Also known as sticky tape, is a type of pressure-sensitive tape made of a thin and easy-to-tear paper, and an easily released pressure-sensitive adhesive. It is available in a variety of widths. It is used mainly in painting, to mask off areas that should not be painted. The adhesive is the key element to its usefulness, as it allows the tape to be easily removed without leaving residue or damaging the surface to which it is applied. The tape is available in several strengths, rated on a 1–100 scale based on the strength of the adhesive. Most painting operations will require a tape in the 50 range. Household masking tape is made of an even weaker paper and lower-grade adhesive.
When constructed with plastic films instead of paper, masking tapes can be used for more rigorous applications. Polyester-based tapes are used to mask off during etching, plating, and in particular, powder coating. Tapes based on polyimide films can resist molten solder in electronics applications. Glass cloth tapes are often used in powder coating and sandblasting operations. Foil or vinyl tapes are often used in plating. Layered tapes made from multiple materials laminated together can be used for masking flame spray, thermal spray and HVOF. Masking tape can also be used to adhere posters to walls up to the day rating. Masking tape can basically be used for any purpose required of it, and is not limited solely to painting needs.
The adhesive applied to a tape is often a critical determining factor for a given masking situation. There are three thin types of adhesives (with many chemical variations of each): rubber-based, acrylic-based, and silicone-based. Rubber-based adhesives generally provide the greatest adhesion, but the lowest temperature resistance. Acrylic-based adhesives offer a wide temperature range, providing adhesion from sub-freezing temperatures up to 275–325 °F (about 150 °C). Silicone-based adhesives provide the highest temperature resistance, with some tapes (such as some polyimide films and glass cloth tapes) allowing for intermittent use up to 500 °F (260 °C).