Everything You Need to Know about Gaffer Tape

One of the most versatile and widely used tapes in the entertainment business is Gaffer tape. It is a heavy-duty and durable tape made of cloth fabric, and a strong adhesive that sticks well, yet when removed leaves no residue.


This makes it ideal in securing and sealing stage cabling, in setting up props, in markings for actors, crew and equipment, as a useful tool in affixing lights and lighting equipment, and so much more. It is easily applied, and even easier to remove. Beyond entertainment, gaffer tape is convenient for a wide range of residential and industrial uses.  

What Makes Gaffer Tape Special? 

Gaffer tape (also popularly known as Nashua tape in Australia by the manufacturer name) is a polyethylene-coated cloth tape made of organic materials, and with a natural or synthetic rubber adhesive. This combination has a very low VOC rating, meaning it’s eco-friendly and poses few if any health risks. The tightly woven fabric also lends to its exceptional properties. Gaffer tape has high inherent tensile strength, making it the tape of choice in difficult settings. It also stands up well to abrasions and puncturing, and won’t crack or fray under impact. The cotton cloth facer material doesn’t let in moisture, liquids, or chemicals, so is good in protective applications where these can be an issue. Lastly, it has a high temperature working range, up to 93°C and is ideal for items or surfaces that heat up.  

Possibly one of the best-selling points of gaffer or Nashua tape, is how easy it is applied, and then removed. The cloth is easy to tear by hand into crisp and straight pieces, so also looks good. It’s the adhesive qualities that makes it highly sought after. It sticks to different surfaces and to rough surfaces particularly well. On removal, gaffer tape leaves no residue. For this reason, it is well-suited to temporary applications and to sticking and affixing materials that are often moved around. So-called tunnel gaffer tape has adhesive applied only on the edges, and this allows cables and cords inside to be freely adjusted.  


What are the Types of Gaffer Tape? 

There are several types of gaffer tape, each better suited for a specific purpose:  

  • Matte Gaffer Tape or Nashua Tape – This is the type of tape most often seen in film, music, photography and stage production sets. It is effective in concealing cabling, wires, and cords and allows them to be moved or adjusted as needed. The fact that it is non-reflective helps in different lighting conditions, and doesn’t draw unwanted attention is a proven bonus. Matte gaffer tape is usually black or white. 
  • Coloured Gaffer Tape – Other colours are also available and suited to different applications. For example, brown gaffer tape may be preferred for hiding cabling on wooden floors. In places with temporary wiring, gaffer tape can be used instead of electrical tape to differentiate between different cables. In addition, coloured gaffer tape is used in prop markings in film and stage sets, and also in positioning actors in scenes. Different colours can be used for different actors or props.  
  • Clear Gaffer Tape – Use clear tape on surfaces that you need to write on and where the contents need to be visible. Clear tape can also be used in splicing fabrics, carpets and ropes.  
  • Gloss Gaffer Tape – Besides matte variants, gaffer tape can also be bought in a gloss finish. These are useful in raising awareness in hazardous environments and settings with low visibility. In industrial applications, gloss neon tape is used to prevent tripping and risks of cabling that is hard to see. Gloss tape is available in pink, yellow, green and orange.  
gaffer tape


Besides the multitude of uses in entertainment, Nashua gaffer tape is suitable in other areas as well. Since it doesn’t absorb liquids, it is often the preferred tape for waterproofing. It is also common in temporary repairs to things like torn clothing or seats, and prevents further damage. Because it is flexible, yet strong gaffer tape is also widely used in sealing and wrapping applications at home and in industrial settings.  

Compared to Duct Tape 

Compared to synthetic tapes like PVC duct tape, gaffer tape shows better tensile strength, and the cloth backing allows it to be stretched without tearing. Gaffer tape is suited to higher temperatures, like lights or equipment that get hot, and doesn’t melt. The adhesive is also of much higher quality and doesn’t leave any residue when removed. Though gaffer and duct tape may look similar, the similarity en Nashua tape ds there. Duct tape is less durable, can melt easily, and leaves a sticky mess on removal than can damage the surface or materials it is applied to. This also translates in the prices, with gaffer tape being sold as an industrial-grade tape, and with a higher price tag.  

Compared to Duct Tape

Buying Gaffer Tape 

Nashua gaffer tape is sold in different widths and lengths, with tunnel tape coming in wider. You’ll find it in stores selling entertainment, video and audio equipment, as well as specialised stores for packaging.  

Aiden Jones

Aiden Jones is an Australian student and a freelance writer. When not studying, Aiden spends time reading about different industrial equipment, information technology (computers and networking) and sports. With his elegant writing, Aiden enriches readers with his personal perspective and never steers away from the hard truth.