How to Make Paper Look Old With Tea Bags

    by Miki Markovich

    About the Author

    Based in Eugene, Ore., Markovich authored the book "You Want Me to What?: Public Relations and Marketing for the Shy Person." She has managed businesses across the nation and taught business communications to at-risk students. She won the Mahan award in creative writing in 1994 and holds degrees in English and education with concentrations in journalism and psychology.


    Tea staining can give plain, boring white paper a whimsical and intriguing new look. The antiqued effect achieved from tea stains can enhance stationary, journals or even school projects. Best of all, tea staining paper is fun, easy and inexpensive, and an interesting activity suitable for folks of all ages, even young kids. There are several techniques for tea staining paper, each with its own effects that result in one-of-a-kind designs.

    Things You'll Need

    • Loose tea or tea bags
    • White paper or cardstock
    • Sandpaper
    • Calligraphy pen
    • Pan
    • Paintbrush
    • Sponge

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    Steep loose tea or tea bags in a pan of boiling water. There's no need to filter loose tea as the leaves will enhance the texture on the stained paper. Turn the heat off and leave tea until until it cools.

    Scrunch up the paper to add texture and create a more antiquated effect, if desired. If the paper is going to be ripped or torn in any way, do so prior to staining or the white edges will show.

    Write on the paper with a calligraphy pen, giving the writing a dated look.

    Tear or sand sections of the paper with fine grain sandpaper to make it appear deteriorated by age.

    Apply the brewed tea to the paper with a paintbrush or sponge, or by rubbing or dabbing a tea bag on the paper. Seeping the piece of paper in tea in a pan or pouring tea on paper in a pan work too. Pour loose leaf tea over the paper to achieve a more authentic, spotted and non-uniform aged effect. Be creative and experiment with different methods and effects.

    Hang the paper on a clothesline or lay it flat to dry. Make sure the paper isn't folded or overlapping as it may tear when separated. If dying bound paper such as a journal, use wax paper between the pages to prevent them from sticking together.

    Repeat the staining process after it has dried, if needed.

    Crumpled the paper up or char the edges with a flame -- a task for adults only -- to add a distressed look.

    • For a darker color, make extra strong tea by adding more tea bags or loose leaves, and by boiling the tea for several minutes before letting it cool.
    • Boiling water can be very dangerous so exercise caution if children are present.
    • Tea doesn't just stain paper. Care should be taken to avoid stains on furnishings, floors, counter tops and clothing.