Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How To Start An Altered Book - Deb Silva

There are few things in life quite as satisfying as a completed Altered Book. But to finish one, you have to start it, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do. The first step seems simple, but there is a bit of method to it, we’ll need to be a bit choosy. First, we need a book with matte pages; shiny pages don’t take glue or paint well. Secondly, shape and size are important, the right feel, you want the book to be one you are comfortable working in, not too thick, not too tiny, and not too big, just right, as Goldilocks said. A Hardcover is preferable, one that can withstand what you’re going to do to it, no falling out pages or broken spine. It’s also fun to have the title give a clue as to the book’s theme, but it’s not necessary. So now we've picked a book – on to the second step.

Book preparation. We need to remove some pages, we can do this neatly with ruler and razor knife, or scissors, or we can simply rip some pages out. The purpose here is to remove bulk and create room for all those great embellishments you’ll be adding to your book. As you glue in collage elements the outer edges of your book are going to spread, if you want your book to come anywhere near to closing, we need to lighten the page load a bit. You’ll know as you go along exactly how many pages to take out, but this will get us started. One of the advantages to removing pages with scissors is that you’ll have a ready-made flap for inclusions or envelopes; of course you can use your deckle edge scissors to make things more interesting. And ripping pages out leaves flaps for making pockets – simply glue the edges together and stick something cool in there.

Now – page prep – there are many, many background preparation techniques, my favorites are watercolor washes, acrylic paint, especially Lumieres, Portfolios, and Direct to Paper. If you want to totally cover the text on a given page, you might start with a coat of gesso, then use whatever technique strikes your fancy over the top. Experiment; see what you come up with. Some of the Lumieres are very opaque as well, particularly the green. Watercolor Gouache is an opaque type of paint that covers a bit more than the regular transparent watercolor. Portfolios are a brand of water-soluble oil pastel and are one of my favorites – you can just scribble them on, brush on a little water, or paint, and smoosh your pages together for great effects. You’re familiar with Direct to Paper, I’m sure; try some of these techniques on your pages. After you have a few pages prepped, you’re ready to begin altering your book. So, that’s it for this article!

What you’ll find is that Altered Books aren’t all that different than Scrapbooks. Actually, I’ve used quite a bit of scrapbook paper in my Altered Books. The most important thing to take away from this article is there is no right way to alter a book. It’s about the process, about you creating something you love, and as the saying goes, it’s all good! So go get your stuff and play!


  1. Hi Deb & Jackie,

    Great article! Look forward to the rest of the series!


  2. Howdy Deb,
    Thanks for your tutorial. Very helpful!

    I especially liked the tip about removing pages. To me that's the hardest part - I never really know how many pages I want to take out.

    Lately I've been altering old LITTLE GOLDEN BOOKS. I like the sturdy cover boards, and then I cover the pages with white or tinted gesso (that I make myself) which lets some of the original design peak through for depth and also adds some strength. So far I'm using my LGBs as my travel journals. Since they're so small they tuck neatly into my train case or tote bag.

    Can't wait too read your next installments. When are they coming?!?!?!

    Mary Lou 'LuLu'
    Please visit my art BLOG when you have a moment or 2: