Whether you’re a prolific reader or prefer to just dip in and out of the latest bestseller, you probably have a few books stacking up on shelves or in the corner of the room.

But instead of letting them gather dust for the rest of eternity, put on your crafting hat and dive into repurposing and reusing your volumes as unique book art. Fold pages to create shapes or monograms or play with cutouts and painted designs to highlight the words on the paper. Altered books can give your growing collection a new lease of life.

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Folded Book Art

Turning your hardbacks into book wall art might seem like quite an ask, but it’s easier than you might think. 

Unlike painted book art, folded pages don’t have to be permanent. If you make a mistake, it’s simple to go back and fix it before moving on with your next fold. Take a few classes in book folding art for beginners to build your confidence before moving onto more complex designs and techniques.

Book Folding Art Tools

The supplies for your book page folding art will depend on the type of project you’re working on and what you want to do with your art when you’ve finished. A few of the basics you’ll need are:

  • An old book
  • A pencil
  • A pattern to follow

Keep a ruler on hand to align your folds correctly. If you’re planning to hang your artwork, buy a ball of string to thread through the spine once you’ve finished.

For symmetrical designs, you can work freehand. A simple technique of folding the outer edge of the page to the inside seam, then tucking in the corners, will leave you with a uniform finish.

Two hands folding the pages of an open book on a wooden table. Several of the pages are artfully folded to create the beginnings of a geometric pattern.
Folding pages in half and at the corners is an easy first project for beginner book artists. Still from Skillshare Class How to Fold Books – For Beginners by Gitte Lykke

When you’re ready for more complicated designs, a book art folding pattern will help you to stay on track. There’s thousands online, from every letter of the alphabet to animals, flowers, and even the outline of your home state.

Picking A Book For Folding Art

Have you ever pulled off the dust jacket of a hardback book? The crisp cloth cover and embossed letters along the spine make a stunning canvas to work from.

Traditionally, book pages are glued during the binding process, but hardbacks are often stitched at the spine too. This makes them more sturdy, since they’ll go on to have a heavier cover attached than a paperback book.

For large folded book art projects, using a hardback provides the structural support to keep your artwork together. If you choose to keep the cover attached, your finished piece will be freestanding and won’t need extra embellishments like string or a stand to keep it upright.

A woman holding a half-cylinder book art piece with two photographs stuck into the top. She is seated at a desk featuring several books and additional book art examples surrounding her. Behind her is a wall covered in framed artwork.
Your folded page book art can be used as more than a decorative piece, from photo stands to centerpieces. Still from Skillshare Class How to Fold Books – For Beginners by Gitte Lykke

Any book above 400 pages should work for your folded art, but 600-900 page books are best for more delicate patterns. Remember, the more pages you have, the more folds you can make.

Beyond Folding: Altered Book Ideas

Once you’ve mastered how to make folding book art, you’re ready to move onto more intricate projects for upcycling your favorite literature. 

There’s endless potential when it comes to transforming an old or damaged book. In fact, if you’re already fairly crafty, you can repurpose those skills and apply them to your book art too.

Gather Inspiration

Before you start drawing all over your old books or cutting out pages, you need to know what your end goal is. Inspiration can come from anywhere. 

The title of the book could be a jumping off point for what you want the design to look like. For instance, an old copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could inspire a dark and moody painting, with stars and planets dotted across the pages.

Or maybe your childhood favorite, The Wind in the Willows, will have you cutting your book pages into a cute hedgehog or painting a dapper portrait of Mr. Toad.

Using your supplies as a source of inspiration works well for projects where you’re keeping the cover attached. But you can be as creative as you’d like when it comes to your finalized design. 

When you’re stuck for ideas, turn to sites like Pinterest and search for keywords around a topic you might be interested in. Vintage postcards give you hundreds of options and match well with old and damaged books to give a historic feel to your art.

Examples of Altered Book Art

Create a hypnotizing effect in your altered book art by cutting out sections of pages  and painting around the edges. Altered book artist Isobelle Ouzman shows just how easy it can be to make this type of art in their Skillshare class, Books Become Art: Create Your Own Altered Book.

