Out Of Painter's Tape? Use A File Folder For Mess-Free Painting

Painter's tape is one of the best tools for getting crisp lines and eliminating the risk of paint drips on your floors and cabinets. But whether you forgot to pick some up at the hardware store, run out mid-project, or are just in a major time crunch and don't have time to tape off a perimeter, there's still an easy tool you can use in place of painter's tape — a file folder. 

File folders offer a low profile level but have a wide surface area, so you can hold it right up to the wall, baseboard, or furniture side without it getting in the way of your paint strokes. Why a file folder instead of just a regular piece of paper? The file folder has a bit more weight and structure, so it won't be flopping around or folding over during the process. On the other hand, a ruler or level is too tall and would block your paintbrush from getting close to the edges. To use the method, just move the file folder along the perimeter and scoot it as you go. 

It actually works

TikToker @therenegadehome advises that the key to using this hack is not to overload your brush with paint. In the video, the creator says they used the folder method on their baseboards and notes that one of the key benefits of this trick is that it reduces prep time since it eliminates the need to tape off the area — a tedious task that can be frustrating and time-consuming. 

We get to see the hack used in real-time in the video, and while it does require a little bit of coordination to hold the folder in place as you paint, it does produce clean lines along the perimeter of the bathroom. One commenter shared that they use this method all the time, and another simply remarks, "That's brilliant!" This hack would work on most detail work, like painting your cabinets or door frames or even creating a racing stripe accent wall. 

Sometimes you still need tape

While this painting hack is brilliant for detail work like baseboards and wainscoting, it obviously shouldn't be used for bigger projects because it requires that both arms are active as you paint, and it doesn't give your floors and furnishings full protection. If you are out of painter's tape, it can be tempting to just reach for a roll of whatever you have on hand, be it Scotch or duct, but avoid this. Clear tape, like the stuff you use to wrap presents, is flimsy and can lift during painting, while duct tape has a super strong adhesive that can damage your floors, paint, and furniture. 

Painter's tape can be a bit fussy and tacks on project time, but is definitely necessary for some paint jobs, like when you're working on hard-to-reach surfaces and can't clearly see where the perimeter begins and ends, or using a paint roller. But for the little things like touch-ups on moldings and getting a crisp line on a door frame, the file folder is a great solution.