View Full Version : Make your own Aged Paper textures

10-20-2009, 04:57 PM
I got tired of using other people's parchment backgrounds and then trying to remember where i got them from.

So I made my own set. Most people may know this technique, but I surprise myself every day by picking up new tricks I figure I should have known years ago, and it's possible someone else may be in the same boat when it comes to this :)

Step 1: crumple and fold paper. 1 or two folds is plenty, I've also done some with map-style folding. your preference really. Leaving it crumpled gives mixed results, I find the paper falls apart when you try to unfold it after soaking. Plus if you soak it long enough for the colour to settle in, the crumples smooth themselves out for the most part. Still working on that.

Step 2: soak them in really (REALLY) strong tea. We have this really cheap loose leaf tea, it's almost like granules. I used 5 tablespoons to 2 cups of near boiling water, I wanted it to be strong, I'm not patient for this process :) I also made sure that the tea got into the folded areas.

Step 3: unfold then pat dry between 2 towels, and scan before drying. it's much easier when the paper is slightly damp, it stays very flat. I set mine to the highest setting it would go, 600 dpi (i miss my old one, 1200!) with colour setting of course. I then saved the image in a lossless format (PSD a la photoshop in my case) so I could always have a backup in case I mess things up. Then after running a few image effects (my original scan was very orange) I resaved the files to new locations. Voilą! Ready to be inserted/chopped/overlayed/further-grunged/whatevered at the artist's whim.

Also included are 4 scans for those without scanners. These are all saved at 5000x3900 (give or take the 3900 part) so they should be plenty big for most purposes (had to move them down a bit to fit in the forum constraints). If anyone wants originals, let me know and I can make them available through my FTP, they are approx 6000x5000 and 96 megs as PSD.

To make it official, I am releasing these textures into public domain with the Creative Karma License 1.0 -- Free to use for any purposes whatsoever without restriction as long as you do something nice for someone at some point :)

10-20-2009, 05:29 PM
Glad you did this. I don't drink tea but I've always wanted to try the technique. I hear coffee grounds work too, but I don't drink that either. I like 1 and 3 for maps (lighter), 2 and 4 for text (more character).

10-20-2009, 08:19 PM
If you're going to do it with coffee there are a few options...

Option 1 (The Weak Coffee Stain in a pot on the stove)
1tbspn into 500ml of water on a stove, boil and skim out the coffee grounds then do what CoyoteMax did.

Option 2 (The REALLY Long Black)
Make percolator coffee with double the water or half the coffee of usual then do what CoyoteMax did

Option 3 (The Grinds Rubbing)
Get a dishcloth, put a big spoon of coffee grinds into it, tie it into a ball and put it into boiling water for a little while (until you see the coffee soaking back out into the water). Wrap a dry dishcloth around it and rub it onto the paper. This is really good for adding in those "random damage" marks.

Done these on all sorts of things before... so give them a whirl. Variations on the tea theme but they work nicely.

10-20-2009, 09:46 PM
Oooh, I may have to try the coffee method. thanks!

I may end up finding a use fur my espresso grounds too, I'll experiment one of these times and report back. (probably not until after mexico though)

Incidentally, when scanning, make sure and do both sides! They will give you very similar looks, but different enough to be useable.

The observant among you may notice that's exactly what I did with the 4 textures listed above, that's 2 sheets of paper total :)

10-20-2009, 11:17 PM
All I drink is Pepsi or milk so I wonder if either of those will work :) I'll report back as well.

10-20-2009, 11:30 PM
I can picture results with pepsi, but remind me to not come visit while you're testing the milk out :P

10-21-2009, 04:57 AM
Looks great, CM. I'm sure I can find some use for it :D

10-21-2009, 05:27 AM
Very good idea.
You can also buy small sheets of "natural paper" (I am not sure of the translation), and scanning.
Some examples of natural paper: http://www.creatif.fr/papier-himalaya-1.html

10-21-2009, 07:02 PM
Another option requires a heat lamp and really cheap paper. You crumple, fold, spindle, and so on. Apply the heat lamp and the paper will rapidly brown and become fragile. If you leave it folded (ideally with several other pages) then the edges will brown faster than the inside. Roasting it for a good long time will make the edges crumbly. Try not to let it catch fire too much.

I am told that making the paper more acid with something like vinegar between the scuffing and roasting will make the browning go faster. The more acid the paper the faster it goes.

The best paper I ever found for this was cheap white quad-rule graph paper. I drew a quick dungeon map on it. The blue lines washed out with a quick dip in water and the paper was acid enough that it browned rapidly. I applied a little extra heat to one corner of the folded map and the result was nicely asymmetric and crumbly when I opened it up again.

