Make Your Own

Notebook Enhancements

Once you've made a few of the basic notebooks you'll begin to look for ways to enhance your sketching/journaling experience. Below are some ways you can modify your notebook and some of the things to watch for that I've learned in making my own.


Variety through paper

The most exciting thing about making your own notebooks is that you can choose the type of paper based on what you want to do with it.

Obviously bond paper is not the best paper for many creative types. But you can add variety by just choosing different colors and textures. You can find a great selection at your local office supply store or a specialty paper company.

Lately my favorite paper for my books has been coverstock. Index cardstock, coverstock, watercolor paper, etc. are just some of the possibilities.

Here are a few things to watch for when using thicker paper:

  1. You will have to cut down on the number of pages per signature. For instance while you used six folios to make one signature with 20# bond, you would use four folios per signature if you were using 110# index or 85# cover stock. Watercolor paper presents its own set of challenges and you'll have to experiment a bit to find what works for you but I make books with 140# (300gm) watercolor paper using three folios per signature.
  2. Paper has a grain just like wood, which means it folds easier in the direction of the grain than against the grain. What this means for your book is that the pages will stay closed (sometimes). Usually grain runs in the longest direction of the paper but the best way to check it is to "almost" fold it. If you are against the grain you get resistance to the fold and as the paper approaches the creasing stage it will "fracture" (look closely) in different directions rather than submitting to a fold. Grain is especially important with thicker papers. If for some reason you have to fold your folios against the grain you should first score the paper where you want to fold it using a blunt instrument like an empty ball point pen or a butter knife.
  3. As the thickness of the paper increases you should decrease the number of signaures per book. With 110# index and 85# cover I generally use 7 signatures instead of eight. And only six signatures for watercolor paper. You might like less. Have fun, experiment.


Cover choices

While my preference for covers is Naugahyde you have an infinite number of possibilities at your disposal: Cardstock, handmade papers, synthetic papers like Yupo, papyrus, leather, etc. The technique for putting the cover on is basically the same with all of these options. If you take a close look at how other books are made you will come up with not only different material choices but other ways to assemble covers. For example a typical book cover uses chipboard and a cloth wrap. This type of cover can be useful for a larger sized book giving you additional support. You can find more help with traditional bookbinding methods in any book on the subject.


Various sizes

Obviously the 3.5 x 5.5 inch size is not practical for every purpose. I don't have to tell you that the size of your books are limited only by the size of the paper you can find. The one thing to keep in mind: as the size of the book increase along the spine you will have to add more stitches to your signatures. A good rule of thumb is to space your holes between 2-3" apart depending on the size of your book.



I stole this idea from the Moleskine notebook design. This little pocket comes in handy for holding receipts, little scraps of paper, tickets, etc. It's really easy to make too. Add the pocket after your book is finished. Fold a sheet of cardstock so the final piece is a little smaller than the back cover. The sides of the pocket are made from stiff cloth ironed with a crease. Glue the side pieces just at the edges so the folder can open up when you need it. Once the side pieces are in place you can glue the folder to the inside of the back cover with the opening toward the spine.


Elastic fastener

Another Moleskine idea, although I've seen it used long before the Moleskine came out. This little piece of elastic (bought in the fabric section of your department store) holds the book together when carried around. Add this when you glue your cover to your endpaper. Just measure a piece of elastic that's a little shorter than double the height of your book. Wrap the elastic around the back of the cover and glue the ends on the inside of the back cover. Then glue the endpaper to the cover sandwiching the elastic between. Weight or press and let dry.

Remember if you enhance the design any please share your ideas with me and I'll post them here for the benefit of others.