Just finished testing 6 different tapes on Arches Oil Paper
for masking the image area or taping the paper to a firmer support. I got some good results and some useful surprises. This was important to me because I'm becoming a real fan of Arches Oil Paper for my oil pastel heart paintings, and I often like to tape off the edges of a painting support to leave a nice white border around the image. It can also be convenient to tape the Arches Oil Paper to a backing so it goes on an easel.
I was alerted to a possible problem by another painter who likes Arches Oil Paper, Erika Guillory Page, during her demonstration at the Atlanta Artists Center. She told us that she's had trouble with every tape she's tried on Arches Oil Paper. As she removed the tapes after finishing the paintings, the tapes all started to pull up paper fibers, leaving visible damage. She showed us her solution: whisking the tape back and forth against her clothes a few times to reduce its adhesiveness. Even then, the tape wasn't always a sure bet.
When I got back to my own studio, I looked at a painting in progress on Arches Oil Paper. I'd taped a white boundary around the image, while also taping it to a piece of hardboard. I used low-adhesive 3M 2070 tape that I'd bought several years ago from noted collage artist, Jonathan Talbot. (I loved his workshops, and have used the tape quite a bit on Arches watercolor paper without any problem.)
Darned if pulling the tape off the Arches Oil Paper didn't pull fibers and even peel off some of the surface. This left a visible damaged place, and worst of all, the tape left an uneven yellow residue. Ah. This was an unpleasant surprise!
Testing different tapes on Arches Oil Paper
So I decided to run some tests to find out for myself what would work. I had several low-tack tapes to try, and I bought one new tape to test -- the ScotchBlue safe-release painters' tape labeled for use on delicate surfaces. It's distinguished by an orange core, as contrasted with the blue core of the regular multi-surface ScotchBlue painters' tape. I already had an assortment of other tapes to test.
I ran each tape across the Arches Oil Paper and wrapped a couple of inches of it underneath for easy removal later. I used each tape twice -- once "full strength" and once after reducing the adhesiveness as Erika Page had demonstrated. Then I used oil pastels between and over the tapes. Just for good measure, I used a bit of walnut oil over the oil pastel at one end of the paper, and a bit of Turpenoid Natural at the other end. I wanted to see if solvent would make paint run under the tape edges. As it turns out, this addition to the test proved to be a great idea.
When I unwrapped the new ScotchBlue delicate-surface tape, I found a problem that others had complained about at Amazon.com. Some of the orange from the outer packaging adhered to the tape edges. Yuk! I don't want little orange flecks getting at random into a painting. I got rid of most of it by wasting some of the other tape. Later I found a much better solution; see below.
Once I got going, I decided to try some Post-It glue stick to adhere a paper heart cutout to the Arches Oil Paper, as a mask. I also played with laying down a curved piece of very thin Scotch artist tape designed for that purpose. (This proved to be tricky.)
Test results: All but two tapes are fine
I had intended to wait at least three days, figuring that I'd finish most paintings well within that time and be ready to pull off the tape. Today was only day 2. It dawned on me, though, that I could pull off just one end of each tape. If there was damage after only two days, that tape would definitely go on the reject list for use with Arches Oil Paper. (White multimedia board seems fine with just about any tape.)
Results were so interesting that I ended up just pulling off all the tapes.
Here are the tapes that work fine, according to my tests, on Arches Oil Paper. There's no reason to believe they won't also pull off cleanly on watercolor paper and certainly off multimedia board. I did pull off each tape slowly and carefully, at a 45-degree angle. I noticed in looking at a photos at Erika Page's site of her Atlanta Artists Center program, that she was pulling off the tape straight on. Somewhere recently I read that painters' tape is best pulled off at an angle.
So here are the four winners:
- Artists' White Tape from Jerry's Artarama. (I've used this acid-free tape for years and much prefer it to the artist tape sold at Dick Blick Art Materials -- though I buy a great many other art supplies there.) This tape pulled off cleanly whether or not I whisked it on my clothes to reduce its adhesion. It's available in six widths: 1/4-inch, 3/4-inch, 1/2-inch, 1-inch, 2-inch and 3-inch. I tested my usual tape, the 1-inch, and just for fun I tried the 1/4-inch for the first time. I've never tried the wider tapes.
- Scotch Artist Tape for Watercolor Paper (FA 1020). (I still have some of the 60-yard rolls, now discontinued, that were a reasonable price. Now this tape is only available in smaller dispensers.) Whisking this tape proved unnecessary and just caused it to be harder to adhere.
- Two-inch 3M #2070 safe-release (yellow core) tape from Jonathan Talbot. This time I tried a different roll, in case the tape I'd used on the painting had gotten too hot or too old. Whisking this tape lowered the adhesion way too much, so it wouldn't stick to the paper at all. Applying it full strength, though, it pulled off cleanly and left no residue. Although 3M has discontinued this tape, Talbot sells a similar two-inch safe-release tape in its place, for $15/roll plus shipping. (He also sells other useful supplies.)
- ScotchBlue Painters' Tape for Delicate Surfaces (orange-core). This pulled off cleanly even full strength. No whisking needed.
One caveat: Maybe my Arches Oil Paper has a tighter surface
Erika Page is using full 22x30 sheets of Arches Oil Paper, while the paper I'm using comes in pads. I read recently at Roz Woundup (a wonderful blog by artist Roslyn Stendahl), that because padded paper has been pressed harder, the surface is usually different from the exact paper bought in loose sheets. (She talks about this in her review of Stonehenge paper.) When I scale up to making heart paintings on full sheets of paper, I'll do some preliminary tape tests on it.
Nice surprise re. taped edges and solvents with oil pastel
I wasn't surprised that the solvents I used -- walnut oil and Turpenoid Natural -- leaked under the tape edges a bit. Guess what, though? The tapes were adhesive enough that they pulled off any paint or colored solvent that had leaked under the edges. So all the edges stayed clean.
Which solvent is preferable? That's a topic for another post, but I will say that despite the strong and slightly unpleasant odor of the Turpenoid Natural, I liked the result better. Walnut oil tends to leave random shiny places when applied over oil pastels. The Turpenoid Natural wasn't absolutely matte, but the surface didn't annoy me.
The paper pattern worked perfectly too
- 3M "Post-It" Glue stick. The paper pattern adhered with this glue stick came off with perfect clean edges and no visible or tactile residue. I was impressed, since this particular stick had been on hand for years. I believe a current version is available under a different name, Scotch Restickable Glue Stick.
To lift the edges of the paper without blurring the oil pastel line, I used a tool I'd bought for making collage. The tip is perfect for delicate, light use in lifting the edge of paper.I believe I found it in a sewing department; it's designed for removing stitches. The tip is perfect for delicate, light use in lifting the edge of paper.
For these tests I just burnished the tape lightly with my fingertip. Often, though, I burnish tape with a bone folder (like the one shown in the photo), to make sure paint doesn't creep under the edges.
Nice surprise: artist tape for negative and positive space
When I set up the tape tests, I covered the 1/4-inch white artist tape from Jerry's Artarama completely with oil pastel. When I lifted off the tape, it left an interesting white line on the Arches Oil Paper. In addition, I found that I could reply the painted tape elsewhere on the paper, burnishing it lightly with the same tool I used to lift it off. Yes, some of the paint lifted off, but the remaining paint still looked fine.
Usually I prefer soft, blurred edges when painting with oil pastel. It's nice to have an easy way, however, to make hard-edge lines as well.
The tape is acid-free, but would it lose some adhesion over time? I've used the one-inch version of this tape for a lot of labels, and they seem to stay well adhered even on plastic. Still, this is worth a long-term test. The jury is still out on that -- unless I can find a report from another artist who's already tested it.
It might be tempting to think that if a collage artist used a permanent glue stick that stayed repositionable until the glue dried, then the paper cutout could also be glued down elsewhere. The paper would be painted quickly, then lifted before the glue dried. However, my experience with "permanent" glue sticks leads me to be skeptical about how consistent the bond would prove over time. If I want to paint a paper pattern to lift off and also glue down elsewhere, I'd use a regular archival PVC glue.
Two tapes damaged the Arches Oil Paper
See the photo above, showing the white fibers that the ScotchBlue Multi-Surface Painters' Tape pulled off the Arches Oil Paper. The 1/8-inch tape also pulled up some fibers, but the damage is less noticeable. Neither tape left a visible residue.
- ScotchBlue Multi-Use Painter's Tape (blue-core). Even when whisked first to lower its adhesion, this tape did not pull off cleanly. The adhesive is just too strong. This proved to give it some other uses, however: see below.
- Scotch Artist Tape for Curves (1/8-inch). The damage to the paper surface wasn't as great with this tape, so if some rougher surface with some pulled fibers is acceptable for a painting, it's usable.
Two new uses for ScotchBlue Multi-Surface Painters' Tape:
Cleaning up the delicate-surface Scotch Painters' Tape
It dawned on me that the greater adhesive power of the ScotchBlue Multi-Surface Painters' Tape might pull off the annoying orange flecks left by the packaging on its orange-core cousin. Sure enough, this worked just fine. It's still an extra chore, and I hope that 3M fixes this issue. I unwrapped the other rolls I have of the 3/4-inch orange-core Delicate-Surface Painters' Tape, and found the same cleanup problem with all of them. After I cleaned each roll, I repackaged it in a clear pint plastic zip bag.
Lifting some of the oil pastel from the Arches Oil Paper
I also experimented with burnishing a short piece of the ScotchBlue Multi-Surface Painters' Tape on an area of oil pastel, to see how much paint it would pull off. It didn't pull off a lot, but with heavy burnishing it did pull off most of the second layer color, leaving an interesting mottled surface. This technique leaves no tiny flecks of oil pastel to be lifted off, the way scraping or scratching oil pastel does. And the surface is more subtle. So this adds a new technique to my oil pastel repertoire.
Another test of the 3M 2070 Tape underway - results soon
I set up a new test of the two-inch 3M 2070 tape I'd bought from Jonathan Talbot, again on Arches Oil Paper. This time I used tape from the same roll that ended up damaging the surface of the paper, and left a yellow residue. This test will tell me if there's really something wrong with this roll of tape, perhaps because of the way I stored it since 2008 -- or if I just left it way too long on that painting. I believe it had been left on the edges of the paper for nearly a year!
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This is the post I've made in this blog that's aimed directly at sharing useful information with other painters. I suppose it might be of interest to anyone collecting art, too, since it shows the kind of technical tests artists often need to do. Before I began painting, I was an artist-blacksmith forging iron, so it's natural to me to think carefully about details of craftsmanship.