Envelopes made with hand printed paper creative recycling

Creative Recycling

Printmaking can be very addictive. There are so many techniques to try, different papers and inks to use and always, the hope that the next print will be wonderful.

In this process of creating and experimenting, there is plenty of abandoned scrap paper. Some of these scraps are prints with pesky mistakes – a smudge here or a bleed from the stencil, many discarded prints are the result of glorious sessions of “what happens if …” and some of the scrap paper has been used to lift off the ink to clean the plate. Some of these bits of paper can be salvaged but some need slightly more creative recycling.

Call us environmentally friendly, frugal or just tight-fisted but we can’t bear to throw away paper that might have another use and have devised a few creative recycling ideas for the scrap paper.

Ten Creative Ways to Recycle Scrap Paper

1 Paper Making

All the strips of clean, unused paper that are the result of trimming paper to size, are kept to one side for a paper making session.

2 Make a Scrap Paper Jotter

Use a bulldog clip to make a scrap paper jotter. It’s surprising how often we need to make a quick note when we have inky fingers and our proper notebook is in the clean area. Keeping these scrap paper jotters to hand means precious measurements and details can be noted on something slightly more substantial than a loose scrap of paper.

3 Gesso and Start Again

Gesso over the worst prints and start again with a sheet of white paper or leave some printed areas uncovered to add interest. This is probably only worth doing if you have some particularly good paper that you just can’t bear to throw away but are happy to experiment on.

hand made book using jelly printed scrap paper

4 Make Small Notebooks

Make smalll notebooks with simple card covers. You can sew them together in sections or punch holes and thread through ribbon and tie together. It just depends how durable you need them to be. The notebook above is made from waste paper, sewn together in sections (there’s a good explanation here for making a sewn book) . To protect the covers, paint over a wash of 2 parts PVA glue to 1 part water to make the cover slightly more durable. Make a tiny pocketed notebook from a single sheet of paper liket this one.

5 Use Offcuts to Make Gift Tags

Use trimmings and offcuts to make gift tags. Or bookmarks. Or index card tabs.

6 Make Christmas Decorations

Paper filled baubles, paper chains, bunting and paper snowflakes can all be made with scrap paper. Read our post about Making Paper Decorations for Christmas.

7 Make Your Own Washi Tape

Strictly speaking, make your own decorative tape unless you’re using Japanese paper. This is the easiest method we know of making decorative tape.  Use it decorate all sorts of things, including your Visual Journal or fasten your hand made envelopes below.

8 Chine Collee and Collage

collage of whale and seabed with text 10 creative ways to recycle scrap paper

The tissue paper used to lift the ink from a jelly plate is full of pattern and can be run through the press with drypoint or lino plates to create areas of colour and texture on the prints.

Imperfect prints, test papers and experimental prints can be recycled into new pieces of art with collage. Combine them with paste papers, add extra layers with stamps or print to make unique pictures. Join our Collaged Prints class to have fun doing this with other people.

9 Use Sheets of Printed Paper to Make Decorative Envelopes

Hand made envelopes using scrap paper from print studio

My favourite way to recycle scrap paper is to make envelopes. I think a hand printed card needs to be of good quality but who cares if the printing on the envelope is a bit dodgy? A brightly coloured, hand printed envelope is a lot more exciting than the usual boring post.

It’s amazingly easy to make your own envelopes and probably the most difficult part is deciding what size to make them. Follow these easy instructions for making your own envelopes.

10 Shred It

When all else fails, the scrap paper can be shredded and used for packing.

You might also like to read:

Making Printmaking Greener and Environmentally Friendly

Recycle old or unfinished prints & proofs to create completely new artwork with collage in our Collaged Prints class.

10 thoughts on “Creative Recycling

  1. I love your recycling ideas – printing is a fairly profligate experience, in my hands anyway!, and it makes me feel more relaxed about the number of sheets of paper I use if I feel that everything can be used somehow. If I have a number of related surplus prints ie in the same colours or repeated ‘ghosts’ of the same image, I find the envelope idea can be expanded on by simply gluing several sheets together and then turning the bigger piece into an A4 size envelope. Works especially well with thicker paper. The joins effectively disappear – you can’t really see them anyway! – and they make quite useful and robust envelopes either for mailing larger items or for storing paperwork. I’ve also made a homemade A5 ring-binder using the metal fittings from an old one where the covers were battered and destined for the bin. The new covers (inside and outside) made from old cardboard packaging, got covered in an assortment of spare prints and I made a series of tabbed dividers from surplus prints done on thin card. You can make the hinges for the spine by gluing fabric to some brown paper cut into 2″ strips – effectively homemade book tape. Some A5 envelopes, made up like the A4 ones and punched, make useful pockets and I cut the pages from paper otherwise destined for the recycling bin. The most difficult, but not impossible, part is re-riveting the metal fitting to the inside of the back cover near the spine – rivets from a diy store and a few bold hammer strokes are needed! E x

    1. Wow! Some excellent recycling ideas. I hate throwing away prints, no matter how awful they are, so I shall try some of these. We recently submitted some prints for an exhibition in a boring manilla envelope but it would have been far better to have made a large envelope from scrap paper. Why didn’t I think of that? Thank you for all your ideas Elizabeth.

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