Staining Paper

If you are a hardcore bibliophile like myself, you remember wanting to stain paper to make it look older when you were a kid. Who am I kidding, even as an adult I want to do this. Staining paper to your liking is a great way to transform something ordinary, into something extraordinary! You can use the new paper for drawing, writing, or can turn it into a journal for yourself (more posts to come on making a book later). I set out to try two methods to staining paper with coffee. You can always use tea if that is what you have lying around, and while the steps are the same, the results may vary based on tea blend and strength.

Scroll to the bottom for ideas to implement this as an activity in your library!

First, you need supplies:

Supplies used:

  • Coffee
  • Mug or Glass
  • Hot water
  • Paper Towel
  • Printer Paper
  • Baking Pan or Cookie Sheet to hold paper and liquid
  • Someplace flat to dry

The first method I tried was boasted about on another blog to help solve the problem of drying time. As someone with an inquisitive cat and small apartment, faster drying time was a huge appeal for me.

Dabbing Method

Step One: Lay a piece of paper in your baking sheet/whatever container you are using.

Step Two: Add hot water to a cup. You can do this by boiling water, or if your like me and want results fast, microwave a glass full of water for one to two minutes depending on your microwave.

Step Three: Add a spoonful of coffee to the center of a paper towel, bring the four corners together, and twist shut. (Steps for this shown below)

Step Four: Dunk your paper towel of coffee into the hot water for 15-20 seconds. You can test if it has been long enough by squeezing the water out of the paper towel. If it comes out coffee colored you are ready to start dabbing. If not, simply hold it in the water a little longer. **The paper towel becomes fragile from being in water. When squeezing the coffee out be gentle and keep an eye for any cracks that might let out coffee grinds. I found this out the hard way.**

Step Five: Dab the paper towel on to your piece of paper. You can test out patterns, amounts of liquid, spacing, etc.

Step Six: Repeat as many times as you would like! Since my paper towel broke after the first paper, I wrapped it in a second paper towel. This resulted in less color transferring, but saved me having to use more coffee.

Step Seven:  Lay flat to dry. These took about 3-4 hours to dry completely, but if you dry off the excess water with a sponge, I have a feeling you could cut the time in half. The spots that were still wet after a couple hours were where the stain had pooled on the page.

For me, personally, this was not the fast dry time that I was hoping from the previous blog’s suggestion, but hey, at least my cat didn’t ruin them!

Dunk Method

Step One: Brew coffee or tea. The higher ratio of coffee to water, the darker your stain will be. I brewed six ounces of coffee to stain my papers, however if you are staining more than one or two pieces, a larger amount of coffee will be needed.

Step Two: Lay your paper in a flat container that has walls (so the coffee doesn’t spill!). I suggest something with at least an inch in height.

Step Three: Pour coffee over your paper. Be sure to push down the paper to allow the coffee to cover both the bottom and top of your page. **The longer you leave the paper in, the darker the stain, however I tested both 15 and 45 seconds and they look the same.**

Step Four: Remove the paper very carefully as wet paper is incredibly fragile. I found that leaving a small edge out of the water allowed for easier pick up, but you could also slide a spatula under the page to remove it safely.

Step Five: Lay flat to dry. I laid mine on a towel on top of my desk, and they took about ten hours to dry.

Implementing as an activity in your library:

The biggest difference between doing this at home and doing it as a library activity is space and quantity. Since there will be more people, you will need more supplies, and more space set up to do the activity.

Suggestions to make it work for your library:

If it is summer time out, and your library has the space available, you could move tables outside to do the dabbing and dunking method. Not only will this help immensely with cleanup, but the sun might even help the patrons projects dry faster!

Tie rope or string to trees and clothespin finished paper up to dry.

Consider making a multi-part activity. Many aspects of book making take drying time. By making a themed “Book Making” night once a week, you can store patrons crafts while they dry. Consider having a sign-up list to ensure that patrons can make it to every event to complete their book project. Most of these crafts (upcoming posts soon I promise!) only need an overnight drying time. Once the paper is dry you can store them in labelled folders for the next activity that your patron attends. This way it takes up minimal space, and ensures the craft will stay safe from damage.

Supplies Suggestions:

As librarians we thrive on being thrifty with our (often) small budgets. This craft can be completed almost solely with items your library already has. Paper towels, hot water, and coffee may all be easily accessible for your library, or a librarian may be willing to donate for the activity. You could also think about using scrap paper for this activity, ensuring no confidential information is on them.


Build a Book


blissfullybookish View All →

Graduate student in Masters of Library and Information Science programming trying to save the world one book at a time.

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