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How To Create An Original Sketchbook

Updated on June 19, 2013

Any old book can be turned into a sketchbook.

This article explains how to easily turn old books into original sketch books on a low budget.

As a Fine Art university student I find myself getting through a large number of sketchbooks for my projects. I grew bored of the cheap, plain ones available and can't afford the 'prettier' ones on a student budget so came up with an idea to make original sketchbooks for a low price. It takes a little patience but the end outcome is a lot more interesting!

Whilst in London a few months ago, I managed to buy a few books for 20p each in an old bookshop with this idea in mind. Charity shops and car boot sales are also ideal spots for finding books at a cheap price.

When looking for books to alter, first consider the size you would like the book to be. Books containing hundreds of pages will be very time consuming to alter so a thinner book is more appropriate. The size of the pages are also important. I bought a small A5 book to use for smaller sketches and notes and a few larger books containing interesting photographs.

Choose books with a front cover that catches your eye as this will remain as the cover of your sketchbook.

Hardback books are better for this than paperbacks.

To make the books suitable for sketches etc. simply paint over the pages with matt white paint (or another light colour). I tried out a few different paints and found that matt household wall paint works the best (other paints such as spray paint are too thin to cover any text/photographs and can stick the pages together and glossier paints will stop some ink pens from working). Use of a thick brush makes the process much faster. Paint each page with even strokes in the same direction each time to make the paint surface as smooth as possible. Continue like this throughout the entire book, leaving each page to fully dry before continuing. This is time consuming so I find that it is easier to make more than one book at the same time.

The beauty of making your own book is that you are free to do what you want with it. If a certain image catches your eye, it can be left on show and kept as part of your sketchbook as inspiration. You can also be as neat or as messy as you like with the shape of the paint on the page, (I have chosen to leave a border of 'real book' around the section I have painted to add a little colour.)

An alternative option

There is also an alternative way of making these sketchbooks. Instead of painting each page individually, which can be time consuming, the sketchbooks can also be created as you go along; by drawing/writing/creating on a separate piece of paper and cutting and pasting the pieces into the book. This eliminates the need to wait for the paint to dry, but the completed book will be much thicker.

An example of a completed sketchbook


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