Introduction: How to Bind Your Own Hardback Book

Picture of How to Bind Your Own Hardback Book

The art of book binding is an ancient craft, but actually it is not very difficult to do and with almost no practice you can get really awesome results. If you are on the lookout for fun craft projects or quick ways of making nice presents and gifts, then this could be the project for you.

I know that there are other Instructables on the art of book binding but this project is meant to be a simple quick project that will give a very acceptable finish, and a book that looks like it has been professionally made, yet without the need for any special equipment.

All you will need is:

Some paper
Minimum really is about 32 A4 or US Letter sized sheets, to make a half A4 (half US Letter sized book), although smaller books can be made as can ones with more pages. You can use tracing paper, thick or thin paper and of course colored or even preprinted or written on paper.

Some glue
You will need PVA (Elmer's White glue) or a rubber fabric adhesive (in the UK that is called Copydex, perhaps someone could tell me what it's called in the US), (a glue gun if you have it, would help with one of the stages, but is not mandatory).

Some stiff cardboard or corrugated (fluted) cardboard

Some fabric or leather
Any old stuff will do for the cover. I have used the fabric from some old pairs of trousers that were being thrown out (actually nothing gets thrown out in my house, just put to one side for later use). But you could use a bit of leather, some old curtains, cushion covers...etc etc, I'm sure you get the idea.

Step 1: Stack Your Paper Neatly in (at Least 4) Piles of 8 Sheets

Picture of Stack Your Paper Neatly in (at Least 4) Piles of 8 Sheets

You are going to be binding your paper in eight sheet folios. Of course you could do more or less. I have found eight sheets to be a good number. because you are folding it in half each sheet is going to make four pages of your book, so this eight sheet stack is going to make 32 pages.

Your book should have at least four of these eight sheet folios which will therefore make 128 pages. (Apologies to all the maths wizards out there).

You can use just plain paper or paper upon which you have already printed a header and footer (remember to get this the right way round and remember that there will be 4 headers and four footers per sheet of paper.

If you want to mix in different papers then remember that they will appear further into the book as well. (don't worry, this all becomes obvious as we go through the project).

Step 2: Fold Each Stack in Half

Picture of Fold Each Stack in Half

As neatly as possible and keeping the paper as lined up as possible, fold each pile of eight sheets in half cross-wise.

Step 3: Unfold the Paper and Turn Over

Picture of Unfold the Paper and Turn Over

Making sure you keep the paper nice and straight, unfold each stack of eight sheets, and turn over.

Step 4: Staple the Pages Together

Picture of Staple the Pages Together

I have a long arm stapler ("bully for you", I hear you say), but if you don't have one of those, then no worries, just do the following:

Open out your stapler

Place the upturned paper stack on top of an eraser (positioned where you want to staple - which will be about two inches (5 cm) from the edge of the page exactly on the crease) and slowly but firmly push down on the stapler until you have stapled through the pages.

Turn the pages over, pull off the eraser and then fold over the staple ends with the blunt end of a dinner knife or your thumb nail, being careful not to break it / stab yourself.

Repeat at the other end of the crease so that each page has just two staples in it.

If you, like me, have a long arm stapler, simply staple the eight sheet stack in two places... I knew there was a good reason for borrowing that thing from work.

Step 5: Glue the Binding Onto the Folios

Picture of Glue the Binding Onto the Folios

You are now going to make the heart of the book. You have made at least four of the eight sheet / 32 page folios and they need to be stuck together.

Firstly , cut a piece of thin fabric to the same length as the page height and about five times the thickness of all the folios held together.

Hold the folios tightly together and all lined up. Either get a friend to help or clip the folios together using giant paper clips or bull dog clips (or even a rubber band I guess).

When they are all nicely aligned apply glue to just the spines of the folios. You can use white glue for this (this was what white glue was originally made for BTW) but you must be careful not to let it drip down in to the gaps between the folios (maybe painting the fabric would be better.) Alternatively you can use hot melt for this part. Again, hot melt is used in industry for book binding, so it is perfect for the job.

