Introduction: Duct Tape Art

Picture of Duct Tape Art

This wasn't too difficult, and the more detail you put in, the better the result.

Patient people will be good at this!

Dont forget to vote for me in the duct tape and cardboard contest! Thanks!

Date made: Feb 2013
Approx cost: £5
Approx Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Step 1: Things You Need

Picture of Things You Need

1. Duct tape (I used white, silver and black)
2. A piece of cardboard
3. A knife
4. Computer/printer

Step 2: Find Picture

Picture of Find Picture

Find a picture that you like. Something with high contrast and big areas makes it easier.

I found a cool picture of John Cleese that I liked.

I guess I should give credit to the original image under fair usage. It came from the website and is credited to: Cine Text/Allstar.

Step 3: Quantise Picture

Picture of Quantise Picture

Use a program that you are familiar with to turn the image in to the right number of colours.

There is normally a function called posterise. That is the function you want. This is the case on and photoshop. You might want to apply an average noise filter reduction first to smooth the image too. 

I actually used an iPad app to do this (see comments for details), but it can be done in pretty much any paint software. If you don't have any paint software is free and fairly easy to use. 

I chose 3 colours. Generally paint software lets you choose the limits if each colour. Try to get a good balance.

Print out at least 2 copies. 1 for cutting through, and 1 for reference when separating layers later. I printed 4 just in case I made a mistake.

Step 4: Lay Down the Colour Base

Picture of Lay Down the Colour Base

Get your piece of card and stick down strips of white duct tape. Start in the middle and work out so that you have even strips on either side and aren't left with a small slither one end.

Next use your knife to trim the edges.

Repeat this with your next colour, but lay the tape at 90 degrees to the last set. This will help you when you strip the separate layers later.

Step 5: Cut Picture

Picture of Cut Picture

Stick your template to your cardboard. My cardboard was A4 and so was my picture, so I just lined it up and used some duct tape on either end to fix them together.

Then start cutting! Get your knife and follow the template.

You need to gauge how hard to press the knife. You need to press hard enough to get through the duct tape but not go through the card. That's probably the hardest part. You can always practice before hand.

You don't need to follow the lines exactly, but like I said before the more time and detail put in to it, the better the result (or so I think). If you look at the finished picture you can see the shadow on the left of his face I did with a smooth curve, on the right I followed a rougher line. Decide which you think is best, and go with that method!

Once your done, remove (what's left of) your template. This will leave you with a 1 colour picture with lots of cuts in it!

Note: A craft knife would have been much easier than the knife I used, so get the best knife you can!!

Step 6: Peel Off the Layers

Picture of Peel Off the Layers

This part can be tricky, just be patient!

Start peeling off the layers you don't want. Use the spare print out as your reference so that you know which bits to peel off.

I found pulling the duct tape off at a 45 degree angle was best, so as not to pull off the layer below at the same time.

Use your knife on its side to start any fiddly bits.

Remember not to peel off too many layers!

Keep your knife handy as there are bound to be bits which haven't cut quite right, just cut them as they go.

Best advice is to take your time!

Step 7: Enjoy

Picture of Enjoy

Now you have your finished picture you can put it in a frame, send it as a birthday card or if you thought about it before starting, you could do it on the front of a school book or something.


Mr_o_uk (author)2013-02-13

I guess I should give credit to the original image under fair usage. It came from the website and is credited to: Cine Text/Allstar.

Mr_o_uk (author)2013-02-10

The app I used was called "poster me hd lite". The free/lite one won't let you save the image, but you can take a snapshot of the screen (press power and home together) and crop the part you want anyway!

This app will only let you have 2 or 3 colours. If you want more, you will have to use some computer software.

sveedio made it! (author)2017-11-22

You can also use multiple colors for a really cool look.
i used a block of 1x10 for the backing

Mr_o_uk (author)sveedio2017-11-22

Nice colour accents.

sveedio (author)Mr_o_uk2017-11-25

Thank you, it took about 30 min. for the first one, but the second was a lot harder

ChelseyR (author)2014-10-24

I just saw this and I think it would be really neat to do this for my fiance, but I'm still not sure how to do that. Can you please help ??

