Border tape was one of two main ways a graphics person laid down a box in a layout. The second was using a rapidograph pen and hand-drawing the box. That’s a topic for another day.
Border tape came in a variety of thicknesses and patterns. The thicker tape was easier to work with than the thinner tape. It was self-adhesive, and had a rubbery, stretchy quality, similar to electrical tape, which was often a detriment to laying a straight line.
The process – select the type and size of border for your layout, then choose the proper roll of border tape. Using a non-repro pencil and a steel ruler, measure and draw a box on your layout to use as a guide to lay the tape. This allowed for accurate placement. The pencil was light blue in color so that the eyes of the camera could not see it, but the human eyes could. Next, hold the roll steady and lay a line of tape, straight, from end to end. (Not as easy as you would think – especially on large boxes.) Pray the border tape didn’t accidentally stick to the paper in the wrong place, or stretch, as you would then have to remove it and start over. Repeat for all sides.
Next step was to cut the corners. This was called mitering. Cutting the corner at a 45 degree angle with your trusty Exacto knife gave the most accurate corner – but was the most difficult cut to achieve without leaving a whole or hairline. Sometimes it was easier to just overlap and pray a shadow didn’t show in the final print.
Today, border tape is a tough commodity to find. It is still used on occasion in crafts, particularly scrapbooking, but rarely if ever in the graphics industry. But the border tape today is not like the old-time newspaper and print quality border tape of the past. Arts and crafts stores, and online, are the sole places to find it – and even that is difficult at best.
The graphics industry has evolved over the years, and embraced technology. I do not regret having been taught how to work a paste-up composite before the age of computer-aided design, but I sure do not want to reverse the clock.