Artists, behold the power of a white border around your artwork! When I work on paper in any medium, whether it’s acrylic paints, watercolors or gouache, I love to include a crisp white border around my art sometimes (using tape.) A white border around artwork acts like a mat in a picture frame. It sets off the painting, provides a bit of contrast and intentionality to the piece. I share my best tips for how to remove tape from paper without ripping it.
Our agenda for today is to first talk about why you might tape off your artwork in the first place. Second, we’ll discuss the seven advantages of leaving a white border around your artwork. Third, I’ll share what masking tape I use. Fourth, I’ll share my secrets on how to remove tape from a painting without tearing the paper. Fifth, I’ll wrap up with some thoughts about why I tape my art and why I think it’s important for the composition of art on paper.
Hello and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren, Kristine, your host. It’s been a quiet couple of weeks here in my art studio. I wrapped up my commissions a few weeks ago and have been working on the podcast behind the scenes ever since I made an Instagram reel of my commission trio. You can see it at Lauren Kristine art on Instagram. And by the way, send me a note that you are listening to the podcast, so I can follow you back on Instagram, and take a look at your art. For now, let’s get on with the show.
When I work on paper in any medium, whether it’s acrylic paint, watercolor paint or squash, I love to include a crisp white border around my art sometimes, using tape. A white border around a piece of art acts a bit like a matte in a picture frame. It sets off the painting provides a bit of contrast and intentionality to the piece. It’s a stylistic preference. Some artists do this every time they make a painting. And others like me do it just sometimes. If you’ve never tried adding a white border to your pieces on paper, I highly recommend you try it. There’s something about that white border that makes the colors pop.
If you’ve ever tried this technique before and taped your pieces, you probably know the scariest part of this technique is removing the tape at the very end. What if you tear it and ruin your artwork. I’ve been there. I had worked really hard on a little watercolor painting of a Grecian summer scene. I still remember this cute piece, as it had a little moped in it and it was adorable. At the end, when I’d finished painting, I went to remove the tape. And instead of getting a crisp white border around my painting, the watercolor paper tore it ripped. I was very saddened, especially after all the artistic work I had already put into that piece to get me to that very last step. To have it mess up at the finish line truly broke my heart. Now that I’m a few years down the line after that incident, I’ve learned a lot about how to avoid that heartbreak. It’s only natural that I’m going to share that knowledge that I’ve gained with all of you loyal listeners out there as well.
Our agenda for today is to first talk about why you might take off your artwork in the first place. Second, we’ll discuss the seven advantages of leaving a white border around your artwork. Third, I’ll share what tape I use. Fourth, I’ll share my secrets on how to remove tape from a painting without tearing the paper. Fifth, I’ll wrap up with some thoughts about why I tape my art, and why I think it’s important for the composition of art on paper.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a quick minute to read our Review of the Week. This week’s Review comes to us from becominggerri on Apple Podcasts. The title of the Review is no more fear. I love it. BecomingGerri writes in saying I just found your podcast and listen to episode number nine on fear. I’m glad I’m not the only one and I’m glad I found you because no longer will I let fear hold me back from enjoying my process as an artist This Review truly touches my heart. And I thank you so much for taking the time to leave me this Review. If the rest of you have not yet listened to episode number nine on fear, I encourage the rest of you do go back in the archives and listen to it. As artists, we bear our souls and pour ourselves into our artwork. Often our artwork is deeply personal, and it takes courage to put it out there and share ourself through our artwork. I am so happy to hear that our listener becoming Jerry is having a breakthrough in this area. Please stop and Rate Review and Subscribe to the podcast. Just hit the five stars button on Spotify or Apple Podcasts to support the show. It takes two seconds.
