Longboarding, skateboarding, and surfing have always been associated with individualism, with most displaying theirs like its own badge of honor. This is what initially led to deck art, as skaters sought to make sure their board stood out against every other board out there (while conveying something about the deck’s rider, as well).
As capitalism transformed the industry and skateboard and longboard decks became mass-produced, brands sought to market “mass-produced individuality” – a conflicted idea, if there ever was one. This has led to custom grip tape becoming the new means of expressing oneself while still “staying cool” by supporting popular brands.
Custom grip tape has remained largely a DIY endeavor. While there are a few companies offering grip tape printing services (which we will review here), these are an affordable and popular way to get your own art designs printed directly on quality grip tape. There are other ways to customize grip tape besides printing, such as cutting intricate designs or pinstriping, but attempts to commercialize these haven’t fared as well.
Kickstarter project Grip Graphique is one of the more successful attempts you’ll find on the popular crowdfunding platform, having raised barely over $5,000.
Most of the deck-grip solutions for both skateboards and longboards end up coming from skateboard brands. This provides an interesting look into the power of branding, as the skateboard can rely on their own brand’s legitimacy and potentially push tapes purchased in bulk from industrial suppliers and re-branded. If the company doesn’t specifically name the manufacturer of their grip tape, this is what we would bet on being the case.
This is one reason that skateboarders and longboarders alike have come to trust and depend on Jessup Grip Tapes.
Best Plain Grip Tape for Customizing
Jessup Grip Tape – 10” x 60’ Roll – Bubble-Free Silicon Carbide Grit
Particularly if you’re considering going with a Custom DIY approach to your deck’s grip tape, it’s a good idea to start off with a roll of Jessup’s. Make that a great idea, actually.
While also available in 9” width and several lengths, this particular roll is 10” wide, and will readily accommodate dancing longboards, which is as wide as it gets. This gives you the flexibility to trim down to whatever width you prefer – an important freedom when planning custom grip tape designs!
At 60’ of length, you will feel free to strip and re-tape your deck at your leisure – 20 times or more for longboards, and even more for skateboards!
Or maybe you’re the artistic type, using paint pens and utility knives to create custom designs like these:
Photo Credit: Mike Serafin @ Coroflot
The path to beautiful work like this is often littered with our other, less glamorous, attempts.
Do yourself a favor and get more than you need, up-front (and you can thank us later!)
If you love the artwork or have a design idea in mind for your deck but aren’t looking to do the work yourself, you can instead use an affordable service like Splattergoat.
Best Custom Grip Tape Companies Online
Splattergoat Custom-Printed Grip Tape
Founded in early 2018, Cleveland, Ohio company Splattergoat produces custom-printed grip tape for skateboards, longboards, and scooters (Esk8 included!). Their platform allows you to easily upload your own PNG/JPEG images or use stock images and pre-made backgrounds to create your own custom designs! You can add text, logos, and more, and then it’s all transferred to a sheet of premium-quality Jessup grip tape.
Splattergoat is proudly Made in the USA, as is the Jessup grip tape they print on.
This is one of the most popular choices for people that have a piece of art or other design they want to send in to have converted into custom grip tape for their skate deck. Splattergoat represents one of the best combinations of affordability, variety (of both options and art), and 5-Star customer service.
Whatever Skateboards – Custom Printed on Jessup Grip Tape
As Whatever Skateboards points out, “Custom grip tape allows you to get custom graphics on top of your board, not just on bottom.”
Traditional skateboards have always had graphics on the bottom, and we’ve seen more recent trends putting art on top of the deck as well.
Whatever offers two different solutions for those wanting custom artwork:
1. Print on black grip tape with white and full-color ink.
2. Print full-color directly on a deck and apply clear grip tape.
In any case, it’s probably worth a stop by their community gallery, which shows off the best-rated design contributions. In addition to these consumer contributed designs, you can also find collaborative deck designs from Logan Sharp, Jared Lazar, Kevin Bakke, and more.
Deck Manufacturer’s Grip Tape
Mainstream skateboard manufacturers, like CCS, have been stamping their brand on anything that a skateboarder might buy for decades. This goes for everything from watches, belts, and sunglasses to skate tools, wheels, and trucks – and of course, grip tape!
One “plus” from getting grip tape from skateboard manufacturers is the ability to choose from a selection of artwork that is often curated from renowned artists and sometimes exclusive to that line or the brand itself. Additionally, the visual aesthetic or “vibe” of a brand is often expressed primarily through its deck art, leading to a variety of vivid imagery that is aligned with the brand’s message.
