How to reuse scrap paper for journaling, packaging and tags

I wrote this post for the Ecoetsy team blog last year and thought I’d repost it here in case any of you feel like having a play day printing – I’ve got so many envelopes which arrive and look almost as good as new, especially those which come with lots of pretty stamps on; I can’t bring myself to throw them away so if I’m not careful I get drowned in paper. So here’s something to do with it. Those envelopes with stamps could be altered to use in journalling or scrapbooking… I wrote the article originally for Etsy sellers who’d be using it for packaging but you could easily use them in handmade books or tags… I’m sure your imagination could supply other uses… So here goes..

We often think about how we can recycle packaging but what about other everyday objects that we might otherwise throw away? Have you ever thought of using them to print with, to make cool tags or decorative papers, rather than buying these items ready printed? In this tutorial I am going to show you how to use bubble wrap, plastic packaging material and other odds and ends to make your packaging pretty. If you get in the habit of looking for interesting textures and shapes, you will be able to find loads of inspiration.

The best base for printing is a slightly soft one. I do a lot of screenprinting, so I already have one made of a piece of wood covered with a couple of layers of thick fabric and a piece of wipe-clean plastic (not that I seem to wipe it clean very much as you can see from the photo!). But a piece of that foamy stuff you can buying for washing dishes would do as well, or even a folded newspaper.

soft printing surface covered in plastic
This printing surface has seen a lot of action!

Here are my printing materials – one is some black plastic moulded with an interesting grid pattern, bubble wrap in two different sizes, and one of those polystyrene pizza bases. They are brilliant for creating texture, as you will see later.

a pile of bubble wrap and other textured objects
Some rather unlikely printing materials here but they are effective!

You will need some paper or a pile of old envelopes (which is what I am using here). And some paint – I used Golden acrylic paint because I already have it for my art but you could use poster paint or children’s paint. If you want to use the decorative papers for packaging, tags, or similar, acrylic paint is best because once it is dry, it won’t wash off or, more importantly, transfer to your products and stain them. Here I diluted some red Golden Fluid Acrylic paint with water (about 50:50) and painted it on to the bubble wrap with a sponge brush.

bubble wrap with paint rolled on
lurid painted bubble wrap

Then I placed the bubble wrap face down on to the envelope and rolled a soft brayer across it.

brayer on bubble wrap
paint rolled out with brayer

This is the result:

red printed envelope
Old envelope with bubble wrap print

Here is some large bubble wrap being printed:

large bubble wrap being printed
Resist the urge to pop it!!

I then painted the same piece of bubble wrap with blue paint and printed that on top:

blue and red printed envelope
I think this adds a bit of dimension, don’t you?

This is the pizza base from the above photo. I scored a grid pattern into it with the tip of an old pen, or you can use the end of a paintbrush or a similar object.

a pile of found objects used for printing such as pizza base, plastic grids etc
Polystyrene prints really well.

I painted the pizza base with blue and red paint and printed it:

printed circle with square grid across
purple and blue printed circle

You can use the pizza base to draw any design you wish. Here I am making a flower design with the end of a paint brush.

leaf with stalk drawn on to pizza base
It’s quite easy to ‘draw’ into the surface of the pizza base

This is the result:

stem and leaves drawn into polystyrene base
Here is a little branch

I painted this with green paint:

Green painted plate
The plate painted green ready for printing

And printed it by pressing it down and, again, rolling it with a brayer. (This helps to transfer the paint to the paper).

green circle with white leaves printed
I like the messy texture you get with this technique

Here I printed a great grid pattern using something I found in my husband’s DIY workroom! I’m not sure what it is meant to be used for, but it makes a great pattern!

printed red squares
Does anyone know what these plastic things are actually FOR?!

And this is the moulded plastic which I have painted with red paint:

black plastic grid painted with red paint
painted with red paint

Great design, huh?

result of printing the red paint with the squares
I like the drippy watercolour effect here

Here I added a bit of yellow paint to the red and painted it on in stripes (you’ll see the yellow has already mixed to make orange) and then overprinted it with the green pizza base leaf shape.

green paint overprinted on to red squares
funky, eh?

And these are the results!

a pile of printed envelopes
The finished printing session

When these are dry you can cut them up to make tags or use them in any way that you would use wrapping paper or commercially printed decorative paper.

packaging material made from printed paper
All recycled and reused! Can you spy the Harris Chessman stamp?

There you go – I hope that has given you just a few ideas for printing patterns on paper. There are loads of other possibilities and I’m sure you will come up with tons of imaginative ones.

How to reuse scrap paper for journaling, packaging and tags - reuse, recycle and have fun!
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