Let’s get back to our topic of taping off your artwork and how to do it properly. First, I want to highlight that leaving a white border on your art is usually only done on paper works of art. Not usually is it something that I see on canvas paintings. However, I have seen it done to really cool effect by a few artists that use it to create a window look in their art or add extra contrast to the background. So it is possible and it can be done with acrylics in a creative way. As with any technique, use it how you want to use it or don’t use it at all. It’s not required to leave a white border, even if you are a watercolorist watercolors is the medium where I do see this done the most by the way. However, there’s just as many watercolors out there who do take off their edges as who don’t, it’s simply a matter of personal preference.
Let’s take a minute to talk about the seven advantages of taping your paintings and leaving a white border. You know I love a numbered list. Let’s go with our seven advantages.
Number one, this makes the paintings look very neat and tidy. That’s the most obvious advantage of a taped off painting with a crisp border. Anytime a collector opens up a box and sees a painting with a crisp white edge around it, it will look very neat.
Number two, visually the white border acts like a frame in many regards. It adds some oomph to your artwork. And I think it makes the colors and the artwork pop.
Number three. The white border gives you more flexibility and more options when reproducing your art as prints. If that’s something that you do with your works of art on paper, then I highly recommend a white border. The reason for this is that different sizes of prints will have different proportions and different aspect ratios. By keeping the outermost areas of your artwork blank. It helps so that if a piece of artwork is cropped to a different size later to create a print, nothing important is lost from your artwork. In addition, it helps you to be able to offer your prints in the widest array of sizes, which might appeal to a wider group of potential buyers.
Number four paintings with a border are easy to frame. They’re easy to frame for two different reasons. First, because it gives you space to fit the mat around the artwork, and it probably gives you more matting choices and more flexibility. A border can also help with giving room to take the artwork into place behind the mat.
Number five a taped off border can help you transform non standard paper sizes to standard sizes that are easy to frame. For example, a lot of watercolor paper sold here in the USA is in a size that’s 11 inches by 15 inches. That’s just a little bit bigger than 11 inches by 14 inches, which is one of the most standard and easy to find frame sizes. If you use tape, you can easily transform an 11 by 15 piece of paper into something that will fit into a frame designed for an 11 by 14 piece of art. standard frame sizes are not just easier in terms of locating frames to buy, but it also translates into cheaper framing. You can buy standard mats and standard frames, completely bypassing the custom framing shop all together.
Number six, I believe it makes it easier to photograph and share your work if it has a white border around it. Despite my best efforts, it’s very difficult to photograph artwork and get it 100% Correct proportionally, I normally find that I have to crop it slightly on my phone before posting a photo of my art to Instagram or sending a photo to a potential art buyer. If I don’t crop it, it looks crooked in the digital image. When the painting has a white border around it, I have a lot more flexibility in how I crop it. And it’s much easier to get the digital image looking like the real thing. Not to mention, it makes it easier when cropping the image on your phone to fit it on Instagram.
Number seven. If you use a lot of water in your paintings, you can not only tape off the border of your painting, but you can also extend that tape to tape the paper down to a flat surface that you paint on. For example, a table or a flat board. This helps to reduce the buckling of the paper and keep it as flat as possible, both while you’re painting. And afterwards.
What kind of tape do I use when I paint on watercolor paper? Well, I’ve tried a few different brands. I initially used Scotch drafting tape, it’s a bit thinner in with so I liked that on smaller paper. It proportionally fit. As I graduated to using larger paper. I also got a thick one inch roll of blue clean release tape made by duct brand. I’ve also heard of artists that use three M blue tape, which is very similar to the duct tape that I use. Ultimately, I found it doesn’t really matter too much what brand of tape I use if I follow the instructions that I’m about to give you for how to minimize the ripping of your paper. So listen up to this next part. It’s the most important part of the episode.
Let’s talk about how to ensure your taped off painting does not get ripped at the finish line. There’s a few different ways to guard against your watercolor paper ripping when you remove your tape. First, when you tear off a piece of tape from the roll pause before you put it on your paper. Place the tape first on your clothing or a nearby piece of furniture with fabric upholstery. Stick it completely to the cloth and then pull it back up. It’s now ready to put on your paper for painting. By putting the tape on another surface first, especially a fabric surface, it helps to de tack the tape a little bit. This removes a bit of the adhesive from the tape, weakening it slightly. This tape should still stick to your painting with no problem. But it won’t be overly sticky. This helps to reduce the chances of a tear happening later.
