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Tips and Ideas for Using Deco Tape in your Art Journal

Updated on August 4, 2012

Ways to Use Decorative Craft Tapes in Art Journals and Mixed Media Projects

I'm a deco tape addict. Since long before you could get decorative packing tapes at Michael's craft stores and duct tape came in dozens of colors and patterns, I've been shopping online for washi tapes and other pretty craft tapes.

Now that the availability of deco tape has exploded, so has my collection of gorgeous self-adhesive tapes. But what do you do with washi tapes, deco tapes, patterned duct tapes, and fancy packing tapes? Sometimes I feel like I'm having "taper's block" and get stuck in this rut of just using some on an art journal page as a decorative element. So I brainstormed a bunch of fun new ideas, tips, and techniques that I hope you'll enjoy. Some are tried and true but still great techniques to keep in your craft arsenal, and hopefully some are fun new ideas to you.

I've put the tried-and-true stuff first, so if some of this feels like old news to you, keep scrolling! I've put the best stuff towards the end. Always save the best for last! ;)

Deco Tape Can Create Borders and Corners on Your Art Journal Page

Use Deco Tape in your Art Journal to Make Borders and Corners
Use Deco Tape in your Art Journal to Make Borders and Corners

One of the simplest uses for deco tape in art journaling is to add borders and corners to your pages. It's so easy to just peel and stick some tapes in coordinating colors and suddenly you have awesome collage elements that add a lot of pop to your page and can also help to tie all the elements together. See how on the left page the line of pink tape layers with the black handwriting tape to draw your eye downward? And on the right page, a variety of tapes at right angles create a simple frame to ground the journaling in the page and give it a more coherent, seamless look. These are really nice ways to start or finish a page to give it a more finished, purposeful look without losing the free and flowing quality of art journals.

Using Tape as Journaling Lines

Using Washi Tape to Make Lines To Write Journaling On
Using Washi Tape to Make Lines To Write Journaling On

In this art journal spread I used neon pink washi tape as lines to journal on at a later date. This is a fun thing to do when you want to work in your art journal but you don't feel like writing at the moment; you can create the artwork and space out an area to write on later. You can be careful and precise or just go wild and free as I did here for a more playful writing area. It gives the writing structure but keeps things loose and playful.

Using Deco Tape as a Background Element and Distressing with Paints

Painted and Distressed Deco Tape Art Background
Painted and Distressed Deco Tape Art Background

Here you can see a spread waiting for more artwork and writing, that is just a cool jumble of acrylic paint that I've brushed on at random, layered with deco tapes of various types, and then painted over some more for an integrated, distressed look to the background. I really like how the different surfaces of various tapes absorb the paint in different ways creating tons of interesting textures.

Layering Transparent Deco Tapes to Obscure Journaled Text

Layered Deco Tape Collage
Layered Deco Tape Collage

This journal spread uses a total of thirteen different deco tapes, mixed and layered to add to the collage and infuse meaning. I used a variety of lace patterns and homey gingham prints combined with rulers and ledger paper print to symbolize the melding of right brain and left brain involved in the process of creating a happy, nested creative space that is also organized so that I can find everything. This was a fairly personal page for me, with a lot of stream-of-consciousness thoughts that I wanted to obscure a bit to give myself a little privacy both from people I share my journal with am myself. I want to remember the feeling, not the exact thoughts going through my head.

Adding Meaning with Collaged Elements From Transparent Deco Tapes

Creating Meaning with Layered Motifs in Deco Tape
Creating Meaning with Layered Motifs in Deco Tape

Similar to the spread above, this pair of pages really uses the designs on the tapes to add to the imagery and emotion of the journaling. On the left, the combination of hearts, sky, and city skyline capture the goal that I am journaling about - being more "a part of the world" - that is, more present, and more active in the community. On the right, the sprout tape "grows" out of the bottom of the magazine image of a woman with her arms outstretched; she is reaching towards the tape with all those cute animals that represent the wide world I'm trying to be a part of.

Tape Stuff Down! Using Deco Tape to Add Elements to Your Page

Using Deco Tape to Attach Stuff to Your Art Journal Page
Using Deco Tape to Attach Stuff to Your Art Journal Page

You can use tape to tape things - who knew? It's a basic idea - so basic that sometimes I forget it. There's a lot of deco tape going on in this journal page, but what I want to show you here is how I used tape to add the beach image to my page. That's a vintage playing card, so it's fairly stiff and a bit heavier weight that a lot of papers I tend to use, so the packing tape style tapes - not as wide as most packing tape, but just about as strong and with a decorative element - were very well suited to integrating this slightly bulky item into my journaling.

