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Altered Books-Tips And Ideas

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Altered Books

Creating altered books is one of the most creative paper crafts. Learn more and get started

Creating altered books is one of the most creative paper crafts. Learn more and get started

What Are Your Altered Books

Altered books are simply put, older hard cover books that you have taken and adapted to your own brand of art. You have taken the pages within the book and altered them with your art, thought and expression. You have is essence taken the book and created a form of art journal with your own expressive ideas.

Altered books are a creative outlets that divert your frustration. But they also give you time to create, reflect and express all your range of emotions.

Altered books are the true fun part of paper crafting ! Anyone can do this craft ! Anyone, even if you are just a beginner starting out in paper crafting. The fun part of doing altered books is that there are no rules for what your pages should look like.

I look at the pages that I started out with and look at how I have grown in my art and I take pleasure in how I have grown.

You create your pages over a period of time adding what appeals to you.

Choosing Your Book To Alter

A sewn book is always the best option. It will take the weight of added weight of your artwork

A sewn book is always the best option. It will take the weight of added weight of your artwork

How To Chose An Altered Book

There are a few things to consider when choosing a book to create your altered book art.

Paper Quality

Look for the kind of paper that is strong and smooth to the touch. You want paper that will hold up to the layers that you are planning to add to it

Size

Do you want to go big or small? That is a personal preference

The Sewn Spine

Check the headband to be sure it’s soft and loose, with scalloped ridges where groups of pages (signatures) are attached. Look for the beginning of a signature, and check it at the spine for stitching.

You will want to avoid using paperbacks. The paper is generally too thin to handle anything and the spines are not that strong.

Avoid any book with a glued rather than sewed binding. Once the weight is added to the pages, the spine is sure to pull away from the cover.


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How To Choose A Book To Alter

Where To Find Books To Alter

Old books are easy enough to find. Start by looking in your own home. Do you have any old dictionaries, encyclopedias, cookbooks or children books? How about old text book?

Ask family and friends if they have any old books donate to your projects.

Other Places To Find Books To Alter

  • Thrift shops
  • Library book sales
  • Flea markets
  • Garage sales
  • Rummage and church sales
  • Used book stores
  • Estate sales
  • Families and friends


Recycle Magazine Images In Your Altered Book

This artist shows you how to use magazine images and text in your altered book layouts

This artist shows you how to use magazine images and text in your altered book layouts

Supplies You Need To Alter Books

You may have many of these supplies in your craft space. If you do not, they aren's expensive and are easy to get in your area.

  • An old book
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Photos and magazines
  • Acrylic paint
  • Gesso
  • Watercolors
  • Paintbrushes
  • Alcohol ink pens
  • White craft glue
  • Ink pads
  • Blending Brushes
  • Stencils
  • Texture paste
  • Embossing paint
  • Glitter glue
  • Embellishments

The Many Themes Of Altered Books

You can create an altered book on any theme that you can think of

You can create an altered book on any theme that you can think of

Decide The Theme Of Your Book

Think about the theme for your altered book. The possibilities are endless

  • A favorite season
  • A holiday
  • A pet
  • Butterflies
  • Coffee/tea
  • Favorite animal/pet
  • Flowers
  • Gardens/gardening
  • Geneology
  • Gnomes
  • Halloween
  • Hearts
  • Home
  • Lighthouses
  • Oceans/beaches
  • Teddy bears
  • Weather
  • Wine

Altered Books Have Many Dimensions

Altered books have many dimensions to them. This artist explains how to add layers to your altered books.

Altered books have many dimensions to them. This artist explains how to add layers to your altered books.

The First Step In Altering A Book-Reducing The Number Of Pages

Because you are adding bulk to your pages, it is important to remove pages with a sharp craft knife

Because you are adding bulk to your pages, it is important to remove pages with a sharp craft knife

Making Room In Your Altered Book

As you add more layers to your pages, your book will become bulky. So, it can be useful to rip a few pages to give space for your art.

Consider ripping out about 1/2 of all the pages in your books. Use a craft knife and a ruler to carefully rip out the pages. Save the ripped pages to create mire art journal features. Leave 1/2 inch of the page left. If you rip too close to the spine, you take a chance of ripping the sewn spine of the boo

A good rule of thumb is to go through the book taking every other page out. Then go back and take every third page out. You can always take more pages out later if you need to.

