In the past year, sprayed pages have really grown in popularity–both publishers and book boxes creating special editions with colored edges!
And so, today I wanted to bring you a tutorial on how I paint the edges of my books! I’ve done this three times and they’ve all been really successful, so I feel experienced enough to impart some knowledge upon other people with this step-by-step guide to making your own sprayed edges!
I admit that I don’t actually care that much about having the edges of my books colored–but I really enjoy the act of defacing a book, so painting them has become a fun type of passtime for me!
Totally ask any questions in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer them to the best of my ability! I’ll try to be as specific as possible with this guide, but let me know if anything is unclear.
Without further ado, here is how I ended up with rainbow ombre edges on my copy of Marie Lu’s Warcross!
Quick note that we’re not spray painting these, like publishers do. We’re taking a little more of an easier, DIY route that still has a really nice effect.
If this is your first time, I definitely recommend using a book that you have a duplicate of or aren’t very attached to.
The easiest type of book to paint is one that is hardcover and with straight edges. (Deckled edges are really hard to do. Paperbacks are a little more challenging to tape.)
Okay, so the paint you see above is Craft Smart acrylic paint I bought approximately 8 years ago from Michaels. It works great.
I could have used my fancy paints (Liquitex etc.), but honestly those would have been less effective and too thick. I recommend any sort of value paint bottle that has almost a mayo consistency, if not a little more liquid.
Kids acrylics might be a little too thin, and fancy paint is too thick, so your best bet is value-type craft paint that’s multipurpose! You can get them in a variety of colors (metallics too!) and they’re very versatile for a lot of projects.
This is something that is really dependent on how steady/comfortable you are with using a paintbrush.
I have relatively good control, but if you’re someone who doesn’t paint often or has a wobbly hand, it might be better to get a fine brush (for the edges) and a larger one for the rest of the edges.
I prefer a flat brush, around one to two centimeters wide. My brush has a slanted cut which makes it easier for me to do the corners without needing a second brush, but if it makes you more comfortable to use a smaller brush for those areas, then go for it!
I think this is camel’s hair but honestly it doesn’t matter. You just need a sort of pliable brush, kind of soft & flexible (nothing sharp or stabby or plastic, probably) out of synthetic hair or something with a similar range of motion.
Tape is an area where . . . a lot of things can go wrong.
I use washi tape, and I’ve always used MT Casa washi tape to tape the sides of my books (despite it being one of my pricier tapes) because its the most gentle paper tape I have.
However, it might not be in your budget to buy some of these tapes (love them, though), so basically, the best way to test whether a tape will work is to get a sample of that tape, adhere it to a corner of your book’s hardback, press it in & leave it for a few minutes, and then peel gently.
If it pulls off some of the hardback’s paper fibers, you need to get a different tape.
Masking tape will probably work, as well as gentler washi/paper tapes. No scotch tape or duct tape (and Scotch and Duct brand washi tape is too strong, usually).
Just be careful and make sure to test that your tape will remove itself without damaging your book!
SOMETHING TO PUT YOUR PAINT ON
You do not need a full blown palette–a paper plate will work or even a paper towel folded in half or anything to hold your paint. (If you’re not mixing colors/doing one color, you could just get your paint out of the tube, too!)
Step 1: Remove the Dust Jacket
This is pretty self explanatory, but I might as well go through it! Don’t leave your dust jacket on! Okay?
Step 2: Obtain Tape
See the materials list for more details on how to choose the right tape to use!
(This is the brand of my tape, if you do have it in your budget to splurge on some amazing tapes that are nice and gentle and pretty!)
Step 3: Tape the Edges
As you can see, I tape below the edge of the endpaper. When you close the book, the tape’s bottom edge should go below the stack of papers.
I then fold the tape over, and fold the flappy edge (see the tape sticking off of the side) around to the back, so the book is protected.
Look at that corner! You do the same with all the sides of the book, top x2, bottom x2, side x2. This will keep you from accidentally painting your book!
Some things to note. The spine of the book is something you need to make a decision on, but first, a little bit about spines:
Some books (like Warcross above) don’t have a little stiched piece that’s attached to the spine (it would go right where the paper and the spine’s blue meet). Other books do.
It’s up to you whether you’re going to tape the spine, especially if there’s a stitched piece, but I personally advise you not to put your faith in tape on the spine.
It’s pretty ineffective at keeping paint out because the spine and areas near it are so curved, and you can’t pull the tape beneath it, only meeting the edge of the book.
In my opinion, it’s better to just be careful and paint cautiously in that area than to cover it and go wild, because the covering is frankly not that effective, since it’s not fully under the paper.
Your choice, though!
Step 4: Pour Your Paint
You see the paint in the picture? Doesn’t seem like a lot, right?
Yeah, well that was enough paint for three books.
I’m always horrible about pouring the right amount of paint, but I can certainly say that this was way too much paint, and I ended putting most of it back in their tubes (and losing paint in the transfer process).
