Arte Es Vida

The Altered Book Project by arteesvida
November 26, 2006, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Bookmaking, Journaling, Mixed Media

Using altered books for journals can be a wonderfully creative exercise…and a great way to recycle old hardbacks into a new piece of art!  My brother had a summer project assigned by his school to create a visual representation of his personal “toolbox”…the strengths and qualities he draws from that makes him a successful student and person. 

After some research, he chose the altered book journal format as the best way to for him symbolize his insight into his personal strengths and qualities.  Regular book pages are usually too thin to handle a lot of alteration on their own.  Most altered book artists start by gluing pages together to make a thicker canvas to work on.  In this book, I glued 5 pages together using Mod-Podge and about ten pages together when I wanted to cut out windows to add in embellishments.  As you go along, you may also want to rip some pages out so the book closes easier.  But as with most altered books, you will probably have to tie the book shut when finished…pulling out extra pages just helps make it possible!


Pages glued together, five at a time, make a thicker work surface in altered books.

Use an X-Acto knife to cut out windows.  You can place 3D items in them or regular pictures.


After the pages are glued and dried you can prime and gesso them if you don’t want any writing to show through!

Creating your own pockets in your altered journals is super easy….no extra materials required!  It is also a wonderful way to tuck in notes, letters, and bits of ephemera that you want to keep in your journal!

By folding each corner of a page towards the middle to create a triangle (I usually do a couple of pages folded together) you create two pockets on each page.  Just make sure you glue along the middle of the book and down the middle of the triangle but NOT down the sides of the triangle or you won’t be able to stuff your pockets!



Little matchbox drawers are another unique way to add bits of ephemera and content to your altered book journal!  In our journal, the drawer pulls out to reveal a slip of text and an antique watch face (the text is about time management).  Our book has only one matchbox drawer, but most standard size hardbacks can hold three to a “page.”


Hold your matchbox up to the side of the book to gauge the correct depth of pages you will need to cut out.  Use the matchbox itself to outline the shape of the cutout on the top page.  Use an X-Acto knife to cut through all the pages (this project works best at the end of the book), then glue all the pages together.  Paint the matchbox casing and drawer, and add a little “doorknob” if you so desire.  (Our drawer is decorated with an “For External Use Only” label.)

Glue the matchbox drawer into the cut out and let glue cure completely.  You can paint or collage the page itself at any time during the process.  You may want to paint the matchbox cover and the page at the same time if you want them to be the same color.

Add scrolls of text, trinkets, or ephemera to your drawer as desired!


Once you have glued enough pages together to make a thicker canvas to work on, you can paint or collage just about any kind of background you would like!  The pictures below can give you some ideas to get you started.  Some are painted in layers, with one layer combed through to show the bottom layer.  Some have paint mixed with pigment powders, some are watercolored, and some are a mixture of paint and collage.  You can think about what you will be journaling on each page and how the background paint or images can enhance this work or you can work purely by instinct and see what combinations are created in the end!




Most of the text in this journal was not written directly into the journal…although it can easily be…my regular mixed media journal features painted pages that I write on with fine tipped marker all of the time!  Most of the journal entries were first written on a computer then printed out and added to the book.  Some were glued in directly and others were tucked into envelopes or even folded up and put into the tiny matchbox drawer! 

Other text including fortune cookie fortunes, stickers, magazine cut-out words, and even scrabble letters were also added to enhance the text.

These images will give you an idea of the different ways we added text to our altered book journal.

The pockets and envelopes are also wonderful places to tuck in ephemera such as postcares, photos, and other scraps of memory that are important to you.



Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: