Masking and painter’s tape are often thought of as the same. However, they are not! They are often used for the same application: to create a straight line when painting so that your paint doesn’t spill onto surfaces you don’t want to paint.

Masking tape is often considered the poor man’s painter’s tape and is often used by DIY painters when painting their homes. And while it’s easy to paint masking tape in a negative light, it certainly has plenty of utility outside the painting world.

A Brief History of Masking Tape

Richard Drew invented masking tape in 1925 while a staff member at 3M. 3M is an American adhesives manufacturer. Drew noticed that auto parts painters were errantly painting over parts of their car bodies that they didn’t want to paint in that colour. To remedy this, Drew invented masking tape to allow the paint to spill onto the tape rather than the undesired car part.

This was one of the first uses of tape in the painting industry. The invention of masking tape paved the way for the painter’s tape of today. 

What Are The Uses of Masking Tape?

Alongside its utility as “poor man’s painter’s tape,” masking tape has several other uses.

  • Labels: In a pinch, masking tape can be used as a quick labelling system for containers.
  • Clean Paint Cans: Use masking tape around the edge of your paint cans to stop paint from filling the space, making them harder to open.
  • Prevent Wood Breaking: You can easily use masking tape in your garage when working with wood. If you’re cutting a thin board of, say, laminate wood, and want to prevent it from breaking after your cut-off point, simply affix some masking tape along the ‘keep’ side of your cut line and then cut. The masking tape will provide a buffer for the force of the saw, stopping your wood from splitting.
  • In a pinch painter’s tape: If you don’t have access to painter’s tape and need to paint something before you again have access, masking tape is a fine supplementary replacement.

What are the Differences Between Masking Tape & Painter’s Tape?

There are a few main differences between the masking tape and painter’s tape that are worth pointing out.

  • Cost: One of the main reasons regular folks use masking tape over painter’s tape is the cost. A roll of masking tape – regardless of width, generally costs a few pounds. Meanwhile, you can expect to pay double or treble that price for a roll of painter’s tape.
  • Longevity: One of the main qualities of painter’s tape is that it is usually capable of staying on a painted surface for up to 2 weeks before it causes any major issues with the paint behind it. Meanwhile, masking tape tends to fall off after a couple of days.
  • Clean Finish: Most masking tapes will leave a thin but noticeable residue. As a professional painter, this would be completely unacceptable.
  • Outdoor Use: Masking tape cannot be used outdoors. It’s not weather-resistant nor waterproof, unlike painter’s tape!

Is Painter’s Tape Superior?

Painter’s tape might well be superior to masking tape if you’re a professional painter that needs the qualities and longevity on a surface that painter’s tape can offer you. Generally, painter’s tape is used for professional painting jobs where leaving residue behind isn’t an option. Most of the time, masking tape will leave a thin residue – which is fine for touch-up work around your home as a DIY painter but completely unacceptable if you’re a painter offering a paid-for service.

As a DIY painter around the house, masking tape has plenty of utility and is very cost-effective. Of course, it also has an abundance of other uses. But for the professional painter who does interior and exterior work, painter’s tape is necessary.