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Antiqued Artwork Tutorial
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Antiqued Artwork Tutorial

Step 1: Antiquing Paper (Using Items You Probably Already Have In Your Kitchen)


Paper - You’re going to want a heavy paper - something like a 2-ply vellum appropriate for wet media like watercolor or pen and ink. It should also be between semi-smooth and heavily grained - too smooth and you won’t get good detail in the final piece.

Stain - Stain can be made in water or alcohol. In my experience, inexpensive, high-proof alcohol (such as cheap vodka or rum) makes the best base. Many different items from your kitchen can be used as colorants. This is an especially good project for dried spices that have lost their flavor or beverages that have gone stale. Coffee and tea are especially useful. Mint makes a great, low-saturation green-brown color. Turmeric results in a potent yellow-orange. Whatever you use, add it to your stain base and allow it to steep. Some ingredients are ready almost immediately, others could take a day or more. You will have to experiment to find out what works best for each one. One of the steps in setting the stain involves optionally using a microwave. If you choose to use this method, it’s best to only use ingredients for the stain that you would be comfortable eating or drinking.


For paper that will be heavily crumpled or wrinkled, start by wetting it - that makes the paper easier to work with since it will be very stiff to start. Crumple as much or as little as you’d like.

For paper that will be folded instead of crumpled, it should not need to be wetted. Try folding asymmetrically, in unusual patterns, or just a corner or two.

If you’ve wetted your paper, allow it to thoroughly dry before continuing to the next step. You can set your paper out in the sun, run a hair dryer over it, or put it in the microwave with a few paper towels under it. All of these different types of drying can be used in future steps as well, depending on your level of patience.

To make parts of the paper resist the stain, drizzle or splash oil (vegetable oil, olive oil, etc) on the paper. It does not take very much - a tablespoon or two can treat four to six pages easily. Do not brush the oil on. Let it soak in up to a few minutes. The longer you allow it to soak, the bigger the area that becomes stain resistant. Blot or wipe away excess oil to stop the process. Blotting results in smaller areas that are more resistant to staining - wiping results in larger areas that are less resistant.

Now apply the stain - there are many methods that can be used here. It can be wiped on, drizzled on, sprayed on, etc, all to create different looks. More than one stain can be used at a time. If using stains such as coffee grounds, tea leaves, mint leaves, or anything that hasn’t totally dissolved in the base, you can leave the solids on the paper while it dries for a more intense color and pattern. When it finishes drying, you can simply dust the page off, or for a different look, rub the paper against another sheet to grind the stain into it.

To have a good collection of antiqued pages for use with your artwork, try lots of different combinations of techniques. You’re going to use more than one sheet for each piece to achieve the best effect.

Step 2: Scanning

Be sure that your antiqued pages are completely try and not oily to the touch before scanning them. I recommend scanning them in at 600 dpi. Do not go under 300 dpi if you wish to print the final project. Make sure to scan both the front and back of your antiqued pages - that way you get double the possible looks for your art! After you finish scanning, you may wish to clean your scanner glass with wipes or cleaners appropriate for electronics. For this tutorial, I have six sheets scanned twice for twelve total possible bases for the antiqued artwork.

Step 1 & 2 Alternate: Acquiring

There are many websites where you can find high quality scans of distressed or antiqued paper, vellum, leather, and cloth either for free or for a small fee. If you plan on making prints of your final pieces for sale, be sure that this is acceptable according to the artist’s or website’s terms of service.

Step 3: Photoshop

None of the steps in this section make use of advanced features of Photoshop, so you should be able to produce similar results in other programs.

Create a new document. A comfortable working size for the character reference sheets I’m making is 8.5x11 inches at 600 dpi.

Flood fill the background in a light brownish color. Depending on the look you’re going for, try stretching it to more yellow, more red, or more or less saturated.

Copy one of your antiqued pages to a new layer. Using Edit > Transform > Rotate and/or Scale, change the size and orientation of your page to fit the dimensions of your new document. For this first layer, I tend to go with a page that has a subtle effect.

Try playing around with the layer type to achieve different looks. In this case, I decided that a 77% Overlay layer was what I wanted. I then added a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer on top of it.

For the second layer, I wanted a fairly aggressive vignette, but my favorite antiqued page had the opposite effect. No problem! I started by by inverting whole piece (Image > Adjustments > Invert). Then I reversed the hue back (+180) and removed a little bit of saturation. Finally, I applied Levels to the page to get the look I wanted.

Copy your second antiqued page to another new layer in your working document, again applying Edit > Transform > Rotate and/or Scale to fit it to the page.

I recommend changing this new layer type to multiply, but depending on the look you’re going for and the pages you’re working with, color burn or linear burn can work as well.

Another Levels Adjustment Layer over the entire piece, followed by a Color Balance Adjustment Layer. Play around with these features as much as you want.

Seeing how the process was progressing, I lightened the base color with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.

Here you can see the layers of the clean pencils - there are several adjustment layers to make them stand out clearly and also to remove any color shift from the scanning process. Select the entire canvas, copy merged, and paste it into your working document. If necessary, scale or rotate to fit, but be sure to keep the size ratio in this step.

For the effect I use for my lineart, I start by making the layer type Color Burn. I then go to Layer > Duplicate Layer, and change the top lineart layer type to Linear Burn.

As you can see, although the effect is pretty good already, there are areas, especially over her face, where the distressed look was too intense. To reduce this, create a mask on the second antiqued page layer, then, with a big, chunky brush and a light touch, paint on the mask to tone those areas down. The mask layer itself is fairly subtle.

Now it’s time to adjust the whole canvas to fit the artwork. I added a further Levels Adjustment Layer between the antiqued pages and the lineart that included its own mask to allow the edges to be darker and more intense while the interior remained fairly simple.

This was followed by using another large, chunky brush on a Multiply Layer type to add more darkness to the outer edges and more tweaking of the Levels Adjustment Layer.

Here I used a combination of a very large, soft brush, and a medium, very grainy brush to extend the light cream color of the page interior into certain portions of the edge.

Toning down the saturation overall with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.

Finally, I wanted to bring the whole piece together. Using a Color Fill Adjustment Layer, I selected a warm beige and set the layer type to Hard Light, 25% opacity, and pulled out bit more saturation.

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