Make Unique Stickers with Deco Tape

Make a Sticker Out Of Washi Tape
Make a Sticker Out Of Washi Tape

Deco tape, especially the kinds that come on a peel-away backing, is loads of fun for making your own stickers. you can either hand cut simple shapes or use a scrapbooking punch to make more detailed pieces. In this picture, you can see I've used a Martha Stewart crown punch to make a nice crown for the girl in this magazine clipping.

Reinforce the Handstitched Binding on a Handmade Journal

Make a hand stitched book binding stronger with deoc tape
Make a hand stitched book binding stronger with deoc tape

If you make your journals by hand, try adding a few pieces of sturdy packing tape with decorative patterns to the binding before you sew your pages in. This essentially laminated the spine, giving it greater long term durability. And of course it adds a nice touch of style to make it more uniquely you!

Add Tabs, Bookmarks, and Pagemarkers to your Book with Paper Tapes

Bookmark the most important entries n your art dournal with washi tape tabs
Bookmark the most important entries n your art dournal with washi tape tabs

Tape makes a quick and easy way to make it simple to flip to exactly the page you want if you need to go back to it. This is great for remembering a really good day, or if you want to check how to do a new technique you tried. All you do is take a strip of tape about one to three inches long depending on how big of a tab you'd like, tape it to one side of the page, turn to the next page and fold the piece of tape over so the sticky sides stick together.

Using Deco Tape in Packing Tape Transfers

Easy Layered Transparencies with Deco Tape Image Transfers
Easy Layered Transparencies with Deco Tape Image Transfers

I love all decorative tapes, but I have a soft spot for the type that are clear in places but have patterns in others. They are like rubber stamps, only you never have to worry about getting a good impression (I'm not the best rubber stamper in the world.) One of the cool things you can do with tape like this, usually referred to as decorative packing tape, is a tape transfer. I like to use a piece of tape a bit bigger than my image, for a more layered look to the resulting transparency. Here I used a pink barcode patterned tape I got at Michael's and a vintage anatomical diagram of a brain from this free brain collage sheet.

Basic Instructions for Making a Packing Tape Transfer

If you'v never done a tape transfer before, here is one of the best videos I've found on the technique. The best tip I ever learned for mastering this is "when in doubt, soak it in the water a while longer, and keep rubbing the paper away." Never try to get the paper off with your fingernail, you can scratch your image (ok, I do this a tiny bit to get it started if that paper is being stubborn). Oh and be sure you burnish the image really well with a bone folder or some other tool.

This technique can take a little practice, but it's a wonderful tool to have in your arsenal once you've mastered it. Eventually you will learn when the residual cloudiness means your transfer needs more work or if it will clear up when it's dry. Tip: this cloudiness occurs most often when doing transfers of images with a lot of white space, like the line drawing of a brain I used.

Use Tape to Create a Hidden Pocket in your Journal

Making a Secret Pocket in Your Art Journal
Making a Secret Pocket in Your Art Journal

On this journal page I used deco tape to attach a vintage game card to my page, but I only taped three sides and left the bottom free to tuck things into. Now it's a cute little secret hideaway for cheerful messages and affirmations! Three sides is plenty to keep it firmly attached since the owl is printed on sturdy cardstock and the tape has a good adhesiveness - don't forget to burnish your tape for the strongest hold.

Sample Pack of Deco Tape from Tapeffiti
Sample Pack of Deco Tape from Tapeffiti
Japanese Washi Masking Tape Set of 8 Mini Rolls - Starter Set
Japanese Washi Masking Tape Set of 8 Mini Rolls - Starter Set

I hope this list has inspired you, and I would love to hear from you if you have any other cool tips or ideas for using deco tape in your art journal.

How do YOU use deco tape in your art journal?

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    • noner profile image


      5 years ago

      Fantastic ideas. So far I've used washi tape on ATCs, but have not done any in my art journals yet. I'll have to fix that!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      6 years ago from Kansas

      I love to keep art journals, but I've not used the washi tapes or other decorative tapes. Thanks for all the great ideas.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      6 years ago from UK

      Must admit that I haven't used this technique in any of my mixed media art but will definitely be trying some of these techniques soon. - blessed

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      6 years ago from Iowa

      This is a really great idea for adding visual interest in an easy and fun way. Blessed.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you, I really like this lens, so many great ideas for my personalized gifts :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Awesome lens! I'm just getting into making altered books, and a lot of your techniques/suggestions will be finding their way into my book. Thanks!


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