If you’ve stepped on a skateboard, you know skating is one of the most potent forms of self-expression. Everything from fashion, skating style, trick selection to attitude, no two skateboarders are the exact same. Naturally, skateboarding wouldn’t have it any other way.

While the opportunity for self-expression crowns skateboarding one of the most liberating activities on the planet, it naturally creates an intense desire to stand out. In a sport with countless creative individuals, customizing your grip tape is a fun and creative way to flaunt your individuality and complement your aesthetic as a skater. It’s also relatively affordable.

Whether you’re a hopeful beginner or a hardcore skate rat, if you’re looking to further express yourself, why not start with your skateboard? During our Dew Tour contests, the only thing more unique than the skaters themselves is their custom grip tape. Some of the raddest grip tape art comes from our athletes who’ve transferred their love for skating into this intimate form of expression. Now it’s your turn as Dew Tour brings you our guide on how to customize your skateboard grip tape. We’ll cover everything you’ll need to get started, a catalog of grip styles, and some proven tips and artistic methods to reach your custom grip tape dreams.

Candy Jacobs
Photo Credit: Ferra
Candy Jacobs

What You’ll Need To Get Started:

Customizing your grip tape doesn’t take a lot of tools and when done correctly, shouldn’t make a mess or burn a hole in your wallet. However, proper preparation and high-quality supplies can make all the difference between loving what you see and the intense desire to start over. So here’s what you’ll need to get started on the right foot or left foot if you’re regular stanced.

  • A flat surface: a flat surface will help prevent cutting mishaps, air bubbles, or shaky lines while customizing your grip. Be careful of cutting the surface below when slicing your grip. Placing magazines or cutting on top of cardboard can protect your mom’s dining room table.
  • Sheet of grip tape: Thank you captain obvious, but seriously. We’ve listed several key types below to help you get started on your grip tape masterpiece.
  • Razorblade or box cutter: for cutting and customizing your grip. If you are a minor please consult with an adult before handling any sharp objects.
  • Paint pens: paint pens are a more effective art supply for customizing your grip tape than spray paint. Be gentle as grip tape can damage your pens easily. Michael’s sells paint pens for the low and offers coupons on their website daily.
  • Scissors (optional): can make cutting squares and lines much easier.
  • Stickers (optional): Stickers on top of your board are a great way to create colorful patterns beneath unique cuts.
  • Spray paint (optional): The oldest trick in the book since the ollie.
Sakura Yosozumi
Photo Credit: MRZ
Sakura Yosozumi

Different Styles of Grip Tape

Most grip tape companies found online or at your local skate shop offer an array of grip tape styles to help you get inspired. While there’s really no wrong way to go when it comes to choosing your grip, it can be overwhelming when the skate shop employee pulls out seven sheets.

  • Classic black grip: the most common grip tape has always been a classic black grip with the all-black being a perfect canvas for paint pens or creative cut outs.
  • Clear grip tape: Clear grip tape is a skater favorite for its transparency for anything placed on the top side of the board. Skaters place dollar bills, photographs, skate ads, or stickers to shine through beneath the surface in ways graphic grip just can’t mimic.
  • Graphic print: Companies like Grizzly Grip, Shake Junt and Mob Grip offer an array of graphic grip for you to indulge. Everything from cheetah print to custom pro colorways like Chris Coulborn’s signature series or Gustavo Ribeiro’s illustrious grip from last year’s contest.
  • Color grip tape: Color grip can be the perfect way to get started on a custom grip job. Consider getting a couple of colors to mix and match or start with a single color like Dew Tour athlete Mariah Duran.
Aurelien Giraud
Photo Credit: Strand
Aurelien Giraud

Step 1: Choosing Your Grip Tape

Choosing your grip tape can be a little nerve-wracking but skateboarding is all about pushing through the pressure. If you’re unsure, start with a classic black grip and experiment with cut-outs or pursue the most common custom job and lay the black grip down and use paint pens or spray paint to customize by hand.

If you have a really awesome sticker, photograph, or drawing you would love to have translucent on your grip, purchase a sheet of clear grip, and place the item on top of your deck. This is a great time to collage or place items unique to yourself. Many skaters will place a childhood school photo or place a flashy dollar bill. Keep in mind, however, you most likely won’t be able to retrieve the item after the board has been skated.

Unlike the traditional all-black grip, you don’t have to stick to a single sheet either. Consider purchasing multiple colors or mix and match clear and black. You can also buy a graphic print sheet of grip and arrange the letters or image to your liking. There’s really no rules besides having fun and being creative. That being said, putting some thought into choosing your grip tape will ease the first step to reaching your custom grip goals.

