How To Make Carbon Paper

Early carbon paper was produced by soaking thin sheets of tissue paper in carbon black, a commercial printer's ink, and then allowing the sheets to dry.  In later years, these sheets were given a thin coating of wax to prevent running and bleeding.  In time, the formula was further perfected and carbon paper was mass produced for a myriad of office applications and commercial uses.  With the advent of NCR, no carbon required, paper in the 1950's, the need for carbon paper has continued to diminish.  It can still be purchased on occasion, but it isn't necessary to do a long search for a retailer.  You can make your own carbon paper at home.  In fact, most enterprising children have employed this method at one time or another in the course of their play.

Supplies needed for this activity are simple, 3 sheets of similarly-sized paper and a lead pencil.  One sheet of paper could be lined or not.  It could even contain a line drawing.  To create and use your homemade carbon paper, follow these simple steps:

  1. Using the side of your pencil lead, not the tip, begin to heavily coat the first sheet of paper with lead.  Press firmly and distribute the lead in an even thickness across the entire sheet of paper.  Be careful not to leave bare spots, as this will prevent any writing from being transferred to another sheet.
  2. Once you have filled one side of one sheet of paper with dark pencil lead, lay a blank sheet of paper face up on your writing surface.  Next place your homemade carbon paper, lead-side down, on top of the clean sheet.
  3. At this point you have several options for producing copies with your hand-crafted carbon sheet.  The most simple use would be to place a blank sheet of paper on top of the two you have already stacked.  Write or draw, with firm pressure, on the top page and your work will be transposed onto the bottom sheet of the stack, thus providing two copies, your original and the carbon copy.

You will find many options for using your homemade carbon paper.  Produce copies of line drawings by placing the original drawing in the top position and tracing over it's lines.  Use lined paper in the top position to create perfectly straight and evenly spaced lines of handwriting on the unlined bottom page.  Your imagination is the only limit to your creativity.


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