Onbester International

Using Masking Tape

Masking Tape On the left is Tamiya masking tape made specially for modellers.  On the right is commecial masking tape made for interior decorating.


Most modellers have to use masking tape on a regular basis.  This tutorial contains two tips for the price of one.  How to reduce the tackiness of masking tape and how to get a good clean line.

Types Of Masking Tape

Masking tape can be divided into two broad types.  Some is made specifically for modellers and some is made for general household and D-I-Y use.

Masking tape made for modellers by the likes of Tamiya normally has a thin width (although it is available in a variety of widths) and generally is far superior to general D-I-Y masking tape.  However, it is more expensive and more difficult to obtain.  For this reason, I use Tamiya masking tape for most modelling purposes, but may use ordinary masking tape for general jobs such as masking a scenic base.  It is worth remembering that masking tape is also very useful for temporarily holding parts together while the glue sets and ordinary masking tape is fine for this.

Commercial masking tape intended for interior decorating comes in much larger rolls and can be quite cheap.  Be aware that there are different types and the quality varies enormously.  In addition to normal masking tape, it is possible to buy ‘low tack’, flexible (for goiing around bends) and also varieties that are intended to be left in place for a long time.

Masking_tape_reducing_tackiness Laying a strip of masking tape on a trouser leg, or other piece of fabric will reduce the amount of adhesion.

Reducing Tackiness

One of the biggest fears when using masking tape is that when it is removed, it might pull off a coat of primer, or other previous layers of paint.  To work well, masking tape has to be rubbed down, especially along the edge and this increases the risk of damaging previous coats of paint.

This problem can be reduced by removing the masking tape as soon as possible.  Generally, the longer you leave masking tape in place, the more difficult it will be to remove it.  I sometimes find it useful to reduce the tackiness of masking tape, so that it sticks well, but does not grip too strongly.  To do this I tear off a strip of masking tape and stick it to my trouser leg.  When it is removed the surface will have thousands of minute pieces of lint that will reduce the adhesion.  If the tape is still too tacky then I repeat the procedure until I am happy that the tape has the right amount of adhesion.

Old DVD An old CD or DVD, a metal ruler and a knife are perfect for cutting a good straight edge which is essential to get good results from masking tape.

Getting a good clean line

A roll of masking tape will attract dust and tiny hairs which will stick to the sides.  This is because the edges of the masking tape will have a tiny amount of adhesive exposed.  Every time you put a roll of masking tape down on a surface, it will pick up a few more bits.  These tiny pieces can prevent the tape from giving a good clean demarcation line between two colours of paint.  This is the reason why Tamiya supply their rolls of masking tape in plastic containers.

If you reduce the tackiness of the masking tape by sticking it on to your trouser leg as suggested above, you might also notice this effect.  Avoiding it is easy.  Lay the strip of masking tape that you are going to use down on a piece of glass or a clean cutting surface (an old CD or DVD is ideal).  Then using a metal ruler and a sharp blade, cut away the tatty edge of the masking tape to reveal a perfectly straight and clean edge.

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