Paper Tearing

Put down those scissors and pick up a whole new look! Torn paper techniques are easy to master—and the results are wonderful. It’s fast, it’s easy and you can use it for lots of different page themes and styles. It’s a technique I’ve been using on my pages for years and it never goes out of style.

Tips for Tearing

The easiest way to tear a strip of paper is to simply place the paper down on your table and use one hand to hold the largest part of the paper flat. With your other hand, tear a strip toward you.

Patterned paper has a white “core”, which means that the way you tear your paper affects whether you get a white edge or a non-white edge. Tearing toward you will not give a white edge to the strip—it will give a white edge to the remaining paper. The white edge is nice if you want contrast between the two papers. A non-white edge is great if you like a subtler look.

Controlled Tearing

Yes, you can place the paper against the edge of a ruler and tear the paper if you want. The ruler will give you a very straight line!

Tear Out Paper Embelishments

Ephemera images and alphabet tiles get a vintage effect when torn out from the background paper. The torn pieces can be arranged on a page or card to give a collage effect—and it means you don’t have to cut out around all those little details.

To tear around a paper embellishment, first remove it from the background sheet by cutting around it loosely. Then take a cotton swab, dip it into clean water, and trace around the image. Take care not to saturate the paper; just get it damp enough so you can tear around the image.

Tear Along Your Mats

To give a page or card an extra touch of dimension, try matting a photo or card focal on a piece of paper, trimming to leave a thin edge around the top and two sides. Cut the bottom edge about 1 1/2”–then tear off about 1/2” from that edge.

Try this on the bottom edge of a photo you want to draw extra attention to—or do it on the edge of your journaling. You’re not just limited to a torn bottom edge, either…you can tear the top or either side.

Edging Techniques

Once you’ve torn your paper, you can either add it to your project right away—using the white or non-white edge—or you can accent the edge.

Rolling the torn edge gives instant dimension to a border. Just glue your paper in place, then gently roll the edge toward you to reveal the white side. You can roll a little or a lot—just depends how much white you’d like to show.

Inking is a favorite way to accent the torn edge. Hold your torn paper in one hand and a black or brown rubber stamp inkpad in the other. Run the inkpad along the edge of the paper. It gives a little bit of extra definition. Black ink looks crisp against a brightly colored paper; a brown inkpad against a more muted paper gives a vintage effect.

Chalking is another favorite, especially for subtle color and shading. Simply place the torn edge onto a piece of scrap paper, then use the sponge applicator to apply a little bit of chalk along the torn edge. Play with it a bit—you’ll find you get different effects when you chalk on a white edge as opposed to a non-white edge.

When have you torn too much?

Is it possible to tear too many things on your page? Sometimes we discover a favorite new technique and just go crazy with it. Tearing is a pretty subtle technique, but keeping the tearing to a minimum—maybe just one torn border or one torn-edge photo mat—makes the torn pieces stand out more.

The most important thing to know about paper tearing is that it’s all about imperfection. It gives an artistic feel to just about any page, adds texture and gives you one more tried-and-true technique to use on your future layouts—and it’s a great stress reliever at the end of a busy day!