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Friday, January 1, 2010

Props: Aged Paper

I was digging through my box of old game props and came upon these pages, props from a campaign I ran a few years ago. After reading over some of the text I took a look at the paper itself and realized A) it looked pretty awesome for a prop, B) it was really easy to do, and C) other people might like to use this technique. Here's how to do it.

This is a good place to start, feel free to improvise of course!
  • Good high rag content paper - Typical laser printer or copier paper will just turn to mush.
  • Writing materials that are not water soluble - I use either a laser printer or ink jet with waterproof ink, because my handwriting is horrible. Test your ink if you're unsure of its water solubility.
  • A big Ziploc bag - for treating the paper.
  • Dirt - just a few tablespoons worth.
  • Water
  • Water color or acrylic paint (optional)
  • A steam iron and an old towel (optional)
  • Matches (optional)
  • A mug or cup (optional)

The Process
It's best to do this someplace that's easy to clean up, as it can be a bit messy. I generally do the messy bits outside on the back porch.
  1. Create your document using your writing tools and paper.
  2. Crumple up each page then flatten it several times. You can also fold and crease them if that's the look you want.
  3. Place the pages in the Ziploc bag, insuring there's enough space for liquid to get between the pages. Don't overcrowd!
  4. Add dirt and at least a cup of water to the bag. You want to end up with dirty water, not mud.
  5. Seal tightly and shake carefully to get all the pages wet.
  6. Soak pages for 30 minutes to two hours.
  7. Remove pages from bag and spread on a flat surface to dry.
  8. Once pages are dry rub them to remove excess soil that may have accumulated (or not).
You can stop there with some pretty good looking props, but for more options...

Before putting the pages in the Ziploc:
  • Iron them flat by dampening your old towel and placing the pages between its folds. Iron using high heat.
  • Carefully scorch the edges of the pages with matches (have water handy).
  • Using your mug, create some ring stains on the pages (coffee works quite well for this).
After you remove the pages from the Ziploc but before drying:
  • Apply some diluted paint (earth tones or greens work well for this) using a Q-Tip or crumpled up paper towel, allowing the stain to spread over the wet surface of the page. Warning: acrylic paint will permanently stain surfaces!
  • Add more ring stains with your mug.
  • Re-fold, re-scorch or re-iron if desired.
Your done!
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