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Paper Staining Tutorial

Updated on July 24, 2013

Distressing and staining Paper for art projects

Distressing and staining paper for art projects is a great way to create fun papers and recycle items that may have ended up in the landfill.

If you dabble in the altered arts, mixed media collage or any type of vintage crafts and assemblage,then you may want to try to make some of these fun papers for your art projects.

Below I give you a list of some of the basic supplies I used, a step by step tutorial using a variety of household items. Explanations and photos of the finished paper pieces ready for art creation and soon to come, some samples of art created with these very same papers.

Throughout the tutorial I will also introduce you to sources for great materials, supply sources for additional art creation, and finished art items created by artists including myself.

Thank-you very much for visiting this tutorial, I hope you will enjoy it and find inspiration for your crafting. Be sure to leave your comments at the bottom of this lense. I would love to hear from you.


Kim aka imagesbykim

Basic Supply List

I used a variety of household products to get the results for my pages as well as many familiar products and basic tools.

The assortment of papers I used include: envelopes, text pages, blank paper and cardstock, shipping tags, paper towels, napkins, filters, tissue paper, paper bags, fabric, doilies, cupcake holders, construction paper however you are limited only to your imagination and I will let you know of others as I think of them along the way.

Some basic supplies required

but easily improvised are: a couple of flat baking sheets, roll of paper towels, paint brushes, sponges, containers for mixing paints, spray bottles, and other items you will see as the tutorial progresses.

Items used to create effects:

Instant Coffee crystals

tea bags (used)

vanilla extract


acrylic paint (or water base paints)


olive oil (essential oils for fragrance)

powder fabric dye



Slight warning: You may have an incredible desire to drink coffee and eat vanilla and cinnamon cookies so I suggest you have something to suffice your cravings while you work.

As a disclaimer, it is impossible to control the supplies, papers used, skill, level of understanding, etc to guarantee any type of finished results. I can not be held responsible for the papers created, nor your personal safety in creating these papers.

In other words, you are completely on your own and responsible for your own results and safety!

Distressing with coffee crystals Part 1

Using about 2-3 heaping table spoons of instant coffee in a small container, I added some hot water to dissolve the crystals. The amount of water depends only on how light or dark you want the finished colors I probably used about 4 tablespoons, so it looks like a thin syrup, or express coffee.

Then adding a piece of paper to the baking sheet, I lightly spritzed it with water, enough to dampen the sheet but not immerse it in water.

Using a paint brush I applied some of the coffee mixture around the edges of the paper. Don't worry about being perfect, we are distressing!

The edges will start to bleed into the middle of the page creating a nice staining effect.

I then used a paper bag (not shown) as a blotter paper to hold the wet paper. You can use wax paper, paper towels newspaper etc to hold and blot the wet pieces. Make sure you don't let it dry against another paper completely, if this happens just wet both papers under the water tap and gently pull apart.

The next page I covered completely with the coffee stain even across the page image.

After I removed the second sheet, I had an overflow of liquid still in the baking sheet so I used a paper towel to absorb some of the extra.

Normally I like to use a 2 ply heavy paper towel for this purpose, but I just had thin towels on hand today. You are going to love this paper for your art creations, Easy to work with and the colors take so well to the paper towels. Be sure to lay it out or hang it up reasonably flat when it is fully absorbed, move it around a bit before it completely dries so it doesn't stick to another paper.

This next piece of paper is wrinkled tissue paper, in fact it's the little paper that comes wrapped around mandarin oranges in the box. (yes, I save and use it all) Again spritzed with a little water to dampen and then brushed on the coffee stain.

Then I added some coffee crystals in spots for more intense stain spots.

Sprinkled some cinnamon powder

And a little vanilla

Now bake in the oven.......just kidding LOL but now you will definitely be wanting those cookies! This makes wonderful scented papers, I stain gift tags at Christmas for a wonderful lasting smell under the tree.

You can use all types of spices and flavor extracts to blend into your papers for a variety of scents.

Be sure to wipe away any granules of cinnamon dust when dry if you are planning to print on these papers through your printer.

I spritzed with more water to help the paper absorb these addons, and then blotted with paper towel to catch the excess as well as stain more paper towels. Very nice effect with the darker crystals.

