Introduction: Custom Binder Travel Journal

Choosing a book for your journal can be a challenge. Instead of picking from all the overpriced leather-bounds at the bookstore, create your own journal that is far more versatile and one of a kind.

You'll need a book to begin the process. You can choose a pretty book with an interesting cover, or customize your cover with an old unattractive book. If you like the book you've chosen and want to preserve the cover, simply skip to Step 8. If you want to design the cover yourself, read on.

Step 1: Create Cover Art

Before you can make your journal, you'll need cover art. I created mine in Adobe Photoshop, but you can use other programs, select a printable image, or simply find some pretty paper. However, to recreate the cool effect in my cover art, create a layer with an image or color you like. Add another layer above your image with one of these textures by Kelly Reed from Creative Market to add depth and interest. For the color variation, change the texture layer's type from "normal" to "hue." I chose to create a harlequin pattern with two layers and used a different wood texture on each layer.

If you'd like a title, create it separately and make sure the size is appropriate. I created mine 2"x3" and then moved the layers into a file that's 8.5"x11" so it would print the appropriate size after I sent it to be printed.

Print two pages of your cover art and your title. I recommend using a high quality paper, but the cover art shouldn't be thick like cardstock. You can, however, use cardstock for the title. Regular printer paper is okay, but is more likely to wrinkle or tear while gluing.

You could also create cover art for the inside cover and spine, but I opted to use scrapbooking paper.

Step 2: Materials

2 pieces of cover art

1 piece of paper for inside cover

1 piece of paper for spine

printed title on cardstock (optional)

ring binder

old book that is thick enough to hold the binder



white glue

stiff paintbrush

sandpaper (if your book has a slick cover)

X-acto knife

page pockets (optional)

bone folder

chip board

2 brads or rivets

Step 3: Prepare Book

Cut the pages out of the book by cutting along the first page. Be careful not to cut the spine. Flip it over and cut out the last page.

If your book's cover is slick like mine, sand off the shine. If it has a plain paper or woven cover, there's no need to sand.

Step 4: Gluing Cover

Apply glue to your cover and spread it with a paintbrush. If you used regular printer paper, I recommend applying glue to the whole cover before adding your cover art. When I did it one half at a time, it started to get wrinkly while I was adding glue to the other side.

Smooth with a bone folder.

Repeat on the back cover.

Step 5: Cut and Wrap Edges

Fold the corner of the cover art over and press gently so you can see the impression of the corner of the book on the paper.

Make a small straight cut at the top of the thickness of the book, then cut diagonally away from the corner. Trim off any excess. The flaps only need to be about 1.5" thick.

Apply glue to the longest flap and spread with a paintbrush.

Press down the corners with your fingernail as shown and wrap the flap over the edge.

Smooth with a bone folder.

Repeat on all the other flaps.

Step 6: Spine

Measure the spine. You'll want some overlap, so cut a strip of paper about a half inch thicker than the exposed spine. Use a ruler to ensure a straight cut. I used a piece of textured cardstock.

Apply glue to the back of the paper strip you cut and press it onto the spine of the book. Use a bone folder to press it firmly into the creases. It is very important to make sure the book still bends like it should, so once you've pressed the paper into the creases, pick the book up and close it. This will show you any places you missed or need adjusting while the glue is still wet and the paper is flexible.

Apply glue to the edges of the strip and fold them over the edge. Again, press firmly into creases and close the book to make sure it is firmly attached while still retaining proper movement.

Step 7: Inside Cover

Cut a piece of paper to fit the inside of your book cover. I used a piece of scrapbooking paper.

Apply glue to the freshly cut piece of paper and press it in place with a bone folder. Start at the middle and work your way to the edges. Again, make sure you press firmly in the creases and fold the spine while wet.

Step 8: Inside Spine

Cut a piece of chip board that fits loosely in the spine.

Wrap the chipboard in the same way you wrapped the cover.

Note: If you've skipped the first 7 steps because you like the cover your book came with, I recommend using pages from the book to cover the chip board spine. You can even use the matching paper from the inside cover. Oh yes, and the wrapping process is in Step 5. Once you've cut your chip board and paper for covering, go back to see how to properly wrap it.

Step 9: Binder

Center the binder on the chipboard spine and mark the holes.

Drill on your hole marks.

Attach binder with either the brads that came with the binders or rivets. Rivets are more secure, but not necessarily worth the cost if you don't have them lying around.

Step 10: Affix Binder

Apply a generous amount of glue to the bottom of the chipboard spine. If you used brads, this glue will help secure them.

Press the binder into the spine. Use clamps if you've got them. Don't press it too tight, however, or you'll make impressions in the spine.

Step 11: Finishing Touches

Add the sleeves and glue on the title.

Step 12: Enjoy

This kind of journal is great because it will hold anything you can put a hole in or put in a sleeve. These images are a sneak peak of my upcoming instructable that elaborates on how to use a book like this as a travel journal. Stay tuned.

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