aged paper

How to Make Aged Paper for D&D

Sometimes it’s nice to add a simple prop to your D&D game to make the world seem more authentic. Making aged paper for your D&D documents is an easy way to make your party more invested in your game. These documents can range anywhere from maps to letters to puzzles. Below we provide step by step instructions on several different ways you can create aged paper with items you have around the house.

The Basics of Aged Paper

Aged paper can come in different varieties that are based on where you want your adventurers to find the document. If the PCs find an aged paper document in a castle vs. in a cave, those two documents should look fairly dissimilar. You can use any method you’d like to create the base for all of your documents and then use several more methods to really advance the wear and tear look of your document.

The Crumple Method

If you’re short on time, the easiest of all these methods is the crumple method. Simply take a piece of paper and crumple it into a ball. Unwrap it, and crumple it again. Keep crushing your paper into a small ball and unrolling it until it has a soft, distressed appearance. The paper can be straightened out and have the excess wrinkles removed in two ways. Placing the paper between heavy books is a good option. Alternatively, hold the edges of the paper between your hands and gently move the paper back and forth on an edged surface. Eventually you will end up with a soft, aged piece of paper that your players could find anywhere in your campaign.

Aging Paper with Liquids

This is probably the most well-known method for creating aged paper. You can use a number of liquids to help age your paper:

  • tea
  • coffee
  • lemon juice
  • red wine
  • soy sauce

Simply add the liquid and your paper to a container (we used a baking sheet) and let stand. Try to get all of the bubbles that appear under the paper out, unless you want a patchy effect on your paper.

Different types of liquids will have different darkening effects on your paper. Some of them can even be used together to get a two-toned effect. The amount of time that the paper stays in the liquid will have an effect on the final color. Leave the paper submerged longer for a darker color. We found that the best effect was achieved around the two hour mark. While the paper is in the liquid, it will be soft enough that you can add small holes with your fingers.

aged paper
Standard printer paper aged with tea for two hours

Drying Methods

After your paper has been left in the liquid for your chosen amount of time, you’ll need to dry it off. There are different methods you can try depending on what you have on hand. You can put your paper in the oven on a very low temperature. Anything 200 degrees or below should be fine. Keep an eye on your paper while it is in the oven and take it out when it appears mostly dry. If you have any on hand, you can also dry your paper on cooling racks. However, when we attempted this, the lines from the racks did slightly appear on the paper after it was dried. The last method we recommend is using a blow dryer. Make sure you have drained as much liquid as possible from the paper. Then run the blow dryer back and forth over the paper until it is dry.

Extra Aging Effects

You might find that just changing the color of the paper isn’t a convincing enough look. To get a really worn, aged look there are several extra aging effects that you can try out. Lightly burning the edges of the aged paper with a lighter will add a distressed look. You can even add small holes to the middle of the paper. Be careful of leaving the lighter on too long as it can lead to burning off more than you originally planned. Additionally, you could smear or cover your paper with dirt to make it look like it was found in the wilderness.

aged paper
Crumpled, coffee stained, and burned

Try out Different Combinations

Different combinations of liquids will produce varied results. You will also have different results depending on what type of paper you use. Standard printer paper or any other type of paper with a glossy finish will give you a paler result than using a more porous type of paper, like newsprint. Experiment with different combinations of liquids and paper to find your favorite aged paper result.