Gaffers tape vs duct tape: What’s the difference?

gaffers tape vs duct tape
Image courtesy Mic via Flickr. Used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

I want to compare gaffers tape vs duct tape.

Until I started taking a lot of photos, I never knew about gaffers tape and often used duct tape or painters tape.

There are three major differences between the two, including the backing, adhesive, and finish.


Backing: Gaffers tape generally has a fabric-based backing — for instance, a vinyl coated cloth. Duct tape generally has a polyethylene coated cloth backing.

Finish: Duct tape has a much shiner finish, which means it will reflect light. Gaffers tape has more of a matte finish and does not reflect light.

Adhesive: Duct tape leaves a lot of residue behind when the tape is removed. Gaffers tape leaves no residue behind. Note: Both can remove the surface, though.

Gaffers tape

Gaffers tape has real-world benefits in the audio and visual world.

Cables and cords can be taped down for safety or concealment at theaters, sets, and concerts; then, the tape can be removed and does not leave a hard-to-get-off residue on floors and walls.

Gaffers tape has a matte finish and generally is black in color. It does not reflect light. This is a major benefit for photographers and videographers.

Production crews may use the tape to do an ad hoc fix, such as repairing broken equipment or props.

The non-sticky side of the tape offers a good gripping surface, which can help grip on something slippery.

Common gaffers tape widths include 1/4 inch to 4 inches. It is more of a temporary tape.

Gaffers tape can be pricey.

Duct tape

Duct tape has been around since World War II.

It has been used to hold together just about anything and everything from race cars to wallets to art projects. People have written books about creative ways to use this tape.

For situations where light reflection and leftover adhesive residue is not critical, duct tape is a cheaper alternative to gaffers tape.

Also, duct tape is more for permanent installations and is more sticky than gaffers.

Although duct tape comes in various widths, two common ones are 1.9 inches and 2 inches. Also, duct tape comes in multiple colors but most of us know it in the silver-gray color.

Note: Duck Tape is a brand of duct tape.

I hope this comparison of gaffers tape vs duct tape has been helpful.