There is a scrapbook trend that has been building for a few years now that I am an avid member of: distressing. Tim Holtz has cornered the market in my mind, making everything from my favorite inks (Ranger Distress Inks, I have every one they make), to scrapbook tape (that looks like things such as strips of music, ruler tape, you name it) and blank ephemera that is made to be tarnished, dyed, stained, ripped, scratched… pretty much anything you can do to it. The result of all this destruction is a page or album or work of art that looks worn, well used…. not showroom new and untouched. I love it! Now, buying all these things to do the distressing can be expensive, but I have a few methods that I frequently use in scrapbooking that are easy, pretty cheap, and well.. they relieve my stress on those bad days.
First up, the simple art of paper tearing. There is a class of scrapbookers that think tearing a piece of paper that someone lovingly designed to be perfectly adapted to your needs is a sacrilege. I say raspberries! I learned this while working on my very first scrapbook page. It was a two-page spread for my recently deceased grandparents. I had a perfect page of assorted flowers… but I had only one. So, I put the page on the table, face up, and tore it by pulling it diagonally towards me, raggedly down the center. I put each piece on its own 12×12 sheet of sage green cardstock. Put a little ink on the white edges with an ink pad (or your finger for a more subtle, smudgy look) and now I had two coordinating pages. After that, a little vellum and a couple of pictures and my pages were done. And they still are some of my favorites. Tear paper and stick down every edge but one, and use them as pockets for tickets or little items you want to keep. Another trick is to use torn paper strips to make a rough frame or mat look for pictures. I like to take papers I don’t use (or really don’t like anymore) and pre-tear them into all sorts of sizes and shapes to use at a later date. And the tearing sounds so delicious.
The second technique is staining. Tea dye is the most popular type. Basically, you choose your paper (don’t use cardstock, it is harder to stain) and submerge it in a nice, unsweet tea bath. Just a few seconds for a light dye, or up to a minute for a dark dye. Mind you, you need a flat surface to dry these on that has something absorbent to soak up extra liquid and… leave it there. But, if you don’t want a whole page… that is where the fun begins. Coffee and colas are also great stains (please, hold the sugars and creams though). have two shallow bowls or tea saucers with coffee or a soda. Take a mug, dunk it in the coffee and then place it on the paper. drizzle the drink in random places on the page. Heck, cover your table with papers you want to stain and have fun flicking straws of tea or what have you on them. Go nuts. Let dry overnight and they look nice and worn.
The third technique is inking. I have already described inking the edges of torn paper. Ranger Distress Inks are my ink of choice here, but any ink that isn’t pigment based works well here. One way is to use the inks (inks in dropper bottles, not ink pads) for the second technique of staining. It only takes a drop or two (or more if you want a darker stain) and the whole range of colors is yours for the dyeing. Another way is to take the ink pad, holding it in a face-down angle towards the paper, and drag it across the edge of the paper. You can hold it more parallel to the paper if you want more ink further into the paper, or more perpendicular if you want just the very edge inked. This goes an amazing way towards making a factory produced piece of paper look more homemade, and it is a great way to cover up any of the white core that can easily be seen from cutting the paper. yet another idea is to stamp an image with these dye based inks randomly on all over the paper. Before it dries, spritz it with water, and let the ink move where it may. Of course, you can help it along by propping the paper up slightly, or by lightly heat setting it with a hair dryer on low or an embossing gun. This kind of look like it started raining while you were stamping. A really cool layer to add to this is to sprinkle salt (table or rock) onto the freshly inked and wetted paper. The salt soaks up the ink and water where it fell and looks awesome!
The fourth technique is crumpling. This, to me, is the most stress relieving, and can easily be done with any type of paper. Wad up a piece of paper (I use the whole 12×12 sheets, but you can wad up even the smallest bits if you need to). The un-wad it… very carefully. Here is the cool trick. Flip the paper and wad it from another angle. Now you have creases going up and down the paper. You could stop here, or you could make it look more beaten up. Flatten the paper on your table. Take an ink pad (I love the Ranger browns here, but whatever coordinates will do), and run the whole pad lightly across the paper, inking only the raised creases. I like to do it in certain spots instead of all over, which makes it kind of look like it was stepped on. If you ink all the creases, you have created a new pattern on the paper. Use the water spritzing idea from above and spray the inked creases, making the ink snake out into cooler designs. You can now flatten the paper back out by pressing it between some heavy books overnight or use it nicely crumpled to add texture to your next scrapbooking adventure.
The last technique is sanding. Crumpled paper can be stressed by lightly sanding it with a nail file (not too many strokes, unless you want a holey look) which will help the creases stand out by whitening them. Sand the edges of flat paper to create a light border. Sand the edges of several sizes of circles, crumple them, layer them, and staple the center to create a rough flower. Make up your own use for sanding, but it really is easy.
Just doing one of these techniques for an hour or so to create distressed, “ugly” paper is a great way to work out any aggression accumulated throughout the day. And the result is paper that is now uniquely yours, and makes those scrapbooking days pass a lot faster when you can finally get around to them.