How to Mask for Spray Painting

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Spray painting has many benefits over traditional brushing and rolling. This painting technique can drastically speed the application process and tends to produce a slick finish free from unattractive roller bumps and brush marks. Unfortunately, spray painting tends to produce heavy paint fog and overspray that can stain nearby surfaces. Before you try to spray paint an item in or around your home, take the time to protect adjacent surfaces by masking them with the appropriate materials.

Things You'll Need

  • Mineral spirits
  • Rags
  • Tack cloths
  • Masking paper
  • Professional painter's tape
  • Plastic drop cloths
  • Hand-held masking paper machine
  • Wipe unfinished surfaces, such as plastic, vinyl and metal, using a rag dampened with mineral spirits. Wait at least an hour for these surfaces to dry before applying any painter's tape.

  • Wipe painted and stained surfaces with sticky tack cloths before applying tape to them. Don't try to dust the surface with a plastic brush or cloth rags, or unseen dust particles may remain.

  • Cover surfaces you'd like to protect from spray paint, using masking paper. Hold the paper in place by attaching the edges to the surface, using a low-tack painter's tape. Press your thumb against the tape and smooth it against the surface to ensure that it is securely fastened.

  • Cover larger areas, such as countertops and furniture, using plastic drop cloths. Tape the edges of the drop cloth down if necessary.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can hasten the masking process by using a hand-held masking paper machine that dispenses paper with painter's tape already attached.
  • When spray paint bleeds underneath painter's tape, it's typically because the tape adhesives were unable to bond to the underlying surface due to foreign particles or oils. Be sure to thoroughly clean the surface before applying painter's tape, or unexpected stains may result.
  • Don't wipe painted or stained surfaces with mineral spirits, or the finish may fade.
  • Painter's tape is low-tack; this means it has less adhesive than other tapes, which allows it to be removed without leaving residues behind. Don't use masking, duct, or electrical tape, or you could damage the underlying surface you are trying to protect.
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