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How to Dye or Stain Paper With Tea

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The tea-staining gives an aged look to the paper. You can use these papers on artists' sketchbooks, junk journals, greeting cards, and scrapbooks.

The tea-staining gives an aged look to the paper. You can use these papers on artists' sketchbooks, junk journals, greeting cards, and scrapbooks.

Types of Paper to Tea Stain

Watercolor or Mixed Medium Papers. Since tea staining is a wet technique, the best paper to use is watercolor paper or mixed medium paper. These can be purchased in pads of different sizes and are reasonably priced.

You can cut down pages from the pads and they can be cut to fit on top of any page in your journal. If you are going to tea stain a page already in a journal, you will need to be extremely careful not to stain the other pages. You could easily wrap the pages before and after the page you are staining in plastic wrap to protect them. Or you could wrap them in plastic bags.

You can also cut and fold pages from these pads to create a signature for a journal.

Cardstock. If you use cardstock, make sure to use at least 80 lb weight paper. Less than that will tend to disintegrate. It will be frustrating; I can assure you.

If you are planning to use a regular card stock paper, it should be a minimum of 80 lb weight paper. Otherwise, the paper will start disintegrating and you will become very frustrated over the process.

You can find pads of paper very reasonably. The larger pieces can be cut down and folded into signatures for your junk and art journals.

Copy Paper. Softer paper tends to turn to mush if left wet too long. So, if you want to do copy paper, you need to consider the amount of time the paper is left in the tea bath. So the less weight the paper has, the shorter amount of time it should be wet.

Pages From Old Books. Try using old book pages to age for ephemera in the tea bath. Again, because these papers are light, they will need less time in the tea bath. It is also a good idea to blot these papers to get the moisture out of them.

Can I Use Glossy Pages for Tea-Staining?

Do not use any papers that have a glossy finish or any coating. These types of papers will not accept the stain at all.

What If the Paper Rips?

If anything rips (for example when you are lifting it out of the pan you submerged it in) continue the drying process. When it is dry you can use Mod Podge or gel medium to piece it back together. Both will dry clear and leave the tear showing but will not pull apart as easily. I recommend doing one coat on the front (let it dry) and then do another coat on the back and let that dry. Adds to the aged paper look but won't split farther and ruin your work!

You can use an endless variety of teas to stain your paper.

You can use an endless variety of teas to stain your paper.

Types of Teas for Tea Staining

There are so many options when it comes to the types of teas that you can use for tea staining. There are bags, loose teas, liquids, and powders. There are varieties and flavors to choose from. So where to begin?

The best place to start is right in your kitchen. Look to see what is there first. Then experiment. Have fun with the process! See what you like and what is not appealing to your eye.

Even if some of your experiments do not work out, save the paper. You can use it to add to your art journal. You can create pockets. You can use punches on the leftovers.

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If you are not a tea drinker, purchase a small box of tea from your local grocery. You can buy the store brand. Liptons and Red Rose are two of my personal favorites. If you enjoy the process, branch out to other types.

Keep a copy of each of the papers that you like. When it is dry, create a label with what the tea was and how you did it. Slip the paper into a page protector for future use.

You can also find teas that have samples of different teas within the same box, this is a fun place to get started,

Which Type of Tea Makes the Darkest Stain?

Green teas will make lighter stains, and black teas will be darker.

How Can I Darken the Stain?

You can also use more bags to get a darker stain. Or soak the paper a bit longer.

Can I Get Different Shades With the Same Tea?

The longer you let the tea brew, the darker the stain will be. You can create different shades with the same tea by brewing the tea differently.

What If I Want a Mottled Look?

You can add tea leaves and even coffee grounds to your tea-staining project to give your tea stain an uneven, splashed look that will make your paper look as if it’s been exposed to the elements outdoors. This is a great option for distressing papers to act as period props, like pirate maps or ancient documents.

How Can I Make the Paper Look Even Older?

If you want a more aged-looking paper consider using turmeric to add a yellowed aged look. Add some turmeric to your brewed tea or rub some turmeric into the paper when it is wet. You might also sprinkle a few drops of denatured alcohol over the wet papers to achieve dark stains a little like rust or mildew.

Which Teas Produce Which Colors?

  • Green tea does not give a lot of color—black tea is the darkest.
  • Bigelow Orange Spice makes a delightful gray.
  • Turmeric tea makes a beautiful yellow.
  • Powdered Tea creates sweet browns and sepia tones.
  • In general, the hotter the tea is, the more orange it will color the paper.

Tools and Supplies for Tea Staining

There are just a few tools and supplies that you need to get started in tea staining. Most of these things you probably have in and around your home and craft space.

What You'll Need

  • Teabags, instant teas, or loose teas
  • Cups or bowls for making teas
  • Watercolor or mixed media paper
  • Cookie sheets with rims
  • Paper towels
  • Spoons

Optional

  • Any circular objects like bottle caps or jar lids
  • Gel food coloring
  • Brushes, sponges, eye droppers
There are just a few tools from your kitchen to tea stain paper.

There are just a few tools from your kitchen to tea stain paper.

How to Use Tea to Stain Paper

Step 1: Start by Ripping the Edges of Your Paper

Generally, old paper would not have smooth, even edges, so the best place to start the process is to rip the edges of your paper before you get started staining it.

