What Is Washi Tape and What Can You Use It For?

Washi tape has been dominating the paper crafting world, and it's no wonder why! This affordable yet versatile tool is so powerful, and there are just so many ways to use it for your crafty projects. Today, we'll discuss what washi tape is, what its differences are from other tapes, and how you can use it for all your DIY projects! 

What is Washi Tape?washi tape

Wide Washi Tapes for Paper Crafting

Washi tape is a versatile and popular crafting material that originated in Japan in 2006. Initially, crafters used masking tape for their projects, but they craved something more decorative. In response, a company created a line of decorative masking tapes with a wide range of patterns and designs, which soon became known as washi tape. Since then, washi tape has become a staple in the crafting community due to its durability, repositionability, and the endless creative possibilities it offers.

How Is Washi Tape Made?

The term "washi" translates to "Japanese paper", but it's more than just a linguistic label. Unlike Western paper, which tends to be thicker and sturdier, washi papers are renowned for their delicate texture and lightweight feel. Creating washi is a complex and time-consuming process that relies on traditional manual techniques. The production process involves carefully extracting natural fibers from various local plants, with Paper Mulberry being the most common choice.
These fibers are then slowly processed into a pulp, which is meticulously formed into sheets of paper. The resulting washi papers often feature intricate designs, including gold leaf and vibrant colors, that have inspired the popular trend of washi tapes.

Although many manufacturers now use more efficient production methods, the influence of washi paper on the art of tape-making is undeniable. Today, washi tape has transcended its humble origins as a practical adhesive to become a more versatile artistic medium, inspiring countless DIY projects and creative endeavors!

How Is Washi Tape Different From Other Tapes?

A beautiful washi tape card idea made with blue washi tape
When we think of washi tapes, we might naturally draw comparisons to other tapes we use for crafting, like foam tape and masking tape. However, there are some significant differences between them that are worth noting!

    Scotch Tape vs. Washi Tape

    Both washi tape and Scotch tape use a special kind of glue that sticks to surfaces when pressure is applied. However, they work differently from each other. As you know, washi tape is made from a delicate, lightweight paper that can be torn by hand and comes in many different colors and patterns. Its glue sticks to surfaces by filling in tiny bumps and irregularities on the surface.
    On the other hand, Scotch tape, is made from transparent plastic and needs scissors or a dispenser to be cut. Its glue also works by filling in bumps on the surface, but it is more utilitarian in nature and is typically used for everyday tasks, such as for office and home use.

    Masking Tape vs. Washi Tape

    Like washi tapes, most masking tapes' base composition is paper, allowing you to tear them with your hands. However, unlike washi tapes, masking tapes are meant to seal out liquids such as paint. In fact, masking tape is similar to painter's tape, which is  made from a thin, crepe paper that can be easily torn by hand, and has a low-tack adhesive that allows it to be easily removed without damaging the surface it was applied to. Because they're used to mask off areas, they’re much thicker in nature and sometimes are reinforced with plastics and stronger adhesive. 
    washi tape ideas

    Meanwhile, washi tapes are optimized for crafting purposes by having a low tack adhesive that won't damage your projects if they need to be removed or adjusted. While masking tape is typically used for painting and creating straight lines, you can use washi tape for a wider range of purposes, thanks to its decorative properties. It's perfect for creating borders and frames, adding color and texture to journals and scrapbooks, and even wrapping gifts! 

    Fun Ways to Use Different-Sized Washi Tapes

    There are many many different types of washi tapes, and many different crafts with washi tapes you can create. Altenew alone has a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and designs. So if you’re new to washi tapes you may be asking yourself, how do I know which ones to use and for what? Well, we have some answers and some washi tape ideas!
    crafts with washi tape

    When it comes to washi tapes, size is crucial in determining what you can use them for. Whether you're looking for a thin tape to add delicate details to your crafts or a wider tape for creating borders and frames, the size of your Washi tape is an essential factor to consider. So, let's take a closer look at the different sizes of washi tapes available and how you can use them in your creative projects.

    1. 5mm Washi Tapes

    A beautifully colored card featuring rainbow washi tapes
    The smallest sized washi tapes Altenew has available are 5mm (or .2 inch). Tapes like our Golden Edge or Navy Gold Trim are as narrow as they come! 
    A butterfly card with gold trim washi tape accents on the front
    Tapes around this size are best suited for adding subtle accents and trim. Because of their size, they also do well for framing sentiments around your cards. One of our Design Team members, Laurie Willison, has a great example of this on our blog using our Golden Trim Washi Tape.

    2. 50mm-75mm Washi Tapes

    washi tapes
    The next notable width are washi tapes around 50mm-75mm (or 2-3 inches). These washi tapes are a little bit larger but that allows them to cover more space and affords them more room for detailed patterns. 
    crafts with washi tape
    Tapes around this size are perfect for use with the mini die-cutting machine. Rather than using just plain cardstock for die-cuts, you can cover a piece of cardstock with a 2-3 inch washi tape to use with your dies. Our Design Team member Virginia does just this using our Gilded Ombre Washi Tape over on our blog.

    3. 100mm-150mm Washi Tapes

    Washi tapes around this size (4-6 inches) run just large enough to cover an entire A2 card size and are perfect for filling in the entire background of a card. Because of their size, you’ll find that these wide washi tapes are very versatile.
    washi tapes
    You could use something like the Golden Dots Washi Tape, to cover a whole background, or use the Teal Shadow Wide Washi Tape to cut out individual accents in the pattern to use independently.  If you're looking for inspiration, over on our blog, 
    Design Team Member Therese Calvrid, shows us some great ways to utilize wider washi tapes on cards. Check out her suggestions on her special monthly feature, Take 2 With Therese! 

    4. Extra Wide Washi Tapes

    Most recently, Altenew released an extra wide washi tape Wild Flora, which measures up to 292mm (that's nearly 12 inches!). 
    washi tape
    This tape is massive and can cover not just cards, but entire scrapbook pages, book covers, and even furniture! When tapes get up to this size, the possibilities are nearly endless. 

    Why Use Washi Tape?

    The answer to why you should use washi tapes lies in the same question as: why do we create? 
    Make beautiful die-cuts with sticky washi tape for your cards!

    As human beings, we all have an innate desire to express ourselves creatively, whether it's through art, music, writing, or any other medium. Sometimes, our emotions and feelings cannot be fully expressed through words alone, which is where creative expression, such as paper crafting, comes in!

    Washi tapes are a wonderful tool that can help us better express ourselves in unique and beautiful ways. How you choose to use washi tapes is entirely up to you, and it's a reflection of your own personal relationship with creativity and expression. Whether you use washi tapes to add colorful accents to your journal, create custom gift wrapping, or add a personal touch to your home decor, the possibilities are endless!

    At the end of the day, we hope that washi tapes can inspire and encourage you to embrace your creativity and express yourself in new and exciting ways. So go ahead, let your imagination run wild and see where washi tapes take you!