Gluing Pages Together-A Necessary Step

For the most part, book pages tend to be thin. Depending on the weight and age of your book, you may want to glue some pages together to make them stronger. You can use a glue stick but over a period of time, the glue will come apart. Your best bet is usually PVA craft glue which is a white fluid glue. Taking this step will assure you that whatever you add to the pages of your book will last for years to come.

Supplies

  • An old book
  • Waxed or parchment paper
  • White PVA craft glue (not to worry, it dries clear)
  • A brayer (Or a rolling pin)
  • Bull dog clips or paper clips
  • An old credit card or gift card or a foam brush
  • Craft mat or newspaper
  1. Cover the workspace with newspaper or a craft mat
  2. Lay the book on top of the mat
  3. Open the book to the pages that you want to glue together
  4. Place the waxed or parchment paper behind the pages you are working on
  5. Use paper clips to hold the waxed paper on the pages you are protecting so that it does not slide
  6. Open the glue bottle and run the glue both horizontally and vertically.
  7. Spread the glue evenly with the brush or the cards. Make sure to cover the entire page including the edges with glue
  8. Lift the pages up and push them together with your hands.
  9. Now lay them back down and go over both sides of the glued paper with the brayer.
  10. Allow the pages to dry.


Priming Your Pages With Gesso

Gesso is a paint like medium that primes your pages for the next steps where you actually begin creating your layouts and pages. You really need to take this step, especially if you are planning to do anything where you do not want to see the words on the book page or if you are adding any medium to your pages like paints or inks.

Gesso comes in white (the most popular), black and transparent. It also comes in different thicknesses. For these books a medium thickness will work just fine. You can apply it with either a paint brush or a foam brush.

If you use a medium gesso, you can make designs into the gesso with a palette knife. Have fun experimenting with it.

Again, make sure to cover both sides of the paper with either waxed paper or parchment paper to make sure that the pages behind and in front do not get messy. Makee sure that the paper is large enough to cover all the edges of the other paper.

Since this is paint, you will want to cover your work surface with a craft mat or some newspaper.

Best Gesso on The Market

Creating Backgrounds

It all starts with the backgrounds on your pages. After you add gesso to your pages, you can so almost any technique you can think of.

Before You Start Your Background

There are just a couple of things to consider that will help you get the results that you want:

  1. Always put sheets of either waxed paper or parchment paper behind the page you are working on. Make sure that the waxed paper or parchment paper is bigger than the page by at least one inch
  2. Cover your work surface. Media can get messy, so you will want to cover your surface with a silicone mat, craft mat or newspaper
  3. Use bulldog clips to keep the pages open. That way you won't cross ant media over to the other side
  4. Make sure to give enough time for the page to dry. I prefer air drying rather than using a heat gun. I do not recommend using a blow dryer.
  5. Gesso several pages at the same time. If you use waxed paper between the pages, you can gesso several pages at a time.

Background Ideas

  • Scrap some gesso on a stencil. Carefully lift the stencil and allow it to dry. Use paint, ink or alcohol inks to add color.
  • Use random pieces of magazine or copy paper to create a raise technique. apply Mod Podge to the piece and apply the pieces to the paper. Add another coat of Mod Podge over the paper pieces. then use paint, alcohol inks or ink to add color to the background
  • Use a background stamp to cover the pages
  • Cut a doily to fit the page
  • Use a stencil to add design to your pages. Use different media on top of the stencil
  • Add stripes to the page any way you would like. Use double sided tape on the pages. Then uncover the part of the tape facing you. Now uncover the exposed tape. You can either burnish (rub) guilding flakes on the tape with a stiff brush. Or you can use craft foil on the tape. Once you place it on the page, just rub ot on and carefully remove it.

Reverse Imaging In Your Altered Books

Use an image that is cut out,  Secure the image to the page with low tack tape. Paint around it and remove the image

Use an image that is cut out, Secure the image to the page with low tack tape. Paint around it and remove the image

More About Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is so much fun to use on altered books. There are a few things to know about using these paints that will help you get better results.

  1. Acrylic paint is considered permanent when dry.
  2. You can add additional colors over dry acrylic paint and the undercoat will shine through.
  3. Acrylic paint dries fast, so if you are using a wet technique, you need to work quickly
  4. Because most book pages are thin, even when glued together, you should always Gesso your pages before applying acrylic paint. It will help make the pages stronger.
  5. Acrylic paint can be used as an adhesive, You can add any paper over it when wet and it will stick.


