Here’s How to Make Handmade Paper from Recycled Materials

how to make paper from recycled scraps - DIY handmade paperMaking paper by hand at home can be a pretty simple process. It’s also a fantastic way to use up your old receipts, scrap papers, junk mail, and copy paper that you were about to throw in the recycling bin, and instead create a thing of glorious handmade beauty.

Have those recycled papers hanging around? Some sort of plastic storage tub, and a kitchen blender? With a few supplies and these basic instructions, you’re well on your way to making handmade paper and being ridiculously friendly to the environment.

Keep reading for the tutorial!

Supplies for Making Paper

  • Water
  • Scrap Papers
  • Plastic storage tub or vat
  • Kitchen blender – get one from the thrift store
  • Mould & Deckle (a screen attached to a frame) How-to make a mould & deckle >
  • Wood boards OR sponge & rolling pin
  • Towels, wool blankets, cloth, pellon, Sham-wows, or other absorbent material


  • Cut or rip up your paper into about 1 inch squares.
  • Soak your paper for a few hours or overnight.

Drawing, printmaking, and watercolor papers are best because they are generally made from stronger fibers (such as cotton rag, and not chemically treated tree fiber). Your fiber/scrap choice and its characteristics dictate the quality of the final sheet.

However, experiment with junk mail, office paper, paper grocery bags, the yellow pages, rejection letters, and more. No plastic, people.

Also, experiment with different color combinations.

making handmade paper with a blender


Fill up a kitchen blender with water. Throw in a good handful or two of the cut up scrap papers (not too much more, or you’ll burn the blender motor out). Blend. Keep blending until it’s a pulp.

Don’t make your smoothies with that blender anymore.

Have a storage tub hanging around? Those concrete mixing vats from the hardware store also work. Fill up the tub with your blended pulp, about 1/3 to 1/2 way. Add more water to the vat. The more pulp to water, the thicker your paper will be.

diy paper making instructions


For this, you’ll need a mould and deckle. It’s basically two frames that are the same size, one with screen attached.

Learn how to make your own, the cheap & quick way! Click here for the DIY mould & deckle tutorial >

There’s also a list of papermaking suppliers who sell mould & deckles on our Paperlinks page.

Now, for sheet formation:

  • Stir your vat of pulp.
  • Hold the mould screen side up, and place the deckle evenly on top.
  • Holding them together at a 45 degree angle, dip the mould and deckle to the bottom of the vat and scoop up, holding the mould and deckle horizontally.
  • As you lift it out of the slurry, give it a quick shake back and forth, and left to right to align the fibers and make a more uniform sheet. Stop shaking before the sheet is fully drained.
  • Let the water drain to a drip.

how to make paper by hand at home

STEP 4: COUCHING (**Pronounced coo-ching. For real.)

‘Couching’ means to transfer the wet sheet from the mould to a flat, absorbent surface. Wool felts are ideal, but there are many other options: wool blankets, smoother towels, thick paper towels, non-fusible interfacing or pellon, sham-wows, or bed sheets. Set up your felt with a board underneath and soak your couching materials.

  • Remove the deckle from the mould.
  • Place a long edge of the mould on the felt.
  • In one smooth motion, place the mold face down, press down, and lift from that initial edge. Think of this like a close the door, open the door, motion.

diy paper making


Option 1: Hand Pressing

Place pellon or paper towel on top of your freshly couched sheet. With a sponge, press gently at first, then press firmly with as much pressure as possible. Have a rolling pin or old paint roller? Use that to press your paper even more.

handmade paper making instructions

Option 2: Board Pressing

Place another felt on top of your freshly couched sheet. Continue to couch another sheet, layer another felt, and repeat. Layer one final felt and another wood board when you’ve made a stack. Take the post outside to a concrete or stone surface. Stand on it!

hand papermaking - board drying


Option 1: Surface Drying (that’s this picture here)

  • Find a flat, non-porous surface. Smooth wood boards, plexiglass, windows, and formica surfaces work well.
  • Take your wet sheet and gently press onto the flat surface. Make sure the edges are pressed down well.
  • Let the paper dry (1-3 days depending on humidity levels and thickness of the paper).
  • Peel it off.


