Painting a Perfect Stripe

Painting perfectly spaced stripes with crisp, clean edges can be a challenge. With these simple tips you can master wide or narrow stripes with ease.

Consistent spacing without measuring

Once you have decided what size(s) you would like for your stripes to be, purchase masking tape in these widths. Multiple widths are available for small projects at For home decor applications you can find a variety of widths in the paint department of the hardware store. Don't overlook abutting different widths to reach the desired size. For example, our narrow width tapes include 1/8", 1/4", and 3/8" sizes. Two adjoining strips of 1/4" tape make a 1/2" stripe. By combining sizes, any width is possible. The "stripe" tape can be reused to minimize waste.
Between your stripes there are spaces. Again, you will need tape matching this width.

  • Place the tape to create the first stripe. In my illustration this strip of tape is orange. If you are creating a border along the perimeter of a surface you can begin with "spacing" tape along the edge to establish the inset for the "stripe".
  • Next, abut this tape on both sides with the "spacing" tape. I have used red and purple tapes to show this. 
  • Remove the tape where the stripe will be painted. If you are creating a single border, the taping is done. If you want a series of stripes reuse the "stripe" (orange) tape placing it against the existing spacing tape. Place another strip of "spacing" tape again peeling away the stripe tape. Continue this process until you have covered the desired area. 

Eliminating paint bleed

There are several ways to minimize messy edges on your stripes. Of the three noted here the last, by far, is the most expedient and produces the crispest results. For all three methods begin by making sure all edges of the tape are pressed firmly in place.

Method I

  • Once all areas have been taped seal the edges of the tape with the base color of the surface. This does not eliminate paint bleed it only assures that the bleed matches the base color. Once this has dried, paint the stripes as desired. There are two drawbacks to using this method. First, the dried sealing paint may chip as the tape is removed, causing irregular edges. The second pitfall is that this method only works on a monochromatic (single hue) base. 

Method II

  • Seal the edges of the tape with a clear acrylic medium such as multi-purpose sealer or glazing medium. When dry, paint the stripes as desired. As with the first method this process is a two-step approach requiring twice the work as the following solution.

Method III

  • For this method you will treat the taping as a stencil; "dry" paint doesn't bleed. To do this select a stencil brush that is roughly the size of the stripe. Pick up the desired color on the clean, dry brush. Wipe the brush on soft paper towels to remove the excess so that the brush is only damp with paint. The paint should not look wet. 
  • Next, swirl over the stripe to deposit color. Remember to wipe the brush each time you pick up more paint. Once the stripes have been stenciled remove the tape to reveal impeccable stripes with crisp edges.