Embossed Book Cover




About: I just finished a graduate program in Instructional Design and Educational Technology: creating online learning. I've been using this site to test out my hopefully improving abilities.

This instructable will teach you how to create an embossed book cover.

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Step 1: Supplies

a design that can easily have yarn glued onto it, big shapes (henna images are too small).
linen yarn, twine or something similar. (I used the kind that comes on a cone and usually makes wash cloths).
book board, davey board, chip board. (chip board is the cheapest...)
a brown paper bag (clean)
acrylic paints, at least 2 contrasting colors. (mine are phlalo blue and hunter green mixed with metallic copper highlights).
paint brushes and palette (lid to a zip lock container works for me, when paint is dry it's easy to peel off).
a paper towel
PVA glue and some water (archival bookbinder's glue, won't crack when bent; you can also use tacky glue for less than a future museum piece)
a cup of water for your paintbrush
a plastic squeeze bottle with a pointy tip for glue: Like This , you can find these at any craft store.
scissors to cut up the yarn
a brush for the glue (foam or paint is fine)
a bone folder

Step 2:

Transfer your image onto the book board, this part is up to you. I found some images in a book called Totally Tangled, I was trying to see how intricate I could make the design. Using a sharpie which is about the thickness of the yarn I just kind of eyeballed it.

Start gluing the yarn onto the lines of the image with your squeeze bottle so you get a fine line. You will get glue on your fingers, wipe it off and keep going, the yarn will sometimes pull up sticking to you, this is normal.

It can take a long time if your image is intricate. I tried some geek images with embroidery floss but that didn't work out. Don't even waste your time.

Step 3:

Once completely glued down brush some watery glue over the whole thing. This will stiffen all of the yarn that didn't touch the glue lines. Let it dry completely.

Do another coat of the watery glue over everything.  With the paper bag, cut a piece a few inches bigger than your book board. I tried to stay away from the creases in the paper but eventually learned that it doesn't really matter as you will burnish it all out.

Step 4: Burnishing

Put your piece of paper bag on top and smooth over with your hands. The paper can tear at first so you have to gently and slowly work it in. Push down the outside of your image.

With a bone folder go over the outside of your image and then the insides. Go over them again and again. And then a few more times. This one piece took about an hour.

You can see the design start to emerge. Burnish it with the bone folder even more. Resist the urge to pop the pockets of glue, it will look bad and soak through and eventually tear parts of the paper.

At some point you can glue down the outside edges of the paper and then continue burnishing the image. Let it dry completely.

Step 5: Painting

Now we need to make the embossed design really pop.

I painted it with a combination of dark blue and dark green. Make sure you cover the entire surface, around the sides and a bit on the underside as well. Let it dry.

I took some metallic copper and a paper towel once the blue/green was dry and wiped it all over the design.

Step 6: Finished

I did a a coptic binding with some art and handmade papers. I am working on different ways to bind with and without an embossed spine but I think this is a good start.
Let me know if you have questions.

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    9 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    Instead of using paper, could you might possibly use fabric? I have seen this kind of embossing but the book cover looked like it might have been fabric.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I used construction paper over glue gun glue (instead of paper bag over yarn). It works ok but looks nothing as good as yours. I think my way could work just as well in the right hands. maybe others could give it a try.

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Step 4

    I think I am having the same confusion as knife141.

    In the previous step, the glue was to completely dry.

    In this step you indicate that we need to "Resist the urge to pop the pockets of glue, it will look bad and soak through and eventually tear parts of the paper."

    My confusion is if the glue was to be completely dry in the previous step, where does the wet glue come in? Do we re-apply another thin watery coat, or is there residual wet glue in the yarn/string?

    Great tutorial--this is my only sticking point.


    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 4

    Ah ok I see the confusion and have updated the previous step. Yes, one full coat on the yarn/string and let dry and then one more over the whole thing before adding the paper.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 4

    Can you post a pic when you are finished? I'd love to see what other people do.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    Do you coat the cover with fresh glue before you do this step? In other words, are you burnishing the paper as it sits in fresh glue?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I put the paper on the glued yarn image and burnish the holy crap out of it, at no time do I put any glue on top of the paper, it makes it tear easily.