Using Auto Detail Tape for Resist Decoration on Pottery

There is nothing more frustrating than having glaze or underglaze go where you don’t want it while decorating a pot. Janie Varley was searching for ways to create super-crisp lines on her pottery that would prevent glaze seepage and stumbled upon auto tape resists. Because the tape is so thin, Janie can create gestural lines without creasing the tape. 

In this post, an excerpt from our book, 100 Tips, Tools, & Techniques, Janie shares her ingenious auto tape resist method for decorating pots. Enjoy! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

Get Ultra-Fine Lines with Auto Tape Resists

Getting a super fine line when glazing your pots is often difficult—and even more so when you’ve had a few cups of coffee before heading into the studio. Try using this tape resist technique to glide over curves and around handles when decorating your next great set of coffee cups.

Auto trim tape is a flexible adhesive used in auto body detailing. You can generally buy it anywhere auto paint is sold. It comes in 1⁄8-inch, 1/4-inch, 1/2-inch, and 3/4-inch widths.

Be sure to wipe your pieces with a damp cloth and allow them to dry before applying the tape; it doesn’t stick well to dusty bisque.

Clay Workshop Handbook

Learn techniques from the pros when you download this freebieClay Workshop Handbook.

To apply, set the tape end where you want to start, and then pull to stretch the tape as you press it to the surface. Press firmly. I run my thumb over it to be sure the edges are tightly adhered to the bisque. It is very easy to apply the tape in curves, just remember to continue to stretch and stick the tape as you go. I cut the end, rather than tear or break it off, to insure that it will lie flat, especially if my line will start or end independently of other lines.

Top 100 hacks for your studio

If you are looking for a book packed with everyday tips for the ceramic artist, look no further than 100 Tips, Tools, & Techniques for the Ceramics Studio. You'll discover how to easily reclaim clay, build custom ceramics tools, glaze using unconventional techniques, and so much more! These 100 tips and tricks will help you improve both your efficiency AND proficiency in the clay studio!

Read an excerpt!

The pot is immediately ready to dip, brush, or spray with your choice of decoration—from glaze and slip to underglaze and terra sigillata. When the coating is dry, use a needle tool or an X-Acto knife to lift the tape and pull it away from the surface.

You can also use the tape on greenware; you just have to take extra care when pulling, stretching, and pressing. This resist technique is great for layering glazes or slips too, as long as you fire each layer before adding another round of tape.

**First published in 2012

  • Richard S.

    There is a much better tape, bamboo tape … very thin, super sticky, beats the heck out of auto detailing tape

    • Marie Noelle F.

      Hi, i looked around online for the bamboo tape but can not find the product.
      Can you describe it more and suggest where I might find it?
      Thank you

  • I use artist tape similarly. Have found that plain old masking tape sticks best and it is really cheap. I cut it to the width I want by sticking it to plexiglass and cutting with and exacto knife. Planning to get some really wide tape to allow more flexibility in cutting patterns. I also use stickers to block off circles, rectangles, etc. Plastic stickers are better as they don’t absorb the glaze as paper ones do although I have successfully used paper one too. Appreciate the tip about wiping the bisque ware clean with a wet rag. Maybe that is why the artist tape didn’t stick very well. I

  • Patricia H.

    i can’t find it on line – I see it is 3m but that is all I can tell from the picture.

  • Diane W.

    I’ve taped various patterns on a piece. Some look mosaic. I then brush different glaze colors on to the pot, remove the tape and fire. Takes time, but can have incredible results.

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