I discovered artist's tape not in a class or workshop but by a kind of accident. When we were learning to make our own giclee prints, we bought artist's tape to attach the prints to the back of the mats (which works very well, looks neat and can be easily disassembled). Recently, I started using artist's tape to block off the edges of my paintings to give the finished work a clean and professional look. I also used it for lifting off very thin lines in one of my recent paintings and, of course, for picking up areas masked out with liquid frisquet. The following step-by-step guide is one of the most popular applications of artist's tape - to give you a straight edge separating areas of different color in a painting. The painting I am working on is of the new building of the Mississippi Blood Services. It makes me think back to my first years in architecture school (nothing to do with blood..just the hands-on approach to architectural renderings). So, here I am going to do a gradated wash that represents the sky, while blocking off the edges of the building with artist's tape. Here is the drawing:
I need to cover the flag and some smaller elements with masking liquid:
I decided to mask out the stars on the flag but leave the blue area of the flag open to the wash. This way, I will be able to achieve more unity within the painting. Enter the artist's tape:
I applied the tape along the edge of the building that meets the sky. I also blocked off the top middle section of the building, so that I don't accidentally paint over it when I make the horizontal strokes of the sky wash. Make sure the edges where you need the straight line are completely attached to the paper. Otherwise you might end up with paint leaking under the tape.
I apply the wash upside down and keeping the painting at a slight angle. The color is a mixture of ultramarine blue, phtalo blue, and a little bit of verditer close the horizon - which, in retrospect, was not such a great idea. Phtalo blue is transparent and non-granulating. Ultramarine is almost transparent but quite granulating. As a result, my wash wasn't completely even and I had a couple of stripes of ultramarine blue that separated from the mixture and decided to go their own way. I almost scrapped the painting and started all over - but went ahead and applied a couple more washes to see if that would even everything out. To my surprise and delight, it did. I applied several gradated washes of ultramarine and phtalo blue, using only one color at a time. The result is this:
Not ideal, but definitely better and I don't have to start over! I also like the deepened color quite a lot.
Final tip on the artist's tape - before putting it down on paper, stick the piece of tape to your clothing (something not very fluffy or furry), like your jeans, and then apply it to your painting. This will make it a little less sticky and minimize the chances of you removing paint or damaging the paper when you lift it off.
Like I said, this is just one of the many, many ways to use artist's tape. What's your favorite? Do you have a secret trick involving artist's tape? Please share :)