How To Artificially Age Paper For Your Artwork – Easy

how to artificially age paper

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If you’re an artist, or even if you’re just starting out, there will come a time when you want to create artwork that looks old. I know I love to recreate aged paper to give my artwork an old-timey feel. Maybe you want to evoke the feeling of an ancient manuscript or give your work a weathered look. In any case, learning how to artificially age paper is a great way to achieve the aged effect that you’re looking for. There are several methods you can use, but in this blog post, I’ll be discussing a few of the most popular and easy ones to do at home. So read on, and learn how to age paper like a pro!

What is aging paper and how does it work?

Aging paper is the process of artificially making paper look old. This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as to make the artwork look more authentic or to give it an antique feel. There are several methods of aging paper, but some of the most popular ones include bleaching, staining, and crumpling.

Bleaching is a common way to age paper. It involves using a bleaching agent, such as chlorine bleach, to remove the color from the paper. This will leave the paper looking pale and yellowed, like an old document that has been left in the sun for too long.

Staining is another popular method for aging paper. This involves using a dark-colored liquid, such as coffee or tea, to stain the paper. This will give the paper a darker, more aged appearance.

Crumpling is another common method of aging paper. This involves crumpling the paper up into a ball and then unrolling it. This will give the paper a distressed look that is perfect for creating an antique feel.

There are many other methods of aging paper, but these are some of the most popular ones. Below I will focus more on the staining side of the aging paper as this is what comes to the mind of most people when they want to learn how to artificially age paper.

The different methods of aging paper by staining

The following methods of aging paper are based on using some household items and one not-so-household item which I have left until last. One word of warning, some may affect the inks or paints that you will be using such as watercolor paints or inks that may run if the paper has not dried properly.

I have also looked at using ammonia or bleach to age paper but the smell and toxicity is not even worth the trouble considering the results you get with much less problematic methods.

How to age paper with tea 

This is one of the most common methods as it gives a nice even color to the paper and tea is readily available to most people. It is best to use black tea for this method but you can also experiment with green and herbal teas.

You will need:

– Black tea bags

– A bowl or cup

– Some string

– Paper

– A heavy book or press

– Sponge

Method #1: Crumpled paper look.

1. Boil some water and make a strong cup of tea using 2 tea bags per cup. Leave the tea to brew for a couple of minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare your paper by crumpling it up into a ball and then flattening it out again. You can also distress the edges of the paper at this stage by tearing or cutting them.

3. When the tea is ready, submerge your paper in the cup or bowl and leave it to soak for a few minutes. The longer you leave it, the darker the paper will become.

4. Once you are happy with the color of the paper, remove it from the tea and squeeze out any excess liquid.

5. Hang the paper up to dry, or place it between two heavy books overnight to flatten it out again.

6. Once the paper is dry, you can then age it further by sponging on a solution of coffee or tea. This will give the paper an uneven look and make it appear even more distressed.

Pros – Quick and easy to do. Once the paper is dry it will have a unique set of lines based on the crumpling.

Cons – You end up with lots of little lighter colored lines where the tea was unable to penetrate the paper. If you want to avoid lines in the paper then have a look at Method #2 below.

Method #2: Uniform staining with random blotches but no lightly colored lines visible.

1. Boil some water and make a strong cup of tea using 2 tea bags per cup. Leave the tea to brew for a couple of minutes.

2. When the tea is ready, submerge your paper plate or tray and leave it to soak for a few minutes. The longer you leave it, the darker the paper will become.

3. Once you are happy with the color of the paper, remove it from the tea and place it on a flat surface with a tea towel or newspaper (this will absorb some of the water).

4. Grab the sponge and press on the paper absorbing the tea liquid. Squeeze the sponge into a sink and repeat until the paper is almost flat dry.

5. Hang the paper up to dry, or place it between two heavy books overnight to flatten it out again.

6. Once the paper is dry, you can then age it further by sponging on a solution of coffee or tea. This will give the paper an uneven look and make it appear even more distressed.

Pros – Gives the paper a more natural aged look and the paper is not damaged.

Cons – Hard to find a tray for large format papers.

How to age paper with coffee 

Similar to the team method but it develops a darker stained paper.

