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Jill's Place Home - February 19, 2004

Introduction to Tear Art:
An Article for Those Who Want to be
a Little Rough Around the Edges

By Jill Davis, Founder of Scrapbook.com 

One night about six years ago, a scrapbooking friend and I tore things up in my scrap room. Literally. We ripped, folded, and glued paper and cardstock until our fatigued fingers hung limply from our hands. This late-night project was inspired by a fellow teacher who tore paper pieces to artistically enhance her classroom bulletin board displays.

Certain that her "tear art" could be applied to our scrapbooks, we set out to deliberately alter our perfectly pristine pre-cut edges until our fanatical shredding became a skill. Throughout the process we learned that paper tearing:

  • Saves time
  • Provides new artistic options
  • Draws a new kind of attention to layouts
  • Offers quick and easy designs that are easy to implement in a variety of layout themes

Pushing ourselves beyond our perceived limitations, ironically, helped us discover that tear art looks its best when done simply!

Here's what else we discovered that grueling night:

How do you tear paper or cardstock to get the look you want?

  1. Hold a piece of cardstock in front of you with both hands.
  2. Grasp it tightly between your thumbs and index fingers (between the first and second knuckles).
  3. Squeeze and pull forward at an angle with your dominant hand and twist backward with the other. This way your finger and thumb of your less-dominant hand becomes your anchor and gauge while your dominant hand becomes the tearing machine. Note: The closer you hold your fingers (especially your thumbs) together, use short pulling motions, and slow down your tear speed the more control you'll have. The further apart, the less control and the deeper the raw torn edge will be.
  4. Practice on scrap paper until you're comfortable and can achieve the look you want.

Tearing creates a soft edge on paper or cardstock that subdues bold colors, enhances texture, and offers depth to your layout without adding layers of paper to your layout.

The texture of tear art works especially well in country, folk, collage, masculine, and heirloom layouts.
We found that torn edges provide an aged look and feel in heirloom layouts that set off older photos and that the more rugged the rip in masculine layouts the better.

Different types of paper produce different types of tears.
Dyed cardstock and paper create like colored tears while printed papers are varied depending on the core paper or cardstock the paper was printed on. Because of this, torn printed paper produces a beautiful light against dark contrast when the center layer is exposed. My favorite paper of choice is the cardstock from Bazzill Basics Cardstock found in Monochromatic and Trio Packs because of its texture, the way the torn edge looks and the coordinating colors.

There are many benefits to using tear art in your layouts.
For example, tear art is not precise so it is easy to do. Here are some illustrations of what tear art is:

1. Tear art is a timeless technique that can be used for present day or heirloom photos.

2. Tear art is easy to do.

3. Tear art is dressy or casual.


Eva: "Eva Marie"

Nikki "Beach"

Eva: "LOVE"


4. Tear art is versatile and can be finished with numerous techniques and products.

There are eight easy steps for making your final tear art product a success.

  1. Pick or design a desired finished pattern.
  2. Choose your paper or cardstock.
  3. Measure where you will place your torn pieces.
  4. Trace or draw your pattern with a pencil.
  5. Tear on or near the penciled line.
  6. Erase pencil lines.
  7. Decorate or embellish your pattern.
  8. Add completed piece to your layout. Stay tuned for an in depth discussion on each of these steps in my Tear Art Techniques and Tips article to be released soon.

If you're a Type-A personality, the thought of tear art and its irregular edges could make you squeamish. I know. That's where I used to be. But, by putting my precise ways aside, I've learned that it's okay to let loose, tear it up, and get a little rough around the edges; especially since it's the imperfections of life that make our world a masterpiece.

Get your Cardstock today and start tearing your way to beautiful pages!


2004 Jill Davis