You probably only need as much paint as the two yellow blobs combined to cover a book the size of Warcross. You’ll probably need three or four blobs for something like Priory of the Orange Tree, but never this much for one book.
Also! Reference that the gold paint is a different brand and it’s got a thicker texture (still also works). The consistencies you see are good for painting pages.
Step 5: Do the Actual Painting
I started painting! You can see that I started with the edge and made sure it was covered properly, not painting over the glue or on the spine.
Don’t feel bad for getting paint on the tape! That’s why it’s there, and it does a good job 🙂
PRO TIP #1: Compress the book as tightly as you can! The tighter you compress, the better your results (you’ll see what I mean later).
If you have a clamp, that would definitely be helpful at squeezing the book together. I don’t really recommend putting the book in between heavy books, because
- it doesn’t actually work that well at compressing unless you’ve got like 20 lbs
- it hinders movement, making mistakes more likely.
PRO TIP #2: Don’t add too much paint! Too much paint, like not enough compression, will let paint seep deeper into the pages and make it less professional looking (from the inside, at least. Outside it still looks great.)
Enough to make a coat but still see the texture of the paper is good. If there’s a blank spot, you can always patch it up later.
Step 6: Let It Dry
As you can see, I did a rainbow ombre!
It’s not a perfectly smooth transition because the paint I use dries really quickly (like, this whole thing took 5-10 minutes to dry, and it was basically drying as I was applying it).
Also, I don’t have half of my paints with me (lent them to a friend) so I had to make do with the colors I had on hand instead of potentially making better transitions. Eh. It still looks cool.
Let it dry and be patient! You can test it with your finger, but just let it rest in peace. It’ll be okay.
Also, now’s a good time to wash your hands! You don’t want to accidentally get paint somewhere.
Step 7: Separate the Pages Gently
This is honestly one of my favorite parts to do, and also where I explain why compressing your book and moderating your paint use is important.
You can see how the paint goes a little further into the page than just the edge, seeping in a bit. I honestly don’t mind, but if you don’t like that, then you need to be more careful about how much paint you use & how loosely you hold it.
As for the actual mechanics of the step, you basically read the entire book, flipping through all 300+ pages and making sure they’re separate and distinct. Do this GENTLY. If you don’t do this step, then you just have an unreadable block of colored pages that are basically stuck together.
It’s a bit tedious, but I swear it’s fun (you’ll see in a second)!
PRO TIP #3: Sometimes it’s a little tricky to find where to separate pages. I usually toy around with either the corner or the bottom edge, just wiggling the pages until a little hole between them opens up. It shouldn’t be too hard.
PRO TIP #4: Count your page numbers. You don’t want to skip something.
PRO TIP #5: Be gentle please! If you’re too rough, you will rip your pages. You’ll hear it too–it sounds different than peeling pages. A little bit of the paper fibers from one side of the page will end up on the other, and that’s no fun 😦
And a quick, fun aside! I took a video of me opening the pages because it sounds really satisfying (Mel says this qualifies as ASMR so like do what you will with that video) so grab those earbuds and you can listen to it below, hehe!
It’s so satisfying ahhhhh
And you basically do that with all the pages. This is the step that takes the longest, so definitely put some music on and just jam while you do it.
OR you could read the book as you flip pages. That works too, haha!
As you can see above, it’s pretty thin and gets fainter when the pages are stretched out, which means I did a good job of not putting too much paint on! Yay!
(Also, fun fact apparently some old books with gilded pages actually had SECRET PAINTINGS that would show up when you pulled the book like this? Yeah. It’s wild. I wish I knew how to do that but tbh idk how.)
In the end, it should look like a nice block of color when rested, but all be separated and distinct.
See a very fuzzy GIF above!
Step 8: Remove the Tape Gently
Ahhh, the moment of truth.
Did you pick a good tape? We will see.
I’m still pretty gentle about this, even though this tape has always worked well for me. Just get all the pieces off, and it’s really refreshing to see the ugly paint splotches gone, haha!
Dispose of tape pile.
Step 9: Replace the Dust Jacket
Voila! It’s done! You can replace the dust jacket and relish in the fact that you have a beautiful sprayed-appearing copy without cashing out the big bucks!
And you can do this for a lot of books, and it looks really cool!
I’m probably going to do more fun things to this copy of Warcross, and if I do, I’ll make sure to take progress photos and share!
(I’m hoping to annotate, illustrate the end papers, & illustrate the hardback! Then I’ll either give it to Marie Lu or do a giveaway for it.)
You can see the final video fo waht my pages look like below! Sorry in advance for the bad filming, ahaha!
I hope this tutorial was fun and helpful and made the act of creating your own sprayed pages more accessible to y’all!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below and I’ll get to you as soon as I can! Plus, let me know if this was helpful, and I’ll try to do more bookish art tutorials in the future!