Hold the edge of the paper with one hand and gently rip the edges of the paper with the other. Take about a half of an inch on all four sides.

This process will make your paper look authentically older than it is.

Start the aging process by ripping the edges of your paper.

Start the aging process by ripping the edges of your paper.

Step 2: Crumple the Paper

The next step to preparing the paper for the tea staining process is to lightly crumple the paper.

All you have to do for this step is to crumple the paper into a ball and leave it like that for a minute or two.

Then unwind the ball and flatten the paper. This will give the paper a very aged look.

Give the paper an even older look by crumpling it up before you stain it.

Give the paper an even older look by crumpling it up before you stain it.

Step 3: Make the Tea

How Much Tea and Water to Use:

  1. Black Tea: 3 bags per 1/2 cup water. The hotter the tea is, the more orange it will color the paper.
  2. Green Tea: 4-5 bags per 1/2 cup water. Green tea does not give a lot of color. It is a great mixer for gel food dyes.
  3. Herbal: 3-5 bags per 1/2 cup water. Bigelow Orange Spice makes a delightful gray. Turmeric tea makes a beautiful yellow.
  4. Powdered Tea: .2 T per 1/2 cup water. This creates sweet browns and sepia tones.
  5. Liquid Tea: Pour straight from the bottle.
Use at least 4-6 tea bags and allow the tea to brew for a minimum of 10 minutes. Allow the tea to be lukewarm before you start staining your papers.

Use at least 4-6 tea bags and allow the tea to brew for a minimum of 10 minutes. Allow the tea to be lukewarm before you start staining your papers.

Step 4: Find a Flat Surface and Brush On the Tea

Lay paper flat on a surface. Apply tea with brush, sponge, or eyedropper. Paint the tea on randomly and unevenly, allowing some areas to puddle. This will make the paper look older. Let the tea soak into the paper. Allow the paper to dry on a cookie sheet rack with something underneath the catch any drips.

tea-staining-paper

Step 5: Add Drips and Darken the Edges

Apply a lot of tea along one edge with a sponge or brush. Lift the edge of the paper and let the tea drip down. You can also add some drips with an eyedropper if you want more drips. Be careful handling any hot or warm tea bags.

Make sure to have a cookie sheet under the area where you are working to collect any drips from your project.

Other Methods of Staining With Tea

Painting With a Tea Bag

  1. Lay paper flat on a surface that will absorb some of the water from this project
  2. Apply the tea with the wet tea bags that have been steeped per package directions. Be careful not to burn your fingers with boiling tea water.
  3. Rub the bags over the paper, allowing some areas to puddle by squeezing the bag. Press it into the paper. If the tea bag starts to come apart, throw it away and use another.
  4. Dab any excess tea off the paper with a paper towel
  5. You can also use a paintbrush to paint the tea onto the paper. Have fun and experiment with different brushes to create different effects.
  6. You can rub the tea bag in a circular motion. You want to saturate the paper but not enough to create puddles. If you see a puddle, blot it with a paper towel.

Sit Teabags on the Paper

Just let one or two wet teabags sit on the paper after the tea has been brewed.

Lay the paper on a cookies sheet to absorb the water from the tea bags.

This will give a richer area stain in a specific area. The longer you leave the teabag on, the darker the stain will be.

You can use this idea in several areas of the paper at the same time.

Pour Liquid Tea Over the Paper and Bake

Lay paper in a low edge cookie sheet. Pour the liquid tea directly onto the paper. Pour it slowly and stop when it covers the paper. You can do a few sheets at a time with this method. Pour and place another piece of paper on top. Press it down with your hand to allow tea to soak in. Blot some of the liquid with a cloth or paper towel. Allow this to sit for 2 minutes. Separate sheets and place on baking sheet. Bake this in a low 200º oven for 5 minutes.

Use a Spray Bottle to Apply the Tea

You can do this directly on dry paper, or you can do this on paper that has been teas stained in a container that is wet.

Brew 5-6 tea bags for at least 5-10 minutes. Once the tea has cooled a bit, load it into a spray bottle. Lay the paper in a container that will collect the excess moisture, spray the paper with the spray as much as you would like.

Allow the paper to dry.

Drying Your Tea-Stained Paper

After you create your tea-stained paper, you need to get it dry. There are a couple of different ways to get this done. The two golden rules are to avoid sunlight and ensure there is plenty of circulation.

Oven Drying Method

You can dry the paper in a low-temperature oven. This requires a lot of monitoring because the paper can burn and crinkle if left too long

Air Drying

Layout the paper to dry. Set some paper towels over the paper, Then lay some heavy objects over the paper so that the paper does not curl.

You Can Tea-Stain Colored Cardstock

Colored cardstock can be used in the tea staining process

Colored cardstock can be used in the tea staining process

Final Thoughts

Tea-stained papers are the perfect way to age paper for your art and junk journals.

But their use goes far beyond that. You can use them in your scrapbooks too. Create tags, matting for pictures, titles, and a lot more. They are especially effective with older pictures, especially those black and white photos.

You can also create gift tags, using these papers with antique images is a perfect way to add an authentic touch to your packages.

Create 15 or more pages so that you have them on hand when you need them. Have fun with the process, be creative and enjoy creating your projects with these amazing papers that you have created. Happy crafting !

© 2022 Linda F Correa