Google+ House Revivals: How to Create an Altered Book the Lazy Way

Monday, May 11, 2015

How to Create an Altered Book the Lazy Way

Do you long to create art, but don't have a lot of time or experience or art supplies?  Art journaling or altered books might be a perfect way to explore color and texture and different art mediums without investing in lots of expensive materials, and you don't need any artistic skill to get started!

You can probably create an art journal or altered book with items you already have around the house, or with a few minimal purchases. If you have kids in the house, you can borrow their glue and paints and markers.

With this method, you will create your "canvas" (your re-purposed book), and create your page backgrounds all at once, in one or two sessions. This is a great project for TV series marathons, but I've also been known to keep an altered book project on the kitchen counter.

With the kitchen counter method, you add layers to your altered book pages while waiting for water to boil and pans to heat up, or while supervising homework activities. While my kids were little, most of my art happened that way. As a bonus, two of my kiddos became so enamored with art, that they are now artists!

You can create an altered book, with ten or twenty pages, with prepped backgrounds, all at once with this method.

Supplies you will need include
  • An old book (you probably already own something that will work)
  • Glue or other adhesive
  • An old credit card or gift card or key card
  • Old papers (junk mail, magazine pages, stickers, old scrapbook paper, old book pages, wallpaper scraps, tissue paper -- whatever)
  • Washi tape in two to six different patterns (can be found for cheap at Dollar Tree)
  • Four or five colors of paint that look good together
  • Brown or black ink pad
  • Stamps (can be homemade stamps or "found object" stamps, or purchased stamps)
  • Inks in two or three colors that blend nicely with your paint colors (these can be sprays, markers, daubers -- whatever) To see how I made my own ink sprays, using dried up markers, click here.


Prep an old book. You can use an old novel, planner, magazine, dictionary -- whatever you have on hand. Here, I used a planner that I started, but ended up not using, in 2014. It was a nice thickness -- thick enough to give me several pages, but not so many pages that I felt overwhelmed.

Next, you will need to remove about one-third to one-half of all the pages (don't worry, your book will start to look anemic, but you will add lots of layers and bulk to your book as you go). Examine how your book is constructed before removing pages, to make sure it won't fall apart when you do this. I gently pulled only the inside sheets out of each signature in this book, because the individual signatures were glued to each other, but they were not stitched or glued to the spine. In other books, I have been able to gently remove entire signatures. If your book does not have stitched signatures, simply tear or cut the pages to remove them.

Once you have removed the extra pages from your book, you will begin gluing the remaining pages together. You will probably want to glue between three and six sheets together for each "page", and create as many pages as makes sense for the book you are using. I think having more than about twenty pages can feel overwhelming, but do what works for you. I would not suggest glue sticks for this step, as glue sticks are not always permanent. I like to use white tacky glue, and spread it thin with an old credit card to glue the sheets together. You may get some rippling of the pages, but that is part of the charm of an altered book or art journal. If you absolutely hate rippled pages, you can try a dry adhesive. You can also close the book -- after the pages are glued together, but while there is still some moisture content in the pages -- and weight the book down until completely dry to keep the pages pretty flat. I don't usually have the patience to wait for the glue to completely dry, so I skip that.


Once you have your sheets glued together to form thick, heavy-bodied pages, you can begin to build up the pages by adding background layers. For this book, I used torn pages from an old novel, washi tape, and charts and maps that I previously removed from the same planner.

Just use what you have -- it can be text from old magazines, old junk mail, stickers, tape -- whatever. You are simply adding layers of texture at this point. I save my embossing "fails" for this type of project. If you have old scrapbook paper, that works great, too. I will sometimes use scrapbook paper leftover after shapes have been punched out. For lots of ideas on where to find materials for mixed media art, click here.

Work through the entire book at one time, adding background layers of paper ephemera and printed or textured paper.

Do you see how I got a little messy with the glue in the picture above? That can be a problem when you are working on several pages at once, as you do with this method. You need to be able to turn the page without worrying about accidentally gluing pages together. This is where having some washi tape comes in handy. Washi tape can be very affordable and is available at dollar stores and craft stores and big box stores and even some hardware stores.

