A-Z of miniature crafts: Y for yellowing

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24 February 2022
Jane Harrop continues our series on the A–Z of basic crafts used within the miniatures world and demonstrates the technique of ‘yellowing’.

If you want to 'age' your dolls house miniatures, 'yellowing' is the technique for you! Jane Harrop shows you a variety of simple tricks to achieve this finish…

“Not everyone chooses to furnish and accessorise their dolls houses and dioramas in perfect and pristine condition. I’m always drawn to miniature scenes that incorporate the natural ageing of furniture and everyday objects. Many items will discolour over time and in particular paper is associated with becoming yellow/brown and losing its original brightness. 

Depending on the quality of the paper, it may also become brittle and of course printing may fade. Newspapers are printed on newsprint, a low grade paper and will age faster than a book printed on superior quality paper. In miniature the process of ‘yellowing’ can be achieved with little expense.”

How to ‘age’ your miniatures – four methods

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Using tea

Using tea to 'age' miniature newspapers

You’ll need miniature newspapers that have been photocopied onto white copier paper and printed using a laser printer. Inkjet printers use water-soluble inks and aren’t suitable for this process. 

  1. Pour cold tea into a dish and add the photocopied newspapers, and leave to soak for several minutes to colour and age the paper.
  2. Remove the papers and leave on top of an old tea towel or kitchen paper towel to dry.

The strength of tea will obviously depend on the length of time you need to leave the papers to soak. Don’t leave too long or you will return to fragments of newspaper. 

You can also use cold coffee and water-based wood stain to age other black and white or colour laser printed papers, such as documents, bills, magazines and books.

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Using a spirit-based wood stain

Using a spirit-based wood stain to 'age' miniatures

Another option is to scan and home print paper items. Cold tea will just wash ink jet prints away, so use a very light coloured spirit based wood stain. You’ll need to place the papers on top of something that will absorb any excess stain, before applying with a small brush. 

“I find this method works really well for any ink jet printed paper items.”

Using shoe polish

Using shoe polish to 'age' miniatures

Use the ‘old faithful’ shoe polish for a quick and effective way of ageing printed paper. Apply a thin layer of shoe polish to the front and back of a document before gently buffing with a soft cloth. 

“I particularly like the aged finish created using a mid-tan shoe polish.”

Using dye-based stamp pads

Using dye-based stamp pads to 'age' miniatures

Dye based stamp pads are used in the craft of rubber stamping and are available from craft shops. They’re produced in a range of colours, and some specifically to reproduce the look of aged paper. They’ll soak into porous paper surfaces and will dry quickly. A brand new ink pad may cause home inkjet printing to run, but older pads which are more solid work really well, and often there’s no need to wait for drying time.

In a nutshell

Papers printed with colourfast inks can be aged using water based products like cold tea, coffee or water based wood stain. Papers printed with water soluble inks must be aged using spirit based wood stain or shoe polish. Test on a practise piece if you can beforehand. Very often the larger the piece of paper, the easier it is to age and then trim to size afterwards.

Next, learn the art of ‘antiquing’ your dolls house furniture or transform an ordinary piece of furniture into something rather special using decoupage!

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