Here's a recycled paper bag ready for staining. I used the spoon to apply and then blotted with a paper towel. This created a different effect. The sopping paper towel works great to get into the gusset of the bag.

This last piece of paper I used to absorb the rest of the liquid in the pan. flipping on both sides and not completely covered. I may come back to this piece with some other methods later.

Note: if you want darker staining, just leave large pools of coffee for the paper to absorb. The longer you leave it, the darker it will be, as well as using more crystals and less water will give a darker finish. However this will make your paper a little more brittle the less water you use. Experiment as you go!

Staining Part 2

This 2nd part of the tutorial shows more options of paper staining with coffee as well as working with powder fabric dyes.

There are a variety of powder fabric dyes on the market, and I am showing a couple in the pictures below. Using the powder dyes is similar to the coffee, just add by the teaspoon and mix in some hot water.

I like to use a spritzer bottle to mix and apply the liquid dyes.

The color I am using is a mauve pink shade and I have spritzed some onto a text page in the centre.

Because pink and brown combination is so popular right now, I am doing the outside edges with the coffee stain.

Because the paper is already wet in the centre from the pink dye, the coffee bleeds nicely into the other color. This piece is going to be a favorite to work with once it is dry.

Here are some paper doilies stained with both the coffee and dye solutions.

You can purchase doilies at your local party or dollar stores for next to nothing and stain them in lovely colors for vintage collage.

I have lay the doilies on another page to blot dry, don't leave too long or they will stick to the paper. If they stick, run under water to release.

The blotting paper is just another book I saved from the landfill. This is a large book page so I use these over and over for my staining projects, eventually they have such an assortment of stains that I then use them for my art. It's a win win!

Here comes more paper towels for absorbing. This piece will have a combination of the 2 colors and again will be a favorite paper to work with.

These little candy baking papers take very well to the staining. They are perfect size to frame a small picture within a collage.

This next piece is a heavy piece of natural cotton fabric. I have stained the edges with coffee, sprayed in the centre with the pink, then spritzed with more water to move and blend the colors. Although it doesn't look like much now, it is my 2nd most favorite piece in this tutorial (yes there is a first favorite). This fabric will not only be fun to work with on a project but hopefully it will scan well for paper printing too. As it dried the color bleeding turned out beautiful.

Coffee filters take very well to coffee and other liquid stains. Yes, I do recycle from the used ones. They are very durable papers even when wet. Often they will leave a slightly transparent look as an overlay to another collage paper.

This is another style of coffee filter, these make great pockets in altered art books and today, after it is stained and sopping wet, it will serve another purpose as a coffee stain ink pad.

Here is a recycled paper bag that I have ink stamped using coffee. This will dry with the subtle stamp pattern, and a lovely scent. use as a gift bag, an add-on to your altered book projects or to store little tidbits of papers.

Here are a couple of envelopes waiting for stain. Notice that one is from some business reply mail. I save them and create some other use for these. The little envelope will be used in a book. I use the paper towel to stain the inside. Sometimes the glue of the envelopes will come loose and you may have to re-glue at the folds.

It's a good idea to prop the envelopes open or stuff some plastic inside so the sides won't stick together.

This next staining is done using teabags. I used the ones I already made my tea from so nothing gets wasted.

The teabag paper is strong like the coffee filters so I used it like a sponge to apply any wetness to the papers. You can use a new one or add boiling water and create a liquid stain. The colors are not as intense as with coffee staining unless you let the item steep right in the tea mixture for long periods.

Steeping lace, ribbon and small pieces of muslin works nicely with the tea.

Next I cut open a teabag while it was wet and took out the tea leaves. Ideally you should wait until they are thoroughly dry. Trust me on this one! LOL

Once the tea leaves are removed, and the paper is dry. These make incredible and very durable little pockets for art books and collages. They take well to additional ink staining and stamping.

Then sprinkle the tea leave in the soil of your houseplants. You will make the plants happy too and have wonderful little art pockets to work with!

Ohhh yes, and if your tea bag comes wrapped in lovely little paper envelope packets, do save those for your art projects too! And don't forget the little thumb paper string holder makes a great piece of ephemera! ;)

Staining Part 3

Going back to the coffee stain, I stained some shipping and hand made manilla tags. These will be stained and distressed even more with inks for a future project.

This is the last section of this 3 part tutorial on distressing papers.

This section lightly covers other techniques that may be of interest to you for your art projects.