Page Backgrounds- Adding Paint

Once you have prepped your book and added the gesso to your pages, it is time to create your backgrounds. This is so much fun. In essence, it is whatever you want it to be. Just go crazy and creative with your backgrounds.

  • Add paint with brushes. Use swirls and lines to create a pattern.
  • Use old credit cards and gift cards to scrape paint
  • Use a stencil
  • Layer different colors of paints
  • Use a fork to create a pattern
  • Add water drops to wet acrylic paint
  • Blow wet paint around with a straw
  • Make a pattern with a toilet paper roll, a paper cup or a pill bottle
  • Water down some acrylic paint and spray it on a page
  • Add a little water to some paint. Apply it to the page. Tilt the page to let the paint drip down the page.
  • Smudge the paint with a paper towel or a baby wipe.
  • Add some glitter or glitter glue to your page

You Can Do Scrapbook Paper Backgrounds Too !

Do you have a pretty scrapbook paper? You can use that paper to create a custom background in your altered book too. Patterned or solid. it's up to you! You can cut it to size, rip it or make a collage with it. You can rip it or cut it with some decorative scissors

When you have used your electronic cutting machine, there is always a leftover paper that can be used for later projects.

Keep your scraps organized by theme, color, or pattern. Keep the bits in a looseleaf binder or envelopes or in a box. Keep it handy when you create your pages.

Find a paper that relates to the theme of your page.

Remember, it's your art, your way. There are no special rules that you need to follow anytime when you create your altered book.


Folding Pages Within To Create A Memorable Page

Creating in your altered book means that you are not limited in how you create your layouts, Here the artist uses creative folds in her book

Creating in your altered book means that you are not limited in how you create your layouts, Here the artist uses creative folds in her book

Watercolor Background Ideas

Watercolor techniques are easy for even a beginner to master

Watercolor techniques are easy for even a beginner to master

Watercolor Background Techniques

In addition to acrylic paint, you can also use watercolors to create backgrounds. Watercolors are fun to work with and are very budget friendly.Since book paper is so thin, you may want to do these on watercolor paper and then transfer it to your book. You can also try heavy card stock, Or try gluing several pages together. Then add a coat of gesso and water color on that.

  1. Salt technique-Add some water colors to your page. Add some salt to the wet paint.-just about any salt will do. The larger grained salts like kosher salt will look different than table salt. Experiment as your mood moves you. when the page dries, rub of the salt with a dry sponge.
  2. Rubbing alcohol and watercolor. Add some alcohol to your watercolor background. You will want to have a very wet background. Use a high level of alcohol -around 91 % . Spritz or drop it on your page
  3. Wax Resist-Write on your page with a white crayon. Then cover the page with water color and allow to dry.
  4. Water Splatter- Use an old toothbrush to splatter water colors on your page.

Cling Wrap Background For Altered Books

You can achieve gorgeous results with a single color or multiple colors

You can achieve gorgeous results with a single color or multiple colors

Cling Wrap Backgrounds For Altered Books

These are backgrounds that are created on white card stock. When done and dried, you can use them in your altered books. You can cut them down to size as a background, use them as tags or pockets. You can also rip them to create a collage page or cut them into pieces with decorative scissors.

Supplies

  • 12" by 12" heavy white card stock
  • Craft sheet, parchment paper or waxed paper to protect your work space
  • Plastic cups
  • Cling wrap
  • Inexpensive acrylic paints ( metallic paint is very nice)
  • Foam brush (experiment with other brushes too )
  • Plastic gloves
  • Paper towels
  1. Cover your work space with craft mat. waxed paper or parchment paper ( if you are using waxed or parchment paper, tape it down with low tack tape}
  2. Create a wash by mixing 1/2 part of acrylic paint to 1/2 part water in a plastic cup
  3. Repeat this with the colors that you want to use
  4. With the foam brush, paint the colors on your card stock. Work quickly and make sure that there is a lot of wash on the paper.
  5. Cut a piece of cling wrap 1 1/2 the size of your paper ( you can use two pieces if you need to)
  6. Crumple up the cling wrap
  7. Lay the cling wrap on top of the paper
  8. Set it aside to dry. You have to leave the cling wrap on the paper until the paint is totally dry.
  9. Remove the cling wrap:

Cling Wrap Background

I would let this project dry overnight !