Before it has a chance to set, quickly turn over the wad of folios and glue them to the piece of fabric so that some fabric sticks out each side (i.e. so that not all of the fabric is glued to the pages)

Step 6: Trim the Bound Folios

Picture of Trim the Bound Folios

As Fugazzi has pointed out, you may be able to get your bound pages trimmed by a proper guillotine at your local one stop print or copy shop. Failing that read on...

If you want (and you don't have to) you can trim the folios a tiny bit. Beware that the first time you do this you might end up making more of a mess of the edge of the paper than if you just left it. It takes a bit of practice and a sharp craft knife or scalpel (definitely NOT something for children to do on their own).

If you want to trim, then the most important edge to trim is the edge opposite the binding, because when the paper is folded over all the pages get to be slightly different lengths depending on where they are in the folio stack.

The trick is to hold the rule very steady and take many repeated cuts being careful to cut in the same groove and try to make sure that at each cut the paper on at least one layer is cut from edge to edge. (BTW I know that the drawing I have done to illustrate this step does not show this method of trimming multiple sheets, but it is meant to be a bit figurative anyway).

If you have access to a proper guillotine that can cut through paper stacks (i.e. at work or at school) then this is the time to use that, it will give you the most awesome finish).

Trimming is by no means necessary.

Trimming or not, you have now finished the paper part of the book and it's time to move on to the cover...

Step 7: Mark and Cut Out the Cover Boards

Picture of Mark and Cut Out the Cover Boards

Place the bound folios on a piece of stiff card so that the bound edge lines up with one straight edge and then draw round the paper allowing about a quarter of an inch / 5 mm border on the three other edges.

Cut the card out and then cut a duplicate.

Corrugated card is fine as the cover, as is thin foam core (foamboard), but the best kind of card is the stiff card that is used as the backing for drawing and sketching pads.

Step 8: Make the Book Spine

Picture of Make the Book Spine

Loosely assemble the bound paper and the covers. Pressing them together, measure their combined thickness and mark off on a piece of scrap card.

Cut the spine so that it is the thickness of the covers and the paper together and the same length as the height of the book covers.

Step 9: Mark and Cut the Material

Picture of Mark and Cut the Material

Position the book covers and the spine on the reverse of your chosen fabric or leather and mark out so that there is a border of about  one inch (25 mm) all round.

Cut out the material.

As already mentioned, you can use any material you want really, although very thick material will be difficult to fold and glue (but hey, who knows how patient and skilled you are?).

Actually, I used material from a pair of my ex-wife's linen (Toast) trousers, thought I might give her the book as a Christmas present in an ironic sort of way... don't worry only joking and she had thrown them out anyway...

Step 10: Glue the Cover Board and Spine in Place

Picture of Glue the Cover Board and Spine in Place

Using white glue or rubber solution glue, smear an even coating over the boards and place face down on the wrong side of the material (i.e. the side of the material that you don't normally see, which has the pattern the wrong way round etc. etc).

Make sure you stick them neatly in a row so that they are aligned with each other and straight and that there is a gap of about one or two thicknesses of the card you are using between the spine and each of the cover boards.

Step 11: Finish the Edges of the Cover

Picture of Finish the Edges of the Cover

Smear an even layer of white or rubber glue round the edge of the boards and fold the material over the board to cover the edge. Work on one edge at a time. Do opposite ends first and then fold the other sides over on top so that all the folds go the same way. Make a neat job of the corners. If you are using thick material, you may well have to cut away some of the material that is going to be hidden under the fold-over to stop the corners getting too bulky.

Step 12: Glue the Paper Into the Covers

Picture of Glue the Paper Into the Covers

Things are starting to shape up now.

Smear some white glue (or rubber solution glue) in two stripes down the middle edges of the cover boards being careful not to get any glue on the spine board.

Then place the bound paper wad so that it is centrally resting on the spine board and ONLY the thin cotton "wings" are glued to the cover boards.

The spine should NOT be glued to the cotton-covered bound paper wad, although you should make sure that it IS properly glued to the cover boards right up to their edges, because this is the join that makes the book strong and stops the page block falling out of the cover.

