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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.

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

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
  • Water colors
  • Alcohol ink pens
  • White craft glue
  • Ink pads
  • Stencils
  • Embossing paint
  • Glitter glue
  • Embellishments

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

Prepping Books To Create Altered Books

There are several steps to prep your book before you get started with your art. They are not difficult. Taking these steps will make your efforts more enjoyable and fruitful.

  1. Ripping pages if needed. As you add more layers to your pages, you 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 book.
  2. Glue pages together. 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 to do this step. Make sure to use extra glue in the corners so that they stick together. You can glue one to two pages together depending on the weight of the paper. You can use a brayer once you have applied the glue to get them to stick without bumpiness. If you get some bumpiness, not to worry ! Art journals are not perfect.
  3. Priming them with gesso. It is an optional step, but necessary. Gesso helps acrylic paint “stick” to the page better. Also, gesso hides the words and illustration on the pages. Think of gesso as a white primer.

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

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.

  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.

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.


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.

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.

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 !

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