Option 2: Exchange Drying

  • Get some blotters, towels, or other absorbent, dry, flat material.
  • Layer the material and then your wet handmade paper on top.
  • Repeat. Create a stack.
  • When you’re done, place a wood board or a book on top. Weigh it down with more books or something heavy.
  • Check it once every day and exchange the damp material with dry material until your handmade paper is dry.


Option 3: No Restraint Drying

This one’s easy. Take your wet sheet and throw it on a shelf, table, counter…and let it dry. It’ll be wild, wrinkly, and textured, but sometimes wild and free is good.


Option 4: Dry on Pellon or Cloth

After pressing, peel and hang up the cloth or pellon (with the wet paper still stuck to it) that you’ve couched onto, and hang on a clothesline with the top edge of the pellon.

Because you’ve pressed the paper to the pellon, the pellon will restrain the paper as it dries.

Once the paper is dry (1-2 days), peel it from the pellon. The paper will be slightly wavy.

how to make handmade paper

We dried this paper on smooth plywood.

Also, if you have left over pulp in the tub, you can save it. Take a mesh paint strainer bag, or a fine mesh pasta strainer to drain out all the water. A condensed version of the pulp will be left. Squeeze that into a ball, and let it dry. To reuse down the road, simply soak overnight, rip apart, and blend again.

Thank-you Liz Wikstrom for helping make this tutorial happen, and for making paper!

So, what should you do now?

And try out these creative techniques…

Do you make paper from scraps? Did you find this tutorial helpful? Have other tips and tricks? Comment on this blog post and share with us all! Also, be sure to like Paperslurry on Facebook or on It’ll be epic!


Happy papermaking,
May Babcock


113 thoughts on “Here’s How to Make Handmade Paper from Recycled Materials

  1. Thanks for a wonderful tutorial. Very informative & easy to understand. Good for beginners to get started.
    I have a big bag of red Netflix envelopes from my daughter. “Breaking Bad” paper is my next project.

  2. Pingback: Making Handmade PaperPaperslurry

  3. One question: when you press a stack of papers, how do you prevent them from… uh… creating lines on eachother? (not native English! Sorry!)

    I tried stacking them as precisely on eachother as I could, putting more cloths between the seperate sheets, but it doesn’t work. You can still see the edge of the bottom paper pressed into the top paper, if that makes any sense.

    • Hmm…as you couch each sheet, try to line up each sheet the best you can.

      Your sheets sound thick – try adding more water to the vat, and less pulp, to make thinner sheets that won’t show the lines as much.

      Also, after you press the stack, and after you dry the paper on boards, it should flatten out and be a lot less noticeable.

      I hope that helps! And thanks for visiting Paperslurry!

      – May

  4. Pingback: Make a Mould and Deckle for Handmade Paper - Cheap, Quick & Dirty | PaperslurryPaperslurry

  5. Pingback: Handmade lanterns |

  6. Hello! Great tutorial, I can’t wait to have the space to try out a mould and deckle myself, since I’ve been making paper in a much more improvised way… Do you know of any ways to change the texture or strength of the paper with simple additives (cornstarch), or what an ideal mesh size is (is finer better)? Thank you for this site!

    • Hi Rendon, thanks for stopping by! Yes, I believe that corn starch can be used as a type of sizing (makes the paper more water-resistant).

      To add strength, a common additive to the pulp is methyl cellulose, a type of water-based adhesive. The texture depends on your fiber type, mesh, way of pressing, and how you dry it.

      For mesh, window screening is pretty big, and very small fibers might slip through if you’re trying to make a very thin sheet. But, for recycled paper fibers, it’s a good almost-free choice. Too fine of a mesh, and drainage may be slow. Carriage House Paper sells polypropylene screening that works great.

