How to Make Paper

Four Parts:Preparing Your SuppliesPulping the PaperSetting the PaperFinalizing the Paper

Are you a hoarder with heaps of old newspapers? Did your girlfriend dump you and now you want to do something artistic and destructive with her love letters? Are you looking for a rewarding project to do on a rainy day? If you answered yes to any of these questions, try making your own paper. All you need is some recyclable paper, water, a pan, screen and a blender.

Part 1
Preparing Your Supplies

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    Prepare your equipment. To make paper, you will mix pulp and water, then pour it onto a piece of window screen. Here are some different options for starting:
    • Frame method: Stretch a screen over a wooden frame (an old picture frame works well, or you can build your own) and staple it or nail it to the edges. Nearly any fine screen or sieve with holes about 1 mm small can be substituted for the window screen. The screen should be pulled as tightly as possible. Make sure the frame is large enough to hold the size of paper you wish to make. Additionally, you'll need a basin, bucket or pan that's larger than the frame.
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    • Pan method: Purchase a deep, disposable aluminum pan from the grocery store, or find a deep casserole dish. Cut out a portion of screen that's the same shape as the bottom of the pan, but slightly larger.
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    Find recyclable paper. Newspaper may be the easiest source to start with, but you can also use old print-outs, notes, phone books - just about any unwaxed paper product.Keep in mind that the color of the papers you use and the amount of dark ink on them will affect the "grayness" of your creation. Avoid using any glossy or shiny paper - it won't work as well.
    • Paper can also be made entirely of grass and leaves as well, in fact, that's how most paper was made until the 20th century! You must cut the vegetation in small pieces, soak it in caustic soda to "digest", strain it, and blend it to a pulp. Then pour it on the press. After it dries, you can proudly say, "This paper contains no trees!"

Part 2
Pulping the Paper

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    Clean up the paper. Remove plastic, staples and other contaminants. Especially if you're using junk mail, your paper scraps are likely to contain plastic from envelope windows. Try to remove such impurities as thoroughly as possible.
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    Tear the paper into small pieces. Don't spend to much time on this step, but do break up the paper into smaller pieces. A few rips per paper should be enough.
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    Soak the paper in water. Put the smaller pieces of paper in a container (such as a bowl or cup) and cover them with water. Let them soak for 30 to 45 minutes.
    • If you want to make colored construction paper,use paper with the least amount of dark ink, use a lot of "pulp" and use liquid food coloring. The resulting paper will most likely be opaque on one side and bright on the other. Depending on your intended use, either side may be suitable, but the bright side will probably be better for writing.
    • If you want to have whiter paper, half a cup of white vinegar can be added to the pulp mixture.
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    Turn the paper into pulp. Now that the recyclable paper is more wet and pliable, you can start the process of turning it into pulp - a thick, goopy, slightly watery substance that will eventually become your new piece of paper. Here are two possibilities:
    • Blend the paper. Rip the paper into tiny bits, and place it all into a blender until it's about half full. Fill the blender with warm water. Run the blender on "slow" at first, then increase the speed until the pulp looks smooth and well-blended - approximately 30 to 40 seconds - just until there are no flakes of paper remaining.
    • Mash the paper. If you have a mortar and pestle (or something similar, like the end of a rolling pin and a sturdy bowl) available, you can mash up the paper by hand. Work a handful at a time, and aim to get the pulp so that it's similar to the consistency of watery oatmeal.

