Sunday, February 8, 2009

Faux-leather book covering v1.0

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on this technique, on the internet, for creating a faux-leather style book covering. I can't remember now where I saw it, but it was on one of the blogs that I frequent. Check out the article if you get the chance. The technique is amazingly simple, but the results are impressive. It consists primarily of taking a paper bag, crumpling it up and gluing it to the boards of your book; then painting it. That same article also turned me on to the use of "matte medium" (which is basically acrylic paint without the pigment) as a glue, primer, sealer, et all. Wonderful stuff.

Start by taking a paper bag (the lighter kind you get from a boutique, not the heavy kind you get from the grocer), and ripping/cutting it so it lays flat. Then trim it down to the size you will need to cover your book, leaving an inch or so of overhang an all sides for turning under. This technique is fairly forgiving, just make sure it is big enough. Then crumple up the paper bag a couple of times and flatten it back out again. Spread the matte medium over the entire surface of the paper (on one side) with a paintbrush. This is your glue. Go ahead and soak it down pretty good. Then apply the paper bag to the thing you want to cover, glue side facing the item. For my first attempt, I used a commercially available 5x8 blank book. To get the "veins" effect you see here, I scrunched up the paper a bit with my fingers, wrinkling it a little, as I applied it to the book. Then wrap the overhang around the edges of the boards, like a present. Tucking it in around the spine is the trickiest part. The rest is pretty easy. don't forget to put it in a book press while it dries (or cover it with wax paper and weigh it down with some encyclopedias) to prevent the water in the glue from warping the book boards.

At this point, it looks like a paper bag, glued to a book (which, it is). After it is dry, you can paint it any way you want. I experimented with a new technique that I just sort of thought of a few weeks ago (though real artists will likely be saying "Duh", again). I used a sponge to apply a base coat of black acrylic paint. Then, when it was dry, I applied a dark red in the same way, making sure to let some of the black show through. At this point it was looking a little less like a paper bag, but still wasn't very impressive. Finally, I dry brushed a brighter red and some silver across the whole thing. That's what really made it come together. Once the dry brushing was done, I was actually quite impressed with the results.

Before painting, I cut out a pentagram from a piece of thin cardboard and white-glued it to the front cover. I painted it along with the rest of the cover, but gave it a final dry brushing of gold paint to make it stand out. My last step was to install new end papers to hide the wrap around from the new cover. I used a black card-stock. I plan to make several more of these to sell in my shop. I also plan to incorporate this new technique into some of my upcoming projects. This was my first attempt at this, so I'm still experimenting, but I expect to make good use of it in the near future.


  1. I love it! Very cool. Another couple things that you might want to check into are Weathered Stone and Wood Icing. Weathered Stone can make things look like cut stone and Wood Icing looks just like it's name. A great place to check these out is at

  2. If you put a sheet of thin card under the paper bag, and cut the pentangle out of that (before you stuck it all down) it would would look like embossed leather when the paper was stuck down over it!

  3. I think your impressive results speak for themselves. I've done the faux-leather application with torn up paper towels and a mix of white glue and paint before, but I never realized you could get great results with just a single sheet of heavy paper. Your technique is going to be a huge benefit to anyone crafting a tome.