How to make folded book art easier using your computer

Picture of How to make folded book art easier using your computer
In various places, I saw those beautiful folded book art pieces (like in these instructables: Book-Art-How-to-Fold-a-Book-into-a-Word, Folded-Book-Art-Best-most-clear-Tutorial-available  ) - and as I am an avid reader and love books, paper and art, this was a wonderfully alluring combination!

So, I absolutely wanted to make my own! And of course I also wanted to use my own pattern, not just anything!

Looking into one of the instructables (How-to-Fold-a-Book-into-a-Word-The-original-tuto ), which describes the process of making your own pattern, I saw that the measuring and mapping from picture to page is a really tedious, time-consuming process, which can also go wrong in many places. And I realized that the number of free ready-to-fold patterns is a bit, .... mmmh, limited - you don't always want hearts...unless it's Valentine's day, of course.

As I'm also learning how to program, and am a fan of open source software, I thought I could combine this with the books to create something useful.

So I wrote a program which can turn your picture into a pattern for making book folding art.

This instructable is not about how to write that program, nor will I explain in detail how it works.

This instructable shows you how to use the program to make your own book art with your own pattern.

WARNING: The program was only tested on Linux. I do not know, nor can I test, if it also runs on a Windows or Mac OS operating system. If you find out if / how it works on those other, non-open source operating systems, please provide a hint in the comments for other users!

Update: Instructables user flogy4031 and I got it to work on Windows 7. flogy installed WAMP (from, a server environment for Windows, which did some of the configuration of php for him, and imagemagick. Then flogy still had to do some configuration to make the command line work (see linked videos in the comment section). I have now added a Windows version of the script to the github repository, which eliminates a problem caused by different behaviour of the Windows command line.
Thank you very much, flogy4031!

Update 2: As the configuration of php and imagemagick seems quite difficult on Windows for the non-geeks, I added the option to use a virtual machine (which is a little computer inside you computer, if you will). I think this is much easier for the Windows users, and it will also work on Mac OS/X. However, the download size is bigger. Go straight to option 2, if you prefer this!
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tivie113 months ago

These are some of the books I've folded using the program. Here are some tips I've found out the hard way:
1) Use a book with thicker paper. It really makes the letters/design stand out better.
2) When I make the books with words or letters, I have find that having at least 100 pages/50 sheets per letter is a minimum. The more the better.
3) When making your design in your graphics program (I use GIMP), be sure to leave space at the top and bottom of the design. Too little space makes for difficult folds close to the top and bottom of the pages. You can take the blank space from the left and right of the design. That will use more of your pages effectively.

tivie11 tivie112 months ago

Here's a semi truck and a dachshund (that means badger hound in German in case you didn't know).

ldoan95 tivie112 months ago

That's amazing. Love them! I'm trying to install the program to my laptop but it is not compatible... If it's not much to ask, I wonder if you can help me create a pattern for the word "Mom". I want to give her a late gift for mother's day since I was studying abroad away from home. Thank you!

tivie11 ldoan952 months ago

I agree with Moini. The purpose of the Instructable is to get the program successfully installed on your computer. I was one of the early Windows 7 guinea pigs and got it installed and working. I've got it on two Win7 systems using the first method. I found that looks easier than the virtual machine on Windows. Trust in Moini.

Moini (author)  ldoan952 months ago
What do you mean by 'not compatible'? The program should run on Windows, Mac OS and Linux in a virtual machine. Please describe your problem in more detail.

I'm sorry I can only give you help installing and running the software. I won't create the pattern for you - if I do, I would cause the 'dam' to breach - and I would have no excuses not to make patterns for everyone who asks. I just can't do that. I think you will understand.
Moini (author)  tivie113 months ago

Wow - those turned out great! Which font did you use? (and who's Lollie... ? ;-) - no, don't answer that) Thanks for adding those tips! I think they will be very valuable to other folders.

tivie11 Moini3 months ago

The Lollie and Smith fonts are both Blenda. The Ivie is JandaManatee. I got them at The names are last names of family names. They make great gifts!

Another pun: my folding table is a folding table. :-)

Moini (author)  Moini3 months ago

Pun intended. Didn't know I could make puns in english....

flogy4031 made it!4 months ago

finally, after one night folding I've done it!

Overall, it has been a great and fun learning experience, and as a bonus the outcome is outstandingly beautiful (.. is my second ever book folding, so my technique still has to be improved therefor the folds are not quite exact :-) )

2014-03-03 22.19.22.jpg2014-03-03 22.20.12.jpg2014-03-03 22.18.45.jpg
tivie11 flogy40314 months ago

How many "sheets" are in the book you used? That looks great!

flogy4031 tivie114 months ago

Thank you !!

319 sheets (638 pages - 2 hours marking, about 3 hours folding)

I used only 297 sheets :-)

Hope to see yours soon ;-)

tivie11 flogy40314 months ago

This is my second one using the script. This turned out much better because it was a book with more pages. I made this to remember our puppy who just passed away.

flogy4031 tivie114 months ago

Sweet!! keep up the good work!

Moini (author)  flogy40314 months ago

This looks very, very good! Congrats and thank you for sharing!

Raphango5 months ago


Definetely gotta have one myself! =D

What a beautiful blend of technology and art. Thank you so much for sharing :)

jmc755 months ago

Very nice. Your software eliminates the one part of this process I would dread to do. Next flea market I hit I'm going to try to pick up a couple books to give this a try. Going to try to make my daughter a Hello Kitty book.

Moini (author)  jmc755 months ago

Don't forget to post a picture when you're done :-) - a Hello Kitty silhouette will work fine. Eyes and nose are so small - I don't know if they will come out well.

