Printing on Vellum


Printing on vellum gives great images or text for your altered book.

vellum in altered book

The text on the right hand spread is printed on vellum. On the left, I made a vellum envelope, decorated it with a flower cut from a vellum scrap, and attached it to the altered book.

Vellum is a fine parchment that is widely available in craft stores. It's beauty and translucence make this product a favorite with altered book artists, scrapbookers and card makers.

Vellum is available in many colors and designs. It comes in at least two thicknesses that I am aware of.

For amazing effects, position vellum in layers. The color deepens with each subsequent layer. Since the paper is translucent, placing it over a patterned paper also gives you great effects.

Instead of cutting vellum, try tearing it into the shape you want. Age the torn edges with decorative chalks, walnut ink or other products.

Frequently asked questions about working with vellum involve printing on vellum, stamping vellum, embossing vellum, and attaching vellum to another surface.

Printing on Vellum

You can print on vellum with your inkjet printer. People tell me that a laser printer will work well also, but I haven't tried.

Here are some tips:

  • Ink takes longer to dry on vellum than on paper because the surface is less porous. Let it dry for a few minutes, then test it carefully in a small corner to ensure it is thoroughly dry.

  • Setting your printer to the transparency setting is sometimes helpful when printing on vellum. This decreases the amount of ink that will be used. However, with a transparency, you will get a mirror image, which might not be what you want.

  • When printing on vellum from your word processing software, set the top margin to at least 1 inch. This gives the printer a chance to grip the vellum.

  • Use your paper trimmer or scissors to cut vellum to a size that will go through your printer.

  • When printing on vellum, it's best to format text so the characters are wider apart than you would normally use. To do this in MS Word 2002, first select the text to be printed. Then, go to the Format Menu, select Fonts -->, Character Spacing -->, Spacing --> Expanded.

  • You can print on small scraps or odd shapes of vellum. Follow these instructions:
    1. Open your word processing software (ie MS Word) and create or insert whatever it is you want to print.
    2. Print it first onto low quality printer paper, using Draft mode. You will discard this printout later, so there's no point wasting good paper and a lot of ink. Avoid changing the page layout of your document. You are going to print this document again, and you want the printed material to be placed in the exact same location on the paper.
    3. Using repositional glue, attach your scrap of vellum over the printed material on your printer paper. (I use the Hermafix Transfer Glue Dispenser for almost all temporary glue jobs. You can get it at
    4. Return your printer setting back to good or high quality. Reprint the image on the same sheet of paper that you used before. The image or text will be applied to the vellum, since the vellum is covering the original image.
    5. Wait for the ink to dry, then remove the vellum from the printer paper.

Writing on Vellum

If printing on vellum doesn't interest you, you might try writing on it. You will need to experiment with your pens and pencils to see which ones work. With some, the ink will not dry. Slick Writers work well on vellum and photographs. They are acid free, permanent on porous surfaces, and dry quickly. carries them.

Stamping on Vellum

This is another alternative to printing on vellum. However, stamping on vellum can be tricky. Since the paper is not porous, you might find that your ink does not dry. TSUKINEKO Brilliance pigment ink is a good choice. It is made to dry on vellum and other shiny surfaces. carries it.

Embossing Vellum

Embossing is yet another alternative to printing on vellum.

You can cold emboss vellum, using an embossing stylus like the The Empressor by Chatterbox. I have one of these tools, and it's excellent. It lets you create beautiful, perfect embossed images and text from a stencil. Since you don't need a light box to use the Empressor, you can also emboss card stock with it. Work carefully with vellum, though. Vellum is brittle and is easier to break than card stock.

You can heat emboss vellum, using embossing powders and a heat gun. I have also done this by holding the vellum over a stove burner. Here are some tips:

  • The thicker grade vellum is a better choice for heat embossing. It is less likely to warp from the heat than the finer grade. However, the thicker grade is not always easy to locate.
  • You can heat emboss the finer grade vellum, but you must take care as it will warp easily. I find that smaller images are easier to work with than large ones when heat embossing fine vellum. Also, be sure to move either the vellum or the heat source to prevent warping in one area.

Attaching Vellum to a Page

You can glue or tape vellum, but there is a drawback. Since vellum is translucent, most glues, tapes or adhesives will show through. If this is not what you want, try these techniques:

  • Instead of using adhesives, attach the vellum with eyelets, brads and nail heads. Alternatively, sew your vellum on to your background, or punch small holes and thread with fibre, cord, or artistic wire.
  • Purchase sticky-backed vellum. This is more expensive than the regular, and is not available in as many colors and patterns. However, the adhesive is invisible when attached to a background.
  • Run your vellum through a Xyron machine. This will turn the product into a sticker. I've been told the adhesive is invisible, but I have not tried it personally.
  • Collage your work, so overlapping elements either hold the vellum in place or cover the areas where you applied glue or tape.
  • Purchase adhesive tape that is formulated to disappear on vellum. The Scotch Brand Vellum Tape is one example. You can get it at It is not completely invisible through the vellum, but is a big improvement over most tapes.

Altered Art: Techniques for Creating Altered Books, Boxes, Cards & More by Terry Taylor.

Altered Books Workshop: 18 Creative Techniques for Self-Expression. Bev Brazelton

Altered Books 103: Little Books, Decos, CDs & More! (#5215)

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