Mr_o_uk (author)ChelseyR2014-10-24

Which part are you struggling with? Let me know, and I will help as best I can.

dputila86 made it! (author)2014-02-08

Just finished a portrait using your technique! It turned out a lot better than I expected (considering I'm not all that creative). I used a sheet of 2x2 plywood as the base and an extra layer of white tape to make a border. I also have to give some credit to my girlfriend (my subject)! I'm going to give it to her for Valentines Day, so let's hope she likes it!!!

Mr_o_uk (author)dputila862014-02-08

Nice work! I'm sure she will love it!

Two good ideas there; Using the ply means you can press as hard as you like, and I like the white border too.

bobbywassabi (author)2013-07-29


Scarlette.Chaos (author)2013-07-22

I lovvvve John Cleese

Mr_o_uk (author)2013-06-28

This instructable might help some people with the posterise computer step:

cupcake lover (author)2013-05-20

If the contest would still be on, you would of got vote! Sooooo awesome

handprints (author)2013-03-11

you got my vote! this is really really neat!

Tracy_Marie (author)2013-02-17

When we saw this we said, "What an Artist!" I've never seen this tecnique before. One commenter said it's not new, but who cares? It's new to me and I'm 53! Thanks for educating me. I love the arts. (Oh, wait. I'm 56, but the other rymes! Tee. Hee.)

savvychick (author)2013-02-16


THIS IS SOOOOOOO COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mr_o_uk (author)2013-02-09

If anyone does any (especially coloured ones) I'd love to see them...

hhamilton2 (author)Mr_o_uk2013-02-11

I adore this artwork! I admire all the time and talent that you put into it, but I would never attempt it myself. Do you suppose there is any way that I could get a print like this? I am going to investigate on my own about using a copy shop to do so, but any tips you have would be great.

Mr_o_uk (author)hhamilton22013-02-11

It's really not as hard as it looks, I think this was about 2 hours work, maybe slightly more. Obviously the harder picture the longer the time.

I didn't study art at school (wasn't my sort of thing at the time), and I didn't do well in design class. But one thing I've realised now that I'm (a bit) older is that a) with enough time and patience you can do anything and b) if you fail and throw it away, who cares! It's worth a try.

Id really recommend you pick a simple picture and give it a go! The satisfaction is so much greater than buying one!

The other option is spray paints. Do exactly the same process but cut out 2 card stencils. One for black and one for grey. Spray the black one on a white canvas first, then the grey on top of that.

As for prints, I guess it depends if you are in the uk or America? But I would have thought any print shop should be able to turn it in to a black and white picture for you and print it on canvass.

There are lots of online places where you can order prints too. Photobox, hellocanvas. Tesco. Asda. There must be lots of others too.

If its specifically this picture (in black and white and grey) that you want, I will try and convert it to black and white and upload it somewhere.

hhamilton2 (author)Mr_o_uk2013-02-12

If you could convert it for me, that would be sooooo kind of you!! I am a fiber artist and would just not enjoy doing this. Other people have those skills, and I gladly give them the props and the dollars. Or pounds. ;-) Just let me know what you decide. Thanks so much!

Mr_o_uk (author)hhamilton22013-02-13

I have put some images here:

but I dont think they will be good enough for you to get printed - there is not enough pixels in the original picture, and my photoshop skills aren't good enough.

It might give you a starting point though, so I thought I'd send them anyway...

Anyone out there able to offer a hand, and improve these to print quality?

hhamilton2 (author)Mr_o_uk2013-02-13

Wow!!! You rock! I will be paying your kindness forward, sir!!! :-)

Mr_o_uk (author)hhamilton22013-02-13

ok, one more...

just another little tweak - I have cleaned up the edges, but it really needs the resolution increased and then the edges smoothed by someone who knows what they are doing. I think it is still too pixelated to print at the moment.

