How Paper is Aged

Aging paper has been a technique used by many people over the last few decades. The dark, crispy appearance gives any piece of paper a mysterious and mystical charm. If done properly, aged paper can look unbelievably real, and the process to make it is simple too. Let’s take a look at how to make paper look old.

To make antique paper, you don’t need too many materials. The biggest part of the process is soaking the paper in a dark liquid, so you could give the aged look to any piece of paper with items you most likely have lying around the house. There are different shades of darkness you can tint your paper, so knowing which liquid will give which shade of darkness is key. The most commonly used dyes are coffee, tea and orange juice.

As you can probably guess, coffee will give the antique paper its darkest, oldest look. Tea, although it is not that much lighter than coffee when brewed, will give a significantly lighter tint to the paper. For the lightest shade, soaking the paper in orange juice will be your best bet. Of course, there will be other common liquids you can use, but the mentioned three are foolproof, and work wonders. Using orange juice as a solvent will not require any boiling and brewing, but using any of the other two will, so let’s move on the the next step.

The key when trying to make paper look old is to not soak the paper too much. Paper soaks up liquid pretty effectively, so drowning it will only make the paper look unnatural, and probably too soggy to work with. To prepare your paper for its ‘aging’, simply lay it down flat on a baking tray. Any tray will do here, as long as it is oven proof. Next, you need to brew your solvent. Whether you are using tea or coffee, the steps are the same; Simply place the bag or granules into a cup, and cover with boiling water. For safety reasons, it is recommended that you leave the boiling hot beverage to cool a little before handling.

When soaking the paper, you have 2 options: Pour the solvent directly from the cup into the baking tray, or slowly smothering the paper with a soft bristled brush. If you have a brush laying around, it would be more effective to use that rather than pouring the liquid directly onto the paper. Using a brush allows you to control exactly how much you tint the paper. Remember, try not to soak the paper too much as this will take away the aged look and will probably leave you with nothing more than a soggy mush.

During the process of soaking your paper, preheat the oven at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. After a couple of minutes soaking in the dark solvent, your paper will be ready to ‘cook’ and your oven will be hot enough to do so. There should be no excess fluid when placing your antique paper into the oven, so if there are puddles everywhere, simply pat them down with a few paper towels. The next step is simple … Place the baking tray into the oven, sit back, and wait! Remember, paper is very sensitive to heat, so make sure you keep an eye on it for burning. ‘Baking’ should not take too long, around 5-7 minutes is usually enough, but once the edges start to crisp and turn up, you know it is ready. Be careful when removing your aged paper from the oven, as you would probably guess, it’s hot!

Before attempting to write on the aged paper, let it cool for at least 15 minutes. Not only will this sharpen the effects of the dye, but it will also make it easier to write on. That’s it! You now know how to age paper. Whatever you plan on doing with the freshly created piece of history, be sure to write on it using an older font or style of writing. Pen will do the job, but for a more authentic aged look, try using bottled ink. It’s expensive to buy, but it can certainly help with making that special piece of history, that little bit more believable!