The art of tea staining is a fun technique to practice and learn. It can be a bit like cooking, since you have to experiment to find the recipe you are most comfortable with. And of course, the best recipe is a matter of your own individual taste. You can add cinnamon, cloves, vanilla or other spices, and your paper will smell delicious!
Time to make some tea. Different teas will produce different colors, even adjusting the temperature of the tea could change the color of the stain produced. I would suggest starting with at least six tea bags of tea for one pot of water. Your spices can be added now too.
Now that the tea is brewed you have a choice how you would like to apply it. You could soak it in a bowl, you could dab it on with a sponge or a stippling brush, or you could use the tea bag as a brush and pounce it around a little.
Variations on this are to use loose tealeaves. You can pour the tea over your paper and let the leaves dry directly on the paper. The will give the paper a more speckled look. Instant tea could be used as a short cut. About one tablespoon per cup of water should work, but check your color and you are the judge. And if you want an even darker stain, you could try coffee, brewed or instant.
You will want to start with a light colored paper. The stain on the paper will dry lighter than the color you are seeing. In many cases, you may want to repeat the process to get the color that you want. If you save your tea or coffee, it can be used again the next day if you want to repeat the process.
Depending on the tea or coffee that you use, the acidity of the paper will become altered and the archival integrity may be compromised. It is believed that some teas may actually improve the archival quality of paper, but without knowing it might be wise to rinse the paper after staining. Since the paper strength is at risk when wet, be very careful how you handle it while rinsing. If you have screening material you might want to place it under the paper before rinsing.
And finally, heat to set the color. Tea and coffee can fade considerably from sunlight, but heat can slow down the process. You can iron the paper or put them in the oven. If you oven dry your paper keep the temperature between 200 degrees – 225 degrees F and keep an eye on them since they will dry fast. Try to leave them a little damp so they do not curl up, but if they do curl you can straighten them under a book.
Have fun experimenting. Why not try antiquing a few hangtags just to experiment? I usually crumble them up just before I stain them and get some nice lines in addition to interesting stains!
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