Wednesday 12 March 2014

An Insomniac's Altered Book/Adapted Book-Plate Budget Tutorial


I can't sleep. Nope - not a wink. Wiiiiiiiiide awake... SO  - I thought I'd faff about with muh art s'plies and do another tutorial for you. This is another versatile project and one that doesn't need a mahoosive amount of expensive product. I'll talk you through the steps and show you what I used for each one, but you can substitute any number of things from your own stash at any point. You shouldn't need to buy ANYTHING new in order to do this. I've chosen a really simple concept and design, but again you can let your imagination go nuts! So put away your stress on a top shelf somewhere and settle in for some fun!

Budget Altered Book/Adapted-Bookplate Tutorial

For this project I used:

  • an old hardcover book
  • Faber Castell Gelatos
  • crafter's acrylic paints
  • Faber Castell Pitt pens
  • Derwent Inktense pencils
  • Uni Ball Impact gel pens
  • Chestnut satin acrylic lacquer
  • matte gel medium
  • Treasure Gold gilding wax (Classic)
  • scrap paper
  • water
  • kitchen roll
  • ink pad & sponge
  • page folder/scraper

OK? Let's start this thang!  Pick your book. It could be one you've made or altered, a sketchbook or journal, or just one that's crying out for decoration... I selected this old encyclopedia, which is falling apart already.

I chose a page from this book for my base paper, 'cos at some point I'll most likely gut it and use the cover for a new journal - also I like book text as a background, but you can choose anything you like, including junk mail, scrapbook papers or even newspaper.

I picked some complementary base colours. You can use Gesso if you like, but I wanted a few mixed tones - not just plain white (you'll see why later on in the project). I like to splodge the paint on with my fingers. I don't mind getting messy and it means that I can really control how much they blend. when I'd finished smooshing, I decided to splash on a little water and take off some more of the paint to allow the book print to show through:

I decided to make a simple landscape for this book plate as it's very much suited to this collage technique. It's pretty simple but you have to trust that it'll all come together in the end, ok? I created a sky effect by adding some drops of turquoise (YUM!) acrylic, then used my page folder as a scraper to move the paint around the way I wanted. (I KNOW some of you will have to do some deep breathing at the idea of such abuse... but hey, the page folder's washable, and I'm too lazy at this time of the morning to go get a scraper)

I found a piece of kraft paper I'd saved from a parcel. I crumpled it up - for extra texture - flattened it out again and tore it into three pieces, which would become hills in my landscape. You could use any paper you like - I just like the kraft :

I used Studio matte medium to adhere the pieces to the page, overlapping them to create a layered effect. I like this medium because it creates a good workable surface, but you could just as easily use Mod Podge, PVA glue or glue sticks - your choice. I left part of the bottom and middle pieces like little flaps so I could tuck things behind them...

 I chose three contrasting paint colours - one for each segment (hill) and finger painted them onto the paper, dabbing some paint off again with kitchen roll so that there was more conrast - not just flat colour.

I took some scrap paper pieces and tore out some abstract shapes that I could use for trees in my landscape, and glued them in under the flaps I'd left, gluing those flaps down afterwards. The crinkles in the paper help to disguise the lumps.

Like I said - trust me.

I grabbed some nice Gelato colours and coloured in some definition colours, wetting them to help smear the colour where I wanted it. You could just as easily use ANY water soluble media. I wanted quite a lot of layers, but you can choose to add as much or as little as you like.

Just for the fun of it, I used a couple of Inktense pencils - one dark, one contrasting - and a couple of Pitt pens, selected the same way, to add more definition around the shapes. Again, these will smoosh about beautifully with a little water. I used my fingers again....weeeeeeell, they were already covered in paint anyways!

The  crinkles in the kraft paper hold the squidgy media in interesting ways, and the edges of the torn paper soak up the colours beautifully. I added some light Gelato colours here and there to pick some shapes and stop things all blending into one big block.

I added some more 'cloud' layers to the sky with the same drip and scrape technique that I used for the 'blue'. THIS is why I used a blend of tones on the base coat - I wanted the white paint to stand out. I also added some gold gilding wax using the pad of my index finger so that it would pick out the raised, bumpy elements in the collage. The wax catches the light and adds more tone and brightness.

