How to Fix Paint Bleed Under Tape?

Paint bleed under the tape is a common problem both when the paint is too runny or when the masking tape isn’t properly applied.

A good paint job requires proper masking that reveals straight lines and does not bleed paint or paint streaks.

This is easier said than done if you’ve tried masking and painting at home yourself.

You can fix paint bleed by first applying caulk before tape. This seals the space under the tape better stopping bleeding. You can spread out caulk using your fingers for easy distribution.

But can paint bleed be fixed after you paint?

No, you cannot fix bleeding paint after painting by simply wiping it off as paint marks will still be visible as it dries. You need to mask and paint again for perfect results.

Before painting

Almost everything you do in painting without bleeding has to do with preparation. Better masking and better pain preparation should be among your goals.

Smooth out uneven surfaces as much as possible

Uneven surfaces lead to small gaps under the tape which is what causes paint to bleed. Older homes have plenty of uneven walls and ceilings so make sure to spend more time masking here.

Tapping the tape lightly isn’t sufficient. You need to run your thumb across the tape to eliminate areas the tape isn’t sticking to,

Use better masking tape

Masking tape is made from paper. The type of paper and glue used to make this tape varies. You need to choose better products for better results.

One of the reasons many masking tapes fail is improper storage. Make sure not to store the tape in direct sunlight or humid areas of the home as this will cause it to create and may lead to paint bleeding under the tap. Make sure to read the following section on how to store tape.

Store masking tape in dry places

The best way to store masking tape is to add it to a sealed plastic bag. This prevents air and humidity to get in contact with the tape which means it’s always in good condition.

Regular tape should not be used instead of masking tape. Made from plastic, the regular tape might stick to walls or painted surfaces making its removal more difficult.

Alternatively, you can also choose to only buy masking tape when you need it. There’s no point in storing it for years for your next painting job.

Press the tape down with the thumb or a knife

One of the unwritten rules of masking involves pressing the tape down with fingers. Some people prefer to press the tape down with various flat metal tools or even with the edge of a small knife.

You will not find a better solution to pressing tape down than to use fingers as all tools are almost feedback-free.

Use caulk under the tape

The easiest way to avoid bleeding paint under tape even when you aren’t a masking professional is to use caulk or any type of silicone under the tape for it to properly adhere to the painted surface.

The key is to only apply a small amount of caulk or silicone which enables the masking tape to be easily removed when you’re done.

So how do you apply caulk properly so that paint doesn’t bleed under the masking tape? That’s right, use your fingers again.

  • Apply a small amount of caulk to the tip of your fingers
  • Spread out the caulk with your fingers across a very small section on walls (or ceilings) where you plan to add the masking tape
  • Make sure not to cover an area wider than the masking tape as paint won’t stick to caulk
  • Apply tape over the caulk or silicone
  • Paint the walls or the ceiling
  • Remove the masking tape as soon as the paint is partially dry
  • You can touch up the areas of the caulk with paint if needed when dry

Pro tip: an alternative method still involving caulk allows you to paint without bleeding. You can apply caulk along the painter’s tape and then rub it inwards (towards) the tape with your fingers to create a small barrier that keeps paint out from under the tape. Make sure to remove the tape before the caulk is dry.

Use a knife and a wet rag for minor touchups

Some paint jobs have limitations, especially with uneven surfaces. Water-based paint bleeding can sometimes be fixed by rubbing the excess with a wet rag or towel.

You can wrap a small knife blade with a wet towel to clean up the bleeding paint in key areas for a half-decent job.

Why does paint get under painter’s tape?

Paint gets under painter’s tape mostly due to uneven surfaces it cannot completely cover. Bleeding paint under painter’s tape is also caused by damp tape which doesn’t adhere to the painted surface properly.

Can you paint over painter’s tape?

You can paint over painter’s tape but you should refrain from going over the tape too much. You risk humidifying the tape which reduces its adhesiveness. In turn, this can lead to paint bleeding under the tape.

Should you caulk painter’s tape?

You should caulk painter’s tape whenever you want clear painting lines and areas without paint bleeding under the tape. The sole requirement is to remove the tape before the caulk gets dry. White paint is most recommended with (white) caulk.


Fixing bleeding paint under the tape isn’t easy. You need patience and practice to get a perfect result.

You can fix bleeding paint under tape by applying caulk under the tape and removing the tape before the caulk is dry.

Alternatively, you can also apply caulk along the tape and thinly spread it over the tape also removing the masking tape before it dries completely.

For future reference, you should always aim to flatten the painted surface as much as possible as this ensures ideal masking tape application with minimum bleeding under the tape risks.