Part 3
Setting the Paper

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    Fill your basin about halfway with water. The basin should be a little wider and longer than your frame and approximately the same shape.
    • If you're using the frame method, fill the basin and add the pulp before you dip the frame.
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    • If you're using the pan method, put the screen in the bottom of the pan before you add the water and mix in the pulp.
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    Add the pulp to the basin and stir. The amount of pulp you add to the water will determine the thickness of the paper, and while you want a dense suspension of pulp to fully cover your screen in the next steps, you don't need to make the whole tub into sludge. Experiment a bit. The thickness of can be changed from paper to cardboard depending on the amount of water added to the pulp.
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    Remove any large clumps of paper. Try to pick out any clumps; the smoother and finer your mixture, the more uniform your end product will be.
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    Seize the paper (optional). If the paper is going to be used for stationery, stir 2 teaspoons of liquid starch into the pulp mix. The starch helps prevent ink from soaking into the paper fibers.
    • If you don't add starch, the paper will be highly absorbent, and your ink will likely bleed quite easily. If this occurs, briefly soak the dried paper in a mix of water and gelatin and re-dry.
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    Immerse the frame in the mixture (frame method only). Place your wooden frame into the pulp, screen-side down, then level it while it is submerged. Lightly move it side-to-side until the pulp on top of the screen lies fairly uniformly flat.
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    Lift the screen from the basin. Slowly lift up the screen until it is above the water. Drip-drain it over the basin. Wait until most of the water has drained from the pulp, and you'll see the beginnings of a new piece of paper. If the paper is very thick, remove some of the pulp from the top. If it is too thin, add some more pulp and stir the mixture again.
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    Remove excess water from the paper. After you've lifted the screen out of the basin, you'll need to remove the extra water from the pulp. Depending on the method you chose in Step 1, here's how to do it:
    • Frame method: After the water stops dripping (or nearly so), gently place a piece of fabric (felt or flannel, preferably) or a piece of Formica (smooth-side down) in the frame on top of the "paper". Very gently press down to squeeze out excess water. Use a sponge to press out as much water as possible from the other side of the screen, and periodically wring out the sponge.
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    • Pan method: Lay a cloth towel out on a flat surface, and put the screen (with the paper on it) on one half of the towel. Fold the other half over so that it's on top of the paper. With a clothes iron on low setting, gently iron over the towel. You should see a little steam from the paper coming up.

Part 4
Finalizing the Paper

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    Remove the paper from the screen. Once the paper is a little more dry, you can lift it from the screen. You can gently press out any bubbles and loose edges at this point.
    • Gently lift the fabric or Formica out of the frame. The wet sheet of paper should remain on the fabric. If it sticks to the screen, you may have pulled too fast or not pressed out enough water.
    • You can press a drying sheet of paper by placing another piece of fabric or Formica on top of it and gently pressing. This will make the resulting paper smoother and thinner. Leave the second piece there as it dries.
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    Peel the paper off the screen slowly. If you find that it's not coming off easily, try ironing it underneath the towel again.
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    Set the paper out to dry. Take the piece of paper and lay it out to dry on a flat surface. Alternatively, you can speed up the drying process by using a hair dryer on the low setting.
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    Peel the paper off the fabric or Formica (frame method only). Wait until the sheets of paper are thoroughly dried; then gently peel.
    • Ironing (optional): When the paper is damp, but safe to move peel the fabric/Formica from the paper and then use an iron set on high to dry the paper quickly and give it a nice shine.
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    Repeat the above steps to make additional sheets. Continue adding pulp and water to the basin as needed.


  • For a more artistic flair, you can also incorporate plant materials into your paper, such as shreds of flower petals, leaves, or green grass. The resulting beautiful effects will motivate you to make more - no two pieces are ever the same.
  • If you dry the paper on fabric, the paper may take on the color and texture of the material, so be careful what you use. Smooth Formica may be the best option if you want smooth writing paper.
  • To get excess water out you can put the cloth on top and press with a sponge - be gentle!
  • Wax paper can be used instead of fabric or Formica.
  • If you have trouble pulling the paper out of the frame, you may gently turn the frame upside down and try to pull it off the fabric or Formica.
  • You can add dryer lint to your slurry, but do not make your paper entirely from lint, as it will not have enough body on its own.
  • You can add a little bit of glitter to make your paper blink.

Things You'll Need

  • Any unwaxed paper (it cannot be glossy or shiny paper)
  • Wooden frame or aluminum pan
  • Window screen
  • Container
  • Blender or a mortar or pestle
  • Basin (if using wooden frame)
  • Water
  • 2 teaspoons liquid starch (optional)
  • Sponge (if using a wooden frame)
  • Towel (if using an aluminum pan)
  • Iron (optional for wooden frames)

Sources and Citations

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