How Do You Add Color to Handmade Paper?

Taking paper scraps and recycling them into plain, but lovely, handmade paper is fun all by itself. After a few times though, you’ll likely want to spice things up a bit and broaden your horizons, but how? 

Step your hobby up a notch with the addition of color!  

How do you add color to handmade paper? Handmade paper can be given color by adding colored paper, colorants like paint or cosmetic pigments, glitter, flowers, threads, confetti, dried herbs, and other colorful bits either directly to the pulp in the blender or to the slurry after pouring.

There are quite a few options for adding color to your handmade paper, and after experimenting with several methods, you’re sure to find a favorite. 

Be warned that once you start, you won’t want to stop, and rest assured that after your creative streak is activated, you’ll probably come up with your own additional ideas.

Use Colored Paper for Your Pulp

Instead of using newspaper, old bills, or other scrap paper, use colored paper as the bulk of your pulp. This is the easiest way to brighten up your handmade creations.

This method is ideal when you are making a larger batch of pulp with the intent of making several identical sheets.

Construction paper is great to use, but I prefer to use the thinner copier paper which comes in both bright, vivid colors and softer pastels (my favorite for paper making).

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Adding some shredded colored party napkins, gift wrap, envelopes, etc. to a white pulp will add a nice touch of color. 

As long as it is paper or cardboard (not waxed) and is a color that you like, consider it fair game.

The important thing is that you wind up with a sheet of paper you’re satisfied with, so throw caution to the wind, forget about “the rules” and have some fun!

Embellish With Colorful Additions

Here is where things get really fun, and with so many options at your disposal, you can make hundreds of pages, each with a unique look.

You can either start with a basic white or beige slurry or use one that you’ve already added color to. It’s totally up to you.

Two Methods

There are two ways that you can add bits of bright color to your paper using this technique. 

The first is to add your chosen additions directly to the blender to be mixed in with the pulp. 

If you add your embellishments directly to your blender, keep in mind that the longer you blend the slurry, the finer the bits become. 

The less time you blend, the chunkier and more noticeable the additions will be.

The second method is to whip up your slurry, pour it into a shallow container as usual, insert your mold and deckle, and then sprinkle on the embellishments as you lift the frame from the container. 

This gives you a bit more control as to where the decorations appear on the paper.

Helpful Tip

Once you get a feel for how much slurry you need to make a sheet of paper that’s just the right thickness, try placing the mold and deckle into an empty container and pouring your slurry directly into the mold. 

Tilt the mold back and forth to ensure that the pulp is evenly distributed, then lift the mold out of the slurry and allow the water to drain into the container. 

Your embellishments can be added either right after you pour the slurry for a random design or after the excess water has drained and the paper is still wet.

What Can I Add for Color?

A lot of people like to add dried, pressed flower petals; small whole, dried flowers; or seeds, but really, this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as adornments are concerned.

Need some ideas to get your creative juices flowing? 

  • Glitter.
  • Small bits of felt (learn to make your own here).
  • Various lengths of colored thread.
  • Gold, silver, or copper flakes (I used KINNO Gilding Flakes with fabulous results).
  • Pine needles cut to different lengths.
  • Fresh grass.
  • Tiny pieces of colored paper.
  • Foil confetti or paper confetti.
  • Coffee grounds.
  • Snippets from colored tissue paper.
  • Crushed red pepper.
  • Dried parsley, basil, etc.

Believe it or not, one creative guy even added fish food flakes to his paper, and the results were gorgeous!

Add Acrylic Paint to the Slurry

While your slurry is still in the blender, try adding a small squirt of acrylic paint and giving it a whirl or two to fully blend. 

Acrylic paints come in many colors, like my favorite set by Apple Barrel, and hundreds of different shades can be made based upon how much or how little you add.

Blending the paint into the slurry will color the entire batch for beautiful, uniformly colored paper, like in the video below.

Let’s think outside of the box for a second, just for fun. 

What if you used an airbrush (COSSCCI makes a great miniature airbrush perfect for this) to lightly spray on color to your damp paper. 

(Don’t forget about safety though!)

How about drizzling the paint in random patterns onto the surface of the slurry right before you lift out the mold?

See what I mean? The possibilities abound when you break from conventional thinking.

Powdered and Liquid Colorants

Your colorant options aren’t just limited to acrylic paint. Powdered micas and liquid pigments commonly used when making homemade cosmetics and soaps can work just as well as paints. 

Food coloring and even Kool-Aid can be used too.

You can add both powder and liquid colorants directly to the blender, or you can get even more creative and experiment by adding a colorant to the slurry right after pouring. 

For powdered colorants like micas, try sprinkling them directly on the damp paper after you’ve lifted the frame from the slurry. 

I’d recommend using a fine-mesh strainer when working with micas so you don’t wind up with pretty, colored powder all over your work space and hands.

Small Amounts of Colored Pulp

Granted, this method requires a bit more work, but the results can be stunning. 

First, you will need to make several small batches of colored slurry, each a different color.

Use colored paper, acrylic paint, or other colorants to get the color you like for each batch. Make as many or as few as you like. 

Once that step is complete, rinse your blender, and make one regular-sized batch of uncolored slurry.

Place your mold and deckle into an empty, shallow container, and pour the plain slurry directly into the frame. 

Now, the fun part. Using a turkey baster, add the colored slurries, one at a time, to the paper in whatever design you like. 

You could add a different color to each corner, make swirls, stripes, or rainbows – you get the idea.

Design Ideas

If your container is large enough, place a different color in each corner, and while the paper is still immersed, grab opposite ends of the frame and rotate it quickly 90° to the left or right in one fast, jerking motion, keeping the frame as level as possible.

This should cause each color to swirl slightly into the adjacent one.

Another idea is to place the colors wherever you like, and then drag a table knife or similar object through them to create swirls or sweeping effects.

What Can I Do With My Colored Paper?

Chances are that once you see how much fun it is to color and embellish handmade paper, you’ll soon have more than you know what to do with.

Don’t fret. There are plenty of ways you can put your paper to good use. 

  • Make handmade bookmarks to give away as gifts.
  • Use for homemade greeting cards, letters, or invitations.
  • Start scrapbooking.
  • Cut into shapes, punch a hole in the top, and attach a ribbon to make hanging ornaments.
  • Frame and hang as artwork.
  • Bundle some of your finest sheets, secure with a fancy ribbon, and give the gift of handmade stationery to a friend.