10-21-2009, 07:26 PM
Nice! I've also tried doing paper in the oven way back in the day when I was making player handouts, but I don't recall much of how I did that. Never thought of the heatlamp, though. I can say that my players were altnernately amused and annoyed when I would give them handouts that would literally start crumbling as soon as they tried to handle them :)

So I took my Trade challenge map original and tried an experiment. no undo, since it's not a digital effect though :) (but it's scanned, so I'm ok)

There's been a few maps where I've had things like bloodstains and such being faintly visible, and they looked pretty funky, so i figured why don't I replicate that while I'm messing around. Blood/whatever stains don't look like most people make them look digitally, as it turns out. I was using photoshop brushes of thinks like paint/ink/whatever splats, and working off that. I took into account folds, and would have a slightly fainter one set symetrically across any fold lines. But even with blurring out the edges, the real stains look nothing like that - WAY more smudgy and blurred, no real definition to them at all. *notes for future reference*

After it dries, I'll scan the other side for texture purposes.. it's a little delicate right now. I went a little nuts when messing around this one and like I said - no undo :P

10-21-2009, 07:53 PM
Haha, you're not kidding, you really put that through the ringer. Just please tell me the red isn't your blood ;)

10-21-2009, 07:55 PM
*looks around for a bandaid before bleeding out...*

No no. Red food dye! I'm ok :)

10-22-2009, 02:34 AM
I, on the other hand, am more committed. Two drops of blood committed, in fact.

The first one has a couple of smears and a drop that were allowed to dry to the touch and then scanned.

The second one was heated until the blood darkened to roughly what it would look like after a few days.

The last one was heated until the paper discolored (the lighter bands are the supporting wires of the oven whose broiler did the heating).

Blood has a weird opaque quality that doesn't look or act at all like blood substitutes in the movies or stage. It has odd aging properties as well. Note that the blood smears are transparent and the blood drops are opaque. Next time I check my blood sugar I'll do this over some writing. Ideally I'd try it over some traditional iron gall ink, but then I'd have to make some.

10-22-2009, 02:40 AM
Thanks for the old papers. It's much quicker to steel someones job than do it your self ;-)
They look really great and I will have much use for them.

Here is an example of my map after aplying your old paper 1.

10-22-2009, 02:53 AM
Waldronate: Aaah, you've found one of the very few advantages to needing to check blood sugar on a regular (or semi regular in any case) basis :) I don't have that issue, but my wife does, and we try to find ways to keep it from being depressing. i'll have to bring this up next time I catch her doing it, and ask for a pint so i can scan it :P

Clercon: I'm just glad i can give back something to the community that's given me so much :P I like it, that's a nifty effect you've made out of it :)

10-22-2009, 08:52 AM
@Waldronate: now that is dedication. Thanks, those are pretty non-intuitive results.

10-22-2009, 01:54 PM
One thing that you notice immediately in older documents is that organic stuff all goes to shades of brown. The paper goes from off-white to brown, the ink goes from black to brown, the blood stains go from red to brown. The only colors that maintain their integrity much at all are mineral colors or metallic leaf elements. Even with mineral colors like yellows, reds, greens, and blues there was usually an organic binder that muddies them a little over time. The older ink formulations like black gall ink are corrosive to papre over time, giving rise to effects around the ink that vary with age.

Old papers are a bit different than mondern ones. The old papers were mostly rag papers, meaning that they were mostly cellulose. Modern papers are wood pulp, which has roughly 1/4 lignin. Lignin doesn't hold up to long storage as well as cellulose and degrades more rapidly. Modern papers were also often bleached with chlorine, which forms hydrochloric acid over time in the paper, which causes a catalytic degradation in the paper. That's why newspapers get rapidly browner and more fragile than fancier paper. And then there's the clay-coated slick paper from magazines. It's hardly paper at all except in the sense that printing is done on it.

I hate it when I can't stop talking like this. Lots of good information on paper aging and how old document differ from new ones is out there on the internet.

My great-grandfather had a collection of cheap pulp novels from the 1940's that are out in the garage. I'll try to find some and see if I can get some scans of not too old paper for comparison.

Maybe I'll try some other staining materials so that I can say that I've put blood, sweat, and tears into the site.

10-22-2009, 01:54 PM
As promised, here's a few more of the textures, including some that look like they will be useful for bump or displacement mapping with little adjustment needed.

Most of these are from the first set of paper textures, this time after drying. It really brought ot the crinkles on a few cases. Originally I was hoping the tea staining would enhance the crinkles (like the edges and some of the folds), I hadn't been counting on the fact that soaking it in water softened the sharp edges so much.

Anyhow, I'll do them in two sets, I have 7 more to share.

