Today I thought I would share how I dye papers with tea and coffee. It’s kind of a messy process, but a simple one – and the results are beautiful!
Since it’s fall + we have a lot of leaves, I also decided to also use some of the leaves from my backyard to use as a resist.
The leaves don’t really add much color or anything to the page, but they DO leave a lovely imprint from where they were because wherever they were on the paper is usually lighter than the other parts of the sheet that are dyed by the tea and coffee.
Supplies You Will Need:
You really don’t need a lot of supplies to do this, but here’s what you’ll need to gather:
A rusty old pan that you don’t cook with. I use a rusty old pan because the rust from the pan will help act as a mordant when we dye our papers. And, also – it’s all I have. Whatever you use for this project, it’s important to remember that you should always keep your crafty “cooking” supplies separate from the stuff you actually cook with.
Hot Water: You can boil your hot water on the stove or in the microwave or use a tea kettle. I recently bought a fabulous $15 tea kettle from Walmart that is super simple but I LOVE it!
Tea Bags + Instant Coffee Bags: I use whatever old tea we have for this project – usually it’s whatever gets stuck in my tea drawer + nobody would want to drink or is very old. Any kind of tea will work but you will probably want to stay away from green tea just because its not got a lot of color to it. Instant coffee singles are also great and they smell heavenly. Whatever you have laying around + you don’t plan on drinking is probably a good bet.
Leaves: This is totally optional, and does require a little experimentation, but I love the results! You can use any kind of leaves but the important thing here is that they are leaves you can identify and know aren’t anything poisonous. Poison ivy is a beautiful shade of red this time of year – but obviously that’s not a plant you want to use! (I actually don’t get poison ivy, but I still wouldn’t want to use it for my papers!)
Old Paper: You could of course use any kind of blank paper here, but I usually use this as an opportunity to use up old printer paper or paper I am not especially keen on using – in this case today I used some old misprinted paper that I think my Dad or someone gave to me from work. Most of the paper is “good” – but every single page has some kind of jarbled line of text. No big deal, we can trim those down!
Patience: This is something intangible you will definitely need – this project only takes about 10 minutes active time, but it will likely take a day or two before the papers are dry and then possibly a couple of weeks before they are all flattened out.
Good Weather: Not completely required, but I like to do this project outside because it gets messy! Also, if you can keep your papers in the sunshine while they dry and you do this it will help make them turn out darker. While I had a nice day for doing this, I didn’t have a lot of sun like I do in the summer and so my pages are a little lighter than usual – but that’s okay, I still love them! And, I can always dye them again another day!
How to Dye the Papers Step by Step
With all of our supplies gathered, we are ready to start! Here are the step by step instructions:
1. Make Your Tea
Boil your water, add you tea bags + coffee singles, and let it sit for awhile to brew. I used about 8 cups of water for this project, but I also was doing a lot of paper!
2. Put Some Tea in Your Pan
You’ll want to put about a cup of tea in your pan – let it cool down a little if its too hot to the touch.
3. Add Your Papers
To add the papers, I like to do just 2-3 sheets at a time and immerse them in the tea bath, while layering my leaves in between like a nice lasagna. (Except this is paper and we’re not going to bake it!)
At this step, you’ll also want to keep adding more tea as necessary. I needed about 8 cups of tea to completely immerse all of my papers.
I also like to actually just throw some of the tea bags themselves in between the pages – these areas will turn out nice and saturated.
The bottom sheets usually end up wrinkled + torn because of the strange texture in my pan that is all ridged, but I don’t worry about this because they still usually look pretty cool and again we can always trim them down!
The leaves are pretty easy to add, just lay them on top and in between your sheets.
4. Allow to Sit a Long Time
I let my papers soak in the tea + sunshine for a good 12 hours, usually overnight. The longer they soak the darker they will get.
Sometimes I will also flip + shuffle the papers around while they are soaking just to help more pages get more tea and coffee on them, but the more you move the papers while they are wet the more likely they will tear.
If you plan to cut these up later for junk journals and tags and embellishments anyways, no worries there!
5. Dry the Papers
I like to dry my papers in the sun – I’m not exactly sure the science of it, but the sun actually will help the papers come out much darker. You could probably bake them or experiment with stuff like that if you want to speed the drying process up but if you want nice, richly colored papers, let them sit in the sun!
We sadly don’t have a whole lot of sun on our back deck in the fall months just because it doesn’t really stay high enough in the sky long enough, but when I do this in the summer the results are great!
To dry the papers, I usually spread them out in stacks of about 5-8 pages. You won’t want to do this on a windy day just because while they do dry a lot faster if it is windy, they definitely will also fly all over the place.
My papers usually dry pretty fast like this – usually just a few hours. Even with no wind and very little sun they dried pretty fast.
6. Flatten + Wait!
Once our papers are dry, I will put them in a stack + then I stick them all on top of my bookshelf with a bunch of big heavy books on top of them to help flatten them down.
If you have a paper press, that’s awesome but if not another thing you can actually do is put your papers between two pieces of cardboard and then use clamps to clamp them down. Or just put whatever heavy you have on top of them. The cardboard will help keep them from getting torn by the weight of the object you stick on top.
7. Enjoy and Use!
This particular batch I made today won’t be done for a few more weeks since I like to let them get nice + flat, but I’ve made these before and used them for all kinds of things! I absolutely love these for making junk journals!
These are super fun + easy to make, and while I’m sure you’ve probably seen various tutorials on making them I thought I’d share my own process + hopefully inspire you to make them as well!
Look at these papers!