While CCS provides a ready example of such a brand that has been around for a while, there are several others that offer similar product lineups. If going this route, we recommend finding the brand that resonates best with your own vibe and start there. Take the time to browse through the graphics they offer, and if you find that you aren’t feeling it just try a different brand.
Industrial Grip Tape and Safety Tape Wholesale Manufacturers
Whether you’re thinking about launching your own idea using grip tape or you’re simply a savvy consumer that is looking to buy the stuff from the people the stores get it from, you might have thought about just going straight to the source.
The vast majority of products that would be considered grip tape are made for the safety industry, not the skateboarding/longboarding market. These tapes are used in plants, factories, and other industrial environments to minimize the risk of slips and falls.
This means that for a skateboard manufacturer or other “skateboarding grip tape” vendor, the product they want is likely going to be special order. Most of the safety grip tape manufacturers stick to black and hi-vis exclusively, though some may be equipped to do more.
What we’re trying to say, really, is that given the affordability of the custom-printed options that come on superior products like Jessup Grip Tape, it isn’t going to be worth trying to look at actual grip tape manufacturers unless you’ve got the specialized equipment to print on it and are looking for a supplier.
If you don’t believe us, you can always use a resource like Thomasnet to find grip tape suppliers and give them a call.
Printed Grip – Premium Custom Printing and Laser-Cut Grip Tape
If there’s one thing that skaters on any deck can appreciate, it’s that the proof is in the pudding. And it’s painfully obvious that these guys know their puddin’.
Well, if by puddin’ you mean crisp, vibrant artwork in full-color with vivid details, anyway.
Printed Grip’s work exhibits an attention-to-detail that makes them stand apart from their competitors – at a glance! Seriously…one look is all it takes to realize that these guys treat every deck that comes their way not only like it’s their own, but like it’s their favorite.
“Matt Hensley Custom” @ Printed Grip
DIY Custom Grip Tape: How to Create Your Own Design
By now, if you’re here looking for ideas and information on how to start laying your own amazing graphics down on decks, we imagine you’re both inspired and ready to get started!
This guide applies to customizing grip tape for skateboards, longboards, electric longboards (esk8), scooters, hoverboards, and anything else that uses grip tape. We can’t make you an artist (not when our stick figures still get funny looks), but we can get you started in the safest and most effective manner possible.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s make sure you’ve got the following:
A flat, solid surface
WORX Pegasus Multi-Function Work Table
A sheet of quality grip tape
Jessup Grip Tape – Premium Quality – Bulk Roll
Utility scissors (safe and precise)
Milwaukee 2-pack Jobsite Scissors – Heavy Duty & Durable
Fiskars PowerArc Heavy-Duty Utility Snip
Utility razor knife (affordable and available)
Fiskars Professional Metal Craft Knife – 9mm
Fiskars Fingertip Swivel Detail Knife
US Art Supply 24″ x 36″ Self-Healing 5-Ply Double-Sided Non-Slip PVC Cutting Mat
Paint Pens for adding color
Barolla Paint Marker Pens – 12 Color Acrylic Paint Pen Set
Uni Posca PC-1M Paint Art Marker Pens- Full Range Set of all 21 Colors
The Street Art Stencil Book – 20 Laser-Cut Stencils
LOCOLO Reusable Mandala Floor Stencil Set of 9 (6” x 6”)
Montana BLACK 400ml Popular Colors Set of 12 Graffiti Street Art Mural Spray Paint
We can’t emphasize the importance of having a solid bench or table to work on. While a kitchen table is ultimately fine, if it fits the bill, investing in something like the WORX Pegasus Multi-Function Workbench gives you flexibility in positioning and holding the deck as you work on it.
Through the use of clamps and pegs, a workbench like this not only gives you a stable working surface but an extra set of hands, in some cases. This makes it, or something like it, a must have for anyone that’s serious about producing custom grip tape art.
Likewise, using sturdy utility scissors and utility knives with fresh, sharp blades is vitally important. Not only will this result in cleaner work and finer detail in your art, but this is also a safety issue as well. Grandad always said “Nothing is more dangerous than a dull pocketknife”, and he was right. Sharp knives work like you expect them to, and don’t require exerting dangerous amounts of force to make your cuts.
