Saturday, November 8, 2014

How To: Use Masking Tape To Make A Detailed Leaf and Vine Design

This is a pretty simple technique of applying masking tape in a leaf and vine motif over a base coat of paint and then painting over that in a contrasting color. I'll admit it is time consuming but the result is very effective. 

I didn't lay out the design ahead of time. I just went for it. Below are step by step pictures and instructions.

First, a small list of materials:
  • Scotch artist tape for curves 
  • an Exacto knife with a new blade
  • a single edged razor blade
  • 3M blue masking tape .70 inch (available  online)
  • a sheet of glass or a self healing cutting mat (I used glass)

On a freshly painted and thoroughly dry piece of furniture, form uneven curved lines with the artist tape in different lengths. Although this tape is very good at masking, you should still make sure it is sticking flat to the surface so no paint gets underneath. 

Next, lay out strips of masking tape on the glass or pad and cut out simple leaf designs until you think you have all you need. My sheet of glass is about 12" x 16" and I did this twice with about half the leaf shapes left over at the end.

I cut the leaves on the diagonal so they would all end up about the same size. Remember, this is tape that's a little less than 3/4" wide. If you use wider tape your leaf shapes will be bigger.

 Once your shapes are all cut, pull off the excess.

Lift up the tip of the cut leaf shapes with a razor blade and pull off with your fingers.

Apply them along the curved artist tape lines.

Almost done with that part.

So because I have fancy spray equipment and a spray booth, I sprayed pale pink over white creating an ombre effect. You could do this same thing with a brush or glazes but the idea would work just as well with one solid color painted over another, say white over pale olive or blue over white.

Once the painting is done, carefully peel off the curved strips of tape and then the leaf shapes. I also used the razor blade here to peel up the tips so I could pull them off.

Remember, you can use any width of masking tape you want to make the shapes you want to put on the piece. This gives a much cleaner edge than stenciling as long as the tape is pressed down tight enough. I have to admit, I made sure I pressed down every leaf and vine with my fingernail. I've also used a wallpaper seam roller to press down masking tape.


  • Don't substitute cheaper masking tape, It will leave a residue.
  • Any places where paint seeped under the tape can be touched up with a small sharp edged flat brush.