Altering books

It’s been a couple of years since I tried this, running into a few issues I didn’t bother dealing with at the time.

First of all I didn’t realize for how long acrylic painted surfaces will stick together, so despite curing for weeks, after being stacked my lovely covers were as glued together and then ripped when I separated them. Same thing happening with many of the pages. I’ve since read that you can use decoupage varnish (or was it dec. medium? Is that the same thing?) because that doesn’t stick. I’m leaning more towards using other paints than acrylic on the inside, such as gouache or coloured pencils + collage.

In my case fabric would be an obvious choice for covers, so I may look into that as well.

rep_book02 rep_book01

I was also quite annoyed that they wouldn’t always stay flat open even though I’d removed many pages, making it difficult to work because I couldn’t leave them out to dry. So I clearly need to learn to pick the right books or make my own from scratch.

I’ve salvaged some pages I liked, repaired 2 covers, and thrown out the other 3 books that didn’t have proper signatures – the ones that are single pages glued to the spine are the ones most likely to not lie flat.

And I just found two really filthy books in the hayloft, which had somehow survived the purge before building my studio.


One I’m having doubts about, the spine is missing, the rest of the cover is also not in good shape so I can do anything to it without regrets, it opens completely flat. But it’s also an atlas, and I love maps. Not ancient, just 1953, but still, I hesitate to paint over them! The other doesn’t open quite as well, but perhaps better when I remove some pages, the cover is in better shape and I couldn’t care less about the inside (It’s a bird book, so there is some use for a few images I’m sure). I don’t live near any antiquarian bookshops, and frankly what you see in local fleamarkets are modern, cheap book club items with crummy bindings and no appeal to the imagination at all.


I’m not sure why I bother, I could do my beginner doodling on regular A4 pads from the supermarket, but they’re not very sexy.

Of course this is the kind of book that turns me on, and I’d probably be afraid to write in it ever:


I have a whole bunch of ideas for relief making, but I don’t see a space in my current budget for a die cutter, so I’ll have to look at other, more fiddly options such as scalpel or molding paste.

It’s quite normal that I begin to do sideline projects when it’s not possible to get enough time to keep my focus on planned projects. This was the result of clearing out shelves and finding bits and pieces, of course my brain is not content to stay with the chores and lures me to play! Ā  :mrgreen: I’ll be back with photos if/when I manage to pursue this further, I’ve already been interupted a gazillion times during the making of this post, so nothing is done-done.

13 thoughts on “Altering books

  1. The best acrylic paint for books is cheap craft acrylics – some like Plaid Folk Art are good paints with decent coverage. Americana craft acrylic is pretty good too. They are all completely Matt and non sticky. I sometimes use gouache in my sketchbooks, however it can rub off onto the page opposite – but I imagine acrylic gouache would be better, though it has the disadvantage of drying incredibly quickly. You might as well just get the craft acrylic which is cheaper and looks the same!

    1. Sounds like a good idea – they are probably more like gesso with tints? Not as plasticky as “real” acrylics.

      1. Actually, I could send you what I have if you want to try them? There’re about 20 half used bottles, and I’d rather they were put to use than dry up and end up in landfill.

        I would appreciate you covering the postage as I’m not quite as well off as I was, but I’m happy to send them

  2. Okay, I’ll find out and let you know – will need to dig them out from the back of my immense cupboard and weight them so may be a day or two before I get round to it – and yes, I do.

  3. I understand about getting INSPIRED (not distracted) when cleaning and clearing and finding things you tried or want to try again… it is all about being a creative soul, and you should give it a shot again. Although, those maps…they are so beautiful. Maybe you could do something with them other than altering the book? šŸ™‚

    1. I might just play with the cover and leave it as an atlas. I’m such a weirdo geek I can have fun scouring a map for obscure village names and such.

Add a comment: