I was browsing a local garage sale when I spotted a roll of 3M Scotchlite Red Reflective Tape. Marked at the bargain price of just 25 cents, I was curious enough to buy it and test it out. 3M makes some quality products, and I figured that red reflective tape could be great for adding dramatic red stripes or accents to a casemod.
But like the bumbling idiots who explored an unmapped planet in the newest Alien movie, I was entering an unmapped planet of reflective tapes where the tape doesn’t work like you want, and then you write bad article metaphors that just keep going and going because you need at least three hundred words to reach the minimum article length.
I quickly learned that there’s multiple technical definitions of ‘reflective’, and this 3M product is specifically designed for safety markings on things like hardhats and vehicles. Under almost every lighting condition it appears as a dull red tape- this is because its a retroreflective tape (also called prismatic or glass bead tape).
Retroreflective tape has tiny particles in it which bounce all incident light back to its source. This makes the tape very noticeable from far away when using vehicle headlights, but doesn’t look like anything special when viewed up close. If the light source is very close to your eyes (like when wearing a miner-style headlamp) the effect becomes visible, but this narrows the tape’s use to casemods being displayed in a mine. It also creates some unusual effects when photographed with a flash (because the flash is close to the observing lens), but again, not useful for casemods.
However, there is some good news. Outside of safety tape, there are a few solid options for decorative reflective tape. Products like mirror tape, mirror vinyl, and holographic tape offer a variety of colorful and attractive adhesive-backed surfaces.