Daydreaming on Paper
December 2001
How to Make a Book in 6 Easy Steps

If you enjoy keeping a diary or journal, you will probably eventually venture into making your own books. Bookmaking and bookbinding instructions can be fairly intimidating, so this month, I'm going to show you my technique for making a very basic softcover book. This book is extremely beginner-friendly - you won't even need to learn any bookbinding techniques for this.

Ready to get started?


What You Will Need:

  • A paper trimmer (Optional)
    I invested in a paper trimmer earlier this year, and I have never regretted it. I use it just about every day. If you work with paper a lot or if you plan to really get into bookmaking (or even card making), do yourself a favor and buy one.
  • A 4.25-inch by 11-inch strip of paper for the cover
    You want to choose a paper that is fairly thick, but thin enough so that you will be able to punch holes in it when it is folded. Textured, handmade paper is good for this. You can also use cardstock or art paper. I used the paper that I got in a package of "Handmade Paper By the Pound". As the name implies, you get a pound of handmade paper in assorted colors, weights, and textures. No two packages are alike. I bought mine at Hobby Lobby.
  • Paper for the pages
    You can use regular printer paper or colored paper or more handmade paper or parchment paper - whatever you want. Just make sure that it is thinner than the cover paper. For my books, I use whatever I happen to have lying around the house. Cut your pages to a size just under 4.25 inches by 5.5 inches. That way, they won't peek out around the edges of the cover.
  • Two paper fasteners
  • A hole punch
  • A ruler
  • Adhesive
    I use double stick tape because I think it is faster and easier to use than glue.
  • A bone folder or burnisher or something that you can use to make neat folds in your paper
    I used a burnisher because I already had one. You can use the back of a comb just as easily.
  • Assorted paper, magazine cutouts, doodads, and art supplies with which to decorate your book


Step One: Fold and score the cover.
Fold the strip of cover paper in half. Use the burnisher or bone folder to make a clean fold. Then, on the top cover, mark a distance 3/4 of an inch from the fold. Using your burnisher, fold the top cover page back at that mark. Unfold so that it looks like a booklet again. This is called scoring, and you are doing it so that it will be easier to turn the pages and read the finished book when it is assembled.

Fold cover

Step Two: Punch holes in the pages.
I usually punch one hole approximately 1 inch from the top of the page and one hole approximately 1 inch from the bottom of the page. Punch the holes about 1/4 of an inch from the edge. Do one page first and then use it as a template for punching holes in the other pages.

Step Three: Score the pages.
Mark a distance 3/4 of an inch from the edge of your page on one of the short sides. Fold the paper at that mark, flatten the fold with your burnisher, and unfold. Do this for each page.

Step Four: Punch holes in the cover.
Lay one of your hole-punched pages on top of the book cover, making sure that the page is vertically centered on the cover and that the punched edge of the page is aligned with the folded edge of the cover. Put little marks on the cover to indicate where the holes should go. Punch holes in the cover (you are punching through both the back cover page and the front cover page).

Step Five: Decorate your pages and covers.
This is pretty much self explanatory. Use the scored edge of the pages as a left margin. If you want, you can leave the pages blank and just decorate the cover.

Sample covers

Step Six: Assemble your book.
Put your pages inside of the cover, lining up all of the holes. Use the paper fasteners to hold it all together. You're done!


As you can see, these books are fairly simple, but they lend themselves to lots of different uses. Once you start making them, they are fairly addictive. I've used them as letters, birthday cards, and story books. Here are a few variations and ideas:

  • Instead of paper fasteners, use ribbon, embroidery floss, or cord to hold the book together. With the top side of the book facing up, thread one end of the ribbon through the top hole, and the other end through the bottom hole. Cross the ribbon on the under side of the book, and then thread each end of the ribbon up through the opposite hole from where it started. Tie a bow on the front cover.

  • Building on the above variation, before tying the bow, thread a few beads on each end of the ribbon and secure the ends with a knot. Tie the bow.

  • Cut a 4.25-inch by 11-inch piece of thin paper to use as a title page and end page for your book. Choose paper that will contrast with your cover. Paper that has flower petals, leaves, or some other kind of confetti in it works well with solid colored covers. Fold, score, and punch holes in this paper simultaneously with your cover paper.

  • Instead of using a full 4.25-inch by 11-inch sheet of paper for your cover, use a shorter piece - say 4.25 inches by 6.5 inches. Fold the paper at 5.5 inches. This will create a back cover with a little overlap for the front. Use a 4.25-inch by 5.5-inch contrasting piece of paper for the front cover. When you punch the holes for the cover, you will be punching them through 3 layers of paper this time.

  • Experiment with different types of paper for the book's pages. Try watercolor paper (make a book of your original paintings), parchment paper, black or colored paper, and even kraft or butcher paper. Along those same lines, alternate vellum or tissue paper over regular colored paper.

  • Create a birthday book as a gift for someone. Write a short biography of the person, create a timeline of major (or minor or simply fun) events that happened in his/her life, and include pictures and drawings. You could also add lists of the person's likes and dislikes, trivia about him or her, and a list of reasons why you like/love him or her.

  • Use the above ideas to create a one-of-a kind Valentine for a special person.

  • Decorate the inside covers and the back cover of the book, as well as the front cover. I have used coordinating pieces of origami paper for this purpose.

  • Use your computer to create the book's contents. Print the pages out and cut them down to the correct page size.

  • As a variation on the above, create a coloring book by printing images of black and white clip art.

For more ideas about what to put in your new book, visit the Blank Book Ideas page. Have fun!

P.S. - Instructions for making other kinds of books (including hard cover) are in the works. I'm hoping to have more for you in time for summer.


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© 2001 Dawn R. Vinson. All Rights Reserved.