Why does the painters tape have to be blue?

  • I have been looking at getting some painters tape to use on the glass plate for better print adhesion, and everything I read suggests the blue painters tape, such as this:

    Blue painters tape

    However, this white tape is considerably cheaper:

    White painters tape

    This looks like normal masking tape to me.

    Is masking tape ok, or is the blue painter's tape preferable? If the latter, then why is that so? What is so special about the blue tape? Is it a different material?

    I don't have a "sure" answer for you, but I bet it's because it doesn't leave residue on the bed. The masking tape would work fine, because it's the texture which gives it the grip. You just don't want to have all that goooooo on your bed. BTW, there's green painter's tape as well, though I haven't tried it in printing ... used it for painting and it's great for getting off of the working surface ... better than even blue.

    Interesting. So, it is to do with the adhesive side, rather than the side that will be printed upon..? I hadn't thought of that.

    Do note that many Chinese printer kits include heatbeds with "white tape", so it is possible to use. Personally I'm no fan of tape at all, lots of work and maintenance, I rather print directly onto the aluminium bed or on glass using a proper adhesive like 3DLAC (or alternatively strong hairspray, Dimafix, etc.),

    The colour of the tape denotes it's use. E.g. duck tape tends to be grey.

    I always thought the tape was blue so that it would stand out against the material it's used on, so you can make sure to remove all of it after the fact. This of course would be problematic if your material was also blue, in which case you'd want some other color.

    @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 - Do you mean this extra strong adhesive green tape? Scotchblue 20602A Masking Tape for Hard-to-Stick Surfaces, Green, 48 mm

    No, what @Trish mentioned in her answer, Frog Tape.

    Try some on a small area. I just started 3D printing two weekends ago, finally getting good results this weekend. PLA on name brand blue painters tape is working well. Good adhesion and the tape can be peeled up to start lifting the part after the bed cools from 60C to about 55C so that a new pieces can be started (chess set, lots of pieces). Other tapes may not adhere as well, or be removed as easily after being heated for hours at time. (I've also been able to lift the piece slowly and left the tape intact, getting 4 or 5 pieces printed at the same spot. 6th piece lifted after 5 minutes)

    My blue tape is 3M brand, and it leaves no residue on my AL bed when peeled off. Outer packaging on the roll is marked "Scotch Blue Original" and the inner cardboard roll says 3M.

    Yes, it's cheaper, and has the added advantage that it doesn't work too well, and leaves amazing amounts of crud on your build plate. I ran out of blue tape one winter weekend and, instead of braving the snow and slush, substituted ordinary wide masking tape. It took me hours to get the crud off the build plate when I removed the tape a few days (and about six prints) later.

    Some people report that blue painter's tape doesn't leave residue nor damage surfaces, whereas masking tape does: http://reslife.umd.edu/global/documents/halls/drywallsurfaceguide.pdf

  • read first

    When you use painters tape, you need to level your printer with the tape applied. You need to relevel if you change the tape type.


    It's not any blue tape that printers love. There are basically two factors that make a tape useful:

    • It has to stick during printing.

    • Its surface has to allow the filament to stick to it.

    Let's look at some different tapes and their suitability - from my own experience.


    The original blue tape is actually ScotchBlue for delicate surfaces by 3M. It has a good surface to stick to and at the same time an adhesive that does not degrade to unsuitability by heating. The delicate surface one is just as good as the all surfaces type. But don't use the outdoor type, it is sealed too much.


    FrogTape has an adhesive that has no problems with heating, the surface is sometimes a little smoother. Its green variant is about as useful as ScotchBlue, while the yellow variant is easier to remove - which can be an issue when the printhead is not calibrated correctly.

    Generic painters tape

    Generic painters tape is a can of worms - there are so many different ones it is hard to describe. I have had very good off-yellow rolls from the dollar store of the 'fine surface' type - as in the tape had a fine surface - and their adhesive was good and didn't degrade too much under heat. The followup roll was a little thinner of material and released under heat so it can be a hit and miss - it's ok for starting out though.

    I also tried a roll of UHU painters tape of the easy remove type and it was horrible, as it didn't want to stick after the nozzle went over it once even on an unheated bed.

