The Magic of Mr Masking, Costa Rica's King of Tape

The typographic vernacular of Gerardo Picado's masked and painted letters in San José, Costa Rica.

Close-up of a hand applying paint to a wall with letters outlined in masking tape.
Mr Masking at work in San José, Costa Rica.

To tape, or not to tape? This question is an eternal topic of conversation, and debate, among sign painters the world over. But, in Costa Rica's San José, Gerardo Picado developed a unique take on tape, earning him the moniker 'Mr Masking'.

Portrait of a man resting on a staircase bannister holding a pencil in one hand and rolls of masking tape in the other.
Mr Masking and his trademark rolls of masking tape.

Working adeptly, and at speed, Mr Masking's style became synonymous with painted signs in San José. He created a typographic vernacular of his very own through the consistency of his letterforms, each composition outlined in tape before painting the spaces between.

The paint itself was applied by dabbing a small sponge onto the exposed substrate, sometimes using two tones to create a highlight or blend across the tops of the letters.

Red wall with the word 'BAZAR' outlined in masking tape ahead of painting in the letters.
Work-in-progress with Mr Masking, San José, Costa Rica.

His technique was driven by a desire to innovate and paint signs at speed, in the absence of a plotter to make the masks mechanically. This speed made him a relatively cheap option, and so he was never short of work for small businesses in San José.

In 2009, Mr Masking's output caught the attention of Alfredo Enciso, partner at the Pupila ( branding and graphic design studio. This led to the production of a short film, publishing a book, and hosting events to bring his work to a wider audience in Costa Rica, and further afield.