Up-Cycle Junk Mail Into Artisan Paper





Introduction: Up-Cycle Junk Mail Into Artisan Paper

I love sending handmade cards and making custom gift tags, and I hate the ever growing pile of junk mail that I try to shove under the coffee table with my foot on a daily basis. Seriously. Omaha Steaks sends me a mailing every other day, and I feel horribly un-green just receiving them. The solution: Up-Cycle that junk into beautiful handmade sheets of paper good for all kinds of crafting needs!

This is a project that my mom did with me when I was a kid, and I decided to resurrect my paper making stuff for the paper craft challenge here. Hope you enjoy this simple Ible and get motivated to give your paper shredder or recycling bin contents new life.

Step 1: You Will Need...

Junk Mail --Any paper with a matte finish will work. Brochures, envelopes, shopping bags, wrapping paper, etc. As long as it is NOT glossy, you're good to go.


Screen with wood frame --these can be bought ready made from art supply stores, or you could build your own using wooden stretcher bars or a picture frame and some fine mesh window screen. If building your own, just be sure the screen is taught across the wood frame, not sagging in the middle.

Liquid Measuring Cup

Metal Butter Knife

Food Coloring and/or Essential oil for scenting (both optional)

Plastic Washtub or Cat Litter Pan

Hair dryer (optional)

Step 2: Tear It Up

Gather up your junk mail paper. You can use a variety of paper weights and colors, as long as they are all regular matte finish paper. NO foils or glossies.

Tear sheets of paper into strips, then tear the strips into squares measuring approximately 1-2 inches.

I kept mine on the smaller end for easy blending later.

The minimum to rip up is 4-5 sheets of standard size paper. I did a little more to be on the safe side and have plenty of pulp.

Step 3: Blend

Put 4-5 fistfuls of your paper bits into a blender.

SAFETY NOTE: I recommend keeping your blender unplugged until you are actually ready to hit the button and use it. This avoids any nightmare scenarios where you have to reach into the blender for some reason and it turns on by accident.

Add 4 cups water.

I hit "Blend" for 15 seconds to get things going, then "Liquify" for another 30 or so. You should end up with a finely blended, slightly lumpy paste, probably grayish in color

Step 4: Optional Coloring/Scenting

To give some pizazz to your homemade paper, you can add food coloring to your pulp to tint it. I used 4 drops of green to give it a minty color that would be noticeable, but still light enough for me to write on. If you want bold colored paper, I have had the best results by adding colored construction to my initial pulp, rather than squeezing in a whole bottle of food coloring.

At this time, you can also add a few drops of essential oils to scent your paper. Imagine opening a notecard from a friend and having it smell of lavender, mint, or ginger! It was something fun I thought I'd try here, so I added 8 drops of Peppermint oil.

Blend again for 30 seconds.

Step 5: Mix

Pour your pretty (and possibly delicious smelling) pulp into your plastic tub.

Add water until you have 4-5 inches of depth to work in.

Mix with your hand to ensure pulp is floating throughout. It may feel so fine and light that you'll question whether there's enough pulp in there. Trust me, there is.

Step 6: Screen

Insert your screen into the water vertically, on edge.

Tilt and push your screen into the water, as if you are trying to get under it. This helps decrease trapped air under your fine screen and allows your pulp to flow evenly over the top.

Swish your screen gently back and forth under the surface of the water. You want to make sure pulp is flowing around so it can be captured.

Using both hands (one of mine was on the camera) life the screen out of the water, laying flat. There should be a fine sheet of your pulp on the screen.

If you didn't get an even coating on your first try, that's ok! Just re-dip your screen, gently shake it clean, and re-lift until you are happy with the result.

Repeat with multiple screens, or save pulp mix for later.

Step 7: Drying

Transfer your screen to a place where it can dry undisturbed and relatively level. A bathtub or sink would be ideal so excess water can just drip away.

Allow to air dry several hours.


You can help it along with a hair dryer, if you wish. If using a hair dryer, make even horizontal and vertical sweeps over the screen, no less than 6 inches away from it.

Step 8: Freeing the Final Product!

When your paper is entirely dry, use a butter knife to get under one edge. Dry paper should pop up from the screen pretty readily. If you are having trouble getting an edge, hit the screen with a hair dryer to eliminate any remaining moisture.

Skim around all 4 edges with the butter knife to free the page.

With your knife underneath the paper, push gently toward the middle of the screen to free the middle. Again, mine popped off easily because it was evenly and totally dry.

Ta-Da! Your junk mail has been transformed into something new, useable, and wonderful! In the end, my peppermint scent was subtle and very inviting mixed with the fresh "woodsy-ness" of the paper pulp itself. If you really want a strong scent, I'd say you need to at least double the amount of essential oil.

Step 9: Experiment!

This basic Green-Craft process can be customized a variety of ways. Experiment with different colors of paper, scents, or adding textural elements such has leaves and dried herbs, glitter, or paper circles from your hole puncher to use like confetti. Your final product can be made into stationary, gift tags, sculptural paper art and so much more. The project possibilities are endless...and anything is better than a pile of junk mail under your coffee table!



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    What an awesome and creative idea! Going to try it sometime! :)

    have a lot of scrap paper so will try this. Just need to get a "strainer" will post pics..

    have a lot of scrap paper so will try this. Just need to get a "strainer" will post pics..

    This project looks immensely useful and I've been dying to do it for a while. A few questions I have about it are: You advise heavily against using glossy paper, and I can see why you wouldn't use foil paper, but what would happen if you added glossy? (I ask because that's what I have an abundance of at the moment haha) Could you blend the mixture more to get a finer mix or would that just sift right through the screen? Is it possible to get a finer screen to combat that? Thanks in advance!

    My understanding has been that glossy papers may not re-bond with regular paper as well because of the coating. Since I've always been cautioned against it, I haven't tried it myself. You could always do a small batch and see whether the glossy pages affect your result badly or not.

    If you're making your own screen you can definitely explore the options and get the finest mesh possible. Window screen is generally good, though the screen I have may be a little softer/ finer (not quite as fine as a pantyhose weave, but smaller than window screen). Explore your hardware/ craft store! Regardless of screen, your paper should pulp down into pretty fine particles anyway. The time and settings used in this Ible gave me pulp that was like silt --really no chunks to speak of. Hope all that helps!

    Is this strong enough to run through a printer?

    It may vary from sheet to sheet, but generally I would say yes. Sometimes you'll get a particularly thin coating on your screen and not realize its so thin until its already dry. A thin sheet will be very flexible, almost like toilet paper, and you'll know its a bad idea to run through a machine. Your typical sheet will be firm, sometimes even slightly thicker than regular printing paper. You may want to do a test print on regular settings vs. cardstock setting to see if there's a difference that serves you best.

    Some things to watch out for: If it were me, I might use scissors to cut the edge that will be grabbed by your printer feed into a nice straight, consistent line. The wispy "deckle" edges of your natural paper may not be substantial enough for the feeder to grab. You can always tear the edge again after the print, to re-create the organic wispy look.

    Keep in mind that bumps or inconsistencies in the paper surface will affect printing. If you're printing text, major "flaws" could effect legibility. In my opinion, the textures will make art prints even more unique and are not a set back.

    Beautiful work, it could be nice to be done at school :) Maybe in may!