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What to Look for When Buying Tapes for Watercolor Paper

As an artist, I use masking tape for 2 reasons. There could be many other reasons to use masking tape among other artists

1. To create a border around the paper

2. For sticking a loose sheet of paper on the drawing board so that it does not buckle up water is applied.

Please note: I do not pre-stretch my watercolor paper.

For many, with watercolor paintings, masking the watercolor paper is among the essential parts of preparation. We should not use regular tapes, as they can be too sticky and end up ripping the paper when peeled. But it depends on the paper and tape. So please try out different masking tape and paper combination before deciding to purchase in bulk. Meanwhile, blue tapes are not compatible with wet surfaces, thus unable to work with soaked and pre-stretched paper and should be avoided.

For those watercolor papers that require soaking in water and stretching, gummed paper tape could be a nice choice. This kind of tape is a strong paper roll featuring permanent adhesive on one side and regular paper on the other side. It comes with a unique adhesion property that sticks well on wet surfaces.

First of all, the masking tape is a quick-use product, meaning we glue it on a short time before tearing it off the surfaces to avoid ugly stains. This type of tape functions well with its secure hold, yet we suggest you do not leave it too long on your sheets. There are some tapes that I have used which I had left for weeks, sometimes months and they were still glued nicely on the paper and the board.

On the other hand, the better-quality tape, the artist tape is ideal for paintings in watercolor, as it does not create residues after being lifted off the paper. One should not worry about its removal ruining the texture or watercolor paint. This type of tape does not buckle when being painted over, as it absorbs the solvents well.

Technical Part:

Besides the type of tapes we have seen above, users should also be aware of the product’s composition, whether it contains acid or not. A pH-neutral piece will prevent the paintings from deteriorating effects caused by acids, such as discoloration or paper texture wear over time.


Furthermore, the tape dimension is another essential point that determines if a piece is ideal for our current work. They are usually marked as 25mm (1") wide, 50mm (2") wide, 12mm (1/2") wide etc. in terms of its thickness, or how wide they are.

Make sure you pick the one that is wide enough to cover the designed masking space on your paintings plus how much will be on the board. Having a wider tape help as it will provide good holding of the paper on the drawing board. Do not forget to check out the tape length to ensure the investment is valuable for long-term use. They are usually 30 or 50 or 100 or 200 meter long but could come in other length as well.


The tape color might seem like a frivolous factor, but it depends on different people’s tastes. You should know that gummed paper tape often comes with a brown shade, so maybe do not expect beautiful colors from this type. Yet, artist, masking, or washi tape can feature exotic patterns and vibrant colors for your likings.

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