Turn a Signature Into Book Art Using Photoshop




About: My favorite quotation is: “All you need in order to accomplish something great is a good idea and not quite enough money.” – Anon I live by that theme, and the ideas just keep coming.

Folding a signature out of the pages of a book is hard to do, but it is doable, and it's a great gift idea if you can master it!

This tutorial will show you what to look for in an ideal signature, what to look for in an ideal book, how to process your design (in this case a signature) in Photoshop into a book folding pattern, and then how to transform the pattern into a recognizable design in a folded book.

To make your own folded book you will need:

1. A hardcover book

2. Photoshop Elements 5 or higher

3. A Wacom Tablet (or similar graphic artist's tablet)

4. Paper, scissors, straight edge

5. Patience

P.S. My dream is to win a decent CAD computer and 3D printer so I can turn my bicycle-parts wind turbine idea into a sturdy tubine and also to design a motor to go with the turbine--an idea that's been swirling around in my brain for a couple years. The goal is to help people produce easy homemade electricity especially in the aftermath of disasters.

Step 1: How to Pick a Book for Folded Art

In my book folding tutorials using printed letters, I suggest picking a book that will have about 80 numbered pages per letter. Eighty numbered pages equals 40 folding pages (because there is a number on the front and the back of the page). So it's easy to calculate how many pages you need for block letters.

What happens when you have letters in cursive like a signature? Here I cannot give you a standard. But I can tell you that you will not want to use any book with less than 600 pages. The more curls and flounces you have to fold, the more pages (and thinner pages) you will need in order to get a crisp representation of the signature.

You may also want to consider the title of the book, as it can make the whole project much more meaningful. I recently folded a book for an art professor using the book "A New History of Art." And for this instructable, I'm using the book "Major Problems in American Foreign Relations" which in my opinion is, ahem, appropriate.

Step 2: Video Tutorial for Folded Signature

Step 3: Make a Folding Pattern Out of an Image

The signature I picked for this tutorial is Obama's. Taken from the public domain, I copied the signature and imported it into Photoshop Elements 5 as a "new file from clipboard." These are the steps I took in making the book folding pattern out of the signature (which you can follow for most any image):

1. Re-size the image to be 11 inches wide and have a 250 ppi resolution.

2. Make a copy of the signature layer and use the copy to make further edits (just in case things go terribly wrong and you wish you had a backup). Turn off visibility of the first layer.

3. Fatten the signature by selecting it, growing the selection by 5 pixels, then coloring in the fattened selection so the signature looks like it was made with a fat sharpie.

4. Smooth out the edges using a graphic artist's pen and tablet. That is, erase the jagged edges and draw in fatter lines where you want.

5. Import a striped background (from here), open it in Photoshop, copy it, and paste it into a new layer in the signature file.

6. Move the striped background layer so it's underneath the signature layer.

7. Select everything that is NOT signature in the signature layer.

8. Put your cursor on the striped layer and hit "delete."

9. Make the signature layer invisible. What you have left is the striped pattern for a folded book. To make the pattern easier to use, select the striped pattern and squeeze the sides in from the edge of the "paper" so that when you print it, there is room before and after the signature pattern.

All of the above steps are shown with greater detail in the introductory video.

Step 4: How to Fold a Striped Pattern

This step is one you will really want to watch in the video instead of reading. The basic instruction for folding a striped image pattern is as follows:

1. Print your pattern

2. Fold about 1/2" back at the top of the paper. This tab will hook onto the top of the book and keep the pattern aligned vertically.

3. Insert the pattern behind the first page you are going to fold and fold your first stripe. Make a tic mark on the stripe that you folded and move on to the next stripe. Tuck the pattern behind the page you are going to fold, etc.

4. When the pattern splits into two pieces for the same stripe, fold the top piece on one stripe and move forward to the next stripe to fold the second level. This is fairly easy when you have only two levels (such as you get with the letter "o"). You can fold all the top levels on black stripes and the bottom levels on the white stripes.

5. When you get to three or more levels (signatures can be nasty that way), you just have to pay very close attention and move forward one stripe for each layer!

My best advice is that you practice on easier templates before folding a signature pattern.



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    9 Discussions


    2 years ago

    This is really amazing. And so expainatory (yes, I know its not a word) on how to fold books! Thanks for the 'ible!


    4 years ago

    Neat idea. I don't think I have any books I want to mutilate, but this looks amazing. I might just give this a go someday.

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago

    I'm aware of that, but to someone who would rather read a book than have it sit page-end out and look pretty, it can feel like mutilation. Thus my choice of words.

    As I said before, I do appreciate the creativity. I'm currently in the planning stages for cardboard replicas of Thomas Jefferson's portable writing desk and his rotating bookstand (to be documented and probably make appearances here in some form). This obviously takes time and attention to detail.

    Thanks again for sharing.