Altered Board Book


How to Alter a Board Book

Part 1: Preparing a Book to Alter

By Karen Hatzigeorgiou | Posted 12/7/05 | Updated 4/15/23

Altered Book: Any book, old or new that has been recycled by creative means into a work of art. —The International Society of Altered Book Artists

Altered Board Books are a fun and relatively easy way to get started into the art of creating altered books. You don't need too many supplies, and the options for expressing your own individual creativity are endless.

Finished book inside.Finished book cover.


We are going to alter a small children's board book to display two pictures inside. When we're finished, your book should look something like the one above. Feel free to use your own color scheme, decorative papers or paints, and embellishments to create your own individual altered book.

Materials Needed:

Set up:

You'll need two small areas to work in. One space will be for cutting. The other space will be for painting. On the painting side, tape down a piece of freezer paper to protect your working surface. Gather all your materials so that they're handy.

Step 1: Gently rough-up the surfaces.

Step 1:

Using your sand paper, gently rough-up all the surfaces of the board book.The idea is to remove the slick, plasticy surface of the book so that the gesso will adhere better. When you're finished sanding, use an old rag to wipe away all the dust.

Step 2: Paint the book cover with gesso.

Step 2:

Move your book to the freezer paper because you're going to do a little painting. Use your paint brush to paint the front cover, the back cover, and the spine of the board book with the gesso. Let dry. Apply another coat of gesso, if necessary, to cover up the book's original words and text.

Open your board book and find the center. (If there isn't an even number of pages, keep the extra page on the back end.) The two pages in front of you are called a double-page spread. Use your paint brush to cover these two pages with gesso. Let dry. Apply another coat of gesso, if necessary.

Step 3:

We are going to create a template of our board book in order to do some planning before we cut into the actual book.

Step 3: Trace along edges of book.

Cut along pencil line.

In your cutting work space, lay down your manilla folder with the folded edge on the left. Place the board book flush along the lower left corner. Use your pencil to trace along the edges of your book. Cut along the pencil line, and you've created your template.

Create rough sketch on template.

Open your template. It will be approximately the same dimensions as your double-page spread. Use this as a place to create a rough sketch of how you want the inside of your book to look.

Step 4: Measure and mark guidelines.

Step 4:

Open your book to the center. Use your ruler and pencil to lightly measure and mark the guidelines for where you will make the cut-outs for your altered book. It's best not to cut closer than 1/4" inch from the gutter (the center fold of your book.)


When you're happy with your marks, it's time to cut. Treat yourself to fresh blades in your craft or exacto knife so that you can make sharp clean cuts into the page. If necessary, use a metal edged ruler as a cutting guide. You will have to make several passes with your knife to cut through the board. Make the first cut lightly in case you stray from your marked line. Then go back and cut deeper with each pass until you've cut through the page.

Depending on the thickness of your book, you can make your cuts through one to two or more pages. It just depends on the depth you want to achieve. For this book, each opening was cut through two pages of the board book.

This part can be tedious and hard on your wrist. Take frequent breaks and stretch out your hands occasionally.


You can see that since we've cut up our book, we have some more of the original pages exposed. Make sure they are thoroughly roughed up with sandpaper, then use your gesso again to paint over the text and images. Let dry.

Use gesso.

Fan pages open to dry.

Close the book and paint gesso around the outside edges of your book. Fan the pages open, so they don't stick together, and let your book dry.

Step 5:

We're going to glue the pages of our board book together in order to get it ready to decorate. Open up your book to the center. You should have two levels of rectangle shaped frames on either side of the double-page spread. Remember, for my book, each rectangle is two pages deep, so I need to glue those page sets together.

Move over to your gluing area. Have a little bowl of water ready to put your brush in when you're done because you don't want the adhesive drying on it. Also, make sure you have your clothes pins or other clips nearby.

Step 5: Spread adhesive around frame.

Pour some of your adhesive into a little container. I use the gel medium for this part. Use your brush to spread the adhesive all around the outside of your "frame." Clip the two pages together around the edges. Use a baby wipe or paper towel to wipe away any adhesive that squishes out from between the pages. Repeat on the other side of the double page spread. Let dry.

Keep pages seperate.

Move on to the next two cut pages and repeat the process. Don't glue the two sets of pages together yet. We need to keep them separate from each other in order to decorate them. Glue any remaining pages in the back end of the book together. Take a look at my picture below. Can you see all the glued sets of pages fanned-out as they're drying? In Part 2, we'll decorate the inside of the book.

Fanned out pages to dry.

Next: Part 2: Decorate the Inside of the Book

Copyright ©2005 Karen Hatzigeorgiou. All rights reserved.

Finished book cover.

Altered Book Tutorial:

  1. Preparing
  2. Decorating
  3. Embellishing