 At this point I gave the page a light coat of the Chestnut laquer. It's just a personal preference as it holds the soluble media fast, and allows me to wipe away any excess in new layers without disturbing what's already there. Plus it helps to seal the layers. Mod Podge will do the same thing, as will clear Gesso, but be wary as both products may soak up or smear unfixed colours. Some spray fixitives will also affect the water-soluble media. I DO like the Chestnut lacquer...oh yes I do!

Once the lacquer dried ( about 5 minutes) I used gel pens to add some definition and detail -

Once I was happy  with the result, I added another layer of lacquer and cut out the part of the page that I liked the best in order to make a panel. I inked the edges with black Staz-on ink and selected some rub-ons that I could use to finish the piece. You could just as easily use stickers, die-cuts or doodles - your choice.

Now select your glue or tape of choice and afix in place! This is how the finished panel looked on my book cover - 

Came out ok in the end! I find that a LOT of projects look pretty questionable 'til I get right to the end...just gotta stick with it.

This is so simple to do and easy to adapt to materials and personal tastes. The whole thing took about 45 minutes (with photo taking)...this blog post has taken FOREVER by comparison!! HA! I PROMISE that you can find substitues in your current stash for pretty much anything I used. Why not try pastels or charcoal to add definition? Watercolour paints or pencils? Soluble crayons? Oil pastels? There's loads of room to experiment and have fun.

So now it's, like, 7:30 am and I'm finally sleepy. I hope you find this tutorial useful (and not too rambly!)  I'll now catch an hour or two before it's back to the business of the day! Hope YOU'VE all had some sleep! Sending hugs from sleepy Shroo :) xxx


  1. You're the best!!!!! x x x x x

    1. Wouldn't have got anywhere without you kicking me up the behind, my friend! Love and hugs xxxxx

  2. Bonkers and brilliant your blog posts never cease to make me grin hope you got some zzzzzzzzz's Laney X

    1. Glad you enjoyed it ! hugs from Shroo:)x

  3. Chops hanging open at this fab tutorial! Love it! And yes - I am a firm convert to the Chestnut spray. I spent a pretty penny on the Sennelier spray before I saw your subliminal sales tactics (you SHOULD be on commission - my shopping list from here is HUGE!) The Sennelier reacted terribly with my water based type materials. I sprayed it on my zombie thinking wellllll it's got oil pastels in it! The face literally started to move. Talk about scream. I'm trying to lay it flat - minimize the damage. Think it worked - but have not had the same trouble with the Chestnut spray so now the Sennelier is JUST for solely oil pastel work (which I don't do much at all - it's all mixed media!) but when it runs out I will stick with the Chestnut which was cheaper and I'm able to buy it from my local hardware store!

    Love your gorgeous book plate - Feroz is right! You ARE the best :D

    1. Oh we do like the Chestnut spray...'tis a marvel! Has your zombie survived? Did melting its face enhance the zombieness? I hope we get to see MORE awesome zombies soon :-D

      Oh - and I learned a long time ago.....Feroz is ALWAYS right! Sending you big hugs from me and the Colonel xxx

  4. That was so fun! Thanks for the share.

    1. You're mahoosively welcome. Thanks for visiting again! Big hugs - Shroo:)x

  5. Oh wow. What a beautiful creation, hard to believe it is just torn up paper. I am currently working on a series of tutorials on how to alter books but I'm not showing any art like this. Great idea and I love it. What are you going to do on the inside?