On that note, if you’re entirely unfamiliar with cutting grip tape (which is effectively cutting sandpaper), you’ll find that it’s different from both paper and fabric. It can dull your cutting blades quickly, but is believed to actually help sharpen scissor-blades that have dulled. While it might help a little, we still use an affordable sharpener to keep our scissors honed.
Choosing Your Grip Tape to Customize
We highly recommend picking up a roll of Jessup Grip Tape, especially if you are looking to do custom artwork. Whether you’re looking to cut the tape into intricate designs, paint on it with bold, vibrant colors, or some combination of both, Jessup’s grip tape products are beloved by skateboarders and longboarders all over.
Investing in the roll is a win-win for you, at any rate.
The 60 ft. roll provides the grip tape artist with the freedom to pre-cut several sheets to board length, or a little over, providing them with multiple “canvases” to work with. Three feet is a generous sheet length for a longboard deck, and one roll provides 20 of them. Skateboards use even less – and it’s also more than enough to accommodate esk8/electric longboards and scooters too!
Cutting Your Grip Tape
We mentioned earlier that cutting grip tape was different from cutting, say cloth, or paper. This is true, but that isn’t to imply that it is any more difficult. But when you realize that grip tape is a thin layer of paper or cloth that is coated on one side with a sand/epoxy layer, and on the other side with a super-heavy-duty adhesive, it might become clear that there are some nuances to be found.
First and foremost, scissors are easier and safer to use than razor knives, or utility knives, as they’re also called. Most grip tape worth having will be more aggressive than most hobby knives will want to go up against, but they can be useful for final touch-ups or layer-cutting (or scoring).
Obviously, you’ll want to keep the sheet protecting the adhesive backing in place until you’re ready to place the tape on the deck. Some styles, like pinstriping, may require careful and deliberate cutting while you’re laying the grip tape. But if you’re employing such a style, you probably know more about what you’re doing than we do – so carry on!
You can use a carpenter’s pencil, a white colored pencil, or even something like a welder’s soapstone or Silver Streak pencil to layout your cut lines before you start.
Start with your scissors, if you have them, leaving pieces that are too detailed, instead of trying to get them in the first pass. After you’ve gotten your main portion cut out, lay the sheet on your workbench and use your utility or hobby knife to cut out the precisely-detailed pieces, as necessary.
You can protect the surface of your workbench or table by using a cutting mat like the one featured above. These are designed for use in arts & crafts and are incredibly durable. Alternately, you could use something like cardboard as an affordable mat, but it will get messy quick and need regular replacing.
Painting Your Grip Tape
Painting your grip tape is pretty straightforward, as long as you’re familiar with the method of applying the paint that you’ve chosen. We say this because there are a number of different ways you can apply paint, and most of them will work on grip tape.
Spray paint is easy-to-use and the clever use of stencils can produce amazing results. Because of the grip tape’s sandy surface texture, we recommend using paints that are specially formulated for use on porous or absorbent surfaces. Namely, spray paints that are designed for use in graffiti and wall or sidewalk art are best.
Paint pens are another popular choice for providing further detail to custom grip tape. Most professional paint pens feature a removable tip that is reversible, with one side having a rounded bullet-style and the opposite having a chisel-type point. These can be found in incredibly vibrant colors, allowing the grip tape artist to really make a deck “pop” visually.
A few pro-tips regarding paint pens:
- Buy extra tips. The rough texture of grip tape will shred them, no matter how careful you try to be.
- Fine-point paint pens are available, but carefully consider practicing with them first. Where the aggressive grit can shred the larger tips, it will destroy these instantly.
- Always make sure that the paint you choose is waterproof.
Customizing the grip tape of your longboard or skateboard deck is an excellent way to stand out against the crowd and help convey whatever it is that’s on your mind. We’ve had beautiful works of art grace our decks for decades, only to have it ruined from grinding or replicated a million times over.
This is the age of the Creators. All around us, people are creating. Creating videos. Creating stories. Creating content. Creating art. Some do it for dreams of money and fame. Others do it because they can’t hold onto it any more than they can their breath.
They have to create, and let it out for others to see and reflect upon.
If this is you, and you’ve been looking to learn more about DIY custom grip tape, then we are telling you that it’s time to get started. Get those items we mentioned together and show the world that art isn’t restricted to a patch of canvas.
Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed our look at custom grip tape, and we look forward to seeing your awesome grip tape art hit the streets. Until next time, stay safe, but stay skating.