How to Make Paper


Creating sheets of home-made paper is a fun, inexpensive hobby. In fact, you probably have many of the supplies you’ll need to make paper around your home already! Making paper is also a great crafts project to do with kids at home. If you're a grade-school teacher, making paper works as a great hands-on learning experience for young students. To make paper, you will mix pulp and water, then pour it onto a piece of window screen.[1] You should be able to purchase all the supplies that you’ll need at a hobby shop or craft store.

Part 1
Pulping the Paper

Pulping the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Purchase window screen at a hobby shop, and use a pair of sharp shears to cut the screen into a 12 in × 8 in (30 cm × 20 cm) rectangle.[2] Then, place the cut section of screen over a wooden frame. Staple or nail the screen to the outer edges of the frame.[3] If you don't have a wooden frame, that's okay. You can make paper using a loose piece of window screen; it'll just be a little more floppy than if it were attached to a frame! In paper-making circles, this frame is known as a “mould and deckle.” If you prefer not to make one, you can purchase one at a large hobby-supply store.

Pulping the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Newspaper may be the easiest source to start with, but you can also use old print-outs, notes, or phone books. Just about any un-waxed paper product will do. Keep in mind that the color of the papers you use and the amount of dark ink on the paper will affect the color of the paper you create. Dark and inky materials will produce dark gray paper.[4] If you'd like to make white paper, only collect white sheets of paper with as little ink and print on them as possible. Even a small amount of ink on the recyclable paper can turn your sheets of paper gray. Avoid using any glossy or shiny paper, as it doesn’t work well for papermaking. Commonly found glossy items include high-gloss magazine pages, printed photographs, and wrapping paper.

Pulping the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Especially if you’re using junk mail, your paper scraps are likely to contain plastic from envelope windows. If left in the paper, staples and other contaminants may damage your blender.

Pulping the Paper on How to Make Paper

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1 cm) wide strips. The pieces don’t have to be perfectly uniform, but they should all be between 1.5–2.5 in (3.8–6.4 cm).[5] If you’re making a large amount of paper and don’t want to spend hours ripping up individual sheets, you could also run all of the paper through a shredder. If you’re doing this project with kids, they’ll love tearing the paper apart. Let them be in charge of this step!

Pulping the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Put the shredded pieces of paper in a kitchen pitcher or a large plastic bowl until the container is roughly half full. Fill the pitcher (or plastic bowl) to the brim with warm tap water to ensure that all of the paper scraps are completely submerged. Let the scraps soak for 4–6 hours.[6] Depending on the amount of paper you’re planning to make, you may need 2–3 pitchers or large bowls for this step. If you want to end up with whiter paper, add 1⁄2 cup (120 mL) of white vinegar to the pulp mixture.

Pulping the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Pour the soaked paper scraps into a blender until it’s about two-thirds full. Run the blender on “slow” and blend for approximately 30 to 40 seconds. You want the slurry to be smooth and well blended, and there should be no flakes of paper remaining. If you run the blender on a high speed or over-blend the paper, you’ll be left with a thin, soupy slurry mixture that won’t make very good paper.[7] If you have several pitchers full of soaking paper, you won’t be able to blend them all at once. You’ll need to run several batches through the blender. Slurry is a thick, gooey, slightly watery substance that will eventually become your new pieces of paper. Once the slurry condensed on the screen and begins to dry, it's referred to as pulp. As a general rule of thumb, slurry is more watery and loose than pulp.

Part 2
Adding Unique Elements

Adding Unique Elements on How to Make Paper

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Drip 5–6 drops of food coloring to 1 blender's worth of slurry. After you add the food coloring, stir the slurry with a spoon until the color is evenly spread throughout the mix. If you'd like to make 2 different colors of paper, add drops of different colors of food coloring to separate batches of blended slurry.[8] If you mix more than 2 colors in a single pitcher, you'll end up with an ugly brown. Adding materials and color dye to the slurry is a great way to give your paper an artistic flair!

Adding Unique Elements on How to Make Paper

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Purchase a package of wildflower or herb seeds and pour half of the packet into your slurry after you've blended it. Or, if you'd rather not use seeds, drop 1 small handful of shredded flower petals, leaves, or green grass into a pitcher of slurry for a decorative effect. Seed paper makes great gifts and is a fun party favor![9] Do not blend or crush the seeds before adding them. This will destroy the seeds and they'll never grow. If you're adding large flowers or pieces of grass to the slurry, you break them into 1⁄4 in (0.64 cm) bits before dropping them in. You can also create seed paper by pressing the small seeds into a finished sheet of paper just before it dries.

