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DIY Painted Book Edges

In addition to being an avid reader, I’m also an amateur book collector, slowly growing my library. Because of this, when I go shopping for books, I’m looking not only for the titles I want, but also for specific editions that have visual features that I want to add to my library: French flaps, deckled edges and sprayed edges are some of my favorites.

You can find lots of beautiful editions with shiny, metallic paper edges or elaborate designs, and although they’re beautiful, sometimes they aren’t in the price range of the buyer. Therefore, lots of readers are doing their own DIY variations to customize their books – something I’ve always wanted to try! Listed below are the things you’ll need to custom-paint book edges and step-by-step instructions.

Materials

  • A hardcover book
  • Matte, acrylic paint (Be sure to use matte paint because any sort of glossy finish will make it harder to separate the pages in the end – I made that mistake.)
  • Small sponge brush
  • A4 paper or newspaper
  • Tape
  • Painting tape (if you’re not using paper and tape)
  • Weights or clamps (These can be heavy objects you have around the house.)

Instructions

1. Put down some newspaper to protect your work area, and stack up some books to boxes to bring your project close to eye level. I used a wooden lap desk and a box.

2. Remove the book’s dust jacket and make sure the paper edges are clean and free of dust.

3. Cover the book with paper. If you’re using A4 paper, you’ll need about one sheet for each cover. I used an edition of the Peninsula Pulse, and with that size of paper, a quarter of a page is enough to cover one side of the book.

4. To protect the cover from paint, open the book and tuck the paper all the way to the book’s edge before closing it. Then fold up the sides and tape them in place. I recommend making these folds on the outside of the book, not the inside. Otherwise, you might have a gap between the cover and the pages, which will result in paint bleeding into the book. If you use painting tape, cover just the edges of the book cover.

5. Make sure the ends of the book are covered as well. This is the hardest part. I found that taking a strip of a sticky note and carefully working it behind the seams of the binding was the easiest way to cover that area.

6. Lay the book down with the edges facing you, and put weights on top of it or attach clamps. The weight or pressure should be close to the edges of the cover to tightly smoosh the pages together.

7. It’s time to paint! Use the dry sponge brush to spread a small amount of paint in a thin, even coat. The thicker it is, the harder it will be to separate the pages later, and you may end up ripping them. You can also use a flat, dense paintbrush, but the bristles may slip in between the pages and spread paint inside the book.

Step 7

Have some fun with the painting – I tried an ombre effect! It’s important to maintain the weight or pressure on the book at all times, or paint will seep through the pages. Check where the paper meets the cover – a spot that’s usually a little hidden. The corners are also a little tricky to get at, but a cotton swab can reach those small spots.

8. After painting, remove the weights and let the book dry for at least 30 minutes.

9. After the drying time, carefully separate the back and front covers from the pages and remove the protective paper cover or painting tape. Gently hold the pages of the book together and give them a slight bend. This helps with separating them.

Step 9

10. The last (and most tedious) part is to go through the book to carefully separate each page. Some people wait until they’re actually reading the book to do this.

11. Replace the dust jacket and enjoy your beautiful, customized book!