How to Turn an Old Book into an Art Journal

Two Methods:Preparing the BookTurning the Book into Art

Once you know how to make old books into art, you will never need to buy a journal again. 'Altered books' is the art form where a discarded encyclopedia or picture book finds a new lease on life. Read on to get started!

Method 1
Preparing the Book

  1. 1
    Find some old books with sewn in bindings. Visit a junk store or a used bookstore to find them. Look for illustrated encyclopedias or children's picture books. Check the quality of the paper - thick and absorbent is best. But feel free to experiment.
  2. 2
    Go through the whole book ripping out every other page or every third page. (Don't let bibliophiles see you do this - it makes them mad!) It helps to use a ruler to tear the page against. You are removing pages because when you start adding art to them, the book bulks out.
  3. 3
    Use a good paper glue (like Mod Podge) to go through the book sticking pages together. Select pages randomly or choose pages that are 'boring' to stick together - so you leave interesting pictures and illustrations to see as you go through the book.
  4. 4
    Use white gesso to 'prime' the pages you are going to turn into art. You can go through the whole book, but you may just want to prep a few at a time.
    • Use the white gesso to blank out the text, going around interesting pictures. You can do this in a thin layer so some type shows through, or do several layers to completely blot out the text. You can even leave the odd word or paragraph as an island.
  5. 5
    Allow the gesso to dry.

Method 2
Turning the Book into Art

  1. 1
    Now add your real artistic touches! You have starting points with any pictures or text you have left - they might trigger an idea for a picture or journal entry.
  2. 2
    Write in the book. Add words and journal entries, or song lyrics and poems that you like.
  3. 3
    Paint and draw on the pages. Find inspiration wherever you will, and recreate whatever you want in the book. Use watercolours, acrylic, oil pastels, and pencils to create art.
  4. 4
    Collect ephemera to stick in to your artworks. Anything that takes your eye - food wrappers, stamps, labels.
    • If using something personal like an old photograph or perhaps a theatre ticket - it's a good idea to photocopy it (keeps the original safe).


  • Instead of using gesso, try painting over a page of text with a black ink (like Quink) and let the page dry. Dip a cotton swab in household bleach and use it to draw patterns on the black page. It will reveal the typeface beneath! (Guard your clothes and the work area against spilled bleach)
  • Be creative. There are so many things you can do - and lots of info on

Youtube. Search 'altered books' and you will see what other artists have done.


  • This can become addictive!

Article Info

Categories: Pictures | Making Books | Book Crafts