Menu
Updated July 2022
Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

40
Models
Considered
60
Consumers
Consulted
28
Hours
Researched
Category cover

Buying guide for best masking tape

Did you know that there is masking tape for industrial paint applications and masking tape for microelectronics protection on circuit boards? This versatile product, invented by 3M in 1925, has many uses. This easy-to-apply and residue-free tape isn’t just for painting rooms anymore.

Masking tape is preferred by artists, engineers, DIYers, and just about anyone else who needs to stick things up or protect surfaces from paint and other chemicals. As this product approaches its hundredth birthday, it’s still going strong as the tape of choice for fastening, hanging, removing, masking, school science projects, crafts, and much more.

With so many variations and brands of masking tape at the home improvement store, figuring out exactly which type to use for your project can be frustrating. But the key to picking the right masking tape is all in the label. A good buying guide and recommendations can help.

masking tape
Masking tape is a fast, easy medium for creative projects. You can create stencils, measure and mark spots to hang pictures, and much more.

How to buy the best masking tape

Types

General-purpose masking tape is great for everyday tasks that require a fast, strong, temporary hold. Let’s take a look at some of the uses of masking tape and the different types available today.

Painter’s tape: One of the first things you probably think of is masking tape’s original purpose: protecting sections of a wall or other object before painting. The rubber-based adhesive on painting-grade masking tape has two important jobs: create a strong barrier between the surface and the paint and peel away without damaging the surface or leaving residue behind. To do that, painter’s masking tape has low-tack adhesion that makes it best for temporary use. The backing on this tape is usually dark blue, but at least one brand is bright green.

General-purpose tape: This type of masking tape has a thicker crepe paper backing than painter’s tape, and its rubber-based adhesive is much stickier. It still comes off leaving little or no residue, but it doesn’t protect the surface as well as painter’s tape. It’s great for semi-porous surfaces and walls with cured paint. It’s the masking tape of choice for creative projects and hanging posters.

Outdoor/cold-temperature tape: Neither painter’s nor general-purpose tape works well in the cold. Look for “performance” masking tape rated for cold temperatures. This type of tape has an acrylic-based adhesive that performs better in extreme temperatures and outdoor environments where moisture might be a problem.

High-temperature tape: Certain paint applications, such as baking (heating the paint so it cures more quickly), require a masking tape that can withstand high temperatures. These tapes with a silicone-based adhesive are favored for industrial and auto body painting.

Special uses: For extreme environments, masking tape gets even more specialized.

  • Plating tape protects sensitive electronic components during electroplating. The backing resists acids, corrosive chemicals, and extreme temperatures.
  • Abrasive tape has a rubber backing that resists sandblasting and other coarse finishing processes.
  • Thermal spray tape is designed to protect surfaces from very high temperatures during plasma or wire arc processes.

Masking tape holds lightweight objects in place like party streamers and balloons, and it can be removed without leaving any marks after the party’s over.

STAFF
BestReviews

Features to look for in masking tape

Dimensions

Width: Masking tape is available in widths from 0.25 to 2 inches. You can also buy rolls that are nearly 4 feet wide that you can cut to fit your needs.

Thickness: The thickness of the backing (the nonsticky side) can be important depending on the application. The backing on painter’s tape is thin crepe paper that tears very easily. General-purpose tape backing is thicker crepe paper. It has more tensile strength and scratch resistance and holds more adhesive for a stronger bond. Some specialty tapes have a heavier backing made of different materials to provide scratch or heat resistance.

Color

General-purpose tape comes in many different colors so you can match the surface it’s used on (or not). Industrial and performance-rated tapes have specific colors to denote their application, such as blue for painter’s tape and bright yellow for auto body tape. Colors can be very industry specific, so check the label to make sure you’re purchasing the right tape for your project.

Rating

Weather-resistant or indoor/outdoor: These tapes are designed to adhere better in cold and hot temperatures without breaking down as quickly as general-purpose masking tape. Special tapes made for specific industry applications have even higher or lower temperature ratings for conditions that you won’t encounter in typical home or office applications.

Some of these masking tapes hold up better in damp environments than general-purpose tape. The backing is less likely to break down when wet, and the adhesive resists moisture.