It is best if you wait for this part to dry before moving on to the next step. It is probably a good idea to leave the book lying on its back with the paper was supported by to food cans while it dries, because, if you leave it to dry closed, bits of it might stick together that you don't want sticking together.

Step 13: Cut Out Your Lining Paper

Picture of Cut Out Your Lining Paper

Your book is nearly finished. Functionally it is already a hard back book, however the next step will make it look like a real book and cover up all the bits of folded over material.

For the lining paper you can use almost any type of paper. Traditionally marbled paper was used. Now you can make this yourself (hey, I feel another Instructable coming on already) or buy it in sheet form from most good craft shops, or download a sheet of marbled paper from my site (where you'll see loads of other projects just like this). Or alternatively you can use a bit of old gift wrapping paper, or even just plain old brown packing paper. Be as creative as you can. The lining paper is like the lining of an expensive suit... hidden until it is revealed by someone opening it...

Ideally, you want the lining paper to be a fraction smaller than the paper wad's height so that you can line it up neatly and twice as long as the paper wad's width so that it covers the inside of the hard cover. (See next step).

Step 14: Glue the Lining in Place

Picture of Glue the Lining in Place

Fold the lining paper sheet in half crosswise.

Smear the inside of the cover and the first page with white glue or rubber solution glue.

Carefully place one half of the folded lining paper on the glued first page so that it lines up neatly with the edge of the paper. Then making sure that it goes in to the corner of the join between the paper and the cover, fold the liner out and glue it to the inside of the cover so that it covers up all the folded over material and the inside of the cardboard covers.

Repeat for the back of the book.

That's it... you're done!

If the first paper goes a bit wrinkly as it dries out, wait for at least a day for it to dry really thoroughly and then iron over the page using a medium hot iron. It won't get all the wrinkles out but it will make the page a whole lot flatter and just try to use a bit less glue for the next book.

Step 15: Experiment and Make Loads of Different Books

Picture of Experiment and Make Loads of Different Books

Make books as presents, make them for school, make them for friends. Keep a pictorial journal, you never know, one day you might be famous, then think, how cool would it be when they unearth your journal, which is not only full of angst and perceptive youthful insights into the unfairness of it all, but is also embodied in a book that you yourself made and not some cheap (or expensive) notebook or diary that you bought from the store like millions of other people.

I have made a couple more so far. I made the jeans one with a pocket after my niece, Josie suggested that I use the pockets from the trousers for pens and stuff... neat I thought, and it seems to work rather well.

See what you can come up with and if you make something you like, why not post the images here or email them to me and I will put them up on line on dadcando


GLRoth (author)2018-01-15

What kind of paper should I use for a child's book?

LunarNoire. (author)2018-01-07

How much spacing is used between the spine and cover board?

CassandraL24 made it! (author)2017-12-29

Used this method to make a five-year journal. It was simple and easy to follow and the hardest part was waiting for the glue to dry. I used some art board from Hobby Lobby for my covers/spine and created my printed pages in Google Docs. There are a few things I changed in my process and a few things I will change when I make my husband's journal.

Things I changed this time:

- I stitched my pages together instead of stapling them. An inch into the page on each side I made a half-inch stitch and doubled it up before tying off on the edge that gets glued.

- Because step 10 shows so much space between the spine and the covers, I left about a quarter inch space between them when I glued. This led to a huge gap between my spine and the binding. To fix this I simply pinched the spine in tight and stitched the loose fabric where the spine and cover meet. I did this after I glued my lining in, but it didn't make too much of an issue since I used bad glue on the lining and was able to tighten it up a little.

- I cut feathers out of another fabric and glued them on to the cover fabric.

Things I will change next time:

- I will only put about 1-2mm of space between the covers and spine when gluing them to my fabric. Then I won't have to stitch them.

- On my first and last group of pages I want to try adding an additional blank page and gluing that to the covers along with the binding. I'll then paste the lining over the two blank pages. What I hope this will do is make the covers a little tighter to the pages as well as give my lining a cleaner look. We'll see if it works out okay.

