Saturday, May 1, 2010

Photoshop Tutorial: Aging Paper

This is a fun process, as it involves using paintbrushes in Photoshop and is a bit more "hands-on". Once you've learned how to do it, you may never want to deal with messy teas, inks, or lighters to age your paper again!

The inspiration for this tutorial came from Nikki's blog, Miniature Question and Answer. In her post on paper, Nikki mentioned that she would like to know how to age paper in Photoshop. I figured that there may be other miniaturists out there who would be interested in a tutorial as well.

I did this example quickly, but a much more realistic look can be created if you take your time. The process has been broken down into 2 steps: creating a sepia toned image and burning the edges. If you don't want to make your image sepia toned, you may wish to skip to step 2.

Open your image that you'd like to age in Adobe Photoshop Elements. For the example, I am using The New York Times newspaper from the Titanic sinking. You may download it here.

Note: If you'd like to use your own image, make sure that you have sized it to 300 dpi at the actual size you will be printing it out BEFORE you proceed with the next steps. For a tutorial on how to resize your image, see my previous post.

Step 1: Creating a Sepia Tone Image
Make your image grayscale. Go to the menu at the top and choose Image > Mode > Grayscale.

Click on the "New Layer" button located in the bottom left corner of the layers panel. It looks like a square with the corner peeled back. A new layer called "Layer 1" will be created.

Next to the "New Layer" button at the bottom of the Layers panel, there is a half black/white circle. Click on this and choose "Hue/Saturation" from the dropdown menu. A Hue and Saturation panel will open below the Layers panel.

In the Hue and Saturation panel, click on the "Colorize" box in the bottom right corner.
Play around with the Hue, Saturation and Lightness settings until you are satisfied with the results. For the example, the Hue has been changed to 40.

Merge the two layers into a new layer by going to the Layers panel, and clicking on the small icon on the top right corner of the panel (the icon looks like 4 horizontal bars with a little arrow next to it). Click and choose "Merge Visible" from the dropdown. All of your layers will be merged into a layer called "Background".

  • You may wish to make your image slightly soft and blurry. To do this, go to the menu at the top of your screen and choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the radius for the blur to whatever looks good to you.
  • Add noise to the image by going to the "Filter" menu and clicking on "Add Noise." Tick the "Monochromatic" and "Gaussian" boxes. Change the amount value to your liking.

Step 2: Adding Burnt Edges
With the Lasso Tool (6th tool from the top of the toolbox on the left side of your screen) make an odd-shaped cut selection. Hold down the Shift key on your keyboard, and go around your image and draw odd-shaped selections wherever you want the edges torn, crumbled or burned away. You can see the marching ants on the example below:

Press delete on your keyboard.

From the menu at the top of your screen, choose Select > Inverse. The marching ants will now select the middle section of your image (the area that has not been torn off). Important: Make sure that the marching ants are visible during the next steps. If they disappear, go back in your History panel (Window > Undo History) and click on the different history states until the ants appear again. This will ensure that the colors that you brush on your image to create the aged appearance stay on your image and do not make a mess outside of the selected area.

Create a new layer in the Layers panel (using the same icon as before) and get the Brush Tool (7th tool from the bottom of your toolbox). On the bottom of the toolbox, you'll notice 2 colored squares. The top square (foreground color) is the color that will be in your brush. Click on the foreground color square. A new dialog box will appear. Choose a yellowish color. For the example, I used d99e37. This number can be typed into the box at the bottom. Click OK.

From the toolbox at the top, change the brush size to approximately 20 px and make sure that it has a soft edge. You may wish to change the opacity to 15%. "Paint" around the edges of your image. See the sample below.

Now we'll add a little black around the edges. Go to the Layers panel and make a new layer.  Using the brush tool, brush a few soft spots with black (000000) using the same method as you did with the yellowish color.

Keep adding black, brown or other colors until you are happy with the results. If you put each color on a new layer, you can change the opacity of the layers to create more subtle effects. The dropdown box that reads "Normal" can be changed to "Multiply", "Overlay", etc. for even more effects. See below:

Browns are a difficult color for printers to match. You may have to tinker with your print settings and colors a bit to get your desired results.

That's it! If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment.

If you use this tutorial in your project, please post it. I would love to see what you come up with!


  1. I LOVE this idea Carol! Thank you!!!!!!

  2. Carol, gracias Por El Explicado tutorial, esta bien Muy. Y tambien te doy gracias las, escribirme Por la Dirección de Cristina Heredia.
    Un abrazo y besos Carmen

  3. Thank you so much for doing this... fantastic!
    I know i will be able to follow this and do the same... shouldnt get stuck.
    I like the way you have done this tutorial because i dont have a clue about photoshsop and layers scare me, not really understanding them and everything esle you have explained so well.

    I will put a link to this on the main page of the mini and question paper post.

    Thank you.

    Nikki xxx

  4. Love your blog too by the way and your wicker baskets are beautiful. The art deco mini's a page back are fab and love the Tamara painting over the fireplace too.
    I love the fashion of the art deco era too!
    Will add your blog to my witch and wizard one for blogs i follow.
    Nikki xxx

  5. Thank you for your fantastic tutorial. I have an older version of Photoshop, but could manage it alright. Love the effects and loved to learn a bit more then I new (which was verrrrry basic) If/when I use it I'm sure to let you know and show a picci.
    Bye for now

  6. ¡Muchisimas gracias por este tutorial! Me va a venir muy bien, ya te cuento si lo uso y cómo me sale a mi. Besos Clara.