Paper Crafts, Distressing, and Heirlooms

03January 2022

After frequenting a few crafting groups, and talking about this topic more than a few times, I decided that it would be easier to just post about it and also provide myself with a tracking tool for various items. 

Does It Matter

We need to break things down into two groups, those you consider heirlooms and those you consider pastime crafts. If you are creating crafts that are simply ways to pass the time or for the enjoyment, then you can do whatever you wish.  However if you consider the art or time you put into crafts and do think of them as heirlooms, then you do need to be aware of the materials and tools that you use in your crafting.  If you are scrapbooking, then it is an absolute must, since your photos will be destroyed if you do not take care.  It is always wise to have a digital copy of all the photos that you use as well.

What is Safe

Tim Holtz

  • Distress Ink – Acid free
  • Distress Oxide – NO!
  • Distress Paint – Acid free

Coffee and Tea dyed pages – NO! Coffee and tea both have acid.  Use Walnut dyes instead..these produce the same beautiful color and are safe.

Copy paper – No, unless it states that it is. 

Old Books – Books printed prior to the 1970s contain paper that is acidic.  That is not a hard cutoff line, and not all books even during the 70s are safe, however that was the time that printers realized that older books were falling apart, and changed the materials and methods to prevent this.

Where You Store Things Matters As Well


Most of these you either know what they mean or you have surely heard of them if you’ve done any kind of paper crafting or scrapbooking.  One is “archival” which is not really one that matters.  A lot of marketing will include this word but not specify what makes it archival.  These are the terms to look for:

  • Acid free
  • Lignin free
  • PAT tested

What is Acid:  This is what causes deterioration.  Over time, it will cause your paper to yellow and go brittle, and as it does so, will also destroy the things around it. You don’t want acid near things you’re trying to preserve.

Lignin has a similar effect – it causes yellowing and fuzziness, and destroys material that is around it.

PAT tested (and passed) – this is the gold standard for preservation. PAT stands for “Photo Activity Test”.  From Wikipedia:

The test evaluates materials for archival quality and their use in photographic enclosures. Many different types of materials can be tested including: paper, boards, plastic, adhesives, pens, stickers, labels, paints and inks.

That said, for the most part acid-free and lignin-free are typically all you need (especially with paper). Just make sure it says those things specifically and not just “archival”.

pH Factor

This refers to the acidity of a paper. The pH scale is the standard for measurement of acidity and alkalinity. It runs from 1 to 14 with each number representing a ten-fold increase; pH neutral is 7. Acid-free products have a pH factor of 7 or above.

PAT test – Photo Activity Test – Photo safe

This is a term similar to archival quality but more specific to materials used with photographs.

Why Does Paper Deteriorate?

Until the mid 19th century, most papers were made of rag or cloth stock. Around 1860 the paper mills started using ground wood with acids, bleach, and alum-rosin sizing resulting in papers with a high acid content (low pH). These papers react with water and the atmosphere to produce self-destructive acidic compounds. These acids act on the paper, shorten the fibres, causing them to become brittle, discolour, and crumble into dust.

ASTM D-4236 –  the standard practice of labeling art materials for chronic health hazards. The designation “conforms to ASTM D-4236” means all of the potentially hazardous components of the art product have been clearly labeled on the product packaging.


Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s,
Aliquam id est enim, Sedoi sollicitudin uris nonogue laoreetqeu.

Leave a Comment

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


Copyright © Weblians 2021. All rights reserved.