Hi, I'm trying to run the BookArtVM program on my Win8.1 computer. When I try to initialize the VM, it immediatly fails and gives me this message: "Failed to open a session for the virtual machine BookArtVirtualMachine_1.

The virtual machine 'BookArtVirtualMachine_1' has terminated unexpectedly during startup with exit code 1.

Result Code: E_FAIL (0x80004005)Component: MachineInterface: IMachine {480cf695-2d8d-4256-9c7c-cce4184fa048}

I have attempted to install on two win7 machines but they both have the same result. Perhaps it is my version of Vbox (v4.3.14)? Or maybe it's just me. Any pointers? Thank you.

Thanks for the font help :)
mrsmif made it!15 days ago

These are my two efforts made with your method!

book 19 (6).JPGbook 18 (7).JPG
Moini (author)  mrsmif15 days ago

Thank you for sharing your results! :-D

mrsmif mrsmif15 days ago

'Food' was my first attempt, the text is a little too tall though, I think 'Cook' is a better size!

imunique1 month ago

i finally managed to get everything downloaded and created my first design, but when i ran the script it said there was too much white space. i am trying to use text, could you please tell me the best method to remove the space between the letters? thanks for your help!

Moini (author)  imunique1 month ago

I don't know which graphics program you are using (or which ones you have on your computer), so I cannot tell you which menu items to click (most of those I won't know anyway). However, the general rule in a graphics program would be to select the letter and move it towards the letter before.

imunique Moini1 month ago

i am using the graphic program in the virtual box that was provided with the download. would love to be able to download something else with more choices for fonts. i thought about using gimp or something, but then couldn't get the email feature to work in virtual box so im a little stuck

Moini (author)  imunique16 days ago

You can install additional fonts in your VM.

There are two ways to do this:

- install a font from the Debian repository

- copy a font you downloaded into the font directory.

As the second one will be easier to understand and only needs a browser to download fonts from you email, I will describe this one.

1. In Windows, email a font file from any website to yourself (must be a .ttf (true type font) file). Unzip the file if it is zipped before you send it to yourself!

2. In the web browser on the VM, go to your email account, and in the download dialog, choose to save this file into the folder /home/bookartist/Desktop.

3. Open the terminal. Type: "su", hit enter. Type: "test", hit enter. Type: "cp /home/bookartist/Desktop/yourfontfilename.ttf /usr/share/fonts/truetype/yourfontfilename.ttf", hit enter. (This means you log in as superuser and then copy the file into the global font directory).

It may be necessary that you reload the font cache before you can use the new font. The easiest way to do this is to restart the VM. I recommend you first install additional fonts, and restart once at the end.

mrsmif17 days ago

Moini, I just wanted to say thanks for this, its brilliant!!! I am on Windows 8, and I did your method 2 with the virtual hard drive, and I got it up and running no problems, much to my surprise!!!I found it quite easy to do the patterns, the cat and such like. However I want this for word patterns, and I wont lie, this is what has taken me some time. I think I have the hang of it now, I used photoshop on my computer to make the word, as I am so used to it, I then emailed the finished word to myself, and then imported them to pinto on the virtual drive. I am just marking out my book, and fingers crossed Its looking ok. I have already made quite a few folding books using a different method, so will post a pic when i have finished this one!

Moini (author)  mrsmif16 days ago
Great :-D I'm looking forward to your picture!
mrsmif18 days ago

After a very long day of trying to do a book like this in photoshop, this looks so much easier! Just have to understand what you are all taking about, then have a try lol!!! you have to install the fonts while in the virtual machine?
The shared folder on my windows has all my images so it is not that. I emailed my image and opened it that way but is sure is discouraging to lose over 20 images that were there just a few weeks ago. I will take your suggestion and check on the forum. I did solve my transparency problem by using paintnet plugin for transparency and sliding to opaque and resaving it as png. Thanks for all your help.

I had no problem creating a shard folder a few weeks ago and seeing my images from my desktop in the virtual machine, however today when I ran the virtual machine and went to media and to my shared folder suddenly it is totally empty. I am confused as to why I don't see any images that are in the shared folder now.

Moini (author)  heathersharmony25 days ago
Hi again,

this is a question concerning VirtualBox on Windows. As I state in the instructable, I don't use nor have Windows installed. You will have more luck with getting to know the reason for this behaviour at the proper place in the VirtualBox forum on their web site. I cannot help you here.

I can only give you these hints:
Did you try repeating the process of adding a shared folder?
Did you try to mount it?
Did you look if the shared folder is maybe really empty?

There is nothing bad that can happen. You cannot destroy anything. Just try it out. If something goes really wrong, you can always re-import the bookart VM, and everything will be just as it was at the beginning. This is why I chose to put it in a VM. Users cannot really break anything. They only need some courage to jump into unknown waters ;-)

one more question.....I tried to create a pattern from a png in my bookart folder and it told me it couldnt use it because it had transparency. How do I get rid of transparency? Thanks!

Moini (author)  heathersharmony25 days ago
Hi again,

you should open your graphics program and add a layer of plain white below.
imunique1 month ago

i would love to do this, can someone help me with know which version of VM to download?

Moini (author)  imunique1 month ago
There is only one virtual machine in the link.
I think you maybe mean the Virtual Box version?
imunique Moini1 month ago
yes the virtual box, i am a simpleton when it comes to computers, anything that would make it extremely easy to follow works best for me, thanks Moini!
Moini (author)  imunique1 month ago

Yesterday, I looked on the VirtualBox download page I linked - and there is also only one version listed for Windows...?!? I guess you should take that one...

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