I would let this project dry overnight !

Alcohol Ink Altered Book Backgrounds

There are many ways to create a vibrant alcohol ink background on your altered books. Before you get started, you will want to give some weight to the thin pages of your book. That is done by covering the pages with one to two coats of medium gesso. The gesso not only adds some weight to the page but gives the page a primer base so that you can add the ink on top.

Beyond adding the gesso, you will want to cover the pages behind the ones that you are working on with either parchment paper or waxed paper. Use a big enough piece so that it covers not only the page behind the ones you are working on but the rest of the book.

Cover your work area with newspapers or work outdoors. The spray will travel everywhere. Make sure that you are using the sprays in a well-ventilated area. The spray does have an odor.

Freezer Paper Background Technique

Supplies

  • Altered Book
  • Parchment or waxed paper
  • Freezer paper (parchment paper will work too) (shiny side up)
  • Alcohol ink sprays
  • Blending solution
  • Newspaper or silicone mat to cover your workspace
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic gloves
  1. Cut a piece of freezer paper, shiny side up
  2. Add several drops of alcohol ink in the choice of your color to the paper
  3. Quickly spray the blending solution all over the paper, including where the ink is.
  4. Fold the paper in half and squish the inks
  5. Press and push the inks around the paper without making a fold or crease
  6. Open the paper and check the results
  7. Add more alcohol ink and blending solution if desired
  8. Allow time to dry

Tips

  • You can use the page by gluing or adhering it to the page
  • Or you can press the page to the page in your book with a brayer
  • Or once dry, you can make embellishments or pockets with the paper


More Alcohol Ink Backgrounds For Altered Books

How To Use Ripped Pages In Your Altered Books

Your altered book can be created ito be anything that you want it to be.

Your altered book can be created ito be anything that you want it to be.

Create A Leather Look Page

You can create a page that has a leather look and feel with just a few supplies. These pages have a feel and weight of leather.

Supplies

Acrylic paint

White craft glue

Tacky white craft glue

Medium flat brush

Wide flat paint brush

  1. Glue to pages on each side of your layout- apply plain craft glue to the page. Spread the glue across the page with a brush or an old credit card or gift card.
  2. Allow the pages to dry.
  3. Apply the color of acrylic paint evenly to both sides of your spread- acrylic paint dries fast, so you want to work quickly.
  4. Allow the pages to dry.
  5. Spread the tacky glue over the dried paint pages evenly with the wise paint brush. The more evenly you spread, the better the outcome
  6. Allow the pages to dry
  7. Decorate as you wish.

Consider Decorative Edges For Your Altered Books

Decorative edges add style and a custom look to your altered books. They are easier to create than you may think

Decorative edges add style and a custom look to your altered books. They are easier to create than you may think

Ink Wash Technique In Altered Books

Add Pockets To Your Altered Books

Add a pocket in your altered book anywhere you would like. The pocket can hold tags, photos, or whatever you would like.

Add a pocket in your altered book anywhere you would like. The pocket can hold tags, photos, or whatever you would like.

Using Recycled Materials In Your Altered Books

There are more materials than you can imagine all around you that you can use in your altered books.

Of course the first thing that comes to mind for me are magazines. I cut words, images and all kinds of colors and things that appeal to my artistic side. I have people save magazines for me.

  • Old makeup- before you throw that old eye brow pencil or shadow away, think how you could add some of that color to your altered book pages
  • Tickets-they can add a touch of color just when you need it
  • Tea and tea bags-tea can be used to age paper and the bags can be used as part of a layout
  • Orphaned puzzle pieces-make interesting additions to your layout. They can be colored or painted
  • Old paying cards-colorful additions
  • Wallpaper samples- often pretty enough for a background
  • Paint samples-more colorful additions
  • Odd pieces of lace-you can leave them as is or color them with alcohol ink or markers
  • Fabric-with a little modge podge you can add pieces of fabric to your layout
  • Dryer sheets-leave plain or color them. They add a very different dimension
  • Odd buttons-I like to use flatter buttons
  • Glue envelopes into your pages. Recycle envelopes from mail your received. Use color too. Decorate your envelopes

Bet you could add more to the list !

Decorate The Cover Of Your Altered Book

Do not forget to decorate the cover of your altered book. I like to work with the cover after all the pages are completed. But it is up to you !