  7. i’ve been making my own paper for my christmas cards nearly every year… favorites were made with orange & brown construction paper for the base materials….and then i added ground cloves, nutmeg and ginger……and painted a gingerbread man on the front of the cards (used a cookie cutter dipped in brown paint)…..smelled great!….you can also add flower petals to scent…or small evergreen needles…or very small seeds, then the card can be planted by the recipient….the homemade paper makes a great mulch!

  8. OMG!!! I had no idea that it is possible to make my own paper! This is nice way to recycle my newspapers. My daughter loves drawing and I will make some paper sheets for her! Thank you!

  9. If I make my paper thin and press very flat, can I use a fountain pen on it?

    I love your instructions and videos.



  10. super excited to make this!!! I’m going to make tags for my handmade items. I’m going to stamp and print on it. I can’t wait, Thank you so much for akll the huge tips and detailed instructions.

  11. Pingback: Home Care Projects: Handmade Journal with Recycled Materials

  12. Thank you I have enjoyed the instructions and people’s comments and your advice. I am new to paper making and am very interested in making my own books and binding them. The only piece that I have not been able to figure out is how to make my own book board and good quality water color paper. Please, I could use any tips you may have. Thank you.

    • Hi Jeanne, thank you for the kind words! To make a stiff & thick book board, be sure to charge your vat with a lot of pulp to water. You’ll need to couch several layers (4, maybe?) right on top of each other to get a super thick sheet. Also, try adding a methyl cellulose (a type of glue) to the vat of pulp for strength.

      For really good watercolor paper, I would recommend using cotton rag, or cotton linters, and to use a Hollander Beater to process the fibre (see if there’s a paper studio near you with a beater: ). Also, be sure to use sizing (internal with the pulp—I use a ketene dimer); or else the watery-colors will bleed. Think of paper towels (no sizing) vs. a good watercolor paper (color stays on top longer).

      Carriage House and Twinrocker carry these supplies: &

      Hope that helps, and thanks for stopping by!

      – May

      • Dear May, thank you so much for your timely advice on making book board and watercolor paper. I will let you know if I succeed or not. Sincerely Jeanne V.

  13. Thank you for this great tutorial! I am a bookbinder and I’m wondering if these papers would be strong enough to be bound in a book? How do they hold up when folded?

    • Hi Alexandra, thanks for commenting! The strength of your handmade paper made from recycled papers depends of the type material you are processing. I’ve bound books with sheets made from the yellow pages (chemically-treated wood fibers), and it holds up fine. If you’re looking for tougher sheets, choose leftover drawing, printmaking, or watercolor papers; they’re more likely to use cloth rag (or strong asian fibers like kozo) as the fiber.

  14. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial and photos! I’ve dried some paper on glass windows, which is extremely convenient and space saving. I love the smooth surface glass creates on one side of the paper I’ve hit a problem, though. It seems that the first few sheets release pretty easily from the glass once dry, but later sheets adhere too strongly to the glass to be removed without ruining them. When I try to peel the sheets off they rip no matter how carefully I lift the edges. I can’t figure out what I’m doing differently to create this unwanted result. Could it be that I’m putting too much pressure on the later sheets by pushing at them too hard with my sponge while putting them on the windows? Do wet windows make the paper stick to them harder than dry windows? Is there a layer of dirt on the windows which is helping them let go of the paper when dry which isn’t present on subsequent tries?
    If you could offer me any advice, I’d really appreciate it. I want to dry more sheets on the windows in the future.

    • Hey Steve! Thanks for stopping by!

      I don’t think it’s the pressure, or the wetness. Here are some factors to think about:
      – Random non-cellulose materials in your pulp would make your paper to stick to the glass like glue.
      – Weaker, short fibers (like recycled papers which are mostly wood, or those that have been processed over and over again) make papers that aren’t strong (compared to rag, flax fibers, etc.); perhaps this is another reason for them ripping.
      – Teenie fibers might be left on the glass, making the second batch stick.

      Possible solutions?
      – Clean the glass really well before putting a sheet on there to dry.
      – Use a paint scraper (the ones with the flat razor blades) and really scrape off all the teenie sticky fibers, that are left after peeling a sheet off.
      – Another option is to buff some vegetable oil on to the glass to prevent the paper from sticking.
      – Once the paper is dry, peel it off right away (don’t let it sit on there for days).

