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Whether you’re a DIY-er with a passion for home painting projects or a professional painter with years in the business, chances are you’ve accidentally colored outside of the lines before.

Whether it’s a spill on your beloved area rug or just an unwanted streak on the wall below, accidents happen, and paint travels fast. This is where paint shields come in.

As their name implies, paint shields are designed with one purpose in mind: protection. Like a shield of armor protects a knight, they’re designed to preserve your most precious surfaces from unwanted splatters.

Paint Shield
To put it simply, they help keep paint where it should be — and off of where it shouldn’t.

As more than half of homeowners plan to take on a painting project in the next 12 months, tools such as these are becoming increasingly important.

There are more paint colors, finishes, and application methods available than ever before, it’s never been easier to tackle a painting project head-on. Tools such as paint guards help make the job a little easier.

Curious to learn more about these handy helpers? Let’s take a look at some key tips to keep in mind when using your paint shield:

Make Sure the Tool Fits the Job

As anyone who’s ever stood in the paint section of their local hardware store before knows, there are about a million different shades of white. There’s ivory, then there’s cream, then stark white, and you get the idea.

Similarly, there are quite a few options to pick from when buying a paint shield.

Some are called trim guards. Some are called paint guides. Some have an aluminum blade. Some are made of plastic. Some are more than 40 inches long and some are shorter than a foot.

So how do you know which one to use?

Something they all have it common: They’re economical, effective tools designed to make painting projects easier and quicker. That’s great news, considering that studies show that one of the top concerns of U.S. homeowners taking on a new home improvement project is “length of time needed to complete the project.”

When pressed against the adjacent side of a surface being painted, they provide a visual guide to follow and help prevent overspray. The result is a clean and sharp finish that costs less than painter’s tape over time.

So where do you begin? How do you know which one to use?

First, consider the size and scale of the area you’re looking to paint.

Are you working with a handheld paint sprayerrefreshing the paint on a window trim? Chances are, you’ll need a smaller-scale paint shield or a trim guard. Trim guards are essentially miniature paint shields. They are about the size of a ruler and most are shaped like a tiny squeegee.

Here’s where we’ll let you in on a little secret: For smaller jobs that require a trim guard, you might already have the solution in your tool belt.

A drywall knife or even the edge of a dustpan will do the trick in this case. What you’re looking for is a sharp edge, with enough surface area to absorb overspray.

For normal-scale small home projects, a 6- to 8-inch drywall knife is just right, and a 10-inch one is best for larger-scale paint projects such as ceilings.

Or, maybe you’re working with a medium-to-heavy-duty paint sprayer such as an airless paint sprayer or a professional paint sprayer? These are typically used on larger scale jobs, such as a home exterior. In this case, a more traditional paint shield is what you need.

If you’re in a pinch for materials, or if you need a tool that’s a little more flexible, a piece of cardboard can also work as a substitute to a paint shield. In fact, some paint shields on the market today even include cardboard clips to extend their reach and capability.

If you don’t know which sprayer to use, or which is the best for the job, take a look at our helpful paint sprayer reviews. In this guide, we break down the different models and help you compare their different features, so you always know you’re working with the right tools.

Now that the first step is out of the way, let’s take a look at what comes next.

shield fits the job

Positioning Your Paint Shield

The difference between a job that screams “rookie” and one that looks professionally done? Allotting the proper amount of prep time, say paint experts.

Before you start using your paint shield, be sure to prepare your space and take a good look around.

What do you want to protect from paint splatter? For outdoor projects, it might be an exterior brick wall, roof shingles, or vinyl siding around a garage door. If you’re working inside, you might be more interested in keeping your carpet or hardwoods clean.

Once you’ve determined the area you want to safeguard, use the location of that area as a guide to position your paint shield. Find the edge of the surface and align the shield where you intend to begin spraying.

Sometimes, there may be more than one area you need to keep clean.

Consider this scenario: You’re painting an accent wall (the best way to make a room stand out, according to 44% of homeowners), and you need to keep both the adjacent wall and the ceiling paint-free.

In this case, simply position the paint shield against the adjacent wall, then tilt it slightly upward, so it can catch any paint that might spray in either direction. Make sure to keep the degree of tilt consistent as you move along the surface.

All set? Great! You’re ready to begin.

Using Your Paint Shield

Now that you’re in position, let’s get to work!

Using a paint shield can be a solo or joint effort. For larger surface areas, two people might be required — one to work the paint sprayer and another to move the paint shield along the protected surface. Talk about the plan beforehand so all parties are aware of where and when to move.

Before starting, make sure there’s enough room between the paint sprayer nozzle and the paint shield. Two to three inches is a good rule of thumb.

When you spray the paint, aim to keep a majority of the spraying action in the middle of the shield, where maximum protection is provided. Work slowly and carefully, keeping the shield at a suitable angle to ensure paint lines are straight.

using paint shield
As you go along, remember that the paint sprayer and paint shield will work in tandem. As the sprayer moves up and down the surface, the shield should too.

Before moving your paint sprayer to its next position, move the paint shield there first. This way, any paint sprayed during transit will end up on the shield, and you don’t have to worry about accidently overshooting.

Over time, you’ll find that naturally, the paint shield will soon become covered in paint. That’s good news! It means it’s doing its job and keeping your other surface(s) clean.

But to avoid leaks and runoff, you’ll need to take into account another consideration:

Cleaning Your Paint Shield

Whether you’re working with a smaller-scale trim guard or a larger paint shield, you’ll need to find a way to remove the paint that will inevitably build up as you go along.

Built-up paint can begin to spill down the surface of the paint shield, running onto surfaces below, completely undermining your effort to keep things neat and tidy.

To avoid waste, when you’re ready to clean, simply scrape the excess paint off the paint shield with a paint trowel, and direct it right back into the paint bucket. Then wipe the surface clean with a damp (not wet) paper towel or work rag, followed by a dry one.

Repeat these steps as often as you need to over the course of your project.

One alternative to wiping the paint shield clean is to cover the surface of your paint shield with paper, then simply remove and discard the paper at the end of the paint job. Or, if you’re working with a cardboard paint shield, allow the paint to dry between sessions and just reuse.

Methods such as these prevent you from having to start and stop your paint job every time the paint shield needs cleaning. This can help keep the job seamless and save overall project time.

So there you have it!

Whether you’re brainstorming your next project around the house, or are planning your next professional paint job, you can’t go wrong by opting for a paint shield.

Not only do they protect your surfaces from that unintentional disaster, they also protect your sanity and your pocketbook by cost-effectively keeping lines clean and edges sharp.

Got any questions about how to use your paint shield? Have any ideas on what you’d like to learn about next? Feel free to get in touch with usor leave a comment below. We’re experts in the power tool business and we’re always ready to help.