Creating an Aged Look


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There are many ways to achieve this, and all give a bit of a different look.  I have limited workspace & no water on hand, (I bring it to the space) so I like stamping & distressing inks for their ease of use & clean up.  My favourites are Brilliance™ Lightening Black and Starlight Black stamping inks & Tim Holtz Distress Ink™ Frayed Burlap.  The Brilliance inks are quite ‘wet’ pigment inks, that will take a few minutes to dry, but can also be embossed.  The Distress Ink, is more for colouring cut edges , dirtying up backgrounds and generally taking the ‘newness’ off something. 

Lightening Black is a metallic gold, muddy olive colour, Starlight Black is a Micaceous Iron Oxide look (like metal filings).  They are a metallic looking ink so add some extra dimension to your work & I use these all the time to create different looks.  You can use the pad itself lightly tapped onto your work, use it to ‘muddy up’ the edges, smoosh it onto a makeup sponge & rub it in (this will be quite dark) They are also really good when layering collage & you want some stamp in some background images that aren’t too dominant. I tend to create a heap of pages at one time, they all turn out just a little different, & then when I am creating I can choose the ‘aging’ effect that I most like for the piece of work I am doing. 


I have used tea, coffee & the skins from brown onions for years to age & distress both fabrics & paper.  It is so simple.  Create a brew of either tea, coffee or onion skins with boiling water in a mixing bowl, let it cool to be comfortable to work in.  Then dip the paper in, let the liquid permeate the paper/fabric as much as you are happy with, or that the paper/fabric can handle.  Take it out & dry it over a line; paper needs to be laid flat: it will be straighter if it is lightly ironed, if it is left to dry naturally, it has a crumpled look about it.  (like an unironed shirt)


To create a burnt look, I use an ‘acidic liquids’ like white wine, vinegar, lemon or lime juice.  Apply with a cotton bud or ball in the areas you require it. (you have greater control with a cotton bud than a cotton ball) Heat it with a heat gun, the more that you heat it, the darker the ‘burn’ marks become.  I still usually do a whole page at a time & cut it up to use, using the bit that suits the composition I am making.


There’s nothing like a few wrinkles to make something look old.  It’s easy to create them.  Crumple up the paper, then spray over it with a fine mist of water.  You can make the wrinkles less prominent by just letting this dry, or you can exaggerate the ripples & crinkles by using either chalk or a stamping or distressing ink dragged lightly across the ridges in the paper.  (if you use chalk, you then have to use a fixative to seal it or it will smudge)


Sandpaper & fine steel wool are good to create an aged effect on printed images & I especially like using sandpaper to soften edges of something I have mounted and cutout, it looks a bit more nicely finished.   I usually use the ‘automotive’ wet & dry lubricated sandpaper as it doesn’t tend to rip the paper.  Fine steel wool I particularly like to ‘dull’ things down a little without removing the image.


A naked flame can create quite an interesting look to paper, especially if it’s source is a candle.  IF you are going to use a method like this, you have to take great care.  PAPER IS FLAMABLE.  (I can SEE you rolling your eyes).  Make sure that you have a clear open work space AND that you are wearing close fitting clothes AND that your hair is fixed back so that it won’t fall forward as you are working.  When I am using this method, I usually do it on the cleared stainless steel draining board of my kitchen sink – it’s a non flamable surface & water is close at hand.   If a piece catches on fire I can quickly put it in the sink without taking a step & turn on the water.  Kills the work, but puts out the fire!

SO – in the context of all of the above, in a safe, cleared space, in appropriate clothing – light a ‘thick’ candle.  You need one where the flame is above the stem, not where the wick is burnt down into a hole in the centre.  Pass the paper back & forward through the flame itself.  This will give you a combination of brownish marks & black soot marks.  I sometimes like to use coated paper which has a slight sort of a plastic ‘wrap’ look over it.  When this gets hot, it bubbles back, it makes nice ‘distressed’ bits when it is rubbed over with ink or dry brushed with paint.  Have fun with this one, but take great care – NO art is worth the pain of injury!


Wipes (as I will generically refer to them) remove the ink on imagery.  It is most effective on magazine cutouts/shiny printed matter & photographs.  The more you rub/wipe, the more is removed.  I would caution you to go slow with this technique.  A little goes a long way.  Also, as you have wiped it on to your imagery, it’s reaction doesn’t always stop as soon as you do.  This is particularly so with photographs.  Don’t use anything precious to do this.


About colourguru

I am an interior designer by day, and an artist by night. Colour never ceases to fascinate, enthuse and compell me.

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