First, the dried versions of the previous (if you match them up they could do good displacement maps for the previous wet ones). Number 8 had an issue, I accidentally scanned it at the default of 150, and didn't notice until after i'd re-soaked the paper, so unfortuantely, there's no going back to redo that one.

10-22-2009, 02:01 PM
lol @ waldronate..

Actually if you go do a good workout and use a piece of paper to wipe your forhead ever few mins...

Hrm. i think i'm putting too much thought into this now! :)

Anyhow, here's the last 2, I think I'm done making paper textures for now, i'm happy with my collection. I think I can title this portion the Extreme Collection :)

This is the backside of my map after drying out, plus I took one of the other pieces and set it to the match - some of the edges didn't go out as fast as I meant them to :)

10-22-2009, 02:46 PM
Great stuff, CM, thanks a lot for all this work. I'm sure these will come in very handy for a lot of people.

If you really wanted to add a few more nice ones into the mix (go on, you know you want to) how about scanning a few folded but un-aged papers, purely for overlaying some nice folds onto maps that don't necessarily want all the aging. I'd love to try this myself but my scanner is about ten years old, up in my daughter's bedroom and lacking a power adaptor. :(

A nice little set of folds like that would surely make me very happy. Hehe.

10-22-2009, 03:12 PM
Excellent idea! I'm glad I thought of it!!

:) This should take considerable less time than the aged versions..

10-22-2009, 04:29 PM
Well my scanner doesn't seem to like working with plain paper, but I did the best I could.

The crumply textures came out much better than the straight folds. I included 2 of each, same size as the previous papers.

And finally, the jewel in the crown for this entire thread - I'm sitting here waiting for a scan to go through, and look up, and there hanging over my desk like it's been for the last5 years is my wife's drum from her SCA days.

So.. scanned it! :) I almost want to keep this one for myself :P

But seriously, free to anyone for use, no strings attached.. (but it would be nice to know what my kids grow up into, heh)

10-22-2009, 04:38 PM
Excellent! If only I could rep you again...

10-22-2009, 05:09 PM
Just knowing that i've contributed something useful is enough for me :)

but thanks!

10-22-2009, 07:10 PM
Coyote> I did a mini-tutorial based on RobA's Island building technique to create "distressed edges".... so you don't have to burn real paper to do it. You could get your "usual textures" and electronically distress them...

10-22-2009, 07:33 PM
Yep, i knew about that, but playing with real fire is so much more fun :)

10-22-2009, 08:12 PM
Fire! Fire! Heh, heh...cool. He said fire.

10-23-2009, 04:15 AM
Alienskin have a 'burnt edges' filter which makes the process very easy. Here's an example with Coyote's drumskin texture.

Steel General
10-23-2009, 06:02 AM
Excellent! If only I could rep you again...

Gotcha covered Torstan...

@C-max *BONK*

10-23-2009, 10:38 AM
Cheers SG.

Edit: Um, it looks like you repped me for that. Not that I didn't put an awful lot of effort into carefully downloading all these textures, but I think repping me for it might be going a little over the top....

10-23-2009, 11:35 AM
Cheers SG.

Edit: Um, it looks like you repped me for that. Not that I didn't put an awful lot of effort into carefully downloading all these textures, but I think repping me for it might be going a little over the top....


Some more great stuff from you CM. Thanks a lot for the work put in.

Steel General
10-23-2009, 12:43 PM
Cheers SG.

Edit: Um, it looks like you repped me for that. Not that I didn't put an awful lot of effort into carefully downloading all these textures, but I think repping me for it might be going a little over the top....

Oh well, I probably needed to rep you for something anyway :)

10-23-2009, 02:27 PM
Well this inspired me to kill some time at work messing with some paper I spilled some of my lunch on. I started getting pretty out there with recolorings and other filtering processes on top of the scans...and one thing lead to another. I just started seeing the wrinkles as land features and not just textured background.

Thanks Coyotemax, this turned into a wonderful creative exercise.

10-23-2009, 02:55 PM
Oh my word. You made a map from a lunch spill? And not just a map but a really cool stylistically daring one?

You people make me sick. :((

10-23-2009, 03:28 PM
That is just plain crazy brilliant cool.

I am so gonna play around with that idea when i get back from vacation :)

10-23-2009, 05:48 PM
Though I've never tried it, I've seen a technique where someone crumples a piece of paper, mostly flatten it out then scanned to make a reasonably realistic mountain range from the crumpled texture. Tom Hardin's experiment reminded me of that. Something I may want to try...


10-30-2009, 03:52 PM
Ramah - Thanks, but sorry if I made anyone sick hehe. When I was a kid in school we would take brown paper bags, cut them up so they were whatever shapes we needed and then wrinkle the snot out of them until they gained the appearance and texture of leather, then use that for arts and crafts.

