7 “Novel” Ways to Use Old Books in Your Artwork

by Stampington & Company

We'll make a confession — we love to cut up books. It may sound barbaric, but there is something immensely satisfying about cutting up a book that you were forced to read in school, or a book that you totally hated. These books find new life in mixed-media canvas, card making projects, and art journal pages. No scrap goes to waste and beautiful artwork is created in the process.

Best Places to Find Old Books:

  • Thrift Shops
  • Library Sales
  • Flea Markets
  • Estate Sales
  • Your Bookshelf!

We know what you’re thinking — a true book lover can never destroy a book! These books all had a long life before they were repurposed and they were frayed, tattered, and ready for the trash heap. There are some books that are off limits (Jane Austen will never meet her end like this), but these mangled books are finding a new way to share beauty with the world, and we think that excuses the desecration of a few novels. Here are some amazing ways that Stampington artists have transformed books into extraordinary pieces of artwork.

1. Backgrounds

Book pages and text can provide an excellent backdrop for your artwork. White-wash the page with a little gesso or leave the beautiful antique look of the page out on display.

Enjoy the Little Things Project

Enjoy the Little Things Project

Artwork by Lynne Moncrieff

Artwork by Lynne Moncrieff

Inside Somerset Apprentice Autumn 2016

Artwork by Autumn Simmons Clark

Artwork by Autumn Simmons Clark

Inside The Stampers’ Sampler Spring 2016

Artwork by Cheryl Dossey

Artwork by Cheryl Dossey

Inside Somerset Studio Sep/Oct 2016

Wander Canvas Project

Wander Canvas Project

Finding Roots and Wings Project

Finding Roots and Wings Project

Leave a Little Sparkle Project by Sarah Donawerth

Leave a Little Sparkle Project by Sarah Donawerth

2. Altered Book Art Journals

If you have a book with only minor shelf wear and are looking for a way to breathe new life into it, an altered book art journal may be the perfect place to start. For these pages, the text peeks through the paint just a bit to add texture and interest to the page.

TIME Art Journal Page

That Look of Otherness Art Journal Page

That Look of Otherness Art Journal Page Project by Sarah Donawerth

Ways to Use Old Books in Your Artwork

Glittering Eyes Art Journal

3. Embellishments and Cut Shapes

Book text can provide instant texture and pattern to your artwork. Use a paper punch or die cut machine to create beautiful patterned shapes that will accent the work, or tear, rip, and shred book text to provide a mixed-media touch to your next project.

Artwork by Kasia Krzyminska

Artwork by Kasia Krzyminska

Inside Art Journaling Summer 2015

Love's Delight Valentine's Day Cards ProjectLove’s Delight Card Project

Artwork by Darlene Maciuba-Koppel

Artwork by Darlene Maciuba-Koppel

Inside Somerset Life Winter 2017

4. Resin Paper Jewelry

Resin paper is addictive to make and easy to use in jewelry making. Simply mix resin according to the instructions and paint it over the paper to create this durable, semi-translucent paper that can for all projects, from mixed-media to jewelry making.

Artwork by Lynne Moncrieff

Artwork by Lynne Moncrieff

Inside GreenCraft Magazine Spring 2017

Resin Paper Necklace Project

Resin Paper Necklace Project

5. Book Clutches

Once you’ve gutted a few books, repurpose the covers into a book clutch that’s big enough to house your wallet, or even your tablet. Install a zipper so that you can zip it up and take it anywhere.

Artwork by Paige Kline

Artwork by Paige Kline

Inside Haute Handbags Autumn 2016

6. Wallpaper

Feeling extra adventurous? Don't save your book pages just for little projects -- use it as wallpaper! Use a wallpaper paste and a clear acrylic sealer to preserve your favorite stories on your walls forever.

Studio by Carol Darilek

Carol Darilek papered the side of her island with book pages for her home studio.

Inside Where Women Create Spring 2017

7. Book Sculptures

Paper doesn’t have to be flat. These artists created assemblage art sculptures using the pages of a book.

Artwork by Su Blackwell

Artwork by Su Blackwell

Inside Somerset Studio Jul/Aug 2016

Artwork by Elizabeth Howard

Artwork by Elizabeth Howard

Inside  Art Doll Quarterly Spring 2016

What’s your favorite way to use books in your artwork? Leave a comment below!