      Plexiglass is a great surface to dry on if you’re looking for a super-smooth surface, and the paper won’t stick.

      Hope that helps, and happy papermaking!
      – May

  15. Pingback: Big Aimes' Big World

  16. Pingback: wedding flower trends 2016 | Mayfield Flowers

    • Yes, through an inkjet home printer; just make sure the edges aren’t too frilly (or else they’ll get caught), and that the width isn’t too large. Hope that helps Rebecca, and thanks for stopping by Paperslurry! – May

  17. Pingback: An Organic Wedding Inspiration Board with Sage, Navy, and Gray » Grace and Serendipity

  18. this has been so amazingly helpful I don’t know where to start. thank you so much for your hard work and knowledge!! I will be using this information to make my own paper in the future xx

  19. hi, Thank you for sharing very clear. I was wonderinf if it was possible to make sturdy paper like carboard using a similar process. Any ideas ?

    • Hi Nathalie! Yes, one way you can make a sturdier paper is through layering. When you are couching your wet sheets, simple layer several times, right on top of each other. Hope that helps! – May

    • Hi Soumik,
      I think it would depend on what recycled papers you are pulping – some contain more sizing than others. Hope that helps!
      – May

  20. Pingback: Handmade Stationery: 20 Projects - Crafting a Green World

  21. Hi, this was indeed an awesome tutorial. Inspired by your articleI have also started making recycled paper from old newspaper. However can you please help me understand how can i maintain the uniform thickness of the handmade papers. Since we are taking out the pulp during each dipping of mold the water and pulp ratio changes and i end up getting thick paper initially and thinner ones later. Please guide. Thanks

    • Hi Kiran, you will need to add more pulp at regular intervals to your vat, in order for the thickness to stay consistent. Keep track of how many sheets you can make before they become thin, and remember to add a consistent amount of pulp after you pull that number of sheets. Hope that helps!

  22. Pingback: Pen Pals – Southern Bell Schoolhouse

  23. Thank you for this tutorial! Do you think coffee filters would be a decent material? I have a lot to use up or donate. Thanks!

    • Perhaps! The material is strong enough to withstand hot water…experiment and let us know the results!
      – May

  24. I’d like to colour my paper during the process (maybe with drawing inks??)…do you have any suggestions for preserving the colour so it doesn’t fade over time? Thanks, Jaini

    • Hi Victor!

      Both exchange drying and board drying will produce flat paper; the difference to keep in mind is that the paper will pick up the texture of the surface it’s dried on. For example, if you dried on plexiglass, the back of the sheet will be super smooth, just like the plexiglass. If you exchanged dried it between towels (for example), the paper will be still be flat, but have a rougher texture.

      The poly felt sheets should work…as long as the absorb water. It helps to hose down or soak your felts in water first, before couching. I haven’t personally tried that material, so let me know the results!

      Hope that helps!
      – May

  25. champion! i’m a medieval copyist (on a tight budget no less; ie: diy ink, bulk feathers for quills and a diy pen knife) and never can find large enough paper at a low enough price to proper copy books onto. now i won’t have to worry about it! i could make paper large enough to create a book the size of the lindisfarne gospels or book of kells if i wanted to, hahaha. cheers.

  26. Would glossy magazine paper work here? (Not that I don’t have a massive amount of the other mentioned types, it’d just be nice if I could do something constructive with copies of magazines I initially saved for a purpose–one which I can no longer recall, so I might as well give them a new one.) Would using it require changing or adding to the above steps?

    Also, this was a fantastic article–clear, concise, and easy to follow instructions with helpful images and relevant links, all of which just served to make me excited to try, and so much less skeptical about, making my own paper. Thanks so much!

