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.

Man peeling a billposter off a wall with hand-painted signage for "Mecanica General".
Mr Masking and an older mural sign with variations on his characteristic letters.

Mr Masking died in 2021, but through Pupila's work we can continue to enjoy his unique approach to painting signs.

The Film

Mr Masking | La Obra de Gerardo Picado (Mr Masking | The Work of Gerardo Picado) on YouTube.

The Book

Although no longer available to buy*, the book is documented in more detail here on Behance, including the following on its purpose and launch:

"During the fifth edition of the International Design Festival of Costa Rica, Mr Masking's book is launched. This publication seeks to tell his story, document his work, and also be a tribute to the person we considered to be the first typographer of Costa Rica."

*It's a long shot, but if you are reading this and have a spare copy of the book, please get in touch.

The Typeface (To Be?)

While Mr Masking's letters have been used by brands in Costa Rica for advertising and other communications, an operational typeface has never been developed. Alfredo would be interested in talking to anyone capable of working on such a project for the benefit of Mr Masking's surviving family.

Alphabet, numerals, and some special characters created by painting in the spaces between letters outlined in masking tape.
A character set produced by Mr Masking in the process of creating the book about his work.

The Work

And, finally, here is a small selection of Mr Masking's sign painting work 'in the wild'.

Thank you to Alfredo Enciso at Pupila ( for collaborating on this piece, and Kill Cooper (@tudiokill) for first making me aware of the magic of Mr Masking.

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