Updated: Mar 15
I'm so happy you found this article! I know you are here because you are either looking to find out more about this great art secret or you have some washi tape and want to get creative in ways to use it. I've got you on both fronts, friends.
Ready to get creative? Me too!
What is washi tape exactly? Oh, yes, great question. Let's start there.
HISTORY and ORIGIN
Washi tape is decorative, low tack, masking tape, which originated in 2006 in Japan from a company that makes masking tape and insect traps (yes, they still do!)!
The company, Kamoi Kakoshi, was contacted by a group of women who were using their masking tape for art projects and they requested decorative options. A complete win for these creative women and the art world because they had the courage to ask for something different! We all benefit from that kind of tipping point!
Since then the little-known tape roll has spread across the globe to become a fantastic addition to stationery and paper artists as well as journalers and gift-givers for almost two decades. You can now find washi tape in almost all craft stores that support stationery and journaling products.
You can do wonders with a single roll of washi tape, and you can get really creative with many styles, sizes, and colors in your projects. Listed below are the top five ways to use washi tape. But before we go there, let's cover a few things to know about washi tape.
3 things to know before you use washi tape.
Washi tape is a low-tack adhesive which means it is beneficial for paper projects and small projects on glass, plastic, and even wood. It can be torn, cut, repositioned, written and stamped on, and painted over.
However, low tack adhesive also means it will easily become disturbed by oil, dirt, dust, make-up, and residue on the surface. Start with a clean surface, clean hands, and clean scissors to ensure the best stick. Different companies do have different levels of tack and you might feel some work better for the surface you are using them.
Washi Tape is water resistant, but not waterproof. You can use washi tape as an easy edge barrier for watercolor projects (see bonus tip below). But it is not meant to be submerged nor will this pretty tape fix a leak.
Tip #1 - Add design and color to your journal (a plus to get you started).
This is by far one of the most common uses of washi tape (just like the women who requested it used it!). Small strips of decorative tape that can be repositioned without ruining your paper are the fastest way to add color, design, and mood and enhance the appearance of your bullet or art journal. Adding texture to your collages or adhering to other paper is easy with washi tape. YOu can keep it as clean and calm or as crazy expressive as you want!
It's also a great start for those who don't know where to begin. Add some washi tape and then fill in the space around it. You can see above in the top pictures, I used the three bunnies from the washi tape to use as a prompt of three positives to hold the space on the page and as an intention for the book. (You can also use washi tape to create tabs or page edges by flipping the washi tape around to the next page - see bonus uses down below!)
For those who really don't know where to start, I sometimes create a "test/junk/ try-it-out" page and bring out all my pens, markers, washi tapes, etc and just see what they do on the paper, how they overlap, what does each medium do with the other.
It's all about just throwing it out on the page.
No intentions of an outcome. Once that page is out there, I have no reservations about "messing up" the next page. All the trying stuff out is on this one page. Including using washi tape, for those who are intimidated about putting it on the paper, too.
Tip #2 - Bling up your stationery the easy way.
The gift of a card is still an important part of sharing a thought or experience. Snail mail or a card with a gift adds a dash of human contact and thought whether you're there or not. Adding small touches like a hand-drawn smiley face or flower can enhance the sentiments held within.
Accents of color and design with washi tape on the card and envelope create a feeling of being special by the recipient. Elevating the simplicity of a card in this easy way shows creativity and offers whimsy, love, and fun to any card.
And not just the card, the envelope can be sealed with your favorite design to add bling, make them feel special, and add color and patterns to a regular color background.
"Washi tape is so versitle, inexpensive and easy to use. Add to your art supplies - everyone should have at least one roll." – Cher Kaufmann, author, artist, surface designer
Tip #3 - Make it personal - Gift Tags & Bookmarks
Gift tags are *SO* easy to make and personalize for any occasion. You just need a piece of cardstock or heavy paper, a way to punch a hole, a ribbon or string to tie it on, a pen or marker to label it, and of course your creative use of washi tape!
