How to Make Your Own Paper | Artsy (2023)


Helen Hiebert

Oct 23, 2018 9:30PM

Papermaking workshop in Sheila Nakitende’s Studio. Photo by Women’s Studio Workshop, via Flickr.

Making paper is magical; the medium holds boundless potential. I first learned this over 25 years ago, at a professional hand papermaking studio in New York, where I worked for six years. From there, I went out on my own and have been exploring the medium ever since. Whether you try papermaking as a hobby or dive deep into it like I did, you’ll be amazed by the transformation that occurs during this creative process.

Basic papermaking involves dipping a screen stretched across a frame—known as the “mould and deckle”—into a vat of pulp (made from recycled paper or plant materials). You then lift the screen out of the vat, and shake it so that the fibers interlock as the water drains through the screen. The freshly made sheet of paper is then transferred onto a surface—usually a piece of felt—and is then pressed and dried.

(Video) DIY PAPERMAKING - How to make Handmade Paper WITHOUT BLENDER + MAKING my own MOULD and DECKLE!

There are many ways to make paper, including Eastern and Western techniques that involve dipping or pouring. Here, I’ll describe the Western dipping method, which allows you to create unique, handmade sheets from the scrap paper you have at home.

What you’ll need:

  • A mould and deckle (or, if you want to make your own, 2 old picture frames or 2 inexpensive stretched canvases, plus a piece of fiberglass or aluminum window screen)
  • A blender
  • Recycled paper (office paper, tissue paper, etc.)
  • Water
  • A plastic vat (larger than your mould and deckle)
  • A staple gun (if you have one already)
  • Duct tape or strapping tape
  • Several sheets of felt, newspaper, fabric, or towels
  • A sponge
  • A clothesline
  • Optional: Confetti, flower petals, string, or bits of thread (to add color and texture to your paper)

The mould and deckle

Making a mould and deckle. Illustration by Alison Kolesar from Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds by Helen Hiebert.


You will need some sort of screen to capture the paper fibers and hold the sheet’s shape—this is called the mould. You can make a simple mould from an old picture frame or the stretcher bars of a new, inexpensive canvas from a big-box store.

  • Remove the existing canvas if there is one, then use a staple gun to affix a piece of window screen—made from fiberglass or aluminum—that is cut slightly smaller than the frame. Apply duct tape or strapping tape to cover the staples and the edges of the screen. If you don’t have a staple gun and are making a small screen, you can just use duct tape to secure the screen to the frame.
  • You will need a second frame that is the same size as the mould to use as your deckle. (Learn more about making your own mould and deckle here.)

If you want to purchase a mould and deckle instead, you can buy a set or a papermaking kit online at specialty suppliers like Arnold Grummer’s and Carriage House Paper.

(Video) how to make your own stickers 🍥 | without sticker paper

Making pulp

Making pulp with a blender. Illustration by Alison Kolesar from Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds by Helen Hiebert.

The first step in creating a sheet of paper is to make pulp, which you can do with a blender and recycled paper. If you really get into papermaking, there are many ways you can upgrade the process to increase your production and make larger sheets, but I recommend starting out small.

You can use a standard kitchen blender to beat pulp (but I don’t recommend using the same blender for food and papermaking). Large commercial-grade blenders are more efficient because they can blend more pulp at a time. (The king for processing pulp is the Hollander beater, developed in Holland in the 1680s, which is still used in professional papermaking studios today.)

  • Fill your blender ¾ full with water, and add a handful of recycled paper (the equivalent of one standard sheet of office paper). Use plain white if you want white paper; printed/recycled office paper will yield a light grey, and/or you can mix in some colored paper. Experiment with various paper types (text weight, 100% cotton, card stock) to vary the resulting colors and textures.
  • Put the lid on the blender and turn it on. I usually start at a slow speed—such as “mix”—and then switch to a higher speed when I hear the blender running smoothly (after about five seconds). If the motor sounds strained, turn it off and check that the pulp is not wrapped around the blades, or that there is not too much pulp in the blender.
  • Dump the freshly beaten pulp directly into the vat if you will be making paper right away; or, you can collect it in a bucket and store it for a few days (it will start to smell if you leave it too long). Continue blending the pulp by the handful.
  • The ratio of pulp to water varies, depending on how thick you want your sheets to be. Start with a few blenders full of pulp in a vat and see if you are happy with the thickness. Then, add pulp or water as necessary. As you make sheets, you will need to replenish your pulp.
  • At this point, you can add other small decorative elements to the pulp, like flower petals, confetti, or bits of string or thread. Note that natural elements (like flower petals) might bleed or turn brown—you’ll have to try it to see what happens!

Making paper

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Dipping the mould and deckle into the vat of pulp. Illustration by Alison Kolesar from Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds by Helen Hiebert.

Your vat (a plastic tub) needs to be larger than your mould and deckle. For a mould that makes 8.5-by-11-inch sheets, I recommend a small cement mixing tub; for smaller sheets, you can use a dishwashing tub.

  • Agitate the pulp in the vat with your hand to create a homogenous, evenly mixed solution.
  • Thoroughly wet the mould and deckle with water. Then place the deckle on top of the screen side of the mould, making sure that all edges and corners line up.
  • Hold these two pieces together as you dip the mould and deckle into the vat at a 45-degree angle to the bottom of the vat, scooping underneath the surface of the pulp and pulling toward yourself.
  • Bring the mould and deckle parallel to the bottom of the vat, lift them up out of the mixture, and shake—left to right and back to front—to interlock the fibers. Shake it semi-vigorously (like you are panning for gold), until you see the fibers starting to settle on the screen.
  • Be careful not to shake it for too long; when you see that the fibers have settled on the screen, you can remove the deckle. Set the deckle aside, gently tilt the mould, and watch to see that the sheet on the surface does not start to slip off.


The next step is transferring the wet sheet from the mould to another surface, traditionally a piece of felt. There are many felt substitutes, including newspaper, towels, fabric, or Pellon (interfacing). The couching material should be slightly larger than your sheets of paper, and you will need four or five couching sheets. Placing your couching material on a tray—like a cafeteria tray or cookie sheet—will help with collecting excess water and prevent a big mess.

  • To couch, set one edge of the mould down on one edge of the couching material, with the wet sheet facing the couching material.
  • Carefully lay the entire wet sheet onto the couching surface, and apply even pressure on the back of the mould’s edges and screen to ensure that the sheet transfers to the couching surface.
  • Lift one edge of the mould, peeking underneath to see that the sheet has released, and then remove the mould.

To continue making sheets, place another couching material directly on top of the sheet you just made. Make another sheet, and then couch it onto the surface, lining it up with the sheet underneath. I recommend making just a few sheets at a time before pressing.


Once you’ve made a few sheets of paper, you will need to press them in order to remove some of the water. The lowest-tech device for this is a damp sponge.

  • Lift one sheet of paper (attached to its couching surface) and place it onto a dry felt or newspaper (something that will absorb some of the water).
  • Next, place a dry sheet of fabric or interfacing on top of the sheet to protect the wet paper’s surface, and gently but firmly sponge water out of the sheet.
  • Wring out the sponge repeatedly as you continue pressing over the entire sheet.
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Drying. Illustration by Alison Kolesar from Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds by Helen Hiebert.

There are many drying methods, but the simplest is to dry the sheet on the couching material.

  • Make sure the sheet is pressed and firmly attached to the material, and hang it on a clothesline.
  • When dry (this can take up to 24 hours, depending on the humidity level), peel the sheet off of the couching material, and put it under weight if you wish to flatten it.
  • If you want a really smooth and flat sheet, you can try transferring the wet sheet from the couching material to a smooth surface, like a countertop or window.
  • You can even dry sheets on textured surfaces, such as wood or walls, to give your sheet a unique surface.

This is just scratching the papermaking surface! My books, including Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds and The Papermaker’s Companion, go into extensive detail about each step in the process, and other methods. Enjoy!

Helen Hiebert

Helen Hiebert is the author of five how-to books about paper and teaches classes in person and online.She lectures and exhibits her work internationally and is the host of the podcast Paper Talk.

(Video) How To Make Your Own Paper (Thick)


Can you make your own papers? ›

Making paper by hand at home can be a pretty simple process. It's also a fantastic way to use up your old receipts, scrap papers, junk mail, and copy paper that you were about to throw in the recycling bin, and instead create a thing of glorious handmade beauty. Have those recycled papers hanging around?

What can you make paper out of at home? ›

Orange peel, grape stalks, olive stones, walnut shells… These are just some of the things that Italian brand Favini can use to make its Crush tree-free paper. Generally, agricultural by-products that can't be fed to animals or used to generate biomass end up being incinerated.

How is paper made naturally? ›

Clothes are made by weaving together yarns such as cotton and wool spun from natural fibers. Paper is more like the fabric we call felt, made without the weaving stage by pressing together cellulose fibers extracted from plants and trees so they knit and fuse to form a strong, solid, but still very flexible mat.

Can any wood make paper? ›

Paper is made from softwood or hardwood trees, but 85% of the wood pulp that makes paper in the U.S. comes from softwood coniferous trees. They have longer fibers known to produce stronger paper. The primary trees in this category are pines, firs, spruces, hemlocks, and larch.

Is printer paper legal paper? ›

8.5 x 14 Inches (Legal) : Printer Paper.

Can paper be made without trees? ›

There is a wide variety of alternative 'fibres' that can work as an alternative to wood-pulp paper. Sources for tree-free paper include: agricultural residues – for example, sugar cane bagasse, husks and straw. fibre crops and wild plants – such as bamboo, kenaf, hemp, jute, and flax.

How do you dry homemade paper? ›

You can hang them on a clothes line, dry them in spurs (4-5 sheets pressed together), lay them out to dry on a table or on a rack, brush them onto boards or walls, or set up a drying system (see below). The method of drying you choose will affect the texture of your papers as well.

What is the main ingredient in paper? ›

Cellulose fibres

It is common knowledge that paper is made of wood. Actually, it is quite a big mental shortcut. The base material for the production of paper is cellulose fibres. Of course, they are obtained mainly from wood but can also be sourced from other plants, such as grasses or cotton.

Did Muslims invent paper? ›

Muslims were responsible for the transfer of papermaking from China, where it had been invented in the centuries before Christ, to Europe, where it fueled the print revolution in the late fifteenth century. Muslims encountered paper when they conquered Central Asia in the eighth century.

How do you make paper by hand? ›

  1. Prepare the Paper. The first stage in making paper pulp is preparing the paper. ...
  2. Pulp the Paper With a Hand Blender. Use a hand blender to pulp the wet paper mix. ...
  3. Press the Paper Pulp Into the Mold. ...
  4. Press the Water Out of the Paper. ...
  5. Turn the Paper Out from the Mold. ...
  6. Finishing the Paper.
Jul 30, 2020

Why don't we make paper from hemp? ›

Costs. Production costs are about four times higher than for paper from wood since the infrastructure for using hemp is underdeveloped. For the most part, hemp paper is used for specialty applications and not for mass applications such as printing, writing and packaging paper.

Can you make paper from any plant? ›

You can make paper from almost any plant that contains cellulose fiber. It's true that some plants make better paper than others, color, texture, and quality of your paper strongly depends on the fiber you start out with.

Can paper be made without plants? ›

The paper industry's answer to "tree free" paper has been focused on "recycled waste paper" as a tree-free alternative even though the vast majority of "recycled waste paper" originally started its life cycle from tree grown pulp. Fiber dense agricultural residues have been known as a pulp substitute for years.

How is Chinese paper made? ›

And paper, as we know it today, was born! Paper was first made in Lei-Yang, China by Ts'ai Lun, a Chinese court official. In all likelihood, Ts'ai mixed mulberry bark, hemp and rags with water, mashed it into pulp, pressed out the liquid and hung the thin mat to dry in the sun.

Can you make paper out of grass? ›

The grass paper can be used for books, office paper and for packaging. This industry is worth several billions and these new grass-based papers can be used instead of petro-chemical based plastics.

How is wood turned into paper? ›

Here's how paper is made...
  1. Pulpwood yard stores the raw material.
  2. Pulpwood is debarked and chipped.
  3. At a mill, chips are cooked in a digester and broken down into pulp.
  4. Pulp is washed, bleached, and softened.
  5. Pulp is mixed with water and pumped onto a moving screen.
  6. Paper machines rapidly press, dry, and smooth the pulp.
May 10, 2005

Which tree is used to make paper? ›

Paper mills generally use wood from bamboo, eucalyptus and subabul trees. Subabul wood is most widely used in recent times. Besides wood a large number of chemicals such as common salt, caustic soda and so on are also used in different stages of paper making. Scrap paper is also recycled in paper mills.

Why do paper mills stink? ›

The smelly chemicals are reduced sulfides, ammonia, and other organic compounds. In addition to kraft pulp mills, odors can come from sulfite pulp mills, wastewater treatment plants and landfills. Each of these sources has its own distinct odor. Sulfite mills emit sulfur dioxide (SO2) which has a strong, choking odor.

What is paper wood called? ›

Pulpwood is timber with the principal use of making wood pulp for paper production.

Does money grow on trees? ›

Money may not grow on trees, but it might do if it is invested in them. According to the UK Forest Market Report, 2021 was a record year for trading of forestry, and values rose from £16,000 a hectare to £19,300 on average, meaning they have more than doubled in the past three years.

Who discovered paper from trees? ›

Papermaking can be traced to about ad 105, when Ts'ai Lun, an official attached to the Imperial court of China, created a sheet of paper using mulberry and other bast fibres along with fishnets, old rags, and hemp waste.

Can you run homemade paper through a printer? ›

"Yes, and I absolutely love the result of professional digital printing on your handmade paper! The lines are extra fine, crisp, and the black print is super black – just elegant and beautiful!

Is there paper that Cannot be copied? ›

Otherwise known as copy-proof paper or anti-copy paper, security paper employs certain attributes to prevent it from being copied or scanned.

What is green legal paper called? ›


How much paper does 1 tree make? ›

You'll discover that it contains approximately ten cubic feet of wood. Therefore, it takes around eight trees to produce that pound of paper. Since the weight of an average 500-sheet packet of paper is 5 pounds, a tree has between 10,000 and 20,000 sheets of paper.

What can replace paper? ›

There are many alternative fiber papers available to those willing to step out of the box. Bamboo, cork, cotton, hemp, mulberry and even stone (yes, stone) are just some of the options available to you. Cotton is probably the most familiar of the tree-free fibers and with good reason.

Can you make paper out of banana peels? ›

Banana peel can be used as raw material in the making of paper because of its high concentration of cellulose. Mashing process of banana peel is essential as banana peel should be brushed, lacerated, and pushed to expand the fibers.

How do you seal homemade paper? ›

Coating origami with clear nail polish is, by far, the most economical waterproofing method for small pieces. You can often find clear nail polish for $1 to $2 in drugstores or discount stores. This technique is used to seal and protect rolled paper beads before stringing them onto necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

How do you make paper look old without wetting it? ›

Simply crumble a piece of paper into a ball and keep it like that for a minute. After a minute unfold the crumbles and flatten the paper using the palm of your hands. This will give the paper a very aged look.

How do you make paper hard and stiff? ›

You will first want to spray the paper with heavy spray starch, the kind you use for laundry. This way it will be extra hard. After spraying the heavy spray starch, wait 30 minutes then turn the paper over and spray it on the other side. Wait another 30 minutes and then apply the decoupage to one side of the paper.

What is the best material to make paper? ›

Over the centuries, paper has been made from a wide variety of materials such as cotton, wheat straw, sugar cane waste, flax, bamboo, wood, linen rags, and hemp. Regardless of the source, you need fiber to make paper. Today fiber comes mainly from two sources — wood and recycled paper products.

What is making paper called? ›

Papermaking is the manufacture of paper and cardboard, which are used widely for printing, writing, and packaging, among many other purposes. Today almost all paper is made using industrial machinery, while handmade paper survives as a specialized craft and a medium for artistic expression.

What is paper made of today? ›

Paper is made from cellulose – trees being the main source of cellulose fibre (or woodpulp). Besides woodpulp, paper can be made from other materials such as cotton, flax, esparto, straw, hemp, manilla and jute.

Who invented paper Egypt or China? ›

The first paper-like plant-based writing sheet was papyrus in Egypt (4th century BC), but the first true paper, the first true papermaking process was documented in China during the Eastern Han period (25–220 AD), traditionally attributed to the court official Cai Lun.

What paper is Quran made of? ›

The manuscript is written on parchment, and comprises two layers of text (see palimpsest). The upper text conforms to the standard 'Uthmanic Quran, whereas the lower text contains many variants to the standard text.

