We're getting married next month and having a pirate-themed wedding. Any bits of paper we needed (whether invitations, signs, or treasure-hunt clues) I decided to make look old and pirate-y.
This technique would also be great for medieval, historical, steampunk, fantasy, or Victorian themes. Some of you may have done something like this at school, but this is such a simple yet effective bit of DIY I just had to share it!
It's just two steps:
1. Cover paper in coffee
2. Burn paper
Making the antiqued paper:
Find your paper
First you need your paper. We printed out what we wanted onto ordinary A4 white paper using a normal office computer printer — nothing fancy needed. We wanted our invitations to be small enough to roll up and put in small bottles, so we printed four per A4 sheet and cut them into separate pieces. We wanted the table signs to be big, so we left them A4 size. Any size of paper is fine, although the bigger it is the more the risk of it tearing (not necessarily a bad thing for something you want to look old and battered!). If you are going to hand-write anything it's best to do it at the end when the paper's dry as you don't want it to run and be illegible (unless that's the look you're going for?).
Paint your paper
Place your piece of paper on a flat surface such as a kitchen worktop. Dip a sponge in a little coffee — careful if you've just made it; let it cool so it doesn't burn you. The more concentrated the coffee, the darker the colour. Wipe the sponge gently over the paper. You don't want lots of liquid; think of it more as painting with watercolour rather than soaking everything. You also don't want to rub the paper too hard, as paper is more delicate when wet.
Just doing one side should be enough as the colour will soak through, but after doing one side you can flip the paper over to do the other if you want (careful not to tear it). This also works with tea. You can wipe a used teabag over the paper to stain it, although if you have a lot of paper to cover the colour from one teabag may be too weak by the end.
Burn baby burn
Once the paper's all a nice antique-looking brown, hold the edges against a flame to burn them slightly. Start at a corner and move the edge of the paper along the edge of the flame. The longer you hold any particular section against the flame the more it will burn(!), and the drier it is the more quickly it will burn. Warning: this can get messy as fine bits of ash will be produced. Definitely don't do this in a drafty room!
I used the gas ring on my stove, but a candle, lighter or other steady flame will work. Doing this when the paper is still wet from the coffee prevents it from burning too much. If the paper's dry it can quickly burn up to and over whatever's written on it before you have time to put it out. For bigger pieces of paper that feel like they might tear easily if you lift them when wet (eg A4) you can let them dry first and then re-wet just the edges before burning.
It's helpful to have a damp sponge handy (the same as you used for the coffee is fine) because even if the paper's damp the heat of the flame can dry it enough that the smouldering edge unexpectedly keeps going and eats into your paper.
If you don't want to burn the edges then just the coffee-staining can look super-awesome, making it only one step!
Now you have your antiqued paper for invitations, guest book prints, favors, and any other paper products your wedding needs. If you want to add anything else to it, such as writing with water-soluble ink, you can.