Techniques for Aging Paper

Paper often needs a little work before it’s the perfect addition to a project. One of the things I am most often asked is how to effectively age paper. There are quite a few techniques for this, so I’m just going to give a quick description of those I’ve tried. When you have some spare time, grab some scrap paper and test them yourself to find your favorite.

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  • Walnut ink crystals and water make a great aging combination. Mix up some crystals with water to the desired level of darkness, and apply to the paper: paint it on, dab it on with a sponge, dip the paper in it, or use any creative application method you come up with. They’re all good! Dropping a few crystals directly onto the dampened paper creates an interesting effect, too.

  • Similarly, tea and coffee can both be used as aging mediums. As with walnut ink, simply brew tea or coffee to the desired strength, then apply with the method of your choice. Wet tea bags can be used as applicators for an extra bit of blotchiness.

  • Grab your dye ink pads and apply them to paper directly. Pat or drag the pads across the paper to apply color. To get a little texture going, lay the paper onto a surface with sand or gravel on it (my garage floor gives a great texture if it hasn’t been swept recently).

  • Roll a brayer over an earth-toned dye ink pad, then spritz the roller here and there with a little water. Roll over paper or tags. This can be done in layers using different colors if desired.

  • I love glazes! I do have some Golden acrylic glazes, but I also like glaze medium and plain old cheap acrylic paint. Mix using more glaze than paint, and apply with the tool of your choice: brush, sponge, wadded up paper towels or fingers. When you’re going for age, make sure to choose matte glaze rather than glossy.

  • For paper that looks burned, my favorite technique uses lemon or lime juice and a heat gun. Dab the juice onto the edges of the paper, then heat. The more you heat, the darker the burn marks become. This technique takes a little practice, but the effect is well worth the time.

  • Chalking is a very simple way of aging paper. Tear the edges of the paper, then drag chalks or pastels along the torn edge. Blend with your finger or a cotton swab.

  • Wrinkles are good! Spritz your paper with water, and crumple it into a ball, then flatten it out again. If you want it really flat, try ironing it lightly. Use as is, or apply any aging technique. To simply define the wrinkles a bit, try dragging a VersaMark pad over the surface.

  • To age patterned papers, try a bit of fine sandpaper or some steel wool. Rub over the edges of the paper to dull or remove the pattern.

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