May 29th, 2020

by Savana Ogburn

My favorite way to organize my thoughts/ideas/artwork is to put them into a book, whether it be a journal, a scrapbook, or a photobook. When I first learned that I could make a quality, legit-looking hardcover book, it blew my mind. The possibilities were endless! I’ve made journals, books with my photos in them, hand-collaged pages, and more. I’ve learned a bit from teachers at school but really solidified my knowledge using YouTube tutorials (Sea Lemon is the best out there!), so I’m going to try to pass on some of my (extremely amateur) book know-how to you!


I’ll give the exact measurements of what I’m doing so that you can follow along if you’re new to bookmaking, but feel free to change things up if you’re comfortable with the process. I’m also going to include lots of substitutes for traditional bookmaking supplies, so don’t be intimidated! Bookmaking can be done with very few, super accessible supplies. 



- Box cutter/X-acto knife

- Cutting mat (or something to protect your work surface from BIG SHARP BLADES)

- Ruler

- A few sheets of printer paper

- One piece of decorative card stock

- Chipboard: one 4x6" piece 

- Glue (I use PH Neutral glue like this one for archival purposes, but Elmer’s works just fine!)

- Decorative fabric/paper for the cover of your book: one 7.5 x 5.5” piece

- Bone folder 

- Bookmaking awl (this one looks great, but you can substitute for a needle tool from a clay set, or even an ice pick. You just need something that’s sharp and can poke through four pieces of paper)

- Needle and thread, any color 

- Old paintbrush

- A few heavy books to use as a press


There are two major parts of a hardcover book: The cover (which includes the front and back covers as well as the spine) and the text block (which includes all of the pages in your book). We’ll start with the text block first...

1. Cut your printer paper into 24 sheets that measure 3 x 4” each, and fold them in half using your bone folder to press down.


2. Group the papers together into groups of four to create “signatures”.


3. Take one of your signatures, and mark holes on the edge for binding. Start at the center of the spine, and mark every inch on either side. Your marks should look like this...


4. Place the signatures into a stack, and mark with a ruler and pencil across the spines of the other signatures.


5. Take a signature off the stack, unfold it while keeping your pages aligned, and poke holes in the spots you marked with your awl. 


6. Now, we’ll bind the book! The stitch that I use is a kettle stitch. You’ll need your needle and thread in any color and a little bit of patience. It’s so simple once you get the hang of it, but it’s incredibly difficult to teach it using photos. For that reason, I’m going to direct you to this incredible video by SeaLemon on YouTube (seriously the best YouTube account if you’re interested in bookmaking. She is amazing!). When you’re finished, you should have something like this…


7. Now, place your gorgeous new text block between two heavy books, and use a paintbrush to apply a coat of glue to the spine. This reinforces the binding. Let it dry completely. 


8. Last step! Cut your decorative card stock into two sheets that measure 3 x 4", and fold them in half using your bone folder. These will be your endpapers (the cute paper that connects a book’s spine to the text block). Glue them to both sides of your text block using a narrow line of glue, and place it back between the books to dry. This is what you should have...


HALLELUJAH we’re moving on to the cover! This part is simple. 

9. Using your box cutter or X-acto knife, cut your chipboard into two pieces that measure 1 ⅞”x 3 ¼. These will act as the front and back covers. Then, cut a piece for the spine that measures ¼ x 3 ¼”.


10. Now, lay your decorative fabric/paper upside down on your work surface. Use a paintbrush to apply a thin layer of glue to the piece of chipboard (this will be your front cover), and glue it down to the left side of the fabric, leaving about an inch border on the sides. 


11. Then, glue down your spine and back cover leaving ¼” between each piece, like so. You can use a ruler to make sure all three pieces are aligned. Place a heavy book on top and let it dry.


12. Cut all four corners of the fabric off an angle, like this. Be sure to leave a little bit of fabric at the corner of the chipboard!


13. Using your paintbursh, glue the flaps onto your chipboard.


14. Next, grab your text block, and glue the end pages to the cover. Put it under the heavy books to dry.


And that’s it! There are so many fun variations on this technique: I really recommend Purgatory Pie Press’s How to Make Books if you’re interested in making bigger, weirder books out of accessible materials. But for now, OMG, you made a book! That beautiful scene at the end of "Little Women" can eat its little heart out, because YOU’RE the book god now.


Savana Ogburn (she/they) is a photographer, collage artist, filmmaker, and set designer based in Atlanta, Georgia.