How to Make Digital Washi Tape in Photoshop or Elements

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How to Make Digital Washi Tape

Digital Washi Tape
Text and images © Ian Pullen

This is nice and easy tutorial that will show you how you can create your own digital version of Washi tape in Photoshop. If you're scratching your head, wondering what Washi tape is, it's decorative tape that's made from natural materials in Japan. Many different types and styles are now exported from Japan, both in patterned and plain colors.

Their popularity has grown rapidly in recent years and they've become hugely popular for use in many craft projects, especially scrapbooking. However, if you're more into digital scrap booking, in this tutorial I'll show you how you can produce your own unique digital tape for use in your projects.

To follow along with this tutorial, you'll need a copy of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Don't worry even if you're a newbie Photoshop user, this is a pretty easy project that anyone should be able to follow and in the process you'll get an introduction to a few useful tools and features. You'll also need an image of a plain piece of tape – here's a tape image that you can download and use for free: IP_tape_mono.png. More experienced Photoshop users may want to photograph or scan their own bits of tape and use these as a base. If you want to try that, you need to cut out the tape from its background and save the image as a PNG so that it has a transparent background. You'll also find that making your tape as light as possible gives you a more neutral base upon which to work.

In the next few pages I'll show you how to make tape that has a solid color and another version with a decorative design.

Related:
• What is Washi Tape?
• Washi Tape and Rubber Stamping

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Make a Strip of Tape with a Plain Color

Make a Strip of Tape with a Plain Color
Text and images © Ian Pullen

In this first step, I'll show you how to add your preferred color to the base tape image.

Go to File > Open and navigate to the IP_tape_mono.png file that you downloaded or your own plain tape image, select it, and click the Open button. It is good practice to go to File > Save As and save this as a PSD file with an appropriate name. PSD files are the native format for Photoshop files and allow you to save multiple layers in your document.

If the Layers palette isn't already open, go to Window > Layers to display. The tape should be the only layer in the palette and now, hold down the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Mac and then click on the little icon that represents the tape layer. This will select all of the pixels in the layer that are not fully transparent and so you should now see a line of marching ants around the tape. Note that on some older versions of Photoshop, you need to click the text area of the layer and not the icon.

Next, go to Layer > New > Layer or click the New Layer button at the base of the Layers palette, followed by Edit > Fill. In the dialog box that opens, select Color from the Use drop down menu and then select the color that you wish to apply to your tape from the color picker that opens. Click OK on the color picker and then OK on the Fill dialog and you'll see that the selection has been filled with your selected color.

While Washi tape doesn't have much surface texture, there is a little and so the base tape image that we're using has a very light texture applied to it. To allow this to show through, ensure that the new colored layer is still active and then click on the Blending Mode drop down at the top of the Layers palette and change it to Multiply. Now right click on the colored layer and select Merge down to combine the two layers into one. Finally, set the Opacity input field to 95%, so that the tape is slightly translucent, as real Washi tape also has a little bit of transparency.

In the next step, we'll add a pattern to the tape.

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Make a Strip of Tape with a Decorative Pattern

Make a Strip of Tape with a Decorative Pattern
Text and images © Ian Pullen

In the previous step we added a plain color to the tape, but the technique for adding a pattern is not too dissimilar, so I'll not be repeating everything on this page. Therefore, if you haven't already read the previous page, I suggest you look at that first.

Open the blank tape file and re-save it as an appropriately named PSD file. Now go to File > Place and then navigate to the pattern file that you're going to use and click the Open button. This will place the pattern on a new layer. If you need to resize the pattern to better fit the tape, go to Edit > Free Transform and you'll see a bounding box with grab handles at the corners and sides becomes visible. If you need to zoom out to see all of the bounding box, you can go to View > Zoom Out as necessary. Click one of the corner handles and, holding down the Shift key to maintain the same proportions, drag the handle to resize the pattern.

When the tape is covered appropriately with the pattern, make a selection of the tape as in the previous step, click on the pattern layer in the Layers palette and then click the Mask button at the bottom of the palette – see image. As in the previous step, change the pattern layer's blending mode to Multiply, right click and select Merge Down and finally reduce the Opacity to 95%.

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Save Your Tape as a PNG

Save Your Tape as a PNG
Text and images © Ian Pullen

To use your new virtual Washi tape in your digital projects, you'll need to save the file as a PNG image so that it retains its transparent background and slightly translucent appearance.

Go to File > Save As and in the dialog that opens, navigate to where you want to save your file, select PNG from the drop down list of file formats and click the Save button. In the PNG Options dialog, select None and click OK.

You now have a digital Washi tape file that you can import into your digital scrapbooking projects. You may also want to have a look at another of our tutorials that shows how you can apply a simple torn paper effect to the edge of the tape and add a very subtle drop shadow that just adds a little touch of realism.