How to make paper look old (the easiest and best method)

We all dread the moment when your child comes home from school asking for help with a project (unless you grew up loving Blue Peter). Some of the most common things you'll often be asked to help with are creating a treasure map, creating an old-looking newspaper, or even creating a time capsule. For all of these, using old-looking paper is a great way to make your child's project stand out and look the part. But how do you make old-looking paper without raiding a museum? It's really easy, and despite many guides online recommending all sorts of strange and complicated methods, we think there is one method involving tea which is head and shoulders above the rest, and which anyone in the UK should be able to use without having to buy anything extra. Let's get into it:

Method 1: Use tea (the best method)

We're British, so of course, we choose to use a teabag as our number 1 method for making paper look older. But seriously, this is hands down the best way to get the aged effect you're looking for. Here is what we did step by step:

Step 1: rub your paper with a used tea bag

First, make yourself a cup of tea. Drink it and maybe have a biscuit with it, why not. But don't discard the teabag just yet. Wait for it to cool down and then, without doing anything else to it, rub it gently over the paper that you want to age. This is your first layer of "age", so don't worry if it isn't fully covered (you can see some white spots in our picture). Once that first layer has dried (after about 10 minutes), take the same teabag and dab it across the paper. Try to avoid creating a pattern, as real aged paper wouldn't have a pattern, so keep your dabbing random.


Step 2: scrunch it up

You know that bit of paper which you just very carefully dabbed with a used teabag? Now you need to scrunch it up. Don't worry, we won't ask you to throw it in the bin - we're just trying to create the look of a piece of paper which has been left somewhere for a long time without being looked after particularly well. So scrunch it up, but not too tight, and leave it for about 5 minutes.


Step 3: unravel it and check that you're happy with the creasing

Now, you need to unravel your scrunched-up bit of paper. Do it carefully, because if you do it too quickly you might rip and tear the paper in places that you don't want (we'll add rips and tears in a minute). Some guides to making aged paper will recommend that you fold the paper carefully to create the creases, but we think scrunching it up makes a much better effect as you can see in our image.


Step 4: tear the paper with your hands around some of the edges

You don't have to add tears to your paper, but we think it makes for a nice, aged effect. If you're going to add writing to your paper (which we imagine you will be), then you'll want to be really careful with the tears to make sure you're not making any writing on the paper illegible. It will be tempting to use scissors, but we recommend you don't, as it'll look too neat.


Step 5 (optional): burn the edges slightly

This is an optional step, but we do think it definitely adds to the aged look that you want to achieve. As you can see in the top right of our paper, we've slightly burnt the corner just using a lighter. Obviously, an adult needs to help with this, so definitely be careful. You only want to burn the paper very slightly to get that charred look, anything more will just make it look like a burnt piece of paper.


Tips for when using tea

As you can see from our image, there is some white still along the edges. It's entirely up to you if you want to keep that, or if you want to make the entire page of paper have that golden/brown aged look. We wanted this piece of paper to look like an old music sheet from the 60s, so we wanted it to look old but not too old.

Final thoughts

Like we said in our introduction, there are other methods to make paper look old, but this is absolutely the best and quickest way to make paper look old. We saw some guides online which recommended burying the paper in the garden for 2 weeks, but who has time for that? Let us know in the comments if you tried this method and if it worked!

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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