You may want to start with some gesso (a primer) to cover the book. This primer will cover any imperfections that have accumulated over time.

Here are some other suggestions:

  1. Cover your book with patterns of washi tape. There are so many versions of this idea, you will want to overlap your pattern to the inside of the cover of the book. Then cover that with a glued piece of card stock.
  2. If you have an artistic bend, you can create a painting on your journal with acrylics of water colors.
  3. You can decoupage paper, napkins and scraps.
  4. You can create a fabric cover for your book.

Create A Design With Low Tack Tape

This is an idea that you can do with any media. Try acrylic paint, ink, markers, crayons, pastels, embossing paste, or whatever you have.

Use gesso to cover the print on your page. Allow the gesso to dry. Create a design using low tack tape. Lay the tape on the page anyway that suits you. Paint or add color to cover the untapped areas. Allow the medium to dry and remove the tape. You get a very custom design.

Use A Edge Punch On Your Altered Book

For a different loo, use an edge punch to create something different on the edge of your pages

For a different loo, use an edge punch to create something different on the edge of your pages

More Altered Book Ideas And Techniques

Creating Pockets For Altered Books

You can add pockets anywhere in your altered book that you would like to. They can hold some ephemera, pictures, mementos, and a lot more.

Remember, that most of the pages in your altered books are lightweight. So, the first thing that you will want to do is glue several pages together to give extra strength to the page that you will add the pocket to.

Your pocket can open at the top or on the side. You can decorate it any way that makes you happy.

The first place to go to get some free templates is your favorite browser on your computer. There are hundreds of free templates that you can print and cut or print and trace.

If you have an electronic cutting machine, check the program in your machine to see if there are any pockets in their program. If there are any, these are easy to cut from the program

Look at your dies to see if you have anything you can use. This is especially good if you have nesting die sets. Experiment with different sizes in the same set to see what you can come up with.

To make your pockets stand up on your page, consider inking them with a dark distress ink all the way around the pocket.

Using Envelopes

Envelopes come in all different shapes and sizes. It is so easy to use them to create pockets on your altered book pages.

You can use one or several as part of your page design. Consider using envelopes from junk mail. They are fun to decorate and repurpose on your pages. Cut down the envelope to the size that you want to use, Cover the side that will show on your page with cardstock or printed paper. Decorate as you would like. Create tabs at the top with a round punch or a hole punch. Glue or tape the envelope to your page.

Look at the envelope and decide if you want to use the flap on the envelope. You can cut it off or use it as is.

Then decide if you want to ink or color the envelope. You can also cover the envelope front with colored or patterned paper.

Simple Pocket

There are so many choices when it comes to easy pockets. Use solid color, patterned paper, or a combination of both.

Size the pocket as just a small feature or as a larger part of the design.

The easiest pocket to create is made simply with two pieces of paper. You can make the pieces the same size, or you can make the front a little smaller. If you make the front and back the same size, cut a notch on the front part with a small round punch.

You can sew the pocket together, use double-sided tape or glue the pieces together.

Floating Pocket

A floating pocket is as simple as it gets. This is a great addition to your altered book pages. All you do is attach an envelope anywhere on a page with a paperclip. There are paper clips that come in color so you can coordinate them with the colors of your pages.

Corner Pages

Want to create another easy page idea? The corner page is perfect for you. Glue two pages together. Then rip the page from the top half to the bottom. Glue two sides of the pocket together to create a pocket.

Note Book Holder

This idea is so simple that you can create this craft in just a couple of hours.

All you need is a book with a spine.

You simply fold the pages in half all the way through the book. Decorate the cover as you would like. Use a bone folder to make the folds crisp and neat.

Open up the book and use the pages to hold notes and graphics.

Final thought On Creating Altered Books

Creating altered books will help you grow and gain confidence in all your paper crafting. As you learn more techniques, you can transfer those skills to your other paper crafting like art journals, stamping skills and even scrap booking.

You don't have to spend a ton of money on this paper craft. A lot of what you need may well already be in your stash. And the nice thing is that you can use images from things that you may get in your mail. I have family members save their old magazines for me so I can cut out the words and phases.

There is no limitation to your creations. Your pages can be anything that you want them to be. My husband does not always understand some of my pages. Others he gets. But that is ok. Because art is subjective, I do not sweat it. I create what I feel at that time. I create art for me.

I urge you to get an old book and give it a try !


© 2020 Linda F Correa