Please do run some tests before you start painting. Each tape and paper combination will be slightly different. You’ll want to test to make sure the tape still seals and is able to be lifted up without a problem. Do this before you make a masterpiece and the stakes get even higher.
Second, when it comes time to remove the tape, once you’re done painting, go get a hairdryer. Alternatively, get a heat gun. If you have one from a crafting project, I use a hairdryer. I’ll turn on the hairdryer to medium heat and apply it to the piece of tape that I want to remove. This loosens up the adhesive and helps a lot with removing tape without ripping your watercolor paper. I actually apply the heat continuously to the tape, heating up the area right where I’m about to pull it up. I have the hairdryer pointed right underneath the tape. As I slowly and gently pull up the tape. It’s very important to go slowly. You want to give the tape a few seconds to warm up and let the adhesive soften its grip on the paper. Remember, there’s no rush. Always pull your tape up and away from your painting. Not towards it goes slow. Let the hairdryer warm up the tape and do not rush. If you let the hairdryer warm up the tape it should remove without too much pulling. You really should not be forcing the tape. Once I started using the hairdryer trick for removing tape from my watercolor paper, I am happy to report I have not had any tears at all. I’ve had 100% success Rate with this technique. And I hope you will too.
If you have super delicate paper and these tricks are not working for some reason. Then my last tip is I recommend you try washi tape in those situations. Washi Tape is a special kind of tape with a much weaker adhesive, and it should provide the gentlest removal washi tape is designed to be peeled off easily. I actually have never used it for this purpose. So I cannot speak to how great the seal is if you use really wet watercolor techniques in your art. Again, test it before you paint on it.
I want to make sure if you try this technique, you get that magical moment where you take the tape off at the end of your painting. Be sure to follow the tips I’ve provided in this episode to save yourself some of the heartache that I experienced. The hairdryer trick works for me every time. When you take the tape off, you get this moment when you get to see your artwork framed for the first time. I never remove the tape until I think the painting is almost done. Pulling off the messy tape makes it official. Or at least it’s one way that helps me to check in see if my artwork is truly done. Try it for yourself and you’ll see how much a white border can elevate the artwork.
When I’m painting, using tape makes it much easier for me to see exactly what is going on around the pieces edges, and it helps me to be intentional about it. I’ve realized that a paintings edges are critical and shouldn’t be neglected or made to appear as if they were neglected. edges cannot be left to their own devices. A sharp edge that I define with tape not only aids me the artist, but also hopefully serves as a signal to my audience. means that the edges, and by extension, the precise size and form of the border, in respect to everything that is inside it are not just significant, but are precisely where they are on purpose. I do this to add to the subliminal message, the entire piece of artwork has been meticulously and attentively planned by me, the artist.
Ultimately, it’s a personal choice whether you have the white border showing at the end of framing or not. Some artists and collectors keep the white border. Others put a white mat on top of it that covers it up and takes its place. Again, it’s entirely up to you.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Self Taught Artist Podcast. If you learned something from an episode of the podcast, can I ask you to please hit the subscribe button so that you never miss an episode. Next Saturday. I’ll be back with a great episode. Next, hit the five star button on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. And third, leave me a Review on Apple Podcasts. If you want to be featured on the show. I will even give a shout out to your Instagram account for you if you include it so other listeners can check out your beautiful artwork. Until next time, my friends Happy Creating
Help the Podcast Grow!
Review | Reviews matter a lot! When you leave a five star review on Apple Podcasts, it encourages other artists to check out the podcast and join the fun. Plus, it makes me smile!
Share | If you loved an episode, could you share it on your Instagram story today? Or, tell a friend about the podcast? Every share makes a difference and helps us to connect with other artists who are looking for resources.
Latest Podcast Episodes: