Automotive Paint Masking Techniques


A great auto paint job can be ruined by unsightly paint edges or over-spray caused by ineffective masking techniques. In professional body shops, auto preparers use masking tape, masking paper and polythene sheeting to isolate different areas of a vehicle. This helps produce a neater job that requires no detailing work once the paint has been applied. Different techniques are used on different parts of a car to achieve a professional result.

Masking Trim

  • Isolate window trim rubber and moldings with 1-inch-wide masking tape. Pull back a small section of tape and apply it to one side of the trim. Keep one finger on the end of the applied tape to stop it from peeling away while using the other hand to release more tape from the roll. Move a finger along the length of the trim to lay down the released tape, making sure the edge overlaps the trim very slightly without touching the surface to be painted. Continue until the trim is completely covered before tucking in the overlapped edges with a plastic spreader.

Preventing Paint Build-Up in Apertures

  • Extend a small length of 1-inch masking tape across your knee with the adhesive side facing upwards. Pull the tape tight and use your thumb to fold one-sixteenth of an inch of masking tape back across itself so a small seam is created. Unroll the tape across your knee, keeping the tape as tight as possible throughout the process, to create a long, single seam of tape. Apply the tape to the inner edges of auto panel apertures with the folded seam overhanging slightly to prevent material build-up when paint is sprayed.

Masking to Folded Lines

  • Block out areas above the crease of an auto body panel with tape and masking paper, but leave approximately half an inch of clearance on the fold itself. Take a roll of 1-inch masking tape and start at one end of the folded line. Apply the tape so half the width adheres to the uncovered section above the folded line, while the rest of the tape overhangs the panel. Use small pieces of tape at 1-inch intervals to fold the tape back on itself so a U-shape is created. Once the paint has been applied, carefully remove the single section of tape to eliminate the possibility of a paint edge during the drying process.

Custom Pattern Painting

  • Use 1-inch masking tape and paper to isolate all areas that do not require painting, but leave approximately one-eighth of an inch around the edges of the pattern. Take a roll of half-inch plastic masking tape and shape it to the edge of the pattern, pressing down the edges firmly so paint is unable to seep beneath it. Apply color to the vehicle and peel away the plastic tape before drying so a sharp and definable pattern edge is achieved. Leave the color to cure for 10 minutes before adding two applications of clear coat lacquer to eliminate the masking tape edge and create a gloss finish.

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