If you've spent any time on a studio set or in the film and theater world, you've probably heard the crew talk about gaffer tape when setting up a shot.
This remarkable tape has become the industry standard for securing objects on set or onstage. We've compiled the best gaffers tape resources, including some popular use cases, how it compares with other tape, and how to tape down a cable in this handy guide.
What is Gaffer Tape?
With the durability of tough cotton cloth and the adhesive properties of duct tape (only without the stickiness), gaffer tape offers the best of both worlds. A "gaffer" is the head electrician on a film set, and once the tape became popular with these crew members, the name stuck. Unlike other tapes in this category, gaffer tape leaves far less residue on a surface, it's easy to remove, and it's more resistant to heat as well.
What is Gaffer Tape Used For?
"Gaffing", of course, and silencing film critics! When you tape cables down on a video set, in a music venue or film location, they are "gaffed". This is the primary purpose for gaffing tape, but there are plenty of other applications for this amazing adhesive including identifying cables (especially multichannel runs), a temp light fixture holder and marking road cases. The tape's waterproof design is perfect for adding weatherproofing to a window, patching up a wallet, or hanging picture frames on a wall. It's also used on film and TV sets to help actors find their marks. Gaffer Tape is readily available in glowing and chroma key versions.
Gaffer Tape vs Electrical Tape
Most electrical tape is only around ½ inch wide and the material (usually vinyl) cannot handle much weight. With a little pressure, it starts to stretch and lose its shape. This is ideal for insulating wires, but it's not the best cable cover tape. On the other hand, gaffer tape is significantly more expensive because it's made from cloth, but it's designed for durability and longevity.
Gaffer Tape vs Duct Tape
Duct tape is a close cousin to gaffer tape, with a strong adhesive that's perfect for repairs and waterproofing. However, once you affix duct tape to a surface, it isn't easy to remove and it will leave a lot of sticky adhesive residue behind. If you're looking for a permanent fix, duct tape might be the better choice. If you want tape that's easy to remove and doesn't stretch, we recommend gaffer tape. Gaffer tape also has a matte, non-reflective finish - a key differentiator when shooting video and film.
Which Gaffer Tape Do I Need?
Real gaffer tape is 100% waterproof, with a cloth base that tears fairly easily but doesn't stretch. We recommend premium gaffer tape from brands like Pro Tapes & Specialties, GaffTech, and Permacel. We offer it in over 20 different colors allowing you to mark and visually identify anything used in your video shoot.
How Do I Tape Down a Cable?
Once you've purchased some real gaffer tape, it's time to get to work. Here's how to tape down a cable:
- 1. First, find an area with the least amount of foot traffic or other obstacles. Running cable along a wall or other boundary works well. Clear the surface of any debris and lay the cable down.
- 2. Once you've laid the cable along its intended path, start at one end and secure the cable with a strip of gaff tape. The strip should run perpendicular and extend past the cable about 4 inches on each side. Then, making sure the cable is straight, run another strip of tape across the cable roughly 4 to 6 feet down the line from the first strip.
- 3. Now, start securing the cable by running the tape lengthwise on top of the cable using the perpendicular strips as start and end points. Apply additional strips every four to six feet as needed and continue running lengthwise until fully secure.
- 4. Remember, don’t be shy about using as much tape as necessary. Use extra tape wherever the cable changes direction or crosses a heavily trafficked area. Properly securing your cables ensures there is no risk of someone tripping over them or knocking your cables loose - you already have enough to worry about!
TIP: For studios and production houses, we recommend the GaffGun or a Gaffer Tape Roller. This super handy tool saves time (and your back) to help you get down to the business of why you’re on the set faster. If you’re laying a lot of cable, it’s a worthy investment. Gaffer Tape is available in widths ranging from 1” to 4” and 21 dazzling colors including Chroma Key Green for video studios. Check out Markertek’s huge selection of Gaff Tape today.