Have you ever wanted to redesign the cover of a book you love? Well, no need to wait for those publishers to call because you can make your very own hardcover at home with just a few supplies and a bit of time (It won't be on the shelf at Barnes & Noble but you can show it to everyone that comes over your house). I'm going to walk you through all of the steps to turn your designs into actual covers and tell you about some things I've learned in the process that will hopefully make your life easier when you get started.
(For the book construction and to refresh my memory on book making, I referenced a post by Katie Steuernagle "How to Turn Old Paperbacks into Custom Hardbacks" from Apartment Therapy: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/old-paperbacks-to-custom-hardb-124005)
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
- Glue stick
- PVA glue (plus brush or whatever you can use to spread the glue)
- Pencil for measuring
- Book cloth (in whatever color you want. I chose linen)
- Thick cardboard (the best kind for this will be white but you can also glue white printer paper to regular brown cardboard)
- Box-cutter or heavy X-acto blade (to cut through cardboard)
- White gaffer tape
- Regular tape
- Inkjet printer
- A piece of 8.5"x11" card stock that will go through the printer.
- Book binding headband (optional, if your book spine is very bendy)
LET'S DO THIS!
Step 1: Pick a book and measure it
You'll need to measure the size of the cover and the spine separately and then add .25" to the width and height of both the spine and each cover (this will be the size of your new cover). Do yourself a favor and draw these measurements out on a post-it so you don't get confused later. The extra space is added so that the hardcover sticks out a bit past the interior pages and is not flush to them.
Step 2: The best part, design!
This is the most time consuming part, at least it was for me. I knew I wanted a lettered cover with some illustrations so I made a few sketches before choosing the final direction. This project was done for my husband so I let him pick the final design he wanted on the book. I then redrew a full-sized version of it and inked it with a pen to scan into my computer. You'll need to digitize your design in Photoshop and/or Illustrator and place it into a measured template: set up guides on an 8.5"x11" document to indicate the height and width of the cover and spine, as it would look folded out. The size of the document depends on what you want to design - mine was just front and spine (nothing on the back) and both fit on an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper. If you wanted to do the back, too, and it doesn't fit on a letter size sheet, you may need to design on an 11"x17" document and modify the printing steps, but I'll mention it later on. For digitizing, I cleaned up the scan in Photoshop a bit and then just Live Traced it in Illustrator. It was a simple one-color illustration so I didn't need to do much to it.
Keep in mind: .5" of the width of the cover will be used to wrap around to the spine (It will NOT have the cardboard under it). You can set up this extra guide in your document and try to not have any integral design elements in it. But overall, you can center your design on the entire width of the cover.
Step 3: Prep the book cloth
Assuming your book is a standard size, cut a 11"x17" piece of cloth from your roll (just make sure that this piece will be able to cover the entire outside of the book with about an inch of space on each of the four sides to wrap around)
Step 4: Prep the cloth for printing
Take an 8.5"x11" card stock and measure off about an inch from the top (you need this to make sure that the printer can grab the sheet). Ok kids, now pick up your glue sticks... (who here hasn't used a glue stick since grade school? 🙋), and attach the cloth to the cardboard, wrapping it around to glue on both sides of the paper. You'll be unsticking it after printing so don't worry about it not sticking all that well. Tape all of the edges with regular tape so that everything is smooth to the paper and no strings are hanging loose.
(This step might be different if your overall design doesn't fit on a letter sized paper. To make sure that everything is perfectly aligned, you may need to use a tabloid sheet of cardstock and tape the entire piece of fabric on one side of it to put through the printer.)
Step 5: Let's print!!
My whole design fit onto one side of this sheet so I only needed to run it through my inkjet once.
Keep in mind: The ink on the cloth will be a bit wet at first so be careful not to rub your hands on it because it will spread a little and you'll have colored fingers. It's easy enough to take off when the ink spreads by using some tape to pick up the stray marks, it'll come up like lint.
Step 6: Create your cover skeleton
Use a box-cutter or an X-acto blade to cut out the spine and two covers from a cardboard based on your measurements in Step 1. (You can always do Steps 6 and 7 first and then design your cover after.)
Step 7: Connect the cardboard pieces
This is kind of a two part process, but what I did first was take a plain sheet of paper and cut out two 1" wide strips and used a glue stick to attach them between the spine and each cover. Then, I took some white gaffer tape and put it right over that to secure everything. (The paper helps the opposite side of the tape to not be sticky). Gaffer tape is great for this because it's a heavy cotton cloth tape and is very sticky, so it will bend nicely and never come off.
Step 8: Glue your printed cloth to the hardcover
I used PVA glue with a big wide brush and glued the front cover first, making sure everything is aligned and taut. Make sure that you have at least an inch of cloth hanging off the sides. Then I glued the spine, followed by the back cover. I used a bone folder to press the cloth against the cardboard but you can use your hands or a credit card. Just make sure, again, not to rub the printed design because it may come off on your hands. When done gluing, cut out little triangles over each corner like pictured below.
Step 9: Wrap the cloth around to the back of the cardboard
Glue the top and bottom first. Then fold over the little pieces that will stick out on the sides and glue the sides.
Step 10: Attach your new cover to the book
Almost done here! All you have to do now is glue your newly created hard cover to your book. (Say your proper goodbyes to the original cover because it will be permanently covered now.) Just brush the PVA glue directly onto the book and attach. I started with the front cover and then moved on to the spine and the back, but since our original paperback had a very bent spine, it ended up not attaching too well. So, if your original book spine is not very straight and rigid, don't bother gluing it at all. If you want to make it look really professional, attach a book binding headband to the outside edges of the spine (see image below for reference). This way, if you're not gluing the spine, it will look really clean and nice when it bends under the hard cover. And for brownie points, you can get a really nice colored ribbon and attach it in between the original spine and the headband to make a bookmark! (I'm so doing this for my next book!)
TADA! Your very own custom hardcover design! On a book! Happy reading (but only after you let it sit for a day or two before opening it up)