Introduction: Antiquing Postcards

This instructable was borne of the intersection between tea and the need to embellish the bedroom. After a solid think and some hasty purchases an image was selected. The problem was that it simply looked too new. After yet another cup of tea and a ponder over the fate of our newly purchased postcards from Paris, an idea was stumbled upon.

This instructable will show you hew to make a paper based poster or board look at least a good 50 years older than it ought; through the magic art of antiquing, a bit of tea and some good 'ol rough housing.

Step 1: Preparation of the Postcard

The first process is obviously the selection of print of which to antique. The postcard that was chosen was already of the antiqued ilk, however there was still more that could be done especially to the surface. Below is what you will need to make new stuff look awesomely old:

A freshly brewed cup of tea - the longer the tea bag is left in the cup the better
A suitably sized tub in which to bathe your poster/postcard
Some baking paper
Something heavy to press the wet product
Fine 120 grit sand paper
Paper towels
2mm grey card or similar
Craft knife
Pencil graphite

The first step may sound crazy but if you want to fast track the age of something you will need to make some holes in it first. The first step is to get some fine sand paper and sand the image of the postcard to ensure the tea will weep into all the marks you make. If you want to create heavier areas of staining simply rub harder. Basically any paper that is not printed on will soak up the tea faster than other areas. Try to rub in lengths that match the image, e.g if the image is more vertical rub horizontal to make the main image stand out. For the image of the Eiffel tower the sides that were sky were sanded horizontally and other areas sanded vertically. There is no need to be perfect about this as antiquing is all about being a bit rough.

Step 2: Tea Staining the Card

Once the postcard has been prepped the next step is to boil the kettle and make a cup of tea; one for yourself and one for the postcard. Once you are both ready for some more action, pour a cup of black tea into a basin large enough to accept the postcard/poster at least in one direction. It does not matter if the whole image does not fit in one go as the process of curving the card into the tea will only make it look older!

When the tea has cooled enough not to burn yourself, put the image into the tea. You will find that the edges will go darker before any of the other image as the edges are 'open card' to accept liquids easier than any other part. Try not to bend the image but roll it in and out of the tea. The best method is to try to bend the image so the printed image cracks to allow tea into the creases. 

During this process you will see the edges and this will make them slightly soft making the antiquing very easy.

You can leave the image in the tea as long as you like, however it will eventually become saturated to the point that it will rip too easy to work with. A recommended time with warm tea is about 5 mins.

Step 3: Burring the Image

You can add a few touches to the card to increase the 'authenticity' of the antiquing. As mentioned previously rolling the image in plane once it is a little more saturated will allow more tea into the creases.  Scrunching of an image is common when antiquing, however this will create very random spidering of the surface much like a pirates map.

Picking at the edges will burr them to the point that they will rip. These areas will become saturated with tea and look great. Dont worry if the edges rip as it will be laid flat once the antiquing is finished and these the heavier the damage the better it looks.

Scratching and creasing the surface of the print in certain places will make it look like the image has been scraped about a bit and allow tea into the surface of the image. An easy way to make creases is to simply scratch the surface with your fingernail. This will scratch the surface and tea will enter into the rip. 

Ripping out sections will create areas of interest. Either keep the ripped out portion or through it away. Either way this area will look very well worn.

Experiment with this process as once the image is in the tea there is no going back. Enjoy and remove the image carefully to ensure the card stays largely intact.

Step 4: Pressing and Embossing the Card

Once removed the image should be placed on something flat, non porous and nothing you care about. Perhaps a bit of flat plastic or work bench. Place all items off burring that may have ripped off in their original locations. 

Get a paper towel and dab dry the surface of the image. Place the baking paper on top of the image to ensure that the underside image will not stick to it and peel off. Place large books or something flat and heavy on top to ensure a flat finished result. Leave for about 20 mins before touching again.

When you feel the card has had enough down time, remove the heavy items on top to expose the image. Remove the baking paper carefully just in case the image has dried itself onto it. It is at this point that you can work on the surface and substrate to make some interesting features.

The first thing that can be done while the image is still wet and malleable is embossing. This involves placing a piece of card that matches the shape of an item in the image. The result is that the image will dry with a protruding section. This creates more surface interest, which is what the new post card was initially lacking. In this image the post card was emphasised. The end of a pen was used to make the edges crisp.

Once the image is a little drier you will be able to see the fruits of your labour. Many of the rips you thought might have ruined the image now look fantastic. Leave to dry for a few hours or until the image is dry. Place under the heavy books if you want a perfectly flat image.

Step 5: Finishing and Mounting

Another thing that makes an image look older is a little surface skuffing. To skuff find a pencil or pen that has run out of ink and mark out or accentuate areas that are more important. This whole process will make the surface of the print more varied creating an older looking image. You will need a little trial and error testing the best time to undertake this. The idea is to skuff the surface in small parts not to rip the surface. If the surface is a little damp and not wet, this will be easier. The skuffing will create burrs which will show the card behind. Place the image somewhere to dry completely.

Once the skuffing has taken place and the surface is completely dry cut small pieces of graphite onto the surface with a craft knife. Rub these flakes into any areas that are showing through as white card.

When you are satisfied with the finished product you will need to think about mounting the image. The easiest way to make a bold impression to to fix the image to a thick mounting card. If the sides will be visible use a pencil to colour these in. Better yet use a black card so all edges are black. If you like use the card to fix to the wall or to stand up like a picture frame. The easiest way to create a stand is to cut a diagonal in the lower edge and bend it forward. Or if you need to fix to the wall, cut a triangle on 2 sides bend it out and push through a thumb tack.

Glue the image onto the card and leave under the heavy objects once again. If the image does not dry completely in a pressed environment the glue and drying process can cause the image to bend into a concave shape. If this happens simply bend strongly until the image is roughly planar.

Place you images on the wall and bask in the age and warmth of you new antiqued masterpiece.