This next image is of an already stained and dried envelope. I have a bottle of olive oil and a paper towel that I have soaked in oil and this is now an ink pad for my rubber stamp.

Using the rubber stamp, I have stamped a pattern with the oil into the paper envelope. This will soak in and leave a translucent mark on the paper. Be sure to leave your item somewhere to sit while it soaks in thoroughly. I like to leave it over night.

Be sure to clean your stamps well after using the oil. An alternative to the cooking oil would be to use essential oils for a lovely stamped fragrance.

Same rubber stamp with a new napkin and some bleach as the ink.

I used some black card stock and stamped the pattern into the paper. While it is wet, nothing changes much, but as it starts to dry, you will see the bleached out pattern showing through.

Working with full strength bleach does require some caution, and be sure to work wearing old clothes.

Try spritzing paper with spray bleach products for a cool speckled effect.

(sorry nothing shown as I didn't have any on hand)

This next piece, I drizzled the rest of the bleach onto one page and then pressed another paper into the first to absorb the excess.

You can create some interesting patterns and effects by experimenting

If you are a crafter of many mediums, like me you probably have bottles of acrylic paints almost going dry. When the bottles are reaching the end, and I know that they will most likely dry up before I use them, I will add either some paint extender or water to make a liquid color stain. This is great as a wash over a project or as an entire color wipe on text paper.

Gold or any metallic paint colors are great to use as a wash over your project. I used a goldtone mixed with water and brushed over this coffee stained envelope. Tho you can't see it in the image, the envelope has a really nice fleck of gold all over it.

At this stage I am pretty much ready to clean up my table top so now anything goes.

I stained this paper with black first and then brushed some copper metallic paint mixed with water over top.

Remember the bleached card stock paper, well it wasn't spared from the copper paint either

Nor was the paper towel spared

In fact I spread it out and dumped everything I had left on to it and sopped it all up!

Here are a couple of the paper towels spread flat and drying, the colors are gorgeous, I can't wait to use them and yes, the pink one is my most favorite piece made today! But that black and copper stained pieces is growing on me too! LOL who knows!

This last paper towel took on the most stress as I used it to wipe and stain other projects, I will leave it as it is and use it once it is stiffened for dimensional collage.

This is also an example of why I like 2 ply thicker paper towels best. 2 ply towels can be pulled apart when completely dry for twice the paper!

This concludes the 3 parts of Distressing paper. I hope you will find this tutorial useful for you art projects.

Below I will show you finished samples of the paper created with this tutorial as well as some finished art projects using these pieces.


Finished Paper Samples

Here are my finished samples:

Coffee filters and tea bags

Shipping tags

Before and After

Paper Doilies and Candy cups

Stained fabric with coffee and pink dye

Here are the makings of a simple altered book page

Envelopes notice the cd envelope, this will be great for a round CD card

Still have to cover that ugly text both front and back

Paper Bags stained and coffee stamped

Coffee stained and Olive oil stamped

Darker coffee mixture

Teabag staining, inked edges and coffee stamped

Blotter paper that looks like great distressed paper! Total Accident! LOL

Here is the paper that was on the blotter paper

Stained and scented with vanilla and cinnamon

Pink and Brown text pages

The round ring impression comes from resting an object (bowl) while wet.

Assorted techniques

Bleached cardstock with and without paint wash

My favorite, stained paper towels

The next section I will concentrate on creating some finished art using this distressed paper.

Finished Art Samples Using these papers

Coming Soon!

If I have inspired you in anyway, and if you have created any art because of this tutorial, I would love to hear from you!



I would Love to hear from You!!!

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have started dying paper with tea, this is a fantastic page for someone who wants to experiment with new techniques :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      How would you recommend coffee-staining a journal where the pages are attached to the binding? Thanks!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      11 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      That was incredibly interesting. I dragged the DH over to look. I especially love the red/plum distressed paper. Great DIY directions!

    • AppalachianCoun profile image


      11 years ago

      Wow, fantastic lens. Thank-you so much for the step by step. 5 stars*****

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Kim, this has been a fun trip through your lens. I was reminded when I was a kid in grammar school when we did crafts, especially using paper bags and making items like leather like vest or cloths for dolls or display. You have done such a wonderful job explaining and show such detail - ***** and more if I could.


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