Washi tape: washi all the fuss about?

Until the washi craze washed over us, masking tape was kinda boring. It’s made to stop you going over the edges when you paint a kitchen. Or so we thought.

We’ve been missing a trick. Make that ‘100 simple tricks using washi tape’.

Know your rolls

Masking tape and washi tape aren’t 100% the same.

Washi’s widely known as ‘Japanese masking tape’, seeing as it’s made from rice paper. And made in Japan, obviously. The standard off-white masking tape most people know… isn’t. BUT, to keep you confused, in Japanese washi tape’s still called ‘masking tape’. Got it? Good.

The materials mean washi’s thought of as kinder to the environment than, say, duct tape. It’s biodegradable – great news if you balance crafting with composting.

Life imitating art

Back in 2006, one Japanese tape company – Kamoi Kakoshi – got an unexpected surprise. A craft book, made with their ‘industrial’ masking tape. The 3 Tokyo-based artists who made it wanted the company to create more colours.

Well, that’s an inventive way of getting what you want. So, uh, Kamoi Kakoshi did what they asked. They invited the artists to the tape factory, and together they came up with a way to expand the range.

Washi now comes under a brand of its own: mt, for ‘masking tape’. Nice and original.

As trendy as Japan’s street fashions

So mt only became ‘a thing’ in 2006, and it’s exploded. When you look at the thousands of washi tapes you can buy now, it’s hard to believe this started with 20 colours.

With patterns in the mix, there are loads of options. Spotted washi tape, stripy washi tape, geometric washi tape, glittery washi tape, kawaii washi tape…  and each pattern always comes out in several colours. As you can see:

How much washi tape does one person need?

There’s also a mt x Sanrio collaboration range, because why wouldn’t there be…

Washi patterns are even grouped into seasonal collections, like Japanese fashions. The ‘2017 Spring/Summer’ washi line-up’s got designs by Lisa Larson, dot and gradation patterns, animals, and pastel colours.

(At Christmas, mt suggested using washi to wrap your cake…)


Masking tapes from mt have won international design awards. Like the mt slim range of slightly thinner tape rolls, which nabbed a Design Plus award 2 years in a row.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a yearly washi tape design contest. Likely inspired by the original artist visit. The results of the 3rd contest were announced back in December 2016. We can’t show you the winners – they can only be seen on the factory tour.

They’re not expensive, per roll, so starting a collection’s easy. You can find packs of washi tape and individual rolls on places like Rakuten Japan and Amazon.

Every roll has an end, but ideas are infinite

Believe it or not, you can do FAR more with tape than stick stuff (back) together.

Scroll through Pinterest tags or take a look at Buzzfeed to be inspired, or confused, by hundreds of ideas. Like every variation on ‘cover this ordinary-looking thing with washi tape’. Some of these don’t look practical.




Watch out for crafters who call it a ‘life hack’. You’re not hacking anything. You’re wrapping washi tape around it until it looks better.

An advantage is that washi sticks down well and peels off easily. It’s not designed to be permanent. (How Japanese.) The tape’s simple to cut or tear into strips. It’ll take to paper, glass, ceramics, wood, and loads of other surfaces – you can washi whatever you like. Bits of tape can be written over, if you can see the pen marks over the pattern.

Time to put some tape to the test

We felt like we should give washi-fying something a try. Nothing too complicated. We’re complete washi beginners. So we picked a simple wooden storage box, along with a couple of rolls of tape. Straight lines only, and a nice blank wooden canvas to work on.

Washi tape work in progress.

Everything – tape, more tape, wooden box – came from our local 100-yen store. Plus a motivational coaster. If there’s something you’ll always find at 100-yen stores, it’s random stuff covered in inspirational quotes.


Had hours of scrolling through trendy craft ideas helped us?

Well, we knew to pick complementary colours. It was lucky that these were 2 of maybe 6 designs total the shop had in stock. And 2 of the others were Sesame Street. Making a box covered with Elmo’s grinning face didn’t appeal.

Maybe it needs some hot pink?

How did we do? Sure, the edges are mostly neat because we used scissors. Tearing off your washi tape gives it rougher edges, which is cool for scrapbooking, bullet journals, and other craft-y things.

Washi sticks to wood impressively well. So far, it hasn’t peeled back. And the finish is nice and smooth, not bumpy. It’s easy pressing air bubbles out – or to just peel the tape off and try sticking it again.

It didn’t take a huge amount of tape to do, either. We’ve got most of each roll left over to cover something else.

So, washi you gonna do?

If you’ve taped something up (or down) recently, we want to see it! Send us pics on Twitter. And for more ideas, take a look at all the washi tapes we’ve got listed to buy now.

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