Adding Unique Elements on How to Make Paper

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If you'd like to end up with sheets of bright, sparkling paper, drop 1 tsp (4 g) of glitter into the slurry after you've blended it. Choose whatever colors you think will look best together and will complement the color of the paper. Avoid adding too much glitter, or it could give you a dry slurry that won't make cohesive paper.[10] Customize the things you add to make truly unique paper. Try adding both seeds and food coloring, or layer 2 different colors of slurry over each other in the screen to make a sheet of paper that’s different colors on its front and back.

Part 3
Setting the Paper

Setting the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Using a pan that’s at least 18 by 24 inches (46 cm × 61 cm) will allow you to make a large batch of paper all at once. The amount of water you add at this point is up to you. Filling the pan over halfway full will result in a thin pulp and delicate paper. Filling it less than a third full will give you very thick pulp and tough, fibrous paper.[11] A large casserole pan works great for this step. You could also use a large, rectangular plastic bin. The basin should be a little wider and longer than your frame and approximately the same shape.

Setting the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Start by adding at least 5–6 cups (1,200–1,400 mL) of slurry. The amount of slurry you add to the water will determine the thickness of the paper. If you’re new to making paper, experiment a bit with the amount of slurry you use. You can change the thickness of the final product from delicate stationery to cardboard by adding more or less slurry to the pan at this stage.[12] While you want a dense suspension of slurry to fully cover your screen in the next steps, you don't need to make the whole tub into a thick sludge.

Setting the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Once the slurry is in the pan, stir it with a wooden spoon for 10–20 seconds, until all of the saturated slurry is evenly distributed throughout the pan. If you don’t have a wooden spoon on hand, you can stir the mixture using your hands. Roll up your sleeves so they don’t get soaked, and work your fingers through the pulpy mixture.[13]

Setting the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Hold your frame at a 45-degree angle and submerge it into the basin with the screen side facing downward. Once the frame is fully submerged, tilt it back so it’s level under the slurry. Lightly shake the frame from side to side until the pulp on top of the screen lies uniformly flat.[14] If you don’t even out the pulp on top of the screen, you’ll end up with sheets of paper that have thin patches and thick spots.

Setting the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Be careful not to tilt the frame as you lift it. Hold the frame over the basin for 4-5 minutes so that the excess water can drip out of the pulp. Wait until most of the water has drained from the pulp, and you'll see the beginnings of a new piece of paper. If you don’t want to tire out your arms, just rest the frame on 1 corner of the basin.[15] If the paper is thicker than you’d like it to be at this point, remove some of the pulp from the top. If it is too thin, dip it into the slurry mixture again and pile more slurry on top of the screen.

Part 4
Couching the Paper

Couching the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Flip the frame upside down and place it on top of 2-3 towels. The side of the frame that you nailed or stapled the screen onto should be facing upward so the paper is pressed against the towels. Very gently press down on the back of the screen to transfer the sheet of paper from the screen to the drying material.[16] Then, use a sponge to press out as much water as possible from the other side of the screen, and periodically wring out the sponge.[17] Instead of towels, you could also use a large sheet of felt. In fact, felt is the traditional material to use when making paper.

Couching the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Gently lift the fabric out of the frame. The wet sheet of paper should remain on the fabric. Lift slowly and gently to make sure that the paper doesn’t come back up off of the towels or felt when you lift up the frame. If it sticks to the screen, you may have pulled too fast or not pressed out enough water.[18] You can flatten a drying sheet of paper by placing another piece of fabric on top of it and gently pressing. This will make the resulting paper smoother and thinner. Leave the second piece there as it dries.

Couching the Paper on How to Make Paper

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If you’re making thick paper, it may fail to transfer to the towel and remain stuck to the screen. If this happens, grasp 1 corner of the paper sheet between your thumb and index finger. Gently peel it back off of the screen. The paper should come off of the screen easily, as long as you don’t try to tear it all off in a sharp, jerking motion.[19] If you find that it's not coming off easily, use a hair dryer to blow hot air on the underside of the paper for 10-15 seconds. Also peel the paper off of the fabric if it’s stuck to this material.

Couching the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Take the piece of paper and lay it out to dry on a flat surface. Depending on the thickness of your paper, it can take anywhere from 6–8 hours for the paper to fully dry. You’re now ready to use the sheet of home-made paper![20] Alternatively, you can speed up the drying process by blowing hot air from a hair dryer on the paper. Use the lowest setting, and keep the hot air on the paper for 10 minutes.

Couching the Paper on How to Make Paper

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Once you’ve finished making 1 sheet of paper, you’re ready to make more. Return to the frame and basin of slurry, and dip again to make as many sheets as you like! Keep working until you’ve made paper from all of the slurry in the bin.[21] Continue adding pulp and water to the basin as needed to ensure that the slurry stays wet and that there’s enough shredded paper to form sturdy new paper sheets.