Basic Altered Book Directions

Altered Book DirectionsHere are some basic altered book directions to get your book ready.


You can use any book you’d like and any size that interests you.

book  with a sewn biningIt’s best if you use a hard cover  book that has a sewn binding. In the picture on the left the last, C, is an example of a sewn binding. It will separate from the spine when you open it. When you take out pages the sewn binding will stay together better than any other binding.


Step 1) Take out pages by leaving 1/4 inch and tearing or cutting them out.

Basic Altered Book DirectionsI use a ruler and put it very close to the center




And then tear the page out.                                   Altered Book 3 (1 of 1)




You can use a utility knife to cut pages out but that usually will cut several pages at once. Use the knife if you want bigger chunks of pages out at one time. Make sure you leave a small margin of the page so the book is still stable.

Basic Altered Book Directions

You should remove at least 1/3 of the pages so you have room to build up the pages with paint and collage items. I usually take out almost half the pages so I can do a lot of collage and that takes room.

image  imageStep 2) Clump pages together. Grouping pages together will give you a thicker base for your altered art.

Altered Book 7 (1 of 1)Altered Book 8 (1 of 1)Grab several pages (2-5) and pull them tight away from the book and tape the edges. If you use washi tape the edges will have different decorations. I found this to be the easiest and quickest way to group pages together. You can put one stripe of glue stick on each page and glue them together before you bind the edges if you want some security.

There are more ideas and directions I’ve pinned on my Altered Book board on Pintrest. Check it out for more ideas & how to’s.

The first book I did I glued the pages together with white school glue spread on with a plastic card. That took a long time and was messy. As long as some of the pages are stuck together somehow it makes for an easier base for your art.

Altered Book 4 (1 of 1)Step 3) Prepare some of the pages with gesso. Gesso is an acrylic medium that is used as a base on canvas or any surface you want to paint. It dries to a chaulky surface and the paint won’t soak through it. It comes in white, black, or transparent. It’s personal preference which one to use. Transparent would be good if you use a glossy picture book so the pictures will show through.

Apply it with a brush, pallet knife, or drop some on and scrape it with a plastic card. A light coat will be good. If you want to cover up words or marks in your book use a thicker layer.

Altered Book 10 (1 of 1)You can block out some of the picture with white or black gesso.



I have a gesso or watercolor ground that is transparent that I will use my watercolors with. Transparent gesso would look about the same.

Altered Book 12 (1 of 1)

I have my hair dryer by my side when I’m preparing the book pages because I’m not patient. Gesso & acrylic paint dries pretty fast and the dryer helps it along. Sometimes pages may get stuck together and that is ok.

Altered Book 9 (1 of 1)Altered Book 9a (1 of 1)Pull them apart very gently. Collage overany thin parts to reinforce the page and paint normally. This give you interesting texture.







Step 4) Paint some of the pages with acrylic/craft paint.

Basic Directions for Altered Book

The easiest and most fun way to get a painted background is to drop 2 -3 drops(no larger than dime size) of craft paint onto the page. Use a plastic card (old rewards card) and scrape the paint on the page. The harder you scrape the thinner the layer of paint. Have a paper towel ready to wipe off excess paint from card. After you scrape the first layer on you can add more on top.

Altered Book 15 (1 of 1)If you put a layer of gesso on first and then scrape the paint, you’ll get a great texture. If you want to really cover up the page use the gesso & paint – the words won’t show through.

Look at the page before you cover the whole thing – are there words or phrases you want to show? Put some masking or painting tape on them and then paint. 



Altered Book 18 (1 of 1)Your background can be scrapbook paper too.







imageOr both paint & collage









Backgrounds:    Do them in stages

  • Do a bunch of painted backgrounds at one time when you have your paint (and hair dryer) out.
  • Add collage elements to some of the pages the next time you pick up your book.
  • Leave some pages plain for later
  • Getting the backgrounds done in larger sections when you find yourself with an afternoon to play will help when you want to do some journaling in smaller bits of time.
  • Pick colors and collage elements that really speak to you (and make you happy). When you go to the page to journal the images usually make sense. Use the images as you would oracle cards and listen to your creative spirit for words of wisdom to what the meaning is for you.

Stencils: You can scrape the gesso through a stencil if you want more texture.

Altered Book 1 (1 of 1)Altered Book 5 (1 of 1)

Altered Book 14 (1 of 1)Scrape or brush paint over the gesso when it’s dry.






You’re ready to add journaling, doodling, and other elements!

Back cover of altered bookI glued a thick section of pages together on the back cover and cut a door. I used an epoxy to glue hinges on the door.

This was the first book I made and I had to glue in fabric when the pages came away from the binding – I din’t use a sewn binding.





AB page 5 (1 of 1)I cut a window to show the words on the other page.















IMG_0016Use the little tabs from the pages you remove to glue pockets or smaller pages onto.




5 Comments on “Basic Altered Book Directions

  1. Wow this is amazing! How generous you are to give us such a comprehensive ‘how to’ lesson! I’m straight off to give it a go- really thanks so much – what an inspiration 🙂

  2. Pingback: How “To Do” the Creative Discovery Year | Cathy Lawson – Creative Coach

  3. Pingback: Altered Book Stay-cation – YOUR INNER ART

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