How to Make an Altered Book

Things You'll Need

  • Any old or new book
  • Paper adhesives, decoupage glue or glue stick
  • Embellishments to add to the artwork
  • Scissors and/or X-Acto knife
  • Photos or magazine pictures
  • Paint

An altered book is any book recycled to make a work of art. Though used hardcover books are the most frequent sources of inspiration, any book, old or new, can be the basis for this art form. Artists cut, paint, paste, fold, rebind and add collages to make an ordinary book extraordinary. Known as mixed-media art, this technique alters the book's form into different form or meaning.

Find the perfect book. Hardcover books work well because they are sturdier. Old books can be found at library sales, bargain bins in bookstores, garage sales and thrift stores. Children's books are great for altered books.

Decide on a theme for the work. This is an artistic effort, so the theme is entirely up to the artist. The book itself may suggest a theme, or you may decide to make your theme a parody or comment on the subject of the book. Some artists choose their books for their appearance alone and alter it to the point that the subject of the book can no longer be seen.

Choose your materials. Collect all the materials you would like to use in creating your book. Some artists decide how they will use the materials, while some artists create as they go.

Glue pages together in groups. For instance, if the book has 100 pages, glue the pages together as 10 groups of 10. This allows you to have a thicker canvas to work on. Some artists choose to remove pages to make room for thicker material. Paperclip the pages together until they are dry. If working with a theme, decide which text should be displayed before gluing the pages.

Decorate the pages. Be creative and showcase your skills as an artist. Some artists use acrylic paint or watercolors while others make collages of old game pieces, fabric, rubber stamps and more. Cutout pictures from magazines and photographs may be used as well.

Work in layers. Paint a page, then add collage materials or vice versa. Pages should be full and offer a lot for the eye to find.

Decorate the covers and spine. Bring your theme to the covers and spine. Since this is the sturdiest part of most books, the covers and spine can often hold heavier or more elaborate embellishments.


  • Make a mini altered book to start if the project seems too daunting.

    Apply a thin coat of gesso or board chalk on pages to keep them from wrinkling.

    For magazine clips, soak the picture for a few seconds in water, and then blot with a paper towel before gluing to your page to prevent wrinkling.

    For photographs, make a copy of the photo and keep the original. Try not to use ink jet printers so the colors do not bleed when painted or glued.

    Use a heat gun or hair dryer to dry your pages before adding the next layer of artwork.


  • Make sure you're not using on a valuable book.