- I will not use dollar store spray adhesive. My lining is very poorly attached because I bought cheap spray adhesive and decided to use that for my lining. Despite applying pressure to the lining and letting it dry overnight, it still got wrinkles and is peeling at the edges. As it peels, I'm fixing it with Elmers, which I used for the rest of the project.

OliviaB56 (author)2017-11-28

What kind of thing should I use for the cover board?? Doing this for a school project and the steps are easy to follow just not sure what to use for the cover board

CelinaT4 (author)OliviaB562017-12-10

for me I cut open an old binder and used that since I couldn't go out to shop for anything

dominicparson2023 (author)2017-12-04

it was interesting.

The PizzaGuy (author)2016-12-08

I have a question. Is it necessary to staple it? I mean, can't you just stick it straight into the cover?

Nkemdilim (author)The PizzaGuy2017-11-01

You could sew it (which is what I did); I sued fishing line. It worked like a charm :-)

Not really. Because the pages are folded together, the pages inside the ones you glued would fall out. Even books you buy, the pages are sewn together before binding

Nkemdilim made it! (author)2017-10-30

Your step by step directions were amazing and easy to follow.

I am very proud of my first attempt from this past weekend. My children also enjoyed helping.

We made two scrap books for their mid-term school projects and they blew everyone away in school today.

I look forward to perfecting the art and learning more from you :-)

jonat6 (author)2017-10-30

im going to try this,, im planning to make a planner,, hope it really works,, any suggestion on what board is good to use,, i try once the illustration board but its too hard to fold,,

marcus.vandorn (author)2017-10-26


LadyBaltimore (author)2017-09-01

I really like your tutorial. Thanks for sharing it. Time to to make some books! :-)

Crafty_Girl28 (author)2017-08-14

I made this as a notebook for me and my friend it turned out pretty good. Thanks! I can't post a photo though cause I don't have the notebook anymore

jpedrofaria (author)2017-02-06

Although not this exact project, i've made several book binded at home and share KaptinScarlet oppinion that using something made by us is an extra motive to be proud!

dalemaley (author)2017-01-01

I really like your illustrations!

I used your process, plus some of the process illustrated by Crafty Loops on her Youtube Videos, to bind my first book. Mainly, I used sewing to bind the signatures together instead of staples. Thanks!

T0BY (author)2016-12-06


wolfgirl96 (author)2016-11-20

Thanks! best tutorial ive found! Ive made 2 books with it in the past but don't have tem anymore, and didn't take pictures :( BUT I plan on making 5 more for Christmas using homemade paper and a suede cover. they are gonna be the magic tomes from skyrim ^^ ill try to post pictures when they are done!!!!!!

wolfgirl96 (author)wolfgirl962016-11-20

Also I wanted to ask what you have found to be the best fabrics (or fabric qualities ie thick, flexible, stiff) to use for the covers as I wanted to make some hand bound BoS as well.

Rana311 made it! (author)2016-08-15

Great tutorial!

WILDR1 (author)Rana3112016-11-18

I like :3 very much good

Ninja Turtle2204 made it! (author)2016-10-19

Lol this is fun.

WILDR1 (author)Ninja Turtle22042016-11-18


WILDR1 (author)2016-11-18

much wow. thank u

JDRocker (author)2015-08-02

It's called rubber cement in the US. You can get it from any craft store anywhere in almost any size you want. I even have a travel size one for my desk.

dianecroyle (author)JDRocker2016-05-21

Rubber cement is not archival. Eventually it will yellow and lose its hold. (Great stuff, it simply does not last forever.)

jcislowski (author)dianecroyle2016-10-19

Statements over the archival status of an adhesive is rather redundant to be made in passing. The usage of adhesives isn't as simple as stating use a PVA glue which is suitable in most cases for archive purposes. But is doesn't account for the requirements of the object in its lifetime or future manipulation in archive. It is a big topic and one where there exists continued academic and trade level discourse.

JDRocker, PVA is a usually a better choice when working with paper and books and likely a safer bet if a book is to exist into the future. It isn't entirely reversible from the paper but it isn't likely to fail either.

