Techniques to Alter Paper or Cardstock

Updated on March 19, 2020
linfcor profile image

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

How to Customize Cardstock

Cardstock is the foundation for paper craft projects. It is used as the canvas for projects like scrapbook pages, greeting cards, and art journals. It comes in so many luscious colors and styles. Sometimes, however, it's fun to bring a more creative side to our projects by altering our canvas. With paint, ink, chalks, and markers, we can take a simple canvas and create artwork with just a few strokes

You are going to want to use a card stock that is heavy in the area of 110 pounds, a watercolor paper, or a mixed media paper for these techniques. This is true especially if you are using paint or watercolors because anything less will not hold up.

Using these techniques add a custom look to your scrapbook pages, your greeting cards and your albums

1. Sponging

Using sea sponges, or whatever sponges you may have around your home, is an easy and very forgiving technique. Natural sea sponges create a more irregular pattern than your household sponges.

First choose your colors. Squeeze out a quarter size amount of paint onto your palette or paper plate. Dip the sponge lightly into the paint, then pounce the sponge in an irregular manner all over the paper. Go different directions and use different parts of the sponge. You can sponge with inks, paint, or chalk.

Stippled Paper

2. Stippling

Stippling gives you a speckled effect. For this technique, use a round, flat-top stenciling brush. Select your colors of either ink or paint. Pour out a small amount of each color onto a plate. Holding your brush straight up, and down, load some paint or ink on the brush. Tap it on a paper plate or a scrap of paper to get rid of the excess paint. Using a vertical motion, gently tap the brush on the paper, being careful not to drag it while tapping it. You can stipple just a small section or the whole page. Allow it to dry before proceeding with your project.

3. Variegated Bands

Flat bristle brushes are used for this technique. Select the colors you want to use and squeeze a bit of each color or ink onto a paper plate or paint palette. Pick up paint on your brushes and paint varying widths of bands on your paper. The more the bands overlap, the more variegated the result. Allow it to dry before moving forward.

Tea Staining Technique

4. Miniroller

Just like you would roll paint on a wall, you can roll paint onto a scrapbook page or a greeting card. It creates a soft subtle background. The short nap fibers of the roller give your paper a similar texture to roller painted walls. Pour some color onto a plastic plate. load the roller with the paint and roll out the paint onto your paper. For a more interesting look, use more than one color.

5. Brayer Technique

A brayer is similar to a mini roller except that instead of being textured, it is smooth. You can add all sorts of paint combinations to create very artsy looks on your card stock.

  • Run a brayer through a rainbow stamp pad. Spritz the brayer with a little water and roll out on the paper. You will get a watercolor rainbow.
  • Roll the brayer over an earth toned ink pad. Spritz the brayer with water. Then roll it over the paper.

6. Moulding Paste

7. Finger Painting

There is no technique as fun as finger painting! Select your colors and squeeze a small amount of color onto your paint palette or plastic plate. Pick up a bit of color onto each finger and simply smear the colors back and forth to create your own patterns.

Tip: If you don't have a cardstock in the color that you need, create your own by using spray inks, chalks or paints

8. Age the Paper

Giving your paper an heirloom look is not as difficult as you may think. Age varnish from Delta gives items a golden brown and aged look. It can be applied to card stock, patterned paper, pre-painted paper, tags, and ephemera.

Another idea is to crinkle your card stock or paper and then rub a little Instant Age varnish into the creases with your finger. (It is a good idea to wear a plastic glove.)

You can also blend a little walnut-colored ink into your acrylic paint before you apply the paint.

Another option is to use a light paint wash on your paper. Let it dry and then scuff some off using sandpaper.

You can also chalk the edges of your paper to make it look old

Tea Stained Paper

9. Tea Staining Technique

Tea staining technique is similar to the aging technique. But in this case, you actually use tea bags. You will need about 4 tea bags for this project. Using your tea bags, you will want to brew a very strong batch of tea.For this technique you will need a very strong paper. Preferably about 110 pound strength.

  • Spritzing Tea- fill a mini spritzer up with your brewed tea. Lay a stencil of your choice on the paper. Mist over the paper several times, allowing each to dry in between sprays. Once the mist has dried on the final spray, remove the stencil.
  • Plastic Wrap- scrunch up a large piece of plastic wrap twice the size as the paper you are working with. Add some tea to the wrap.Scrunch it on the card stock and leave it to dry over night.
  • Mottled Pattern-Open the tea bags that you used and sprinkle them over your card stock. Spray some tea over the top and allow to dry overnight

How To Reuse Left Over Inks And Supplies To Alter Paper

I always keep a piece of reasonably heavy 12" x 12" white card stock near my work area. I use a left over credit or gift card or a spatula to take any left over inks or media. Use these for art journal or scrapbook pages
I always keep a piece of reasonably heavy 12" x 12" white card stock near my work area. I use a left over credit or gift card or a spatula to take any left over inks or media. Use these for art journal or scrapbook pages

10. Color With Bleach

11. Dragging

While your paint is wet, drag items through it to add a little texture. Try a rubber paint comb, or something as simple as a fork.

Another method to dragging is to take a dye ink pad and drag it across your paper. In this technique if you lay the paper on a gravel surface, you will also get some of the pebbling effect.

12. Glitter Glue & Neuvo Drops

Glitter glue, glitter pens, and Neuvo Drops are three of my favorite ways to alter paper. They can add so much depth and design to a paper. You will want to use a heavier paper with a clean design. My particular favorites are to use anything with a floral print. The larger prints are easier to work with.

Carefully look at the design and think about where you could add highlights. Start simple at first. Add a few highlights. Remember to add and let dry before working with another media. Glitter glue comes in name brands like Stickles or you can use clear glue and add very fine glitter and make your own.

Glitter pens are great to have in your stash. Look for pens like Spectrum Noir Metallics which is a personal favorite. I keep several sets in my craft room. The brush tip on the marker is so fine that you can add glitter to the tiniest spaces. You could also use Wink Of Stella pens, which come in different colors.

Neuvo Drops are more opaque than glitter glue. They come in a huge range of colors. I like to use them as drops on flowers and to outline.

Glitter pens and markers enhance paper designs
Glitter pens and markers enhance paper designs

13. Embossing Paper

Embossing can be done in several ways. It can be done simply with a stylus and a stencil. In this case, the design is made by pushing the stylus against the strncil to make the raised paper impression.

The second way is to make the impression with a embossing folder. The paper is placed in the embossing folder. Then placed in a sandwhich of hard plates. It is then run through a manual or electronic machine which squeezes the paper. The result is a an impression and design on the paper

14. Sanding Paper

Sanding is about the quickest way to alter paper. All you need is a piece of fine grained sandpaper. Distressing edges of paper is another alternative to altering your paper. You can use a sanding block, an emory board or even a toothbrush.

You are taking the shine off of a new paper and somewhat dulling the colors.

Sanding blocks are the easiest to use since they are easy to hold. Usually, one side is a fine grain and the other a course grain. The sanding block will however pick up some of the color from your paper. Which could technically transfer to the next project. To keep that from happening, wipe the block off after use with a dry cloth.

Alter Paper With Your Stash

Use your markers, your gel pens, your paints, your chalk or whatever you have. Play with them on your paper and enjoy the experience. Do what makes you happy. Explore your imagination and go wherever it takes you !

Some nicely done background images
Some nicely done background images | Source

15. Creating A Stamped Background

Plain paper takes on a new dimension when you hand stamp a background. You can do it as a single stamp or as a multiple stamp. You can use images or words. It is up to you ! You can use a single set or multiple sets. Your paper takes on a totally new look when you stamp the background.

You can do it in rows evenly spaced. You can start in the center and go outward. Or you can just do random stamping.

There are larger stamps for backgrounds that will produce wording-like sentences or writing. These give a vintage look to your paper. Especially if you use distress inks.

Napkin Transfer- Create Designer Paper

16. Lemon Juice Burning

This is a technique that will actually give a burnt look to any area that is treated.

You will need:


Lemon or lime juice

Plastic container

Paint brush


Heat gun

Piece of tile

  1. Tear the edges of your paper to create a torn look
  2. Pour a little lemon juice into a plastic container, and brush or sponge around outer edge of paper. You can also try splattering it with a splatter brush or toothbrush.
  3. Place the wet paper on a piece of tile.
  4. Heat with a heat gun

This technique creates a Burnt look. Paper will appear burnt in the areas that you have applied the lemon juice. Have fun with this technique by experimenting with the paper.

19. Smooshing Technique

This technique is used to alter paper with up to 5 different mediums. It can be used on scrapbook paper, tags, greeting cards and art journals.

The idea is that you take a medium and add water to it. Once you add the water to the medium, you literally smoosh the media and water onto the paper. Then you let the paper dry.

You can use a silicone craft mat and bring the paper to the mat where the media and water is. Or you can take a piece of acetate, put the media on the acetate and take it to the paper.

Either way, you get a one of a kind paper design.

More Thoughts on Altering Paper

Try to think out of the box when you are designing a card, scrapbook page or a art journal. Look at that paper and really give some thought about what you can do to make it your own. Adding those little touches make your art something very special. Going that one extra step, takes your art to a place beyond the ordinary. Go ahead and give it a whirl! You will have a great time experimenting. You will learn what makes you happy. Have a great journey.

© 2017 Linda F Correa

We would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and comments on altering paper

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    • linfcor profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda F Correa 

      6 months ago from Spring Hill Florida

      What specifically are you doing with the Modge Podge. I love Modge Podge. What kind of a technique are you using?

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      New to it ,im trying modpodge with cardstock


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