    • Hi Krystal, I’m excited you’re giving hand papermaking a try!
      Glossy magazine paper would be weaker than most drawing or printmaking papers. It’s made from over-processed trees, and has tons of ink and other additives to make it glossy and such. But, that doesn’t meant you can’t use it—try making the sheets a lot thicker (don’t add as much extra water to the vat), or mix it up with a stronger pulp.
      Hope that helps, and happy papermaking!
      – May

  27. Thanks for posting such a great tutorial! In our new home the window blinds are custom sliding frames with handmade paper set inside to cover the openings. It’s beautiful but a bit delicate when compared to our 3 year old child. I’d like to try to remake some of the blinds that have finger holes. They currently seem to have very large fibers mixed in and some have plant stems and leaves. What sources of paper/material would you recommend I try as I attempt to reproduce the look? Should I start practicing making a more basic use paper or do you think starting with the big fibers and textured look is as decent place to start with as any? And last, any advice for just reusing the paper that has been damaged? Thanks again for the great instructions and pictures. 🙂

    • Hi Kat,
      Sounds like an interesting project! Perhaps the window paper uses Asian fibers, such as kozo, mitsumata, or gampi, and then has leaves included in the pulp. The fibers are long and strong. Carriage House Paper carries kozo fiber already cleaned, cooked, and rinsed , all you have to do is soak it, then hand beat it. The kozo fiber can be hand-beaten with a stick; this spreads the fibers out, and can keep some fibers long and more visible. You can get a sense of the beating technique here: . If you want, you can practice forming sheets with scrap papers first, before using the kozo. As for simply reusing the damaged paper, you can treat like any other scrap paper. Hope that helps!
      – May

  28. My kids and I used your instructions to make paper on our own at home in practice for teaching the Juniors in our Girl Scout troop. It worked really well. After looking at a number of websites and even the Get Moving Journey book from Girl Scouts, yours were the best, most easy-to-follow instructions, especially with your moving pictures. Thank you.

    • Hi Karuna, sure, but please also give photo and article credit to May Babcock at Thank you!!
      – May

  29. I didn’t made this experiment yet, since I still don’t have some materials, but thank you very much for the information. I have a question in Option 4: Dry on Pellon or Cloth, where will my paper stick, on the towel cloth or paper towel? If it will stick on the paper towel, will it fall on the clothesline because of its thinness?

    • Hmm, I think it would want to stick to whichever surface is more textured. But if it’s stuck on there wet, it should stay on when it gets dry. Hope that helps!

  30. Pingback: A New (Year) Resolution: Conscious Cards & Wrapping Paper | Orcas Island Exchange

  31. Why is it that you can’t use the blender for smoothies anymore? I see that warning on many tutorials, but I was wondering why that is.

  32. You wouldn’t happen to have ideas, information, or “recipies” for making unryu paper, would you? Or do you have any information about making paper for paper lanterns (that won’t potentially catch on fire from the lantern light)?

    • Hi Simone,

      Unryu is usually made from kozo aka mulberry fibers (Carriage House Paper and Twinrocker Paper both carry this fiber). What differentiates it from regular kozo sheets is that longer, less beaten fibers are included in the pulp, giving it that feathery look. As for paper lanterns, Paper Illuminated by Helen Hiebert is a great resource book for paper lamp-making.

      Hope that helps you out!
      – May

  33. Pingback: Art, Handmade Paper, Invasive Plants: New Photographs by Jane Kramer | Paperslurry

  34. Hi there!
    I’m a calligrapher attempting to make paper and just purchased sizing from carriage house to be able to write. I’d love to make colored paper- is there an alternative to purchasing pigments and adhesives? Thank you in advance!

  35. Hi . Your instructions are easy to understand and to follow. I am working on a science project which requires making papers from other plant fibers such as coconut husk, oil palm husk, corn husk and etc. Do u have any useful links for me and could you please guide me on how to do the pulp bleaching? Thank you in advance.

  36. Pingback: Week 9 – Zines

  37. Hello! I have a question and am hoping to find someone who can help…

    I got a mould and deckle, and have made some handmade paper, however I find that the paper has the imprint of the screen in it, and also takes on the imprint of whatever material I use to dry it on – towels, couching sheets, paper towels, anything I’ve tried.

    I have all of this beautiful paper that is textured like a screen on one side and like the couching material on the opposite side.

