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How to make rusty paper for collage with Amelia Kraemer

How to make Rusty Paper for Collage

Rusting Paper for Collage

Adding collage to your encaustic work can lead to really interesting results. Some of the best collage papers are the ones you make yourself. Making rust paper is a bit smelly, but absolutely worth it!

Steps-by-Step instructions for Rust dying

1. Gather your supplies

  • A Large plastic tray or similar
  • Vinegar in a spray bottle (can dilute with water if needed)
  • Items that will rust, ie. any iron or iron alloy – steel is an iron alloy, but stainless steel will not rust (think: metal objects craftspeople can forge, junkyards, old train yards, washers, nails, tools, abandoned equipment in the forest, etc)
  • Absorbent paper (eg. tissue, any lightweight Japanese paper, bond paper, etc)
  • 1-2 Garbage bags

2. Make Vinegar Paper/Metal Object Sandwiches

  • Placing one sheet at a time in your tray, spray each one thoroughly with vinegar.
  • Stack about 5-10 sheets of the vinegar-soaked paper.
  • Place your metal objects flat on the topmost paper.
  • Place another 5-10 sheets on top of the metal items, spraying each one thoroughly with vinegar as you go.
  • Keep making vinegar paper…metal objects…vinegar paper sandwiches until you run out of objects.

3. Wait…

  • Carefully slide the tray into a garbage bag and seal it. You may need to use 2 bags if your plastic container is large.
  • Let sit for 2-4 days.
  • Open the garbage bag and check if your items are rusting. If they’re finished to your satisfaction, remove the bag.

4. Dry the paper

  • Carefully remove the paper stacks and the metal objects. Set the metal objects aside in a plastic container to dry.
  • Let the multiple stacks sit individually for about an hour on a tabletop lined with kraft paper.
  • Once the papers are slightly drier, carefully separate each piece of paper. Hang them on a clothesline or lay them flat on a table lined with kraft paper (or similar) and leaf kraft paper in-between each rusted paper.
  • Allow to dry for 3-5 days (or more depending on humidity).

Now you have your own one-of-a-kind collage paper to use in your encaustic paintings!

How to make rusty paper for collage with Amelia Kraemer

About Amelia Kraemer

Amelia Kraemer combines her love of history and visual arts. She received a degree in Near Eastern Archaeology and Canadian History, as well as a post-graduate certificate in Museum Management. After life circumstances withdrew her from her full-time work as an archivist, she turned to the visual arts. She shows her work around southwestern Ontario. She owns Upwards Art Studio - an art supply store and studio in downtown Owen Sound. She teaches encaustic and mixed media classes at Upwards.

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8 thoughts on “How to make Rusty Paper for Collage”

  1. Hi Amelia,
    Thank you so much for this! I’m wanting to make unique grungy backgrounds for my digital papers. Can this be done with objects that are already rusted? Also does the paper retain the vinegar smell once dry? Regardless, I’m addicted to rust so gotta rust what I can
    Thanks again

    1. Hi Debbie! Thanks for your questions. Yes, I use objects that are already rusted. The paper retains a bit of a vinegar smell but not a ton. I store my sheets in a plastic tote, so when I open the tote I get a whiff of vinegar smell but it’s not horrible. You can’t smell the vinegar once the paper is used in artwork; whether covered in encaustic wax or an acrylic varnish. Happy rusting!

  2. Dear Amelia,
    Thank you for the rusty paper technique. Do you know how to seal the paper after it is incorporated into an art piece?

    Thank you for your time,

    1. Hi Touri. Encaustic work does not need to be sealed as the wax acts like as a sealing agent. But if you don’t want to paper to be soaked in wax and darken then I would us Liquitex Clear Gesso. Only apply a small, thin amount and only where you don’t want the paper colour to change.
      If, however you’re using it in an acrylic mixed media work I would seal with something like matte medium. This will allow the paper to still be flexible.
      Sounds like you’ve got some ideas in mind. Please remember to share your creations on the All Things Encaustic Facebook page!

  3. Dear Amelia, nice and helpful instruction indeed! I’d like to introduce an idea: instead of iron things, that leave just the same shape they have, powder of iron, so-called iron filings, can be powdered on the paper in certain shapes or all over the paper. If the paper has been shrinkeled beforehand it creates dune-like or mountainlike structures.

  4. Thank you so much for this tutorial Amelia! I was planning on a rusted series. I can’t wait to try it out! I pick iron objects wherever I walk! LOL

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