By Christina VanGinkel
If you have ever seen a sheet of scrapbook paper and thought that while there were elements about the paper's pattern, or color that you liked, but were not sure if it really appealed all that much to you, read on. Maybe you bought it, brought it home, only to have it linger amidst other papers you owned, not really sure what to do with it once you had it in your private stash. The more you look at it, the colors are a bit too bright, or maybe the pattern is bolder than you remembered or not bold enough. Like anything scrapbook related, instead of never using it, consider the fact that it could benefit greatly from some altering. Keep in mind that any distressing techniques you try are permanent, so only alter those papers you will not use as are, or those that you have more than a single sheet of to begin with.
Save for the very thinnest of papers, if a sheet of paper is too brightly colored, tone it down a bit by sanding lightly with fine sandpaper. Start with the edges and work lightly over the complete surface area. If this does not provide enough of the altered look you are aiming for, try wrinkling the paper first, and lightly sanding the edges of the crumpled up page. Paper can also be flattened back out, after crumpling, and before sanding, for a lighter look. Edges of sanded paper can also be inked for a much deeper altered look. Experiment with different tones of ink for various degrees of distressing. Paper can be wrinkled up, spritzed with water, than flattened back out for a slightly distressed look too.
If you have paper that has a design that you just love, but the design is not as obvious as you would like it to be, especially after you begin to create your layout, draw attention to the design by tracing it. If it is an all over pattern, either pick a single design element and just race it or trace over the entire page, whatever you think will look best for your purpose. Trace it in black or colored ink, with a paint pen, or my favorite, with a watercolor brush and paint. Watercolor paint works best on lighter colored paper and can also be combined with tracing in ink, though I always watercolor first, then once the design is dry, trace it with ink second.
Any of you who have ever dabbled in artistic painting probably are familiar with spattering. This same technique can be applied to paper for a variety of looks. Spattering can be approached in several ways, but my favorite is with an old toothbrush. Dip an old paintbrush, dry or wet depending on the effect you are after, into paint, and flick the toothbrush bristles so that they send small spatters of paint over the paper. Ink could also be used, but do wear gloves and protect the area you do this in, whether working with paint or ink to protect your other supplies, including your desk. This would be a great project to take outdoors or into a garage if wind were an issue. If you end up with too much paint or ink on your paper (it is easy to be carried away, especially the first few times you try this technique), let dry, then use the sandpaper technique described above to lighten the effect.
Sewing on paper, either directly, or by sewing fabric or other paper onto the sheet you wish to alter can be a great way to revitalize an otherwise unusable sheet of scrapbook paper. You could choose an alternating colored thread, to jazz up some otherwise dull looking paper, or tone down some too bright paper by sewing onto the paper with white or ecru thread.
Some paper is destined to be turned into scraps, but keep this as a last ditch way to alter an otherwise usable, full sheet of scrapbook paper. Cut paper into strips, shapes, or just in half, combining the half with another sheet of paper in a color that will complement, tone down, or add life to the piece in need of altering.