Introduction: Make a Simple EPUB From a Series of Pictures

About: Grandma Van uses the Instructables website to share little print-and-mail books. Once in a while, she has other fun things to share.

This isn't a technical project. I'm not going to drone on about what an EPUB is and what an EPUB isn't. I'm not going to tell you how it differs from other file formats.

An EPUB is a super cool format that can be used for much, much more than publishing a book on Amazon. ANYONE can create an EPUB with the free application Sigil.

Instead of sending ten pictures through the email, and telling someone about them with text in the email, you can make a little EPUB that shows text and pictures together.

So I made a little video showing a simple EPUB that I made yesterday. It has thirty-two images and a little bit of text. I made the images by taking screenshots of some of my Instructables projects. Then I added text to tell all about my experiences in my first seventeen months as an Instructable author.

The video skips over a few important details, but the steps written below will round it all out.

Let's GO!

Step 1: Organize Your Pictures.

For this project, I took screenshots of my projects, using the snipping tool on my Windows laptop and Option-Command-4 on my Mac. I renamed the pictures with a, b, c, d at the start of each file name so that the pictures would sort in order.

I also made a special picture for the cover, in portrait mode.

While EPUB guidelines for Amazon and other publishers have strict rules about pixels and ratios and all that kind of thing, if you are making an EPUB for your own use, you do not need to be exact.

Just don't use HUGE pictures for your first EPUB because high resolutions (large size in pixels) are hard to see in the Sigil application.

If you want to use your nice high resolution photos...don't use them as they are.

View then in a small viewing window and take screenshots!

Step 2: Launch Sigil.

Step two in the video says, "Launch Sigil." This assumes that you have, indeed, already downloaded Sigil.

Go to and download the file for your Windows computer. If you have a Mac, you are going to want to use iBooks Author instead. Perhaps I will write an Instructable about THAT later!

When you open it, you will probably see a slightly different window. I tend to close extra window panels that I don't need. Don't worry if yours looks different. You WILL see the parts you need and you can ignore the other parts for now.

Step 3: Import Pictures.

On the left side of the window, you will see a series of folders. Right click on the "Images" folder and on the resulting menu, left click "Add Existing Files."

Navigate to the folder that is holding your pictures. Select them and click "Open." The pictures will be imported into Sigil.

NOTE: I take a lot of screenshots of cool things that I want to keep. Often, I just gather them into Sigil and use Sigil as a holding tank. I can always make them into an EPUB later if I want to.

Step 4: Add Text on the Tabbed Page.

There will be a WYSIWYG page with a tab, taking up most of the space of the Sigil window.

THAT is what you are going to type on.

It IS possible to type, then insert pictures, then type again.

But I find it easiest to put placeholder "text" paragraphs in place and then insert pictures between the text.

Play around with it and see what works best for you.

Step 5: Add Pictures to the Tabbed Page.

Click right after your title. Hit the "Enter" key to go to a new paragraph.

Now click the "Insert pictures" button, which has a red circle around it in the image above.

This takes you to your pictures.

Choose one and click OK.

Repeat this over and over until all your pictures are in place.

Step 6: Refine the Text.

"Refine," in this case, means several things.

FIrst of all, write some more!

Then make some of the text into headings by clicking one of the h1, h2, h3 buttons on the toolbar.

HINT: this is chapter one. Start each chapter (more about that in step 8) with a h1 paragraph.

Make some of the text bold, or italic, or italic AND bold with the buttons on the toolbar.

Step 7: Add Hyperlinks If Necessary.

EPUBS are cool because you can put hyperlinks in them. The hyperlinks can help you navigate back and forth between parts of your EPUB, or they can go to the internet.

Select the text. Click the hyperlink button. (red circle in the picture above) Enter the URL. Click OK.

Step 8: Add Chapter Breaks.

At some point, you will want to break your stream of pictures and text into chapters.

For longer books, this is VERY necessary.

For shorter books like this one it's just cool.

Place your cursor where you want the break to occur.

From the menu, click Edit and on the resulting menu click "Insert Break at Cursor."

Step 9: Rename the Xhtml Files. (optional)

If necessary, click to open/expand the text folder. (Top left of the Sigil window.)

Each tab in the Sigil window is an "xhtml" file. The files get default names like Section0001.xhtml, Section0002.xhtml, etc. You aren't required to rename these files, but if your EPUB is long, renaming can help you find things as you write. Right click on the xhtml file and choose "rename."

Enter a new name. I like to follow old school conventions and just use lower case letters and underscores. ( _ ) Avoid spaces and special characters.

Step 10: Create the TOC.

From the top menu, click Tools > Table of Contents > Generate Table of contents.

A dialog box will open. If you used H1 headings at the start of each chapter, these are ideal Table of Content markers. If you used other levels of headings, we probably don't want them.

So at the bottom, click the drop-down list triangle that follows < select headings to include in toc > and choose "Up to Level 1." Click OK.You won't see anything happen onscreen, but Sigil will build a navigational TOC for you.Cool!

Step 11: Add Metadata.

This isn't absolutely necessary for a personal EPUB, but it's cool so try it.

From the top menu, click Tools > Metadata Editor.

Enter the title of your EPUB.

If you want to get fancy, click the "Add MetaData" button and add a creator or anything else you would like!

Step 12: Add a Cover.

(NOTE: If you don't have a cover, you can still have an EPUB. Your eReader will just display something generic on the bookshelf if there is no cover, or if the cover does not meet the standards of that eReader.)

From the top menu, click Tools > Cover.

The folder of pictures will open. Pick one and click OK.

A "cover.xhtml" file will be added in the list and other important stuff happens deep down in the other important EPUB files that Sigil keeps track of.

Step 13: Save the File. Open the File. Enjoy the File.

Save the file.

You now have an epub file that can be opened on a phone, a tablet, or a laptop.

How you open the file depends on what eReader you are using.

In my example, I used Microsoft Edge. I had to right click on the file and choose to open it in Edge.

On my iPad or my Mac, all I have to do is email the file and then it can be downloaded.