Create an Aged Effect on Paper

An old piece of paper has a certain mystique: the handwritten note from years ago, the mystery of a message in a bottle, and the look of an old book all hold an almost romantic appeal. An artist can use this romantic connection to add a level of interest and beauty to their work. Aged paper is a beautiful medium for calligraphy, watercolor paintings, ink drawings, or for the occasional handwritten sentiments. Let's look at a few ways to create an aged look to paper (without waiting decades for it to happen on its own).

We like using natural ingredients to age paper. You can use any one of the following:
Brewed coffee
Brewed tea
Orange juice

These ingredients will be used as staining solution. Coffee creates a dark stain, tea creates a lighter brown stain, and orange juice gives the paper a yellowish hue. It makes no difference which one you use; they can all be used to create the desired aging effect.

The Baking Technique

Step 1:
Brew your staining solution. In this case, we will use coffee as our solution. The stronger your brew, the darker the stain. Place your paper in a baking pan. Make sure the staining solution has cooled to lukewarm. Lift one corner of your paper and slowly pour the solution under the paper. Do this for each corner of the paper. Make sure the solution covers as much of the underside of the paper as possible, but try not to saturate the paper. Let it soak for approximately five minutes.

Tip: Thicker paper, especially handmade papers with visible fibers, create the nicest aging effect.

Step 2:
Preheat your oven to 175-200 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is preheating, pour out the excess staining solution from the baking pan without removing the paper. Let the paper sit flat in the pan while the oven preheats.

Step 3:
When the oven is at temperature, place the pan in the oven and bake the paper for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the paper; when the paper begins to lift from the pan, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool.

Step 4:
Once the paper is cooled, you can further age it with a hot iron by singeing the edges of the paper. Do this very carefully! This is a potential fire hazard, so take the proper care and precautions.

The Brush Technique

Step 1:
Brew your staining solution and let it cool down to lukewarm. Put your solution in a cup, and have a cup of water ready, too. Place your paper on a flat surface. With a flat brush, dip the brush in the staining solution and create a wash on the paper. Use the water to create a lighter, or more transparent stain, in different areas of the paper. Use the water and the stain like you would a wet-on-wet watercolor wash.

Step 2:
Using a hair dryer from a distance of 4-6 inches, dry the paper until all moisture has been removed.

Step 3:
Once the paper is dry, you can use an iron to singe the edges for a more aged look.