An open book, painted black and brown, with the pages cut out to create a deep hole design on the right side.
Cutting and painting your old books can create stunning works of art. Still from Skillshare Class Books Become Art: Create Your Own Altered Book by Isobelle Ouzman

Your altered book art doesn’t always have to highlight what the book once was. Instead, you can simply use the book as your canvas and repurpose it into a journal or sketchbook.

Page of an old book, painted over in white. Green plants and flowers decorate handwritten notes on the page.
Book pages can be painted to create a surface for designing and journaling. Student project by Olivia after taking Skillshare class How To Start An Altered Book Art Journal by Grace Mendez.

Word and Page Art

While keeping your book together lends itself well to certain types of altered book projects, that doesn’t mean you can’t reuse other pieces of your collection. 

Repurposing Book Pages and Scraps For Art

There’s a good chance some of your books have loose or completely torn-out pages, particularly when you’re using old volumes. They might initially look like scraps, not useful for anything but the recycling trash can. 

But these pieces of once-loved books can become alternative canvas ideas for paintings, sketches, or other paper crafts to frame and display around your home.

An old book page, painted over with a design of two acrobats performing.
Vintage postcards can stir up inspiration for your book art. Still from Skillshare Class Drawing On Old Book Pages by Angie Vourtsi.

If you feel like your drawing skills won’t do your pages justice, creating collage art out of your paper scraps is an alternative way to make your own book art. 

Along with your book pages, collect any other materials you’d like to use—fabric, different types of craft paper, or natural elements like twigs and leaves all work well. Once you’ve gathered everything, lay it all out on top of your pages and start gluing pieces down.

An art collage made from an old book page, twine, gold paper, and green and red fabric.
For new artists, collages are a fun way to test out book art without any fear of mistakes. Still from Skillshare class Creative College – Using Bits, Scraps, and Left Over Art by Denise Love.

Feeling festive as the holidays approach? Turn your loose book pages into decorations like garlands, tree ornaments, or handmade cards. Skillshare instructor Nina Vangerow shows how simple it can be to make Scandi-inspired holiday crafts using only cardboard, glue, string, and your old pages.

Paper stars made from old book pages, laying on a wooden table. Surrounded by fake snow and pine cones.
Book paper stars can be made easily using cardboard and old paper scraps. Still from Skillshare class Minimalist Style Seasonal Decorations – Turn Old Books Into Star Garlands and Star Covered Wreaths by Nina Vangerow.

How To Display Book Art 

Once you’ve invested a few hours in creating your unique pieces of art, you need somewhere to show them off! 

Wall Art

Painting of a zebra and seal performing a circus trick on an old book page. Framed and against a striped background.
Adding patterned paper behind your book art can give it contrast once framed. Still from Skillshare Class Drawing On Old Book Pages by Angie Vourtsi.

Painting or drawing on loose book pages makes framing your finished work much easier. Choose a simple black or white frame, or add a contrasting piece of craft paper behind your work to make the vibrant colors stand out more.

Where you choose to hang your book art will depend on the style you’ve chosen to use. A circus or animal theme would work well for a nursery or child’s bedroom, whereas a food-based scene wouldn’t look out of place on the wall of your kitchen or dining room.

Table Centerpieces

Five different folded book art designs sitting on a table.
Folded book art can be used as centerpieces or decorations around your home. Still from Skillshare Class How to Fold Books – For Beginners by Gitte Lykke.

Impress your guests at your next dinner party with a handmade centerpiece. You don’t have to craft your folded book art into any particular shape to look elegant, but a few beginner folds work particularly well.

A semi-circular cylinder can hold pictures or a menu to add a personal touch, while mini versions could be used as matching placeholders for name cards. For a fun holiday talking point, a fan shape can quickly be transformed into a Thanksgiving turkey with some pipe cleaner legs, felt, and a couple of googly eyes.


Come full circle by using your finished designs as decorative bookends. Approach this one cautiously, though. 

Folded book art usually isn’t stable enough to be used as a bookend alone, so you’ll want to buy some small metal ends to actually hold your books upright. Once you have those in place, you can prop your book art at each end to give your little library a literary facelift.

Get Your Creative Calendar All Booked Up!

There’s so much you can do with books once you’ve finished reading them, and all it requires is a little patience and creativity. 

No matter what type of book art you make, your new skills will help you preserve your favorite fiction for years to come.

Written by:

Holly Landis