I've got two little boys who are absolutely crazy about Gravity Falls. If you're not familiar with it, it's a cartoon on Disney XD that features twins Dipper and Mabel who are staying the summer with Grunkel Stan. He owns the Mystery Shack in Gravity Falls, Oregon, and the twins begin to discover strange events going on around the town. The show is hilarious, and I love watching it as much as my boys. During Season 1, Dipper and Mabel discovered a set of journals (with the author of the journals being one of the big mysteries set to be revealed) -- three of them, in fact. Inside the journals are notes and hints about so many of the strange characters and locales around the town. The journals are fun little plot devices, and my boys love debating who they believe is the author. My thoughts immediately went to recreating two of the journals, one for each of my sons. I really wish I'd taken more photos of the process for creating these two journals, but I think you'll be able to get the general idea from the following steps.
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Step 1: Grab Yourself a Hollow Book and Paint It
I was very fortunate that Michael's was just receiving their Christmas supplies and had the perfect sized hollow books on sale for $5.00 each. I didn't take a photo of the books before I started but they're about 10-11" tall and maybe 9" wide and about 2" thick. Fake "pages" are printed on the paper that makes up the solid shell that sits between the front and back cover. I made two of these journals, but I'll be writing the steps to describe making one.
The color of the journals differs here and there, and one of the best places to go find images is images.google.com. I typed in "Gravity Falls Journal" and got way more images than I needed. A visit to the hardware store found me a sufficiently dark purple to match what I thought would be a close-enough base color. About five coats of paint was needed to completely cover up the Christmas artwork underneath -- I waited about 30 minutes between coats to allow for drying. Be sure to use painter's tape to cover the book's "pages."
Step 2: Create the Hand and Edges
When I first started thinking over this project, I considered printing out certain elements as stickers and applying them to the book. If you've got kids, however, you know that stickers won't last. They'll peel or get scraped and scratched up. I chose to go with a fully painted journal for all features, so I enlarged an image (from images.google.com) of the hand (six fingers!) and adjusted the size and printed a few test prints until I was satisfied with the size. I cut out two hands (for each journal). The first would allow me to paint the gold that would make the hand's shape. The second would be used to paint the journal number (1 and 3 were the numbers I chose).
I applied a wide band of painter's tape to a sheet of wax paper and then glued down the hand cutout. Using a sharp blade, I cut out the hand and left behind a bit of painter's tape with a hand-shaped hollow. I applied this to the journal. Next, I used more painter's tape to cover up everything else on the cover except for the gold corners. I cut each of these individually rather than as identical curves... I think it lends more to the hand-drawn cartoonish look of the final cover. Don't forget the two gold bars across the spine of the book!
After the book was covered with tape, I applied a few coats of gold paint.
I don't have a photo of this, but I performed the same process on the number 3 -- stick down a bit of painter's tape on to some wax paper, glue the hand down, and then cut out the number. I stuck the painter's tape over the dried gold, sprayed some black... and the number was done.
Step 3: Add Some Damage and Apply Clear Coat
Journals 1 and 3 both have some damage done to the covers in the show. For Journal 1, the upper-right corner of the book is completely broken off. I thought about doing this, but the book was for my 4-year-old and I didn't think he'd actually like part of the cover to be gone. I did paint the few small ripped ovals below the numeral 1.
For Journal 3, I used a silver paint pen to apply the "rips" to the cover. They're not as dark as the ones in the show, but I didn't want to spend any money trying to find the right shade of lavender. (Plus, the books are for two boys, ages 7 and 4, and I didn't think they'd give me any grief over a few variations.)
After applying the "damage" to the covers, I sprayed over a couple of clear coats that will hopefully give the books some years of fun and use and protect the paint for a while.
Step 4: Take Care of the Insides
The inside of the journal had a Christmas theme. I took care of this by printing out two great images from the images.google.com search -- one is a map of Gravity Falls that I glued on the inside top cover. The other is an image of a famous page from one of the journals that features a bad guy named Bill Cipher. That was cut and trimmed to fit down in the bottom of the hollow book. I downloaded the two JPEGs, took them to CVS, and printed them out as 8x10 photos.
Step 5: Add Some Postcards
I didn't want to just hand them two empty journals, so the first thing I tucked inside each journal were a number of Gravity Falls postcards printed in color on card stock. You can grab these by visiting the official Gravity Falls website and selecting the postcard maker game. One of the options allows you to save them as PDFs that you can print out. There are 15-20 postcard background options, and I picked my favorite 7 or 8. You can even add words and characters from the show, but I just left them as backgrounds that my boys would recognize such as Dipper's room, the Mystery Shack (both during the daytime and a nighttime version), and a few more.
Here's a link to the website -- http://games.disney.com/disneyxd-gravity-falls-pos...
Keep in mind I don't know if the postcard creator will always be available.
I cut out all the cards (printed two of each design) and tucked them inside each journal.
But I wasn't yet done...
Step 6: Create a Tiny Journal
I didn't want my boys taking the journals with them to school, so I figured I'd make something smaller. My 7-year-old carries a backpack so I was thinking about creating something that he could hang or glue to his bag. I have a 3D printer and I'm pretty good with the free Tinkercad.com CAD application for creating 3D models. (And yes, I wrote a book on Tinkercad -- little bit of self promotion here... sorry.)
So, I made a little Journal 3 that includes raised (relief) hand and book corners as well as a small hole for a chain. I made this STL file available on Tinkercad's Gallery -- search for "Gravity Falls" and hopefully it'll show up.
I printed it out (in white plastic), painted it the same purple as the hollow books, and then hand-brushed the gold elements (the hand outline is raised, allowing you to easily paint inside with a detail brush), and then used a black paint pen to color the 3. Strung it up on a small chain and tucked one in each book.
Originally I was going to hold these as a Christmas present, but I just couldn't wait... but one more step remained...
Step 7: Build Some Hype
My final task was taking two of the postcards and addressing them to my boys. I hand wrote the following on each one:
Bill Cipher is trying to steal the journals again! I'm sending you a fake journal to try and trick him. Please keep it safe!
I addressed one to each boy, dropped them off at the post office and the next day they showed up. I pretended to have my hands full and asked my older son to check the mail. He found the postcards and was jumping up and down and reading them to his little brother. Smiles all around!
The next day, a mystery package arrived on the doorstep (didn't send this one... just put it out there before I picked them up from school). They opened them up and I wish I'd recorded the squeals. I love being a dad.