December 05, 2009

Altered Board Book Tutorial

Looking for my Sew, Mama, Sew Giveaway?

Just scroll down (a long way) or click here!


I love to collect little books, make little books, alter little books. Anything to do with books that I can hold in the palm of my hand.

I thought I would share the basic steps I take when altering children's board books. You can use the altered board book as a mini scrapbook devoted to one of your children, or give a page for each family member; perhaps as a mini journal, favorite quote or Bible verse book, or a storybook (I have made up lots of stories about my kids and created altered books 'illustrating' the story - kids love to hear about themselves!), the uses are endless.

Here are the supplies you will need for this altered board book tutorial:

Children's board book
Sandpaper (fine grit works well, but any sandpaper will work) or an electrical sander
Craft paint - your choice of color
Paint brush
Heat Tool or hair dryer
Image of your child (I print onto Matte photo paper and trimmed around the image)
Scraps of scrapbook paper, left over bits of paper from other projects, painted papers, fabric scraps,
Rub On wordsglue stick
Staz On ink
Rubber Stamps - Star by Stampin' Up; Heart in script - From the 'Romance Heart Cube' by Christine Adolph


Water soluble oil pastels
Lead pencil

Project time: 2-3 sittings of 60 minutes

Level: Intermediate collage skill

Step 1

Choose a board book to be altered. I like to use ones that come free with kids meals, books that my children have out grown or ones that they have doubles of. I also look for ones that have less than 10 spreads.

Step 2

Using either sandpaper or an electrical sander sand the cover and pages of the board book. Don't remove all the image on the pages, it is a nice effect to see some of the original images showing through.

Step 3

Paint a layer of gesso on each page. You will need to dry the pages with a heat tool before moving on to gesso the next page or your pages will stick together.

Step 4

To add a little color to your page, paint a layer of watered down craft paint over the dried gesso. I like to use a different color for each page.

Step 5

Firstly, decorate the front cover of the book. Add stamps with Staz On ink. To tone the stamps down add a second layer of watered down gesso (or white craft paint).

Step 6

Choose the collage elements you want to use. Print and trim the photograph of your child (or pet, or whatever else you want your book to focus on). Lay them out on the book cover, move them around until you are pleased with the composition. Glue everything in place, starting with the lower layers and building upwards. Color the edges with pastels and rub with your finger.

Step 7

Choose the words you want to use on the cover to convey what your book is all about. You can add words by gluing on printed words, writing with a gel pen or, in this case, using 'Rub Ons'.

Step 8

To use a Rub On: Cut the words you plan to use from the Rub On sheet. Discard the protective backing sheet.

Step 9

Lay the words out where it works well with the composition. Don't be afraid to lay the words vertical!

Step 10

Using the popsicle tool that comes with the Rub on sheet burnish the words. The words will turn from black to gray as they adhere to the book's surface.

Step 11

When you think words have transferred to the board book, remove the plastic cover.

Step 12

Add some finishing touches to your collage book cover - for example, if some of the papers are too bright, tone them back by adding a wash of watered down gesso.

Step 13

Add some doodles or lines with a lead pencil and perhaps some more pastels, if you had not added them already.

Step 14

When the cover is done, turn your attention to the inner pages. Add some stamps to the pages. IDEA: Consider adding a different stamp to each page spread, if you do then pick your stamps out ahead of time and line them up. That way you can save time and work in a conveyor belt style!

Step 15

Add some pastels and lead pencil doodles to the stamped areas on that inner pages.

Step 16

Once your inner pages are decorated with stamps and color, it is time to add other images. You will need an image for each page, so take some time to plan your images picks and arrange them on the page. When you glue them in, it is a nice idea to sand them lightly on the edges - that helps the photos to blend into the page well.

I hope you enjoyed my tutorial. I would love to hear from you if you did, or if you have and questions about any of the steps. I have been doing this kind of art work for a number of years now and sometimes I don't realize what seems obvious now to me may be the one nugget that someone else needs to hear. I want to learn to do better tutorials, so your feedback is helpful.


  1. I'm not one much for scrap booking, but I really like this. I could see myself doing this, and your instructions have been very helpful. Thanks!

  2. Shona, thank you for taking the time to make this tutorial. I've never done altered books and have always wondered about them. You make it look so easy.I am intrigued. Maybe I'll do one for each child.

  3. Wow!!!I love that! It's fascinating to see how you do that Shona! (Only 15 words Hee-hee!)

  4. Oh, I really like this one Shona. The last one was very intimidating for an artophobic girl like me. This one I think I can do!

    It was great seeing you guys last week!

  5. LOVE this one Shona!! Glad you included the tutorial! Can't wait for your book to come out. Send us updates on when we can pre-order!! Happy Holidays! Mendy

  6. thanks for coming to my bog, saying hello and entering the giveaway. good luck

  7. Excellent tutorial Shona! I love how you describe and share photos as you go along...I'm off to hunt up some old board books...

  8. I love altered books for young and old! Thanks for this great tutorial!

  9. hey its gr8!!! i just love making these creative things...i would love if you upload some crafts with paper 3D effects ....

  10. Sooo cool!! I love your detailed explanation. I stopped over to check you out because "One part honey, two parts mama, and a whole lotta love" wrote about you in her blog. Awesome!! Thanks for sharing your tips and tools:)


Thank you for visiting The Artistic Life. I would love to hear your thoughts on art, writing, parenting, or anything else!


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Search This Blog