Painting Stripes Part 3: Taping
Finally ending the story of my experience painting stripes in our baby’s nursery, here I’ll talk about the method I followed to tape the masks for the stripes. As I said earlier, I do have relatively flat walls, so this post is not about how to effectively mask stripes on heavily textured walls. This is about what I did to make sure my stripes were perfectly straight. Obviously, if you have a laser leveler, by all means use it and stop reading now. I decided to save $100 and use my manual level instead, and double check my lines with the good old force of gravity. This is how it went…
According to the experts (my trusty Sherwin Williams guys), before you mask and paint stripes you want to wait at least two days for the base coat to dry and cure. Otherwise, you may end up ripping your paint off with the tape. At this point, my base light color (The Rockin Yellow Match) had been painted two weeks earlier, so I was good to go.
Because no wall in this house was built following perfectly perpendicular angles, I couldn’t trust the wall edges to be nice and straight. So instead of beginning my measuring from either edge of the wall and possibly ending up with slanted stripes, I started right at the middle… I figured I would mark a perfectly leveled vertical line in the center of each wall and then mark the rest of the stripes out from that basic line. So having done my math to figure out the width of the stripes, I made a little sketch to help me find the first measurement for each wall.
Right… So the left edge of my middle stripe on wall 1 should be at about 51 inches from the left edge of the wall. I measured 51 inches from the top left corner and marked it lightly with a yellow color pencil. Then, using the level, I marked several points down the 51-inch line all the way down to the bottom of the wall. In theory, connecting the dots should give me a leveled vertical line, but before putting all my trust there, I wanted a “second opinion”…
If I could make a plumbline, I could really test whether my lines were straight or not. I had thought I’d simply attach a small object to a string, but my father in law actually came up with the perfect suggestion: A washer. Turns out, the weight of the object at the bottom of your plumbline should be evenly distributed around the string for the thing to work. The washer, being perfectly symmetrical accomplishes this, and then, I also liked how thin it was: That way, the string would lay very close to the wall.
So, I tied a washer to a long piece of wool yarn. I taped it to the top of the 51-inch line and checked to see if all the points I had marked fell on this line. They did, so now I knew for sure that connecting them would give me a perfectly leveled straight line. I drew the line and checked it again with my little device. Perfection!
With the first line drawn and tested, the rest was easy… All I had to do was to mark points at the intended intervals to the right and left of my perfect line (of course, using the level). Only the top two points of each line needed to be connected. That way I would have a good mark to tape the top segment straight, and then I could just unroll the tape, position it over the next point and press the tape down while keeping it stretched… One long uninterrupted piece of tape going down the wall, a little into the ceiling, and a little over the footboard.
I marked and masked one line at a time, always using the tape of the last line as the guideline for the next. Initially, I was checking every line with the plumbline, but once I saw that they were always coming up pretty darn straight, I ended up doing all the taping for a wall at once, and then quickly checking all lines with the plumbline. It was a nice reassurance, particularly for the stripes broken by the window. And then, I repeated the same process with the next wall… Always beginning at the middle, drawing one perfectly leveled vertical line (double checking that one to death), taping it, and then marking the rest of the lines from that line out to each side.
Here’s a little tip: The less marks, the better. On the first wall I connected the dots for every single line. I thought I needed to draw the full lines in order to tape them. Then I realized that I only needed to draw a short segment at the top of the wall to get the tape going straight, but after that, a few dots were enough to keep the straight line. Dot markings saved time and were easier to cover with paint, so no marks were left on the wall in the end. In general, you always want to apply the tape slightly to the side of the pencil marks (not directly over them). That way, the paint will cover the pencil marks. Dots just make it easier than lines.
And at this point, I’ll finally shut up about the paint job in our baby’s nursery. It’s gorgeous, that’s for sure. But I’ve said enough about it…