Archive for Sunday, June 23, 2002

Masking technique makes painting geometric shapes easier

June 23, 2002


My decorating partner, Matt Fox, loves to paint. Sure, he'll try some of the newer painting techniques, but his real love is the simple process of painting in one color. He can coat a room in no time flat, and that's a real bonus when you're trying to decorate as many rooms as we do.

However, there's more to decorating than speed, including design, pattern and interest. I've figured out a way to make us both happy when it comes to painting by using the masking technique. This allows me as much creativity as I want, and Matt can still roll to his heart's content.

Here's what you'll need to do a masking technique at home.

Rolls and rolls of masking tape in the width of your choice (we use 1-inch most of the time)

Measuring tape

Long level


Painting supplies

The creative part of this project is a lot of fun. If you like math or enjoy drawing geometric designs, this is a great outlet for you. The blank canvas can be either your current wall color, which becomes the color of the lines you are creating, or it can be a new base-coat color selected to blend with the top-coat color you've chosen.

If it's a new base coat, I recommend you wait a couple of weeks before adding the masking-tape design. The more complicated the design, the longer the tape may have to be on the wall, and newly painted surfaces need time to cure.

There are all sorts of options for designs with tape. Matt and I have done quite a few, and they've all turned out differently, but well. I tend to select more complicated Frank Lloyd Wright-like shapes and Matt prefers stripes that follow the lines of the windows and doors.

Start by making very soft pencil marks on the wall using the long level. This will keep your lines straight and your measurements perfect. Once you have the design measured out and marked on the wall, it's time to start taping.

As you add the masking tape to your walls, try to keep the pencil lines exposed so they get painted over with the top coat. Where you've had to crisscross lines, an eraser should eliminate those markings.

The key to a perfect technique is perfect lines. And the only way to get really perfect lines is to press the tape edges down with the edge of a fingernail or even a spoon to make sure they are completely stuck down. It may take some time to finish the taping step. When you're done, step back and consider any other additions you might like to make before the painting begins. You might even want to consider partially painting the wall so the top half matches the design you've created.

Now, let the painting begin. Tape off the baseboards, trim and the ceiling, unless you're a master at cutting in. Then cut in a wall and roll on the paint. This technique only allows you to add a single top coat. Most paints recommend a two-coat process.

Unfortunately, if the paint dries enough to add a second coat, a solid film will be created over the tape. Then, when the tape is pulled from the wall, the paint film will come with it.

So you've probably guessed that the tape needs to be removed almost immediately after the wall is finished. Give the painter time to check for missed spots, then carefully remove the tape to reveal your fabulous new design.

If there has been some seepage under the tape of your top-coat color, now is the time to remedy this. If the paint is still wet, a damp paper towel will usually wipe away the bleeding paint.

Small artist's paintbrushes can correct a dried problem either by using the base-coat color to cover bleeding paint, or the top-coat color to cover a dried film that was torn away from the ground color. When you see the inconsistencies, you'll know what to do.

Shari Hiller writes this column with Matt Fox. They also co-host the Home & Garden Television show "Room by Room." For more information, visit

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