How to Recycle Paper and Make Your Own Handmade Paper

How to Make Your Own Paper

Simple Paper Making at Home
The Spruce / Kate Pullen

Beautiful handmade papers can be purchased from arts and craft stores. These lovely papers make a great addition to a wide variety of card making, scrapbooking and other paper craft projects. While traditional papermaking methods require special equipment, such as a press, there are alternatives. If you are just starting out, or want to make small amounts of handmade paper, it is easy to make paper at home using simple household supplies and waste paper that is turned into paper pulp.

Making Simple Handmade Paper at Home

Many papermakers use a mold and deckle to produce paper. This is perfect for producing large pieces of paper. It is possible to make smaller pieces of paper without this equipment and using only a plastic container lid as a mold. Because we are not using a paper press, deckle or other special equipment, the end result may be more thick, 'rustic' and less refined-looking than handmade paper that has been produced using special equipment. However, this adds to the charm and makes a truly unique embellishment for many projects. If you enjoy this simple way of making paper at home then you may wish to invest in proper papermaking equipment at a later stage.

This process is ideal for making small pieces of paper. While the finished paper can be cut with scissors or a craft knife, making smaller pieces of paper that are then finished size or shape can give effective results. The textured edges emphasize the appeal of handmade paper. Cookie cutters can be used as a mold and are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes.

You can easily customize your handmade paper by adding seeds or leaves, yarns, fibers or a wide variety of other items. Handmade paper can be colored with dyes, food colorants or pieces of colored tissue paper. It can be decorated further, for instance, rubber stamps can be used to add decoration to the surface of a piece of handmade paper or can be used to create an impression in the wet paper pulp.

Types of Paper Used to Make Paper Pulp

Many different types of paper can be used to make paper pulp at home. This includes newspaper and uncoated junk mail (although the newsprint will give a gray look to the paper), tissue or construction paper or even clean toilet paper. Some types of cards are also ideal for recycling this way. The inner rolls from toilet tissues, for instance, can create an interesting effect.

Materials Required

  • Paper to make into paper pulp
  • Hand blender
  • Lid of a plastic container to use as a mold
  • Mixing bowl
  • Piece of plastic sheet or parchment paper
  • Towels or cloths (smooth towels, for instance, tea-towels or tea-cloths will produce smoother results)

Note: This is a messy and wet process, therefore it is best to work on a well-protected work surface.

Prepare the Paper

Make Paper Pulp
The Spruce / Kate Pullen

The first stage in making paper pulp is preparing the paper. Here, we used a mix of paper tissues and the inner roll from toilet tissue rolls. Tear the paper and card into small pieces and put it in a mixing bowl. Cover the pieces with water and leave to soak. The paper should be fully soaked within a couple of hours, however, you may want to leave it overnight or even for a day in order for it to be fully soaked. This helps to break down the paper to make pulp.

Pulp the Paper With a Hand Blender

Use a Blender to Make Paper Pulp
The Spruce / Kate Pullen

Use a hand blender to pulp the wet paper mix. Blend the paper pulp mix until all the pieces have been removed and there is a single mass of paper pulp. It is possible to do this without a hand blender. A potato masher, for instance, will give the same effect—albeit with a little more effort. After the paper is thoroughly pulped, squeeze the pulp to remove some of the excess water.

Press the Paper Pulp Into the Mold

Press the Paper into the Mould
The Spruce / Kate Pullen

Line the plastic container lid with a piece of plastic or parchment paper. This makes turning the paper out easier. Start to press the paper pulp into the mold. Press the paper pulp firmly into the mold trying to get an even distribution.

Press the Water out of the Paper

Press Water from the Paper Pulp
The Spruce / Kate Pullen

Use a towel to press firmly on the paper pulp to remove the water. Tip the lid slightly so any water can run away. The harder you press the more water will be removed and the firmer the end result. A brayer could be used to flatten the surface of the paper pulp.

Turn the Paper out from the Mold

Turn the paper Out of the Mold
The Spruce / Kate Pullen

When the paper is firm and as much water as possible has been removed, turn the paper out onto a dry towel or cloth which has been placed on a flat surface. Use a dry towel to press more water from the paper. Place the paper in a warm and dry spot to dry. Some people place the paper in a warm oven or toaster oven to dry. This can be useful when the weather is cold or if you are working in humid surroundings. 

Finishing the Paper

Handmade Paper Tag
The Spruce / Kate Pullen

When the paper is thoroughly dried it can be cut and decorated as required. The surface of the handmade paper is rough and not completely flat, however, this helps to highlight the handmade nature of the paper and emphasize that no two pieces will be truly the same.

There are many ways of adapting this process. Colored paper can be added to the paper pulp or dyes added to give different colors and shades to the finished paper. Glitter or pieces of fancy yarns could also be added. One interesting variation is to make seed paper. This is a great way to make a gift tag or piece of paper that can be planted. Use small seeds to produce an attractive, yet practical, piece of handmade paper. Or, you can make textured paper by adding texture to the surface of the paper using rubber stamps.