    Generic blue colored tape

    I even tried two blue colored tapes from different dollar/hobby stores. One was ok-ish and had a similar result as the good dollar store tape in look, but left a blue shadow on the base of the print after two or three prints. The other was showing similar behavior to other mild-adhesive/easy peel tapes.


    It's not color that matters, it is the formulation. If you must use blue tape, spend the extra bucks for quality. Some bloggers compared other tapes, tested ScotchBlue vs Kapton, discussed the benefits of either, discussed the ScotchBlue tape in depth.

    While in general, I prefer to print on the surface of my (blue) BuildTak (clone), I occasionally whip out painters tape on an unheated surface for very delicate prints: I remove the print together with the tape from the surface, which allows better handling. Sacrificing a layer of tape only costs some cents after all while breaking a print is hours and filament for much more money wasted.

    I like this comparison of the blue tapes. Very useful. It would appear that branded tapes are superior - that is good to know. The Frog tape looks most interesting, especially as Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 also mentioned it.

  • To answer your question, it doesn't have to be blue tape!

    White or cream tape on heated bed

    To be honest, tape is not my favorite bed adhesion solution, there are plenty other options that work better than tape.

    Often you'll see references to blue painters tape (of a certain brand) to be used as a bed adhesion layer because many people have good experience with that. I have tried several tapes, white/cream to blue from various vendors but found that neither of the tapes satisfied my personal needs. To name a few: cleaning, application, preparation, repair, tear-off, no glossy first layer, color of tape sticking to printed part, etc. did not make tape a favorite bed adhesion solution. Instead I've been printing directly onto aluminium and glass using an adhesive (3DLAC or DimaFix) to stick filament to the bed. Use a wet cloth to wipe residue off, spray can to apply a new layer, et voila, just print, it always sticks! Glue stick is also a possibility.

    So while the community screams "use blue tape", you just cannot use any blue tape from any tape manufacturer. There is no standard to which blue tape has to comply. Generally, speaking from painting experience, many blue tapes release much more easily after use while the white/cream paper tape sticks better and often tears (but this is frequently the tape that is already applied on heated beds of many Chinese printer kits, see image above). Not all tapes are equal: I have used blue tape from a local cheap source that will not stick to the build plate when it heats up, even if properly cleaned.

    I'm more inclined to think that the color of the tape is just a way to distinguish yourself from the market back when the first manufacturer introduced the tape. Now that it is more common, others have adopted the color mimicking the tape they want to copy. It is more about the adhesive than it is about the surface of the tape (as in: "tape is rougher than the substrate you stick it on"), also you read that many people using blue tape need to prepare it by cleaning it (remove waxy layer) and sanding it.

    IMHO, you just need to experiment yourself with several solutions and see what works best for you, could be that the white/cream tape from a local source also does the job. So basically, your tape does not have to be blue, it has to work!

    to my knowledge, one of the first blue tapes was ScotchBlue by 3M, which has good results, while I had better results with cheap dollar store tape than some no-name blue tape.

    I've used generic and 3M blue tapes for many purposes other than printing (painting, holding finished woodwork together during repair, ...) and they've all consistently nit damaged the surface with their adhesive, whereas normal masking tapes always do damage it. For printing however the non-adhesive surface is probably what you care about. Adhesives won't harm glass anyway and probably won't harm aluminum.

    @R.. isn't every (paper) tape rougher than glass or aluminum.... the adhesive surface is very important, you don't want it to come loose and form bubbles, I've seen that happen with a blue tape brand.

    Well yeah but they differ from tape to tape I'd think. I'm spoiled to have joined the fun post-buildtak so I've never had to fight with adhesion myself. My point was just that the motivation for using blue tape might not apply with common surfaces it's used on for printing.

    @R.. Indeed new type build surfaces make printing way more easy! :)

    3DLAC seems to be the way to go then - if not using branded tape.

    @Greenonline See e.g. this answer.

  • Of course, I don't know what kind of tapes you have. My experience with blue tapes is, that they seem in general softer and "nicer" than white tapes. Their structure appears denser and they seem to have longer "furs" while the white ones are "dryer" and "sharper"

    This surface makes the blue tapes I sourced more suitable as the molten filament catches more furs.