    How can I avoid this? I would like the paper to not have any of those textures, but I don’t know what I can do to not get the screen texture.


    • Hi Brittney, when couching, try pressing down a bit less. The paper does have memory, so if it’s an extremely textured type of screen surface, then it will show up. Hope that helps!
      – May

  38. Hi! I’ve just found an old mould and deckle from a paper making kit I had as a child so I’m excited to try again and make something a bit higher quality, haha. You mention ripping paper into 1 inch squares but I have lots of tiny pieces of paper in my cross-cut shredder, is there any reason why I couldn’t use them?

    • Hi Becca, the shredded paper can work too! Just be wary of longer pieces that may get tangled in the blades.
      – May

      • Hello! I’m having a problem where my paper takes on the texture of whatever I dry it on. I tried drying it on paper towels, cotton towels, and couching cloths that came in a kit I bought, but no matter what I use the paper looks like it has the texture of that item pressed into it.

        In addition, on the side that the screen was on, the paper always appears to have a grid like the imprint of the screen on it.

        How do I just get nice, smooth paper?!

        Thanks so much!!

  39. Brilliant tutorial on the subject. There is a massive growth in this type of style and feel paper. There are so many uses and people willing to pay for not only how it looks but being handmade.

  40. Pingback: Bookbinding Material 101: The Paper | Bookbinding Workshop Singapore

  41. Pingback: Best Kindergarten Science Activities - WeAreTeachers

  42. Pingback: Watercolor Painting for Beginners - The Ultimate How to Guide

  43. Great tutorial! Wondering if one could use a dehydrator to speed up the drying process? And what would you need to do to make the paper with the right texture for water color painting? Thanks.

    • I suppose it would work!

      If you couch onto a rougher texture surface, such as wool blanket, you’ll have more of a tooth.

  44. Hello, I was wondering if you have any tips on making the paper acid free? I wanted to make a homemade paper photo album, and I’ve seen only one other tutorial that recommends calcium carbonate. Do you have any other suggestions? I’d prefer to use newspapers and recycled papers as my source material. Also, I’m not entirely sure how much to add – is everything simply variable each situation? This is my first attempt at paper making so I’m not sure how much each product will affect the paper (ie. can I just use baking soda???)

    • Hi Stephanie,
      If you’re using recycled papers like newspapers, there’s alot of chemistry and other additives from the industrial process that would stay acidic. Calcium carbonate acts like a buffer to help avoid yellowing of white papers from acidity in the air, but won’t change pH. I recommending using papers that are already acid free and you should be good.
      Good luck!
      – May

  45. Hi! Love this tutorial! I am having a few issues when I move the paper from one surface to another- from the mould to the blankets, from the blankets to the plexi. The paper towels are sticking to the paper and ripping it and then when the paper lays on the blanket or the plexi, air bubbles form. Anything I can do to prevent this? I would like the smoothest, thinnest paper I can make. Thanks!

    • Hi Mary,
      Make sure your couching surfaces are throughly wet. Also, I would try getting the smoothest surface possible for your couching surface, such as non-fusible interfacing (pellon). Any rougher textured blankets would make it quite difficult to get thinner sheets from recycled paper scrap pulp.
      Hope that helps!
      – May

  46. Pingback: Make Gradient Paper! A Creative Hand Papermaking Technique | Paperslurry

  47. Hello Mary,

    So glad to have found your page. I’ve been collecting paper ever since I took a paper making class several years ago. Right now I am cleaning out files as we start the new year & ran across outdated phone books which appear to be printed on newsprint type material.

    Can these be upcycled into new paper using your blender method?

    thanks so much, I signed up for your newsletter, looking forward to learning while I wait for the weather to warm up as I think paper making might work better outside or at least in the garage with all that water etc.

    • Hi Carole,
      They should work! The papers will just not be archival or as strong as cotton paper scraps. Yes, making paper outside in warmer months is one of my most favorite activities.
      – May

  48. Pingback: Making Handmade Paper with a Deckle Box (Part 2) | Paperslurry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *