How to Dye Paper

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Things You'll Need

  • Coffee grounds, tea bags, paper or fabric dye
  • Paper
  • Vinyl or plastic tablecloth
  • Apron
  • Gloves
  • 1 quart water
  • Plastic tub
  • Paper
  • Blotting paper
  • Board or phone books

Hand-dyeing paper is a simple project that turns sheets of plain white paper into unique and creative pieces of art. Dyed paper adds a personal touch to letters, invitations, scrapbooks, art projects and even wrapping paper. Hand-dyeing paper takes little time, is relatively inexpensive and can be done at home with simple supplies. Dye paper using coffee grounds, tea bags, paper dyes and fabric dyes to produce an assortment of colors.

Select the type of dye you want to use. Choose coffee grounds or tea bags for muted shades of brown. Use paper dye or fabric dye for bright, vibrant colors. Paper or fabric dyes can be purchased at craft stores.

Cover a flat working surface with a vinyl or plastic tablecloth to protect the area from becoming stained. Wear an apron and gloves when working with the dye to protect your skin and clothing in case of spills.

Heat one quart of water to boiling and add coffee grounds or tea bags. Add the coffee grounds and tea bags according to the desired shade. The more you add, the darker the dye will be. Mix paper or fabric dyes with water according to package instructions. Pour the dye into a plastic tub.

Prepare the paper for dyeing. Crumple the paper into a ball if a distressed or tie-dyed look is desired, or leave flat for consistent color. Place the crumpled or flat sheet of paper into the tub of dye. Remove the paper after a few seconds for a lighter hue. Leave your paper to soak for a few hours if a dark hue is desired.

Remove the paper from the dye and hold it over the tub for 20 to 30 seconds to allow the excess dye to run off. Place the dyed paper on top of the vinyl tablecloth to partially dry. Pull crumpled paper into a flat position carefully so as not to tear it.

Place the paper between two sheets of blotting paper. Place a heavy board or stack of phone books on top of the sandwiched paper. The weight will keep the dyed paper flat and smooth as it dries. Allow the paper to sit for two to three days. Remove the weight and carefully peel back the top layer of blotting paper to check the drying progress. If the paper is still damp, place a fresh piece of blotting paper over the dyed paper and return the weight to it. Remove the paper only when it is dry.


  • Most types of paper will work fine for dyeing. However, ordinary copy paper or blank newsprint are two of the most effective.

    Dye paper an light brown color to make it look like an ancient parchment or pages from an old book. Try dyeing the edges darker than the rest as if it was burnt or deteriorating.

    Create a textured, rusted look by pressing steel wool soaked in reddish-brown dye to the paper and then adding bits of salt.