Step 2: Gathering Your Supplies

You’re going to want to have your supplies gathered and ready on a flat surface to begin customizing your grip tape. The underside of the grip is very sticky, the last thing you want is to be mid-cut or mid application and realize you forgot your sticker or razorblade halfway across the room. So before you start cutting and pasting, you’ll want everything in arm’s reach.

A razor blade or boxcutter is paramount to customizing your grip. It’s how you’ll be able to arrange different grip colors or splice your design with clear or graphic grip. If you are a minor please operate or consult with an adult before handling any sharp objects. Scissors, although less sharp, are also a safer alternative to razors or box cutters.

Paint pens are quintessential and should be at hand for customizing when possible. It’s up to you to decide if you want to paint your grip or not but it’s easily one of the most direct ways to show your artistic expression. Keep an eye out for useful painting tips in step 4 of this how-to guide and for other paint like applications if you can’t access pens or spray paint.

Step 3: Cut and Paste

Once you paste your grip on the board, there’s not much you can do about rearranging it without compromising your grip as a whole. You’ll want to do the cuts before you peel off the back of the grip so you can rearrange and play with certain layouts. It’s also great for when you’re mixing colors or patterns and are not sure which to lay down yet.

One of the raddest crafted patterns for grip art is to uniquely cut up your grip with scissors in a variety of shapes and sizes, and then paste the pieces onto the board with millimeter spaces between each shape. This will create one of a kind patterns and line formations. Skaters have been known to place stickers on the top of their board for the line patterns to also have complex colors. You can also strategically lay cutouts to show your board company logo like one of our Dew Tour athletes did with their Blood Wizard deck.

Below these steps, we’ve included some proven tips for pasting your grip tape to avoid any mishaps or loss of flick, but a general rule of thumb is: do not rush it. Putting in all that work with unique cutouts just to see it ruined by impatience is like jumping down a stair set or dropping in before you’re warmed up. Take your time and experiment with laying out different shapes and colors and settle on a look before pasting. Take off the back sheet and begin the process. Once you have your grip pasted on your board with no air bubbles, it’s time for our next step.

Step 4: Paint the Way

Here comes the fun part or the scary part depending on who you ask. While technically painting your grip is optional, many skaters find it to be even more rewarding than custom cuts. Custom paint can be as simple as spray painting a meaningful message on your grip or writing small messages of encouragement to yourself. It can be as impressive as personally commissioned art pieces done by local artists or pro skaters. While these grip jobs will cost you, it’s a great way to support your local skate artists.

While the aesthetic of spray paint is one of the most classic in skating, we recommend paint pens to allow you to write more acutely if you have a specific message you would like to display. As we have included in our proven tips section below these steps, there are some areas of the board you might want to avoid painting as they can compromise flick. Otherwise, there’s really only one rule: make it you and keep it fun. Once you’ve painted your board, take a second to marvel in your creation.

Bryce Wettstein

Proven Tips when Customizing Your Grip Tape

Don’t overdo the paint: Be mindful of where you place paint on your board or where the larger cut outlines may be. Having too much paint on your board can actually reduce its grippiness and create problems for flip tricks and aerial maneuvers. Cutting out thick lines in a particular area like the tail or pocket of the nose can also mean not having as much grip in these key areas. Be mindful and always put performance above aesthetic if you plan on skating the board.

Beginner cuts: Some of the easiest ways to customize your grip is to simply cut the sheet across its width in 1 or 2 places and then turn the original top and bottom ends into the middle of the board. This allows for the perfectly straight ends to align for nice right angle lines. Placing one of these lines toward the bottom or top of your board is also a great way to differentiate your nose from your tail.

Don’t have paint? One of the oldest common practices in customizing your grip tape is to use whiteout or nail polish in the place of paint pens or spray paint. Obviously obtaining spray paint as a minor is not encouraged, or maybe you don’t want to shell out the cash for paint pens that you’re going to destroy anyway. These other tools are effective, affordable and easy to use, but can also compromise your grip. Remember tip #1 and don’t overdo it.

Improvise: Just like when you’re on your board, improvisation can be beautiful. It’s important to remember you don’t have to know exactly what you’re going to write, draw or cut to customize your grip tape. As long as you follow the proper guidelines of application, you really can’t go wrong. If all else fails, just have fun. After all, it’s what skating is all about.

Created some rad custom grip tape after following our guide? We’d love to see them! Tag @DewTour so we can check them out.

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