This story was originally published in August 2016.

(Photos by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Having school supplies that stand out can be a way to express your style, but it can also be smart. That’s because it’s harder for other kids to mistake your notebook or pencils for theirs when yours are covered in polka dots or soccer balls.

There’s no need to go shopping for distinctive ready-made pencils when you can decorate plain yellow ones in just a few minutes with one item: washi tape.

Washi tape, which is made with rice paper, is stronger than clear adhesive tape but not as tough as duct tape. You can stick it on something and peel it off without having it shred or ruin the other surface. And most important, it comes in thousands of themes and patterns: flowers, sports, stripes and even camo.

So pick up a few rolls, follow the simple steps at right, and fill your backpack with colorful pencils that have your identity written all over them.



●Patterned washi tape (available at A.C. Moore and Michaels craft stores and on



1 Sharpen a pencil, then set it on a work surface. Next to the pencil, measure out a length of tape that will cover the painted portion of the pencil. Cut the tape with scissors. If your washi tape is less than 1 inch wide, measure and cut a second length of tape.

2 Place one of the cut edges of tape on the pencil near the eraser and press gently. Slide your finger toward the tip, smoothing the tape as you go. (If your tape becomes crooked, simply peel it off and reposition it.)

3 Rotate the pencil and gently press the tape down on the other edges. Take your second piece of tape and attach it to the uncovered part of the pencil, lining up the pattern as best as you can. (Stripes and zigzags are trickier than dots and random patterns.)

4 When it’s time to sharpen the pencil again, peel back the tape about 1 to 2 inches from the point. After sharpening, smooth the peeled-back tape to re-cover the pencil up to the bare wood. Tear off excess tape or trim it off with scissors.