Brown Paper 'Fabric' Art




Introduction: Brown Paper 'Fabric' Art

About: Self-employed YouTuber, creator and maker working from studio at home. Running craft workshops and making instructional videos for YouTube. Also manufacturer of craft tools and templates.

Many years ago, I discovered just how exciting brown paper really is. I had always thought of it as boring old parcel paper until I was looking for an arty paper project to do with a class of teenagers who thought they were not creative. I love this project because it is a great starting point for people who think they 'can't paint'. I 'can't paint' either but I don't let that stop me! On days when I am having difficulties getting my arty head on, I turn back to this and make some fabulous arty journal cover paper because sploshing paint around is the easiest thing in the world to get you back into the groove.

Step 1: Here Is What You Will Need

You will need:

  • Some strong brown parcel paper on a roll or flat packet
  • Three to four acrylic paint colors - preferably metallic
  • A paint brush
  • A black stamp pad that uses dye as opposed to pigment ink
  • A tube of gold gilding wax
  • A soft duster for buffing
  • Two or three different color embossing powders
  • A heat tool

    Not shown in pictures
  • A clear ink pad such as Versamark for embossing powders
  • Scissors or scalpel to cut the paper
  • A ruler or something to cut round
  • A particle mask
  • Newspapers or a table covering that you can get a messy as you like without anyone getting mad at you.

Step 2: Prepare Your Paper

Open out the roll of brown paper and cut a piece to work on.

For speed, I use a 12 inch square glass cutting mat that I plonk on the paper to keep it flat while I draw a pencil line around it.

Then, I cut round the pencil line with scissors.

Step 3: Now Get Rough With the Paper!

Take your piece of nice smooth, flat brown paper and screw it up in a ball.

Then open it out and smooth it down. (You will be doing more of this later.)

Next, take your paints and randomly squirt them over the paper in three or more different colors.

Then fold the sides of the paper into the middle and roll up from one end. This is very messy. I love it! Do not wear your best ball gown for this.

Squish the paper around a bit and then carefully (so you don't tear it) open it out. Hopefully, the whole area will be covered. In this ible, mine was not, so I squirted more paint and squished a bit more. I also dabbed at it with a small paint pad to spread the colors to the edges.

Once you have worked your messy paint magic, your paper should look something like mine above (or better).

Put it somewhere safe to dry out thoroughly - I always leave mine overnight.

Step 4: Work the Paper

Once your art work is completely dry, it will look slightly different to when it was wet (see above first pic).

Now take it in both hands and screw it up in a ball. Be very careful with the edges at this stage because they can tear if you screw up the screwing up stage.

Keep on doing this to work the paper and break down the fibers. If you use too cheap acrylic, it may flake off at this stage but it shouldn't if you use good quality paint. Mine flaked a teeny bit but it didn't affect the end result at all.

Each time you open it out, look to see if there are any areas that are not getting good creases and ridges in them. If this is the case, then work on those areas instead of screwing it all up into a ball.

When your paper feels softer and less papery, smooth it out on the table.

Step 5: Add Some Black Shading on the Ridges

With your paper flat on the table, take your black dye pad (make sure it is not pigment ink) and lightly rub it over the paper so that the pad skims over the raised ridges. The ridges will pick up the dye but the dips will not if you don't push downwards. If the paper isn't picking up enough black, increase your pressure as you sweep the pad across the paper.

Don't go too mad with the black, you just want some shading on the ridges (see pic above).

Step 6: Add Some Gold

Let the black dry completely. Next take your tube of gold gilding wax and put a small amount on your finger. You may want to wear tight fitting surgical gloves for this. I don't bother but it could affect people with sensitive skin - so beware and stay safe with it. Sometimes, I apply it with a lint-free cloth.

Gently rub the gold across the ridges to compliment the black. Do this randomly all over until you like what you see. Leave it to dry for half an hour.

Step 7: Buff the Guilding Wax

Once the wax is dry, take your soft buffing cloth and gently sweep across the ridges to buff the gold color as much as possible. You may get a lot of the black on the cloth of you haven't let the black dye dry long enough. You will get a little black come off anyway, but that's ok.

Step 8: Prepare the Paper for the Embossing Powder

After you have buffed your paper, it is time to apply the clear stamp pad. Just push the clear stamp pad down in randomly chosen small patches all over the paper. Press down firmly each time. Don't cover too much as we just want to embellish the paper, not cover it. When we tip the embossing powder over the paper, the clear, sticky 'ink' will grab the powder in the places where you pressed. The rest will come off which is what we want.

Step 9: Add the Embossing Powder

Now carefully shake the embossing powders over the paper. I usually wear a particle mask while doing this as I don't want glittery lungs. The particles do drift in the air, as you will know if you have ever done this in a shaft of sunlight. After you have put a good spread of the colors over the paper, shake off the excess onto a sheet of clean paper. I made the mistake of doing two colors at once this time and had to put the excess powder into an empty pot so it wouldn't contaminate the single colors when I shook the excess off.

Step 10: Heat the Embossing Powder

Now take your heat tool and carefully heat all over the paper to harden the embossing powder and make it shine!

Step 11: And There It Is!

And now you should have a gorgeous piece of paper with your artwork on, that feels and acts like fabric. These painted papers make fantastic, one of a kind journal covers that can be further embellished and jazzed up.

If you enjoyed this ible, you might like to visit my blog at

Thank you for reading this - have fun!

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    fluffy owl
    fluffy owl

    7 years ago

    This has inspired me to recover an unattractive book and use up the scraps for some large beads too. I will also make temporary interchangeable sleeves for a pair of plain cylindrical vases I was getting bored with, so thank you!

    Well done. I'll be doing this with my students next year in our brand new paper crafts class. By the way that's how we soften brown paper for kite making.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for taking the time to look and comment - and for the kite tip. Hope your classes go well!

    Brown paper is one of my favorite craft materials! This is too awesome, I'm definitely giving it a try :)