Let’s Talk About Tape

Over the years, I have grown a collection of tape. Each with a specific purpose and, of course, each at a different price point. Some of these tapes I could only find abroad while some (fortunately) are available in the Philippines. I’ve yet to actually try out all types of artist-tapes in the market so if you are reading this and you are using a different artist-tape. I’d be glad to know your experience with it.

So here’s what I have in my stash

1. Scotch Double-Sided Tape

First thing on the list isn’t really tagged as an “artist-tape” but I do use this a ton! If you live in the Philippines you will be familiar only with double-sided tape that comes in rolls that have peel-off paper on one side. You will be familiar too with the fact that taking off the paper can be tricky especially if you need a long piece in one go! In my last trip to the U.S. I found out there has always been such tape without the paper side and it comes in a small dispenser of its own! So, I got the Scotch brand and a lesser known brand (cheaper). Scotch costs $11.76 for 6 dispensers on Amazon. I can’t remember the price for the other (it was significantly cheaper) but don’t even bother because the dispenser kept falling apart and it was less sticky. Scotch sticks very well, has a sturdy dispenser, and it’s easy to take-off and re-stick to another surface. I always have this with me in my pop-up stores for sticking descriptions. No promises on having this hold heavy items though! I only use this for attaching light-weight paper on surfaces and I doubt it’s heat-resistant nor archival. It’s probably more for office/document-use anyway but it’s handy so I made sure to include it on this list.

2. Gum Tape or Brown Paper Tape

This is a commonly-known tape that is used a lot for framing and for stretching paper. No brand name in particular, you can just buy it from National Bookstore or art supply stores as gum tape or sometimes labeled as kraft/craft tape. Budget friendly, I don’t think it costs more than P100 for a 1.5 inch roll.

I first encountered this tape in college when we learned how to stretch paper (I bought a roll for P40 back then). “Stretching paper” involves soaking watercolor paper in water and then using gum tape to mount it on a prepared surface. Gum tape needs to be activated by wetting the side with water. It is then placed on a small portion along the sides of your paper then left to dry. Gum tape can easily hold thick, large papers if used correctly.

NO. It is not archival! I have seen works made decades ago with this tape used, they are all now yellowing at the borders slowly discoloring paper artworks over the years. You may use it for the backing of your frame but it’s not meant to be placed directly on your work permanently so don’t let your framer use this to adhere your artwork to matting boards or borders. Better to provide your framer with your own archival tape (we’ll get to that later).

3. Pro Art Artist Tape

Now let’s get into Pro Art tapes. I use this a lot for mounting watercolor papers of varying surfaces and weights on stretcher boards.

It is a type of acid-free paper-tape that’s quite sturdy and protects paper well for those white borders but it is also thin enough that you can rip it off easily with your fingers. 1/2-inch width is best for small to medium works.

This type of tape doesn’t need to be wetted; you can “dry-stretch” paper by taping a sheet on a board! Hassle-free and easier set-up. I always bring rolls of this to my watercolor workshops for students’ use. Needless to say, I recommend this product.

Almost 90% of the time that I use this tape, I get clean edges around my paintings when I peel it off. But take it with a grain of salt, the other 10% I get the occasional leaks or rips depending on the the dryness of my painting and if I pressed the tape firmly enough, and the type of paper I used it with. Regardless, this tape is my preference for mounting watercolor paper prior painting. Not archival.

All tapes are available in different widths. I have the 1-inch version for when i need to paint larger formats. I even use this to mount posters and tarpaulins on the wall since it doesn’t damage painted surfaces!

I get these tapes online from Art Nebula at Php390 and Php740.

4. Masking or Washi Tape

I am not sure what this is, really, but I bought a small roll of it in Taiwan before (of course I can’t remember the store’s name) and I found the same product at Hongik University Art Supply store in S.Korea! It has the same soft and thin material as washi tape but it was labeled “masking tape” so I am just going to call it artist washi tape. I have not seen any store carry a similar roll in the Philippines so I bought two rolls in Hongik. It can keep edges really clean and I haven’t had any experience of paper getting ripped! So, I think this one is my fave for clean borders. It comes in different widths from less than 1cm to 2 inches! I just got the 1/2-inch ones for small works at around Php150 a roll.

4. Lineco Abaca Tape

Finally we have an archival tape to end this short list. A master watercolorist asked for a favor to buy this for her when i was in the U.S. That was when I found out about archival tapes. This is $14.79 on Amazon per roll. This is safe for direct adhesion to your papers. the box instructs you to use one corner as a dispenser.

The tape is soft and feels like cloth because it uses abaca fibers. You need a pair of scissors to cut it and some patience for peeling the paper off of the actual abaca tape. It’s pricey for tape but it lasts and will not damage your work; good investment if you want no discolorations and chemical reactions on paper work. I believe all professional artists and framers should know of and use this or any brand of archival tape.

I hope this list helped in giving some insight on tapes artists may/may not use. It’s definitely one thing to create a painting, and another to know the materials or tools you may use!


Kat G.

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