Mr_o_uk (author)hhamilton22013-02-13

ive put another image in there:

that one is an edit of the photo of my duct tape picture instead of the original. thats probably my best attempt so far. Id suggest it still needs a little tweaking.

K-Dub (author)2013-02-11

Remarkable! I would not have believed this was duct tape unless I'd seen the step by step photos. Well done!

landru (author)2013-02-11


gellis2 (author)2013-02-11

I use this technique when designing and sewing portrait quilts. This looks a lot quicker... lol Thanks!

RLRRLRLL (author)2013-02-11

And now for something completely different!

james.m.k (author)2013-02-10

Perfect choice in John Cleese!

Don't ignore the fact that you also have a negative image that you can also do something with.

Mr_o_uk (author)james.m.k2013-02-11

Some of the negative came off in small pieces as I didnt overlap/connect the strips when I laid them down. So I would have found it quite difficult to re-use it, but if you were careful and overlapped them, then maybe you could...

wellabovezero (author)2013-02-10

Which iPad app did you use?

Mr_o_uk (author)wellabovezero2013-02-11

The app I used was called "poster me hd lite" on iPad or "poster me lite" on iPhone. The free/lite one won't let you save the image, but you can take a snapshot of the screen (press power and home together) and crop the part you want anyway!

Have a fiddle with the sliders til you get the best results.

This app will only let you have 2 or 3 colours. If you want more, you will have to use some computer software.

LiamOSM (author)2013-02-10

Haha, is that John Cleese?

clewis21 (author)2013-02-10

This is so awesome. You really did a great job!

danigirl79 (author)2013-02-10

OMG, I love John Cleese! :-)

moni (author)2013-02-10

Great job. I can see this being a good "rainy day" project.
You can also get sheets of duct tape, 8"x10" in a variety of colors. I got mine at a hobby store for about $2 a sheet. Limited on size but would safe some time..........

drbitool (author)2013-02-10

It's A Good But Not New IDEA ...Nice Work

KateS52 (author)2013-02-10

That is totally cool and I want to try it! I need to go out and buy some duct tape now!

onrust (author)2013-02-10

That is amazing. For those of us that did not know:

Phiske (author)2013-02-10

That's what I'd call "something completely different"!

Pat_Maroney (author)2013-02-10

This is super cool. The geek gland in my brain just exploded, I thought at first glance it was John Gleese AND IT WAS!
Happydancehappydance :D
Thanks for sharing!

repguy2020 (author)2013-02-09

Nicely done! excellent photo selection. Silly walk optional, I'm assuming.

Mr_o_uk (author)repguy20202013-02-10

Silly walk not optional, unless around half past six!!

mhermannsen (author)2013-02-10

That is really really cool. I can think of so many applications for this, well done! I suppose you could even make it more 3 dimensional by layering the different coloured duct tape in more layers to build up depth? Great instructable!

Mr_o_uk (author)mhermannsen2013-02-10

Yeah, more depth would be cool (reminds me of those really thick oil paintings), although cutting through it might get trickier.

You'd have to think about the order of the colours, maybe even do white twice, as you'd want the white of his face at the front (with lots of layers), but the white background at the back with few layers?

alasdair.robertson (author)2013-02-09

Niceone! Great idea and excellent choice of picture! Id like to use this technique on a large canvass.

I've been wanting to make a Lego version of this picture for ages. Still haven't got enough Lego yet, so used it for this instead.

I was thinking something like metal would be the best backing as you could press as hard as you wanted and not have to worry about cutting through it. But having said that, the backing colour duct tape would peel off the metal easily. It sticks to the cardboard so doesn't peel off which is good.

I guess you could always patch up the canvas on the back if you cut too hard!?!

I used cheap wilko duct tape (£1.50 for a 10m roll). I used cheap stuff for 2 reasons 1) cost 2) I thought it wouldn't stick so well so would be easier to peel off.

About This Instructable




Bio: I studied Maths and Computing, worked in an Operation Research department, retrained as a civil engineer, worked on site for some major projects. I'm ... More »
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