The Vitruvian Gnome

or, How to Create a Fake Historic Document

I had the (admittedly warped) inspiration to create a gnomish version of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.  As you may know I have an unhealthy obsession with gnomes and I was looking to class up my collection.  Part of my process was to make the design look like an old document without resorting to expensive software that I don’t know how to use.

To make your own fake historic document, you’ll need:

  • Pencil and paper
  • Access to a scanner and laser printer – if you don’t have one see below for some ideas on how to make this work with an inkjet printer
  • A tea bag – black tea is best but peppermint tea works well too.  Avoid colorful teas like raspberry.

Make tea with the tea bag and 1/2 cup of boiling water.  Let the tea cool.  In the meantime, create your drawing on a piece of white paper.  My Vitruvian Gnome is a combination of printed text and hand drawn “art”.

Scan in your document and save it as your original master file. Print out a copy of the master file on a laser printer.

Add some aging marks such as little rips, folds, ink blots, pencil marks, coffee rings, etc.  Use a sponge to dab tea onto the printed copy (not your original!) until it looks aged and wrinkly.  Let the document dry completely, scan it and save it as your final image.

You probably won’t like how the final image looks at this point; mine looked all grey and splotchy.  Use photo editing software (I used Photoshop) to convert the final image to sepia.  Adjust the color tones until everything looks yellow and aged.

If you have an inkjet printer don’t apply tea to a printed document because the ink will run.  Instead, apply the tea to a blank piece of paper.  Let the paper dry completely.   If it’s really crinkly use an iron (put the page under a dish towel) to flatten the paper out.  Then, print your master image onto the aged paper and add additional aging like rips and folds.  Scan and Photoshop as describe above.  I haven’t tried this myself but I think it will work if the paper doesn’t jam in the printer.