How to Dye or Stain Paper With Tea

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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.

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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!

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.

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.

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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,

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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.

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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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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About the Author: Thien Bao

Hello, my name is ThienBao. I am a freelance developer specializing in various types of code.