

Old DVD An old CD or DVD, a metal ruler and a knife are perfect for cutting a good straight edge which is essential to get good results from masking tape.

Getting a good clean line

A roll of masking tape will attract dust and tiny hairs which will stick to the sides.  This is because the edges of the masking tape will have a tiny amount of adhesive exposed.  Every time you put a roll of masking tape down on a surface, it will pick up a few more bits.  These tiny pieces can prevent the tape from giving a good clean demarcation line between two colours of paint.  This is the reason why Tamiya supply their rolls of masking tape in plastic containers.

If you reduce the tackiness of the masking tape by sticking it on to your trouser leg as suggested above, you might also notice this effect.  Avoiding it is easy.  Lay the strip of masking tape that you are going to use down on a piece of glass or a clean cutting surface (an old CD or DVD is ideal).  Then using a metal ruler and a sharp blade, cut away the tatty edge of the masking tape to reveal a perfectly straight and clean edge.

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13 comments

  1. Hey Kris, this is a great site. You’ve obviously done mountains of work on it, which would be keeping you away from model building! I’m new to the hobby and on my second model. On my first project, I painted the frame of my MiG 15 canopy by hand. Needless to say, the results were not scintillating. How would you mask such a tiny part?
    Thanks again!

    • Hi Ashley, the best way to mask the canopy is with a Tamiya masking tape. It comes in different widths but I would suggest to get 10 mm wide one. Cut a length, attach it to the sheet of plastic and then cut a smaller strips approx. 2 mm in width. These will be nice and easy to stick onto the canopy.

      Do not use sticky tapes from hardware shops-they are too sticky and will peel off the paint! Good luck!

  2. Kris,

    I build large-scale cars and do two-tone paints on a regular basis. What you need is a two-step tape. Your description of reducing the stickiness of tape is fine but you can also find masking tape that is designed for reduced stickiness. Now, use this tape and get as close as posssible to your line. Then, put the really good Tamiya tape over that tape and push that down nice and tight at the cut line. This way, you have most of your painted surface covered with tape of reduced stickiness but you still get the fine edge of the Tamiya product.

    Cheers,

    Rick Shousha
    Montreal

  3. Another great tip Kris. Are you saying that the Tamiya tape has a sharp enough edge that it doesn’t need cutting? I have only just purchased my first roll but still cut it since I have never trusted tape to have that sharp, clean edge.

    • Hi Troy,

      In my opinion the edge on TAMIYA tape is sharp enough. I never had the need to cut it. Once you airbrush I really do not think that you will be able to tell the diference (TAMIYA tape as is vs TAMIYA tape with cut edge).

  4. I am having a hard time of tape residue or ghosting of masking tape when removing the tape from a painted surface that was previously painted and completly dry and cured for 24 hours.
    I am trying to paint a second color right on the edge of the first color with no space in between(edge to edge). When I remove the masking tape, right after, I get the impression of the tape, ghosting or residue.
    My question is: Is there a tape or technique that I can use to end this problem

    • Hi Tom,

      Sometimes I get the same problem – especially if I am using gloss acrylic colors (even after 24 hours of drying). One way to overcome this is to stick masking tape to your paints or shirt before applying on the model. This way the tape will loose its tackiness and strength. Once you finish airbrushing, remove the tape ASAP.

      And lastly – always use TAMIYA masking tape.

      Hope this helps,

      Kris

  5. Hi Kris,
    You can call me frustrated or you can call me lazy, but I think I have found a
    better way (for me) of dealing with painting those pesky frame lines on a canopy.
    I still use masking tape but not to mask it, the tape is now part of the model.
    Ever since building the C6N1 Japanese Carrier Recon plane 1:48 scale, and
    if you know the model you know what I mean, I will treat all my canopies this way.
    It makes it a lot easier to paint and it give the canopy a raised look.
    On larger models you can easily indent rivets on the tape and if you really
    want an authentic look you can tape the inside and paint it what ever interior color
    is called for. Unfortunately can’t download any pics here for you to see, but give try
    I think you’ll find it (maybe) much easier then masking the whole canopy. I’ll be watching! Ron

    • Hi Ron,

      I am interested! Can you send us few pics and i’ll post it into an article (if OK with you).

      I like the idea of doing it on inside and outside.

      I think that canopy is one part of the model which needs improving for many manufacturers. Everything else is usually nicely reproduced and detailed but the canopy is very often bulky and too thick. I wish some manufacturer can come up with blow moulded thin clear canopy which can fit with plastic injection moulded thin frame. Just an idea!

      Regards,

      Kris

  6. Hi Kris,

    Great site !!! I airbrushed Sukhoi T50 but unfortunatelly didnt manage to get clean lines between two colors as the edges of the tape were probably not clean (Tamiya). Is it possible to fix it withou having to airbrush the whole camouflage again? I mean like using sandpaper or somehing.

    Thanx

    • Hi Milan,

      I really can’t think of an easy way to correct over-spray except airbrushing it again. Next time try to use blue tack. It works really well to get the distinct edge between camo colors. You can find more info on applying blue tack in my FREE video.

      I would not use sand paper.

      Good luck

      Kris

  7. Hi Kris,
    Just two questions, did you get those photos of the canopies I sent you. If so did you try the technique.
    I have to agree with you on the canopy thing. I think on the larger scale models they could make the frame work separate from the actual glass portion any thoughts on the matter?
    Thanks Ron.

    • Hi Ron,

      I have received the photos but have not had a chance to apply the technique. As mentioned in my previous email (hope that you have received it) – would love if you can write a small text on it so that it can be posted here.

      Many Thanks,

      Kris

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GRAB YOUR FREE STEP-BY-STEP VIDEO GUIDE !Here you'll find the BEST on the web video tutorial on how to make 1:48 scale WW2 German jet. In our friendly step-by-step video guide we cover topics like: drybrushing, applying washes, applying decals and many more. Do not miss out - WE GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL LEARN SOMETHING NEW!!!!New GraphicName: Email: We respect your email privacy