Simply apply washi tape wherever a little glue has gotten onto the surface of your page, and you are ready to move on to the next page. If you discover later that you missed some glue, and your pages got glued together in a couple of spots, don't panic. Gently separate the pages and add washi tape to cover any torn areas.

After you are satisfied with the background layers on each page of your altered book, you are ready for step three.


Add paint. For this step, you will need about four or five paint colors that look good together -- no more than four or five, for a cohesive look. Usually, paint takes a while to dry, which can make working in a book a bit awkward. With this method, however, you will be using a credit card to spread on layers of paint that are super thin and practically dry before you finish applying it.

Begin by adding small dots of paint to the page -- about the size of peas. I used inexpensive craft paint from a big box store. I think I paid about fifty cents a bottle. If you don't have cheap acrylic craft paint, raid your kids' art supplies for a set of kids' watercolors or acrylics. You can even use leftover house paint, but you may need to use a hair dryer to dry the paint layers, as house paint dries more slowly than craft paint.

Now, thinly spread the paint with your credit card. Experiment with using the edge of the card or the flat part of the card for different affects. Continue adding dots of paint, and spreading it and scraping it until you are pleased with your page. Paint all the pages using different combinations of your chosen colors. Don't feel as if you need to completely cover the pages -- just add splashes of color where you feel the page needs it.


The next step in preparing your altered book backgrounds is to add ink. I highly recommend having at least one brown or black ink pad for this. I grabbed a stamp and a plastic doily and randomly stamped all over the pages. You don't need to invest in stamps for this -- you can use bubble wrap, plastic lids, the sole of an old flip flop, a pencil eraser, or whatever. You are not trying to make perfect stamped impressions. You are simply adding background texture. Some people like to use a black pen and make doodle marks or a bit of script here and there. Do whatever you like, experiment, and have fun with it. If you hate it, you can always glue or paint something over it.

I have a favorite product for altered art that I love, love love. It is these ColorBox Blends.

These little bottles contain ink that is applied with a foam applicator, straight from the bottle. They are so convenient, and perfect for lazy artists. It takes a little patience at first, to get the applicator loaded, and to learn how best to use it, but if you can get your hands on a few of these, they are a great addition to your altered art. Another option is to use spray inks for this step.

Of course, you don't need to use the ColorBox Blends or spray inks, you can add ink by using markers, as well. If you are using watercolor markers, experiment with coloring onto a tile and picking up the ink with a damp paintbrush and applying the watery ink to your pages. You can create some fun affects.

If your ink needs a little time to dry, you can splay the book open, and stand it on end, as shown, or you can hit it with a blow dryer.


You may choose to repeat some of the layers discussed above, or "call it done", or add a layer of something completely different, such as gel sticks, or colored pencil, or oil pastel to your background. You can randomly add thin layers of gesso, if you choose. This is entirely up to you. There are no rules.

I have a little basket that I use to collect magazine clippings and bits of trim or ribbon that fit the "feel" of the book I am working in. I usually apply these items with a glue stick, with the intention of applying Mod Podge or other clear drying medium to seal the pages later on.... or not.


Once your backgrounds are ready, you can pick up your book whenever the mood strikes and add pictures and words.

I find it helps rest my soul to grab an art journal or altered book at the end of a busy day and put my thoughts or feelings onto a page.

Sometimes I find a humorous or meaningful quote to add, sometimes I sketch something, sometimes I do both. You can type out your journaling or quotes and print it, as I did here, or you can do your own hand lettering. Or do a bit of both! Did I mention that there are no rules here?

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and feel inspired to create your own altered book! Do you already journal? Let me know in the comments -- I love to hear what you are thinking.

If you liked this tutorial, be sure to subscribe to House Revivals, so you won't miss any of the fun projects we have planned. Like and subscribe to us on Facebook (see the link in the sidebar), so you won't miss any of the fun between posts.

To see what kind of papers and ephemera I save for mixed-media projects, click here.

Feel free to share links to this post on your favorite social media sites -- you can even use the handy links at the bottom of this post. And thanks for stopping by!

This Post is Being Linked to the Following Lovely Places:

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love to hear what you think!