Remembering a classic – Border Tape

Border Tape - a dinosaur from the past.

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.



Filed under Everything Else

6 responses to “Remembering a classic – Border Tape

  1. Mike Fromhold

    As close as I have found, I am looking for “dashed tape” we used it to mark areas on our cable plant drawings. If I remember, it came on a roll in a clear and blue dispenser about 2″ square and 1/8″ thick. In the old days all of our maps were on hand drawn on mylar if we wanted to define a border for say an upgrade (work over here but not here) we would roll this tape out on the mylar and run it through the blueline machine. We would then remove the dashed tape, discard it and return the original mylar to the drawer, and hand the blueline to the contractor. Is this “dashed” tape still available, and where?

    • I’m not sure where you would purchase styles of border tape these days. With computers taking over, the use of border tape is practically non-existent. My first thought is to try a scrapbooking store as they may have something compatible/similar that would work for your purpose.

      • anne silverstein

        I have some border tape in an assortment of sizes. One brand is McGann&Marsh. The other is Line O Type. Before I throw it out, do you think there is anyone who wants it?

      • Thank you for your comment. I would suggest donating the border tape to a community group that does scrapbooking, or perhaps a local kids art center. There’s always someone who could make use of it – even though its usefulness has changed from its original purpose.

  2. I’m an old newspaper man myself and occasionally find myself looking for border tape now. It’s hard to find. Anyone who knows of a supplier or secret stash that wants to share? 🙂

    • Meleta Prouhet

      I have approximately 400 full and partial rolls of newspaper border tape that I both at auction. If you are interested, I would be willing to part with it for any reasonable offer. If interested, please email me with the subject: BORDER TAPE.

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