In this Instructable I'm going to show you how to turn ordinary packaging paper into faux-metal leaves.
I personally used the paper leaves to decorate an old picture frame, but you can of course decorate anything you like, and the shape of the paper pieces is also up to you :)
One idea I've seen it where you cut out 2 identical leaf shapes in paper and sandwich a piece of wire in between them. You then have a leaf on a wire 'branch', which you can then wrap around objects.
I'm sure you can think of lots of other ideas for this technique!
I hope you enjoy the tutorial.
Step 1: What You Will Need
- Brown packaging paper/grocery bag paper
- Something to decorate e.g. a picture frame
- A tealight and a heatproof surface/mat to put it on.
- A container of water
- Matches or a lighter
- A cheap paintbrush
- Tacky glue (basically PVA); I used Aleene's Tacky Glue
- Paper towel/kitchen roll
- Iron (optional)
- Gold acrylic paint (optional)
- Baking paper/parchment paper
- Metal tweezers or anything else flameproof that can hold a piece of paper over a flame
Step 2: Cut Out Your Paper Shapes
Cut a piece of packaging paper off the roll.
Iron it flat - this makes it much easier to cut out.
Then cut the paper into the shapes you want. I needed 24 of the size of leaf I made - but I cut out 25 so I had one spare, in case an accident happened (which it did!)
I decided on the size by simply measuring the width of my picture frame and making sure the main body of the leaf would cover it.
Step 3: Flame the Paper
The first step is to coat the paper leaves with a layer of glue, but before you do that, make sure that your "heating station" is already set up (otherwise the glue will dry and the technique won't work).
So, to do this, put a tealight on a heatproof surface and light it.
* Make sure there is nothing flammable close by, and have a container of water on standby as it is likely the paper will catch fire at some point. If at all possible, do this OUTSIDE. I tried but my tealight kept blowing out, so instead I did this right next to an open window. This method creates smoke so make sure you have good ventilation.*
Use your brush to apply a good layer of glue to the top of the paper leaf. Try to get right to the edges.
Hold the leaf as flat as you can in your metal tweezers. I only had a crocodile clip contraption to do this with, but tweezers would have been easier!
Carefully move the paper leaf over the flame. Put the paper right onto the flame, making sure the glue-covered side is facing downwards. Constantly keep the leaf moving.
Focus on a small area at a time, and every few seconds check to see which areas of the glue have been blackened. The idea is to blacken the entire glued surface and get rid of the white colour of the glue.
If you hear sizzling, that's good because it means the glue will be bubbling in the flame, but don't keep the same bit sizzling for more than a second otherwise it could catch fire.
The main problem I had was with the edges catching light, so only briefly flame the edges. The glue protects the paper, but at the edges the flame can reach the bare paper on top of the leaf, which can then set alight - and the result can be seen in one of the photos above! If this happens, dunk it into your container of water. This is why we make spares :)
Then repeat the same for every leaf. This is a bit time consuming!
NOTE: If both sides of your paper shapes will be visible in your project, you will need to repeat the process for the other side of the shapes as well (rather than just the fronts).
Step 4: 'Polish' the Leaves
Next, you simply take a folded up piece of paper kitchen roll and rub the blackened surfaces of the leaves.
You only need to do this for 5-10 seconds - just to remove any excess black soot and 'buff' the paper to a shinier finish.
Do the same for all the leaves.
Step 5: Add Some Sparkle
This is an optional step, but I think it looks nice :)
I put a small amount of gold acrylic paint onto a piece of folded-up kitchen roll and used it to apply a very small amount to each leaf. I used the paper towel to rub the paint over the surface and remove any excess.
You can just apply the paint to part of the shapes if you like e.g. just at the tips. And you can also just use a dry paintbrush to apply the paint instead of kitchen roll if you prefer.
Do the same for all of the leaves until you are happy with how they look.
Step 6: Decorating
Use your finished leaves to decorate your project.
In my case, I just superglued the leaves to my picture frame. At the corners, I made a mitre 'joint' by cutting the paper leaves at a 45 degree angle so that they fit nicely together.
Step 7: Finished!
And that's it, you've now made faux-metal paper shapes!
I really was impressed with the end look of this project, and I certainly wouldn't guess that it's made from brown paper.
Thanks for reading :)