Method:

1. Make a strong cup of coffee using 1 part coffee grounds to 2 parts water. Allow the coffee to cool.

2. Sponge the coffee onto the paper, working in small sections at a time.

3. Hang the paper up to dry, or place it between two heavy books overnight to flatten it out again.

4. Once the paper is dry, you can then age it further by sponging on a solution of tea or coffee. This will give the paper an uneven look and make it appear even more distressed.

Pros – Gives the paper an aged look with minimal effort.

Cons – Can be messy and hard to control the amount of coffee absorbed by the paper. The coffee smell will be apparent on the paper long after the paper has dried.

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Coffee stained paper

How to age paper with brown vinegar 

This method gives the paper a very dark brown and aged look. You can’t use white vinegar for this method for obvious reasons!

Method:

1. Soak the paper in a tray of diluted brown vinegar and lift it out letting it drip out until it is only slightly damp.

2. Hang the paper up to dry, or place it between two heavy books overnight to flatten it out again. Alternatively, use heat to dry the paper such as a hair dryer or oven on low heat for a few minutes – be careful not to burn the paper.

3. Once the paper is dry, you can then age it further by sponging on a solution of tea or coffee. This will give the paper an uneven look and make it appear even more distressed.

Pros – Gives the paper an aged look with minimal effort. The vinegar smell will dissipate once the paper is dry.

Cons – Can be messy and hard to control the amount of aging you want. The paper will be slightly weakened and more delicate after this treatment.

How to age paper with walnut ink crystals

Now, this is my personal favorite method of artificially aging paper. It’s super simple and you can get some really beautiful results. Warning: Walnut crystals are used for dying and staining clothing and materials so it is quite colorfast and strong but they give you the best results.

You can find walnut crystals online, I purchase mine from a lady in England on Etsy. She hand makes the crystals. You can buy light browns and dark browns. I like to use darker browns.

Below is a link image from Amazon for Walnut ink crystals.

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1. First, you’ll need to make a solution of walnut ink crystals. You can do this by mixing 1 part ink crystals with 2 parts water.

2. Once the ink crystals are dissolved, dip your paper into the solution and let it sit for a few minutes.

3. Lift the paper out and let it dry. You’ll notice that the paper will have an uneven, distressed look. And the best part is that you can control how dark or light you want the aging to be simply by adjusting the amount of time you let the paper soak in the solution.

Pros – Gives the paper a beautiful aged look with minimal effort. The effects are permanent and when painted over with acrylic or gouache paint it will look fantastic and not mix with the paint. Walnut crystals will stain any type of paper or board quite quickly. No smells.

Cons – The paper will be less absorbent after this treatment so if you’re using watercolors, you may want to do a test first to see how the colors react. Additionally, walnut crystals will stain everything so use some gloves and an old apron so that you don’t get them on your clothes.

There are a few things to keep in mind when artificially aging paper:

  • The longer the paper soaks in the solution, the darker it will become.
  • You can experiment with different solutions (tea, coffee, etc) to create different effects.
  • If you want a more uniform look, you can use a brayer to evenly distribute the color. A brayer is a type of roller that you can squeeze the paper with while it is on a flat surface. It’s used by people who do home prints such as mono-prints or lithographs.

Why would you want to artificially age paper?

Some artists struggle to start work on plain white paper but a distressed-looking paper can help get the artist started.

It can also be used to prime the paper so that you are not looking at a blank white sheet.

The final product can give your artwork an antique look without actually using old paper.

Can you age any type of paper?

Yes, you can age any type of paper and thickness of paper but the results will be different depending on the type of paper you use.

Additionally, using acid-free paper will help your artwork last longer.

Will staining the paper affect the paper’s acid-free status?

No, the staining process will not affect the paper’s acid-free status.

How To Artificially Age Paper – Wrap up!

Whether you’re an experienced artist or just starting out, there will come a time when you want to create artwork that looks old. Learning how to artificially age paper can give your work a really beautiful and authentic feel, and it’s not as difficult to do as you might think. In this post, I’ve shared some tips on how to artificially age paper so that your artwork looks like it came straight from the past. I hope you find these tips helpful and feel free to share them with your artist friends.

Sources

Cover Image by Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

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About the author
Joe Colella - Chief Wasted Talent
Joe Colella – Chief Wasted Talent

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