What do Muslims invent? ›

Coffee, windmills, carpets, soap and the fountain pen were invented by Muslims. Muslims have invented everything from surgical instruments to the camera, according to an exhibition currently touring the Museum of Croydon in south London.

How do you make paper from a tree? ›

Loggers cut trees, load them onto trucks and bring them to mills. Machines slice off the bark, and big wood chippers chop the logs into small bits. Those chips are boiled into a soup that looks like toothpaste. To get out any lumps, it is smashed flat, dried and cut up into sheets of paper.

Why was paper invented? ›

Paper was another Chinese idea, from 2,000 years ago. Initially it was used for wrapping precious objects, but soon people began to write on it because it was lighter than bamboo and cheaper than silk.

Was the Bible written on hemp paper? ›

Gutenberg Press

The Gutenberg Bible was printed on hemp paper. In 1456, Johannes Gutenberg came out with the printing press. The first book, the Bible – ironically enough – was printed on hemp.

Can you roll a cigarette with hemp paper? ›

There are many ways to enjoy your smoking experience, but it seems rolling papers are still the most common method of smoking. However, hemp wraps are a great way to elevate the experience and break away from your day-to-day ritual.

Is toilet paper made from hemp? ›

Hemp toilet paper is, as the name implies, toilet paper made out of hemp. The process of turning hemp into toilet paper is pretty straightforward, and a lot less toxic than making conventional toilet paper. To make hemp toilet paper, after being harvested, hemp cellulose fibers are turned into a pulp.

What are the main ingredients to make paper? ›

Paper is made in two steps:
  • Cellulose fibers are extracted from a variety of sources and converted to pulp.
  • Pulp is combined with water and placed on a paper making machine where it is flattened, dried, and cut into sheets and rolls.
Jul 17, 2017

How do you make homemade paper for kids? ›

Pour water into the bowl until the paper is slightly covered. Allow the paper to soak for a few hours or overnight. Once the paper is soggy, squeeze out the excess water with your hands. Use a blender to grind it into a gooey pulp!

How do you make paper hard at home? ›

Mix about a tablespoon of corn starch with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Next, add about 1 cup of water to the mixture and heat it in a saucepan until it boils. Boil the mixture until it becomes thick, about the consistency of glue. Allow it to cool, then brush the mixture onto your paper.

Can you use cardboard to make paper? ›

Corrugated Cardboard

When recycled, cardboard can be used to make products like cereal boxes, paperboard, paper towels, tissues and printing or writing paper. It is also used to make more corrugated cardboard.

What is hand made paper? ›

Handmade paper is the manual process of paper making typically carried out by. an individual. Handmade paper is a single layer of fibres that have been. entwined. These are held together by cellulose fibres through natural bonding.

How do you make paper hard like plastic? ›

You will first want to spray the paper with heavy spray starch, the kind you use for laundry. This way it will be extra hard. After spraying the heavy spray starch, wait 30 minutes then turn the paper over and spray it on the other side. Wait another 30 minutes and then apply the decoupage to one side of the paper.

Do you need water to make paper? ›

Manufacturing pulp and paper requires a substantial amount of water. The US benchmark for water use within pulp and paper mills is approximately 17,000 gallons/ton of paper, with one of the most efficient kraft pulp and paper mills only using 4,500 gallons/ton.

How long do you soak paper to make paper? ›

For best results, soak paper for 24 hours or soak card stock up to 3 days.
  1. Next pour the paper and water mix into a blender. ...
  2. Pour the pulp from the blender into a bowl. ...
  3. Get your screen ready for straining. ...
  4. Use another towel or fabric scrap (we used a t-shirt) to rub the back of the screen dry.
Mar 19, 2019

How was paper made in ancient times? ›

Paper was first made in Lei-Yang, China by Ts'ai Lun, a Chinese court official. In all likelihood, Ts'ai mixed mulberry bark, hemp and rags with water, mashed it into pulp, pressed out the liquid and hung the thin mat to dry in the sun.

What can I spray on paper to make it hard? ›

If you have a finished paper project, that you want to seal and make stiff, so that it is more robust then you can use either Spray Varnish, Gesso or liquid Resin, depending on your Project.


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