In the process of doing replica props and art, Ive had to research a lot of different methods for aging, burning, and sometimes even molding paper. Im always frustrated when I cant find clear instructions on how to do something. This is my attempt to rectify that situation for someone else. If you have any questions of comments on this tutorial, please e-mail me.

What you need:
  • Paper to be aged / molded
    This is preferably a cotton rag, linen, or other natural fiber paper. Copier paper and inkjet bonds tend to not hold up as well to the washing process. My suggestion is to test a strip of the paper before attempting to age your lifes work.
  • Walnut ink crystals. I prefer 7gypsies brand (you can buy it here.)
  • Spray bottle filled with water. A cheapy from the travel section of your favorite pharmacy will do.
  • A few blank sheets of the paper to be aged (cut into strips)
  • Empty (and clean) jam or jelly jar
  • A container that can accommodate (flat) the sheet to be aged.
  • If Im replicating an already aged piece of paper, Ill keep a photograph of it nearby just for reference.
  • Plenty of paper towels
  • A flat plastic board or pan the size of the paper to be aged. I use a flexible plastic placemat (not pictured).

Fill the jelly jar with some warm water and add a bunch of the crystals to it. Most inks have a recommended water-to-ink ratio, but I prefer to guess. Shake until it's well-mixed and then empty into the dip pan. I then test a strip of paper in it to see if it is dark enough. If it's not, just dump a few more crystals in and swish around until mixed. I save my aging fluid in the jar, so I only have to do this once in a great while.

After getting the appropriate color of dye, submerge the paper in it. Swish the liquid around. Sometimes I will agitate it with my hand - this seems to work especially well on cotton rag paper.

Once it's soaked for a bit (about a minute or two) remove the sheet onto some paper towels.

There are two things you can do once removing the sheet: let it dry a bit so that the ink is darker in some places or blot it immediately so it is more consistently dyed.

I wanted this sheet to be more consistent, so I blotted immediately. My blotting procedure just consists of laying paper towels on top and soaking up the excess water.
Now for the molding. Spray the sheet with clean water and dump some of the walnut crystals onto an extra sheet of paper. Shake the paper over the sheet to be aged to distribute the walnut crystals in a semi-random pattern.
Spray the sheet with clean water again. The crystals will begin to melt and stain the paper around them.
I will then usually blot the ink crystals and walk around the paper blotting as I go. This puts lighter stains on the paper in different places. The key is to blot not rub. Rubbing causes streaks which make your paper look like someone threw walnut ink crystals on it. After I achieve the look I want, I transfer the sheet to my plastic mat and rinse the ink crystals off under hot water. If at this point you want more stain, the process can be repeated.

The final aged sheet.