AileenM (author)2015-02-17

hi, ok so i'd like to make already printed on paper into a book for my friend, but i'm not sure how to make it so the pages are in order so if you could tell me any way to do that i'd greatly appreciate it :)

dezi.christensen (author)AileenM2015-02-19

This is a great question. I won't have this problem since I will be doing a poetry book and it's one per page. I have a few long poems but it's not very aesthetically pleasing to split them up so they will go on pages 8-9 where I know the center fold is :) this won't help with stories though. I think you can use Microsoft publisher for your purposes. It does bifold printing I'm sure it goes to 8 pages. Not sure! I used to print church programs and the easter one is long. Publisher I would say!

ADOBE INDESIGN or QUARKXPRESS are two of the standard software for making books, magazines, or any other layout work you want to do. If you know these software, it will be a breeze. You can also automatically program the page numbers and they appear in chronological order.

This tutorial is rather inspiring. I want to bind my comics illustrations so it's easier to put them in books.

Though what I find lacking from the instruction is how to create SIGNATURES. Say, if I have 2000 pages of illustrations, how many folded pages are allowable to complete a signature? Also, I've always thought the pages are sewn with strong waxed string to keep the pages intact. I had to destroy a hardbound book to see what's hidden, and the pages, I discovered, were sewn then glued!

Sorry. Not 2,000 pages. I meant 200. LOL.

AileenM (author)dezi.christensen2015-02-21

Thanks so much!

DineshR2 (author)AileenM2015-02-23

Or you could put together loose sheets into a perfect bound book.

Microsoft Word has a function that lets you paginate properly for binding. I described it further up in the comments, so have a quick trawl back through them and I'm sure you'll find it.

SpeakNoEvil (author)AileenM2015-09-23


There are a few ways! I used this program to do it:

The term to describe it is imposition, and there are a lot of programs and ways to do it. Look around and see what works!

vreason09 (author)AileenM2015-03-26

I took a bookmaking class a few years ago and we made a "rough draft"--a miniature version with all of the folios simulated in small, unbound paper. Then you can number the draft pages and unfold them to see what order they go in.

precious234 (author)2016-09-26

it's lovely

DelanoM1 made it! (author)2016-09-06

I really loved this tutorial. My main difference was that I used glossy adhesive paper in place of fabric for the cover, and I stapled the pages to the binding (also a sheet of paper) rather than gluing them, based on my resources at the time. The adhesive paper has an advantage in that it allows you to print your cover design before you make your book. I must say, I'm quite pleased with how it came out. Gonna make a whole bunch more!

PunkQuiinn made it! (author)2016-04-22

This is so helpful. I love how this came out

KaptinScarlet (author)PunkQuiinn2016-04-22

Thanks, that looks awesome!

TerryT28 (author)2016-04-01

A great pictorial of how to make a book and then bind a cover onto it, very cool!

oscardelben (author)2016-02-08

A big help for me. You know, I badly need a help since I need to bind a project and this idea is really pretty to make :) Thank you very much!

StanleyJ7 (author)2016-02-02

In the U.S., Elmer's makes a product called "rubber cement" that works as well.

clairester (author)2015-12-24

Amazing project! For step 6, you can use a nail file to fine tune the cuts. It worked great with the printer paper that I used.

Winnerperez made it! (author)2015-12-02

Love it!! Thank you so much!!

Hugh2001 made it! (author)2015-11-17

Nice Instructable. Fun to make!

patience1977 (author)2015-10-14

How would you bind 8.5x11 size pages into a full size journal? Could you staple them together in folios then bind the according to the instructions or would you need to use paper that when folded is the equivalent to that size?. I want to make my own planner but prefer full sizes.

CarolynD13 (author)patience19772015-10-15

You would need to use 11x17 paper to make a book that's 8.5x11. Yes...this is my second attempt to comment on this. I did math wrong the first time! :)

Zelki (author)2015-10-14


oprime2 (author)2015-09-19

I really appreciated the tutorial, i sped through it to feel the process and figure out what works and what doesn't . Thanks.

About This Instructable




Bio: Eldest of five, son of two doctors, 10 years in Graphic Design and marketing, then retrained as a Biomedical Materials Engineer, don't ask me ... More »
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