Not all tapes are created equal, so the first step is to select the right tape for your job. Check your surface texture to determine if you need a tape that will adhere to a textured surface well enough to give you a clean line. If you're layering various paint colors over one another, you might want to select a tape designed specifically for delicate surfaces to prevent the tape from pulling the paint off.
Simply laying tape isn't enough to ensure a clean line once it's removed. Tape must be properly pressed down to create a seal that will prevent paint from bleeding. Achieve the seal by running a plastic palette knife or putty knife over the tape once it's in place. Avoid metal putty knifes that can cut into the tape.
Most paints - especially those with a latex base - have an elasticity that can cause them to peel when you pull away the tape. Nip this problem in the bud by scoring the paint edge first -- this means running a sharp, thin utility knife blade along the edge of the tape before removing it.
The Band-Aid technique of "rip it off quick" does not apply to removing tape from a paint project, unless you're going after the jagged-edge look. Painter's tape must be pulled off slowly at a 45-degree angle to prevent peeling. For projects that are still wet, angle the tape in toward the painted area as you pull rather than out toward the unpainted area to prevent the paint from bleeding.
Given that tape naturally creates a straight line, stripes, checkerboards and harlequin patterns can seem like the easiest wall design to execute -- but don't let their simplicity fool you. Precision, planning and a whole lot of measuring are required to pull off a professional look. Uneven ceilings and imperfect planning can cause patterns to look uneven. Plus, long spans of tape have a tendency to curve slightly if not guided along a perfectly straight pencil line.
Overlapping circles, water-like waves, zebra stripes -- the canvas of a blank wall is a creative place to display freehand designs, but don't think the organic pattern can't benefit from a crisp edge. Instead of breaking out the paintbrushes right away, sketch the pattern on the wall first, then mark off the edges with painter's tape. Most tape is flexible enough to follow gentle curves without cutting the tape. For more dramatic curves, overlap shorter pieces of tape.
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