    Here are magnified photos of my comparable tapes. Unfortunately, my microscope is pretty lame but at least we can take a look on closeups:

    white tape
    blue tape

    This comparison shows the lower density of my white tape better:

    white over blue
    white next to blue

    to complete the picture here goes angle photos which reveals some more details
    enter image description here
    enter image description here

    above shows that this white tape is made out of flat plastic fiber as they shine when illuminated from different angles

    this could lead to another question

    is such tape melted in any way in contact with extruded filament?

    worth to analyse...

    "blue tape" is just one product, while most other painters tapes are of various construction.

    what do you mean by "one product"? a market-name?

    @Trish did you just downvote? would you please elaborate why?

    Blue tape is just a descriptor that describes exactly what is on the tin: it is blue. But nothing more. There are many many different types of painters tape. There are several of them that are blue. ScotchBlue is what is meant most often. Nothing makes a tape in blue better than for example green one or bleached one.

    if you are able to generalise the question this way the question is why you are not able to generalise the answer the same way? i've compared two tapes explaining my observations in context of the question. blue/white was mentioned in the question so i did refer to them as i also have them at hand. would you please be so kind and explain why this answer deserved downvote? is it false or misleading? is it not-in-subject? is it incomplete? does it fulfil any aspect which should cause a downvote?

    With the blue tape I have experience with this is the case as well. It is higher quality, denser fibers, and a better quality adhesive. It has nothing to do with being blue other than being a higher quality tape that was the color blue and that became known. At this point I’m sure you can buy a lower quality blue tape as well.

    I have experenced the contrary: ScotchBlue was good, but *other* blue tapes were worse than the yellow ones. you can't generalize the answer without adressing the difference

    @Trish i think i did point it exactly and i did refer to the differences >>"all my blue tapes" >>"are denser and they have more longer furs" >>"this makes blue tape more adhesive as filament catches more furs". if you have opposite experience - it's better to write own answer or comment than downvote the other just because you disagree - this leads to nonsens - when you downvote because in your country there is no blue tape available or you've never used it so both question and answer are wrong

    "all my blue tapes are X" could be any manufacturer. it is like saying "all my blue pants have pockets". You easily see that the blue pants of other people might not have pockets. You might improve by stating which ones *you* use or have tested.

    @Trish you are right - now i know where is the only proper version of the world - i think there is no point to continue. feel free to review all my answers and downvote as many of them (for sure) don't match such world... ah... and my english is also good cause to downvote. whole society will benefit for sure

    That would be spiteful, and I won't do that. All I would like you to improve on this answer is to add where you source your tape, making it less generic as there are tons of different tapes out there. The Grammar I fixed up for you.

    The photos are very useful indeed. I had been looking at super cheap unbranded tape from China, which now seems to not be such a good idea.

    +1 for sharing the photos, is the shiny surface the wax like top coat?

    @Oscar - hard to say. in fact MY white tapes seem to be coated. maybe that's why then seem to be dry and "slick". i'll try to make microscope photos from some angle

    Leading on from your final comment, see [Does cheap “plasticy” blue painter tape actually melt when printed upon? Ask](https://3dprinting.stackexchange.com/questions/10222/does-cheap-plasticy-blue-painter-tape-actually-melt-when-printed-upon)

  • The second image isn't exactly painter's tape. Both images are types of masking tape, but the common manila/cream-colored masking tape vs the blue or green painter's tape typically has three features that make it less desirable for bed adhesion:

    1. Stronger glue holding the tape to the bed, that will make it harder to change later.

    2. Narrower strips, so it's harder and takes longer to place the tape on the bed.

    3. Thicker, softer material. This is good for filament adhesion, but bad for separating from the filament after the print and accurately leveling the bed.

    Again: those are only typical arrangements. You can get blue painters tape at the same narrow width as manila masking tape, and you can get wider or thin manila tape. It's more a matter of what you'll commonly find for sale, and in all probability the manila/cream-colored tape will work just fine.

    I was looking at getting 50 mm wide tape. There are sheets 200x200 but they are rather pricey, and the brand isn't specified.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM