Until I joined a bullet journal group on Facebook, I’d never heard the term “washi.”
It felt like a secret code word that you’d have to be in The Club to understand.
And the term “washi” popped up so ubiquitously it was intimidating to ask.
But I did ask!
Here’s what I learned:
What is Washi? (The basics, please, in plain English.) And why the heck would a journaler use it?
Washi is patterned masking tape, usually found in Japanese stationery stores and at craft stores in the States or online. (Amazon has a lot of options!)
Think of it like paper ribbon that sticks to a page.
Standard washi tape is usually 15mm wide (just over a half inch), but it also comes in other sizes, including 30mm (a little over an inch) and really skinny washi around 3mm.
Washi comes in solid colors, beautiful patterns, metallics, lace, and glitter designs.
Okay. It’s pretty tape. So… why is it so popular with Bullet Journalers?
Washi adds visual interest to your pages without the need to draw anything! It’s also a practical way to attach things to your pages in a visually beautiful way.
(Like the receipt from that cafe where you had that great conversation. Or the crayon scribbled note from the 3 year old you adore. Or the napkin sketch you made when you’d left your journal at home.)
Here are 14 creative ideas for journaling with washi tape!
1. Create subheadings. (Washi tape can make words pop.)
By strategically placing a piece of washi and writing on it, you can promote information on a page, much like a subheading in a magazine. Check out how Bujo_Anne uses washi to make the days of the week pop in this weekly spread.
2. Add a theme to a page. (The pattern doesn’t have to stay on the tape.)
Washi can add a thematic element that can easily copied through other elements on a page. In the design below, Jodi Trinkle starts with a washi tape that features banner flags, then carries that theme through the spread.
3. Create vertical borders for pages you want to refer to frequently. (They’re like a bookmark that never falls out.)
Using washi to create vertical borders is a simple way to mark a page you want to refer back to frequently. It makes it easy to find when flipping through your journal. I use it for the spread where I’m logging the books I read this year.
4. Block out the blank days on a calendar. (Make awkward space an asset.)
What do you do with those empty spaces on a monthly calendar? Clare Gissane uses washi to transform them from humdrum to interesting, adding a colorful splash to her theme..
5. Layer a design. (Who knew tape could add such beauty and depth?)
Washi allows you to create artistic layers on a page. In this spread by @tea.stained.and.tattered, washi tape doesn’t just anchor the polaroids and the handwritten note, it adds to the beauty of the design.
6. Fashion page tabs. (Washi tabs = function + beauty.)
Remember those handy page dividers in three-ring binders that separated your notebooks so you could easily locate the section you needed? @leona_wong13 uses that same technique in her journal, folding the tape to make tabs.
7. Cover a date in your planner when you need more space. (It happens.)
Popular planners like the Hobonichi include pre-printed dates. But what happens if you need more room? @irene.plans uses washi tape to adapt the planner to her needs, while making it all look intentional.
8. Visually separate information on a page. (You could just draw lines, but this is way more interesting.)
You can section out information to create a beautiful layout, like this one from @konylia_dayosi
9. Fill blank space. (A quick addition of texture and color creates a nice aesthetic.)
Washi can add visual interest to a basic page when you use it to dispatch empty space. This simple layering of two pieces of washi by @eri_bujojapan completely alters this page.
10. Embellish the inside cover. (Your endsheets don’t have to be blank.)
Most of us leave the inside covers of our journals blank, but we don’t have to! In just a few minutes, washi tape can enhance those endsheets. Check it out!
11. Create a text box. (Employ the techniques that magazines utilize to anchor text on a page.)
A simple line of washi tape can anchor text on a page and make it pop. This page by @rbaburina uses a line of washi tape to create a text box for a quote.
12. Reclaim blank space. (Trade boring for beautiful.)
Most hourly planners come with space you won’t use. @juliespages uses washi to add a thematic element, rather than letting the space go to waste.
13. Design a dutch door spread. (You’ll feel like a bullet journal ninja.)
In a house, a real “dutch door” consists of two sections (top and bottom) which can be opened independently. In a journal, trimming a page to be half-size (usually vertically) creates a similar utility. Washi tape used as a border for a dutch door makes the page easier to turn.
@cayaline has a quick animation showing how her dutch doors trimmed with washi tape work.
14. Combine with stamped images to create an artistic layout that looks like you spent days on it.
Helen Colebrook of Journal with Purpose creates headers with brush lettering techniques, then adds washi tape and rubber stamps to complete the design with beautiful results.
How to store your washi tape
I have a favorite solution for storing washi tape.
This product by Walden Woodworkers (sold by Galen Leather) is beautiful and high quality.
Better yet, I discovered I use my washi tape more when it is sitting out creating easy access. Not only does this washi tape dispenser do a lovely job of displaying the tape, but it also has a functional edge that cuts it.
Isn’t using washi sort of cheating?
As I’ve talked with bullet journalists, I’ve found there are strong opinions on washi. Some people feel like it is too “scrapbooky” to be authentic – to bullet journaling specifically or journaling in general.
My question is: “so what?”
Washi is a tool. And the creatives who use it are making amazing things. More importantly, journals are personal–so shouldn’t you get to pick what you do in yours without being judged for it?
This stuff is fun!
I’ve been having a blast with it.
Ready to experiment?
Just because “washi” seems like a code word doesn’t mean it’s hard to incorporate it in your journal. (It’s just tape.)
And you don’t have to buy a ton of it (unless you want to). (I only have those two rolls – one 15mm and one 30mm – and I picked them up at a craft store with a 40% off coupon.)
Go snag yourself some washi and experiment.
Oh! And it isn’t actually all that sticky. So if you find you don’t love it, you can always just pull it off!
Want more bullet journal ideas? Check out the “big ass list” with over 1,000 ideas. https://yourvisualjournal.com/bullet-journal-ideas/