Gift tags can be any shape you want - round, square, or rectangular. Once you have your shape, you can begin to decorate any way you wish. Here are some ideas (see image) of ways to use washi tape. On the edges like a frame; to give color to the back side as well as the front; to reflect the occasion or personality; and of course, to help the recipient feel extra special with a one-of-a-kind gift tag.
Did you know gift tags make the best-recycled bookmarks? You can turn gift tags you have been given into bookmarks or create full-size bookmarks in any mood you want to create with washi tape!
Tip #4 - DIY your own stickers
This is one of the most fun ways of overlapping your wash designs and creating new shapes.
Ok, I must admit, I first discovered the idea of using wax paper to create an easy-peel backing from Kamio Kakoshi (the originator of washi tape). This makes creating overlapping designs into shapes you want (cut out or punch out) very fun.
Making your own stickers is only limited to your imagination once you learn this method. Starting with wax paper, I used a piece about 3' wide, fold it over by a few inches, then back over to create a crease about 1/8-1/4" wide. This crease is your grabber on the back side of the washi tape after your shapes are cut. Trim excess washi tape off the edge of the wax paper so it's not sticking to anything. Cutting to your desired shape is easy. Here I cut a square shape. I could cut a circle, but if you have a punch, you could use it, too! See below for one minor change.
Cutting to your desired shape is easy. If you want to use a punch out then fold the wax paper over your washi tape so it has the paper behind and on top of the washi tape. This little trick makes cutting so much easier on your devices, especially with the punches. It helps prevent the washi from sticking to the edges. Pop off the wax paper grabber and viola you have a washi tape sticker you made.
Tip #5 - Watercolor - make a clean edge
A hidden treasure about washi tape that was always there. See, when washi tape was first created, the company was making masking tape for all kinds of purposes, including painting barriers. The decorative tape has retained this quality in its natural fibers and light tack backing. It will not pull up your paper after it's been in contact.
To use this watercolor barrier, carefully line up the washi tape to create a clean edge against the paper and where you intend to apply watercolor. The washi tape will act as a temporary barrier from the water.
After the watercolor has dried, gently lift the washi tape off to reveal the clean paper underneath and a nice sharp edge to your watercolor - without damaging your paper.
This is perfect for journaling, small watercolor projects like bookmarks, or any project that requires a temporary barrier to wet applications on paper, wood, or plastic.
~A little surprise for those of you who made it to this point ~
Bonus uses for washi tape for you!
Bonus Tip #1 - Journal tabs and page edging
Use your favorite washi tape to create tabs on the edges of your journal pages or with school or work notebooks to add a personalized color (or code) to your notebook organization.
Decorate the edge of a page by placing washi tape so it overlaps on both sides of the page to add color, design, and identification to certain pages. This is especially helpful if you organize by topics or art pages or written pages or want to mark your last page (you can keep track of how many pages you did in a session).
Bonus Tip #2 - That's mine
Washi tape makes it easy to designate your stuff with style and design. Adding washi tape to your favorite pen, journal cover, stapler, or glass stem (as a temporary marker - you'll want to remove it before washing your glass). Quick identifiers make it fun to see personality, and what belongs to whom, and bring color to your desk or studio.
Small wooden, plastic, or glass boxes or jars can be decorated with washi tape. Just make sure the surface is clean and you can get creative with where you use your washi tape - plastic drawers, folders, phone, tablet or laptop skins are also ways to use washi tape.
Washi tape is your best newest creative addition to your home office and art studio.
Washi tape is looking for you just like you are looking for it. Click here to see Cher the Fire's washi tape collection. Share these ideas with your friends by linking to this blog post. Show me what your creativity creates! Tag #cherthefire in IG or FB.
Are you a Creative, craft, or paper art business and are interested in wholesale? Click here.
Do you want to try washi tape for the first time? I'd love to support your creativity as you support mine! Here is a special reader-of-this-article-only discount code for any washi tape on the Cher the Fire shop website.
Enter Code*: WASHI10
* Code must be applied at checkout, retroactive orders do not apply. Can not be combined with other offers.