Coyotemax - Thank you! Glad you created this thread...having done lots of paper wrinkling as a kid, it just never occured to me to scan it and photoshop it - sheer awesomeness in a bottle.

Gameprinter - that sounds like a really doable idea. I may just have to whip something up.

11-01-2009, 03:49 PM
Ironically, Tom, that was exactly what I was thinking while looking at some of the shots from Coyotemax's upload with the drum skin.

As to the drum skin, Coyotemax, Brilliant! I never would have thought to do that. Now that makes me want to go start trying to get high-res images of the textures in other instruments for use in frames, plaques, etc in our maps. I'll post here if I manage to find some time and a camera for that.


11-01-2009, 03:55 PM
Drumskin! I can't believe I missed that. I just bought a handmade drum a couple months ago; I am so gonna scan that. Great idea CM, and thanks asp for mentioning it so that I didn't overlook it completely.

11-10-2009, 05:25 AM
Thanks, Coyotemax, for highlighting this technique. This floated into my brain once or twice while I was drinking my morning tea, then disappeared again. Your awesome results made me want to try this out, just before I tossed out the dregs :P Just thought I'd attach the results, if they could be of use to anyone, though they are not as gorgeous as yours. The drying was rough and ready by putting the paper on the radiator but it did crumple somewhat interestingly.

This was done in a hurry, as just an experiment - actually, I had two papers but I put them out on the balcony to dry, and one went 'gone with the wind' so to speak. Oh well - note to self, don't put anything out in the autumn wind without weighting them down first ;)

Steel General
11-10-2009, 06:18 AM
Nice results here Kangaroo!

11-10-2009, 08:07 AM
Yes, that's actually very nice. I like the subtleness to the colour :)

**saves a copy**

11-21-2009, 08:33 AM
You can also use a wash/sponge dabbing of lemon juice concentrate and bake the paper in the oven @ 250°F for five minutes or so. It gives a slightly different effect than tea. Careful not to start a fire!

11-27-2009, 12:09 PM
I ran another set of textures.

This time I wanted to see what would happen with a combination of instant coffee (since i have a jar and never use it for anything since i only bought it for a single cheesecake recipe), lemon juice and oven heating.

Plus I was wondering how it would turn out with several layers of paper stacked in rather than individually like I had been doing before. I have to say it was a bit of a success - though I will say that placing sheets directly on the oven racks themselves ended up putting burn lines across the sheets (even at minimum temperature, it only took a few seconds for the lines to appear). Lesson learned, they go on baking sheets from now on :)

I have 16 in total (edited to remove the burn lines, they were too regular and artificial), and am putting together a zip file to be hosted on deviantart.com. Should I just post a link to the pack there, or would people like to see the textures hosted here as well? I suspect I'll have to upload them individually again, they're all in the 5k+ pixel range, and a zip file won't compress them that much.

[edit] Incidentally, I took one of the sheets and printed out a page from a necronomicon styled manuscript i'm helping to work on. I took all the parchment layers off and left the background white so the ink effects and shadings for the drawings would show through properly, and sent that to the printer. I have to say, it looks far more creepy that I was expecting, the red/brown shading really does look like it was inked with blood. :) I'm seriously considering setting up an entire physical book this way, printing out AFTER aging is so much more effective than printing before.

11-27-2009, 02:35 PM
Links are good enough. Most of us check DA because it's a trustworthy site.

11-27-2009, 05:00 PM

I have them separated out into packs of 7, with one fullsize texture as a preview in case someone just wants one, and not the whole pack :)

Some of these are a bit larger in filesize and dimensions than the ones I uploaded here. the first 12 are the same as the ones I placed here, so if you're looking to nab them all and already have the ones i posted early in the thread, you can skip the first pack.


Once again, all these textures are free to use by anyone for any purpose, no restrictions. But a nod in my direcion would be nice, and if you let me know, that would be even better :)

11-27-2009, 05:05 PM
Snagging them as I type. :)

I've had a quick look at them and they're really awesome. Thanks again for your work on this CM.

11-27-2009, 05:12 PM
i've just been having a lot of fun making them :)

01-08-2010, 10:05 PM
Incredible stuff...really, very nice indeed!

02-22-2010, 03:14 PM
Something I've actually tried in secondary... (highschool)... just Iron the paper... The result was, if I recall correctly, quite amazing, and it's actually very easy to control the dosage. Just remember NOT to use one of those fancy steam-irons... ;)

You can go from a subtle recolour of the paper to a major yellowing.

08-31-2012, 03:58 AM
I was cleaning and came upon a familiar page in a pile of papers. Here's what another 3 years of aging looks like on the same stains. I seem to have a different set of scanner settings or something, because it seems a bit lighter than the earlier scans, but otherwise little changed.