Expiration: Masking tape adhesive has an expiration date. After that date, the tape could be difficult to peel away and might leave residue behind. Ratings vary between 1 and 60 days. Painter’s tape is typically rated between 7 and 14 days.

masking tape
DID YOU KNOW?
In 1925, 3M employee Richard Drew invented masking tape to address the frustrations of auto body painters who constantly had to touch up paint damaged by the glues in use at the time.
STAFF
BestReviews

Accessories to use with masking tape

Desktop tape dispenser

A sturdy desktop dispenser holds the roll of masking tape in place and allows you to pull and snap off pieces at precisely the length you need.

Handheld tape applicator

The best of these allow for one-handed tape application, so you can apply a consistent strip of tape without stopping to pull more off the roll.

Adhesive remover

If you left masking tape on a surface just a little too long, clean away the leftover goo with an adhesive-removing solvent that’s safe for the surface it’s used on.

How much does masking tape cost?

Inexpensive

General-purpose masking tape and small rolls of painter’s tape cost about $2 to $3 per roll.

Mid-range

Painter’s tape, all-weather masking tape, and tape in multiple colors and patterns can be found for $4 to $7 per roll.

Expensive

For specialized tapes developed for extremely high or low temperatures, expect to pay $8 to $16 per roll.

Painter’s tape is a better choice for paint jobs than general-purpose masking tape because it has a lower tack that’s easier to remove.

STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • Use the tape at room temperature. On very cold or hot days, apply masking tape indoors. The adhesive works best at room temperature.
  • Get creative! General-purpose masking tape comes in a rainbow of colors. You can find lots of ideas for fun projects online.
  • Don’t leave the tape on a surface after its expiration date. Tape left on too long can be difficult to peel off completely and might leave a sticky residue behind.
  • Mark up the tape. Masking tape’s strong paper backing can stand up to marker ink without bleeding through to the surface underneath.
  • Smooth out the tape. To create a strong barrier against paint bleed, run your finger along the tape after applying it to the wall. This seals the edges so paint can’t seep underneath.
masking tape
Masking tape has to meet a specific industry standard set by ASTM International: ASTM D6123/D6123M-97. Few other tapes have such a strict standard.

FAQ

Q. Why doesn’t masking tape stick in cold temperatures?

A. Time for science! The adhesive on masking tape (and all tapes) is made of two components: a solid and a liquid. The solid component helps improve the tensile strength, meaning that it’s strong when stretched. The liquid component provides the initial stickiness to grab the surface you’re taping. And that’s important to know, because in very cold temperatures, what happens to liquid? It freezes. Certain solids like rubber (the basis of general-purpose masking tape adhesive) get brittle in the cold. And there you are, standing in freezing weather, trying to reseal a container with tape that’s not sticking at all. To solve this problem, use a masking tape that’s rated for use in cold temperatures. It uses a different adhesive (usually acrylic) that resists freezing.

Q. How do I remove painter’s tape without damaging the wall?

A. Painter’s tape has a recommended lifespan of between 7 and 14 days. I’ve frequently exceeded that deadline by a few weeks (it’s a challenge to fit DIY projects between work and family) and been able to pull the tape away with no damage to the walls. However, if painter’s tape has been up for a few months, the adhesive may have dried and adhered to the surface in spots. Tug on the end of the tape in an inconspicuous spot. If you see adhesive on the wall or the tape is difficult to remove, try warming it with a hair dryer as you carefully peel the tape away. You can also carefully slide a putty knife beneath the tape as you peel it back. Try cleaning the residue off the wall with a damp cloth and a little dish soap.

Q. Why is the masking tape pulling paint off with it?

A. Using general-purpose masking tape on a painted surface can be problematic. It adheres too tightly and can pull up new paint that hasn’t yet cured. But even painter’s tape isn’t perfect. If the edges of the tape aren’t smoothed down to remove bumps and air bubbles, paint can squeeze into these gaps. Uneven surfaces are also troublesome. Try using green painter’s tape on these surfaces. It has a slightly stronger adhesive and might make a better seal. And try to remove the masking tape sooner rather than later. An hour or two after painting is ideal.

Q. Why can’t I get masking tape to stick?

A. The adhesive on masking tape needs a clean, smooth surface to stick to. It also works best in moderate temperatures that are comfortably above freezing and not too hot. If your masking tape isn’t sticking to a surface that it previously stuck to, clean the surface well and let it dry thoroughly. Bring the object into a climate-controlled room (or if it’s an interior wall, adjust the thermostat). Make sure the surface feels smooth and isn’t too cold or hot before you apply new masking tape.

 

Our Top Picks