Tearing Techniques

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Say you want to do a little something extra on your next scrapbook page. Maybe you want to add some texture. Maybe you want to combine two different papers on one page. Or maybe you just feel like trying something new.

After years of scrapbooking, I’ve come upon a few tried-and-true scrapbooking techniques that I do over and over again. Paper tearing is one of those techniques. It’s fast, it’s easy and I 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.

And because I’ve done paper tearing so often, I’ve developed a few tips and tricks for achieving the look you want!

Tear your background paper
I love tearing a piece of 12”x12” paper about 4” wide and gluing it along the top, bottom or either side of a 12” piece of background paper. It instantly adds richness and depth and makes a more interesting background.

I generally pick two patterned papers that coordinate; often, two papers that are different shades of the same color. For example, this “I Am So Thankful” page has a 4”-wide strip of Autumn Leaves paper glued to the bottom of the Burlap paper. The colors are both shades of brown, so they’re easy to coordinate. And it’s such a simple technique, but it really adds to the overall layout.

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Tips for tearing your background paper
My favorite way to tear a strip of background paper is to simply place the paper down on my table and use one hand to hold the largest part of the paper flat. With my other hand I tear a strip about 4” wide, pulling that 4”-wide strip toward me.

Patterned paper has a white “core”, which means that the way you tear your paper affects whether or not you get a white edge or a non-white edge. Tearing the 4” strip 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, like I have on my “I Am So Thankful” page. A non-white edge is great if you like a subtler look.

Yes, you can place the paper against the edge of a ruler and tear the paper if you want. However, the ruler will give you a very straight line, in which case you might just want to use your paper trimmer!

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Tear out your paper embellishments
I love the look of torn paper embellishments, like ephemera images, alphabet tiles and other images. The torn pieces can be arranged on your page to give a collage effect—and it means I don’t have to cut out around all of those little details.

To tear around a paper embellishment, I like to first remove it from the background sheet by cutting around it loosely. I’ll then take a cotton swab, dip it into clean water, and trace around the image. You’re not getting the paper really wet; just damp enough so you can tear around the image. This technique has never failed me—I swear by it!

Tear along your mats
I like a clean, classic look on my layouts—which means that most of my photos and my journaling are in squares and rectangles. Sometimes all these straight lines make my page look pretty boxy. In that case, I often mat my photo onto a piece of paper and trim to leave a thin edge around the top and two sides. The bottom edge I’ll trim to about 1 1/2”–then I’ll tear off about 1/2” from that edge.

I like this little addition to the page because it softens all those straight lines and adds some visual interest and a little texture to the page. 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 page right away—using the white or non-white edge—or you can accent the edge.

scrapbook projectRolling the paper, as I did in the “I am thankful” page, gives instant dimension to a border. Just glue your strip of 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 one of my favorite ways to accent the torn edge. I’ll hold my torn paper in one hand and a black or brown rubber stamp inkpad in the other. I run the inkpad along the edge of the paper. It gives a little bit of extra definition. I like using black ink against a brightly colored paper for a clean look, and using a brown inkpad against a more muted paper to get 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 I still keep my tearing to a minimum on my pages—maybe just one torn border or one torn-edge photo mat. It 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!


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