    1. Inside? I wanted to collect a selection of images that inspire happy thoughts and calmness as that helps me out in every way - including art-wise. I think I've decided on a way of doing it that'll keep me occupied for a while but be ful at the same time. I'll blog it as soon as I can :)

      I love your latest book box creation, although I'm still HOOKED on that lovely altered matchbox you made! Gorgeous!- big hugs from Shroo:) x

  6. A wonderful tutorial Shroo! Thank you!
    Looks fab!

    1. Thank you squillions - really glad you like it! Your blog is a CONSTANT inspiration for me - sending big hugs, Shroo:)x

  7. Beautiful! But boy you had me confused there for a moment... must be showing my age... I always thought a book plate was like a sticker of some sort with your name on it that you put in all your books that you own... lol i would have just called this an altered Just lovely Shroo! Hugs! deb

    1. Hey - thanks for commenting! :) I've stressed you - I'm sorry! This is me helping (*makes apology face*)

      You're not wrong about the book plate thing - and I COULD just call this an 'altered book' (aaaagain), but I thought I'd choose to call it something a bit more specific, that kinda suited me and my own plans for the project, taking the opportunity to share some techniques that might help people who are looking for ideas for artyness. I completely didn't account for confusion along the way! I'm really sorry - hopefully this will explain a bit better :) ...

      I've always loved book plates - I used to sell books and some of the antique plates were breathtaking in their detail, containing artwork both representative of their era and also deeply personal and carefully symbolic of the books' owners and their lives. It's a love that has stayed with me for ALL these years and I wanted to enjoy adapting the idea of these plates to a very specific and personal project.

      A traditional 'Ex Libris' book plate idea wouldn't really suit me, but I still like the idea of having an identifying plate afixed to the cover - externally, as so much beauty always gets hidden away inside... Another adaptation is the chage in text - I honestly don't tend to add my name to anything (unless it's my artist's signature) as I never keep any of my work - it's all re-homed, one way or another, so I used the option of using "Serenity" instead of my own name, as I want this book to contain images and text that reflect a sense of peace and calm inspiration: I named the book to indicate its own intended 'soul' won't belong to me eventually. Whoever ends up with it once I've finished can add their name to the plate if they wish and that makes sense to me :)

      I hope readers can pick up some useful ideas from the tutorial and adapt it to whatever project they have in mind, whether it be traditional, or something more personal, and have some fun without spending a small fortune in the process. Obviously, I've adapted a commonplace concept to suit my own design, which I enjoyed as I like to move the goal posts in life when I can and enjoy tweaking the rules a bit whenever possible. So you're NOT going nuts - you ARE right! I just thought I'd play with the idea on my blog, and being sleep-deprived I forgot to explain! Hopefully that'll clear things up a bit...yes?

      I'm adding this explantion here as I also had an email with the same question from another blogger so I know I have caused weird stress! Being an expert in weird stress I totally get it and I'm sending out apologetic hugs to fellow bloggers - If I could make us all a nice, soothing cup of tea and some biscuits I would! I'll amend the project title too - that might be a good plan!! Hope this is ok. Love you lovely you and to anyone else with levels of confusion! MWAH! - Shroo:)xxx

    2. "explan-A-tion"....see? I can't even SPELL right today!! I'm gonna lie down...! xxx

  8. Lovely - great fun, vfm product wise and and a fab tutorial - what more can you ask?!

    1. YAY!!! Really happy and relieved that you liked this and that it was useful! *Happy Face*!!! ....I just had to look up 'vfm'..... I am realising that I am a BIT crap and TOTALLY non-techno, word-wise! HA! I'm gonna re-train my brain! But first.... a nice glass of wine. Cheers! and HUGE mahoosive hugs from Shroo:)xx

  9. Thank you for this fantastic tutorial!
    Frau Frosch

    1. YOu are so massively welcome! Thank you for visiting! Hugs from Shroo:)xx

  10. Oh to have the vision and talent to do something like that. by the way it's 3.55 am and i'm wide awake.

  11. oh wow-I am not a painter at all-but I may need to try this-I painted a sunrise on fabric for a quilter last summer-could not believe I actually did it-and this looks like fun-thanks

  12. Really fab Shroo! I would have given up half way through... you are right, you have to stick with it; it is sooo cool! Thank you for showing us every step of the way; you prove that patience is a virtue!

  13. I'm visiting from kathyinozarks...I just had to see if I could get some ideas to make a journal. I've always wanted to make one but never had the courage. You've done a good tutorial. I'm going to study it a little more, and mark it in my favs! Thank you very much! Hugs, Diane