Monday, July 6, 2015

[crafts] Aging paper for your games, part one

So while I was on vacation this last weekend I came across a brilliant idea. While I am not ready to discuss this idea yet and I would like to keep it under wraps anyway, I am not going to tell you about it. You will just have to wait.

However, one of the requirements is that I will need to step up some of my crafting skills. One of the first things that will be required is aged paper. Now I have seen a few ideas around the web before, many having to do with tea staining and I have tried this method in the past. Years ago.

I decided this is the first step to my project being successful. It is also a requirement for this project, so without the paper, this is pretty much dead in the water. It is also to note that this paper is able to stand up to a little finer eye than it might getting being a simple prop for a game table, so I want to go the extra mile if needed.

First, my ingredients. First up I brewed some tea. Here I used what I had in the cabinet a couple of Lipton teabags. I brewed two in my Keurig and let it sit for about fifteen minutes. This produces pretty strong tea, strong enough that I would never drink it. I also broke a third one up onto a paper plate.

Today I went by and grabbed another pack of paper. This  is the cheap stuff, nothing fancy here. The Drawing runs $5.99 for 200 pages and is a thin stock. What I like about the Drawing paper is that it is already a tan, yellowish color.

First step to get it sloppy wet. I used a brush I found in my garage, I think I used it to stain my deck this spring. Anyway, not a good brush, it doesnt matter. I get the paper sloppy wet and then drop some of the unmixed grounds onto the paper.

Here I used wax paper between each sheet so that I could do multiple sheets at a time. If you do not, the sheets can stick together and when dry become difficult to pull apart, sometimes even ripping.

While I was doing this, I also pre-heated my oven to 200 degrees. Here you can see more work.

I also used three of the pens I have here at the house and wrote a short message. I plan on writing on the paper so I need to find not only a pen I like to write with but one that will not fade too much. Another option is to write on the paper after it is dry but for aging and fading, I think the pre-wet is a better option. The pens I had around the house ended up being a Mircon #08, a Skillcraft Vista Gel Ink pen, and a Red Skillcraft Liquid Magnus Rollerball pen. My currect favorite for work is the Vista, a nice smooth and bold ink pen.

When I started putting water down I immediately knew the Vista was in trouble. The ink had been drying for about twenty minutes and did not smudge when touched but when water hit the ink bad things happened.

Now, if you read my blog you likely know that I cannot leave well enough alone. So while it was wet I thought I would toss in a few extras to see how it would go. I grabbed the red and yellow food coloring and a canister of those sprinkle things you put on cake or cupcakes, specifically I wanted the black and orange bits.

I stuck these into the oven for 15 minutes at 200 degrees. I removed them and took them outside for the better, more natural lighting. The watercolor paper, a much thicker paper, is on the left, while the drawing paper is on the right. You can also see the food coloring can through prominently on the drawing paper while it barely stained the watercolor at all (odd because I thought watercolor paper would absorb it more easily).

The other side of the same pages.

And the two with writing were very interesting. The Vista ink completely disappeared on the drawing paper! The lines were from the wire rack I put these two to dry on (note, be careful what you put the paper on in the oven!)

So, now you are probably asking what to do with these, why would you go through all this just for some paper.

Here are some ideas. I took the two with writing and rolled them, like a scroll. Tell me your players would not flip when your NPC halfling merchant tosses these up onto the table during a game.

I crinkled these up a little prior to rolling them up. I think it looks pretty good. Get some cool text, maybe a quick sketch on there of a dungeon layout (half faded, half incorrect of course) and tell me the players would not go all googoo over these at the table.

 The other four pieces I took and folded in quarters then took a piece of dark twine I had laying around from my book binding and tied them off.

I really like the way the paper curls and does not lay flat any longer. When I made them into these little bundles I actually only used a single piece of paper for each. Each bundle has a full page, cut in half, stained, dried, then folded. Because of the drying process the paper becomes more stiff and curvy, producing cool little bundles like this.

I think these would be wonderful to drop on the table during a game. If your characters are haggling over a mysterious map, note, or scroll, I bet the GM could get the players to unload way more than average with one of these props on the table.

Now, tomorrow I will try the same process with coffee and see how it goes.

+Jesse Morgan had the idea of doing the above process and using photos for the back ground of maps and such. Great idea! So I stole it.

I scanned the paper and have dropped it here. Feel free to use this scan, commercial or otherwise (attribution please).

And black and white:


  1. Nicely done, sir! Your maps would look amazing on that paper.

    1. Thanks! I will be including a map in this project but will most likely not be my usual sort.

  2. Inspiring. I used to do this back in the 80's. Now I want to draw a map!

    1. Awesome, looking forward to seeing that. ;-)

  3. You will have to start doing some wax seals next.

    1. Already thinking about it my friend, already on my radar. :-)

  4. Excellent Matt. I've been thinking of doing something like this, but wasn't sure how.