Introduction: Vintage Map Composition Book

This project results in a beautifully complex and vintage map cover on a composition book. The book can be used for any adventures you want, but the cover makes the book another level of interesting and complex. All supplies are simple and you most likely have them at home already. Be sure to check the pictures in each step, as some steps are harder to get across through writing. Cartography is a wonderful art, full of magical and real places yet to explore. Enjoy!


  • Composition Notebook
  • 2 pages of Sketchbook Paper
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Scissors
  • Black Gel Pen
  • Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Marker or 0.3 Tip Copic marker (or just a thinner pen)
  • A cup of Dark Roast Coffee
  • 1 teabag (optional)
  • Large Paintbrush
  • Colored Pencils (optional)
  • Blow dryer (optional)
  • Hot glue + Hot glue gun
  • Mod Podge
  • 2 sheets of printer paper

Step 1: Create Your Map - Land Shape

In a Sketchbook, create the outline of your world. Add rough indents and smooth indents as well as pieces of land that stick out towards the water. These are supposed to resemble coasts, bays, inlets, gulfs, and more. There’s no way for it to be perfect, and all you need to do is make random movements. If you’d like your map to be of an actual place, you can trace it from a map or picture or try to copy it by eye.

Next, you should add islands and small circles, resembling archipelagos, and islands off the coast. Smaller islands can be circular, shaped, or even just dots.

The possibilities are endless.

Take Note that your paper may be bigger than your composition book, so if you want to cut your paper to a smaller size as though to prevent ruining your work, now would be a good time. All you need to do is trim your paper to a smaller size that fits the cover of your composition book.

Step 2: Create Your Map - Bodies of Water

When you created your land, the areas surrounding them are supposed to be bodies of water. Now, its time to add small bodies of water in your land, like lakes, ponds, rivers, and river deltas, creeks, and canals. Above are labeled pictures of each type of body of water you can add.

Keep in mind that mountains tend to surround bodies of water like lakes and rivers because rainfall falls down mountains into their own bodies of water. So, I suggest that you consider placing a mountain range of some sort nearby. Of course, not all lakes need to be near the mountains, so it's all up to you.

Also, river deltas make their way through the land, not usually in a straight line and end up emptying into the ocean, with a network of rivers at its end, resembling a tree.

Step 3: Create Your Map - Landmarks

Now, it's time to add landmarks. This includes mountains, hills, plateaus, deserts, dunes, forests, ravines, volcanoes, jungles, cliffs, glaciers, oases, and farms. Each one brings a journey to the people of your land, and they should be placed strategically. Mountains are usually in mountain ranges, at a plate boundary. If you’d like, add ravines or volcanoes. Around the mountains are hills and forests, as well as bodies of water. Mountains can also cause a rain shadow, so on the opposite side, you can add a desert, full of dunes and cactuses, and tumbleweed. Smaller details can be added later but will make your world exciting to look at, and full of life and imagination. Plateaus are pieces of land that are higher than the rest, so they are dry and desolate. Jungles can be places in areas full of rain, typically towards the equator, which you can add if you'd like, or just imagine that it’s there. Glaciers are north, in the icy parts of your land. Valleys and farms are in the middle of your landmass, and they can be just about anywhere you choose. In between forests, next to the mountains. They are usually not next to icy areas or extreme places, like the treacherous lands of your volcanic world or the rainy areas of your jungle or rainforest. An oasis is a small body of water in a desert that is surrounded by a small area of vegetation. This includes palm trees, bushes, and animals looking for a drink.

Your world doesn’t need to be perfect, and you certainly shouldn’t try to add everything on one page. Your goal is to add life, details, and realistic features to this imaginary land that will make anyone who sees it curious.

The first 3 images show how to create a mountain range. First, you begin by creating the desired curve of your mountain range. Then, add the curves of your actual mountains. Then you can add more detailed structures and shadows to your mountains. I've also included ideas for other mountains that you can include in your map.

Next are types of trees and forests (including rainforests) that you can include. Also on this page are deserts, dunes, volcanoes, cliffs, plateaus, oases, and ravines. It all depends on the style you’d like your map to be, and these are a few examples of what you can add to your map.

Step 4: Add Small Details and Outline Your Map

Our next step is to add small details to your map. This includes kingdoms, huts, towns, villages, animals, and even technology that the people use, like vehicles, railroads, schools, and any additional features that you want to add. Now would be a good time of addressing when your map takes place, or what technologies and ways of living that they have access to. These can even include pieces of grass, rocks, etc.

Also, you can add outlines and small water elements to your land. When you approach an island, the outline can wrap around it, as shown in the maps above. Feel free to add docks and boats a well! Your outline can also be a double outline with water details, as I did in my map.

You can add navigational tools to your map too, like a compass rose or map legend. I suggest that you chose to add symbols and names to places in your land.

I chose a theme where my places and landmarks are named after things I can do in this book. This includes places like Journal Creek and The Valley of Letters. Be creative, and feel free to use the internet for inspiration.

Above are examples of ways to integrate small details to your map, as well as how to outline.

*When I say outline, I do not mean outline in pen. That will be for another step!*

Step 5: Make a Second Map!

Our next step is to create another map to act as the either back or front side of your map. By following the previous steps, create a map either in the same realm or from a completely different place.

Above are both maps that I made.

Step 6: Age Your Maps

Our next step is to age our maps, so that they look vintage and old-like they’ve been through a few adventures of their own. This will be done by using coffee and optional tea bags. Your paper should NOT be perfect, it should be uneven and characteristic. I would also like to say that I did not age the paper with tea, so I do not show a result of tea bags- just coffee.

First, brew your coffee. Place your map on a waterproof surface. I put it on a cutting board that is covered in saran wrap. I did this because coffee can stain and I was working on a white surface. With a paintbrush, begin to brush the coffee over the paper, soaking the paper and spreading it around. The coffee does not need to be even.

OPTIONAL- put a tea bag in a cup of warm water and blot it all over your paper.

Once covered in coffee and/or tea, either dry the paper with a hairdryer or leave it out to dry. I found that the hairdryer made the paper smoother, whereas drying and putting it in the sun left it a bit wrinkly and uneven. I personally chose to dry it with a hairdryer.

Step 7: Outline in Pen

This step takes a while, however, it is optional. The next step is to outline the map in a black gel pen. In the areas that are small details use a thinner pen like the fine point sharpie. If you’d like you can color your map in, I used black, white, and silver-colored pencils to add highlights and contrasts to the map. I personally found that coloring the map in with colors didn’t make it look aged and vintage. It’s all up to the creator of the map- but I suggest not coloring the map completely after it's aged.

Once finished outlining your map in pen, very lightly erase any visible pencil in your underlined map.

I also cut the side excess from when I took the paper out of my sketchbook at this time.

Step 8: Attach Your Cover

Lay your composition book on a flat surface. With a large paintbrush, brush Mod Podge all over the cover of your composition book. Leave the corners uncovered in Mod Podge. Place a piece of printer paper over the mod podge-covered cover and press down to attach. Put some hot glue in each corner to attach the printer paper completely. Make sure the hot glue is flat when pressed down. Be careful when handling the hot glue. Then, cut the excess printer paper so that it fits the composition cover.

Next, cover the printer paper with Mod Podge once again, excluding the corners. Place your map in the desired position and press down until flat. Then, hot glue the corners and press down. Be sure not to push and press down or press down too hard because it can tear your map.

Do the same on the back cover.

Step 9: Use Your Composition Book

You’re done! I hope you enjoyed this crafty and cartographic activity!

Maps Challenge

Participated in the
Maps Challenge