Rainy Day Tutorial: DIY Watercolor sketchbook

Rainy Day Tutorial: DIY Watercolor sketchbook

How to create your own DIY watercolor sketchbook with coptic bookbinding

The past 5 days has been super rainy and dreary outside so I needed something fun to do indoors! And bookbinding has been something I've been wanting to do for a long time. The last time I bound a book was in high school (agesss ago wow!). I had to watch tutorials on the stitch technique again but it brought back some fun crafting memories!

If you're a visual person like me, here's the youtube video version to follow along:

If you want the written steps then let's get started...

Binding your very own watercolor sketchbook

In this step by step tutorial we will be hand binding our very own watercolor sketchbook with the coptic bookbinding technique. Coptic bookbinding lays flat when in use so that makes it great for sketching in. The purpose for my watercolor sketchbook is actually to art journal in! Art journaling is a visual diary, a place where you can keep your memories, words that inspire you, art and pictures all in one place.

Table of Contents

  • Supplied for bookbinding
  • Step 1: Preparing the insert papers
  • Step 2: Making the book cover
  • Step 3: Coptic bind your watercolor sketchbook together
  • What happens when you come to the end of your thread?
  • Last step: Stitch through the back cover and last signature together
  • Done: Your DIY watercolor sketchbook & art journal 

Supplies for bookbinding

I ordered several things from Amazon and then gathered the last bit I needed at a local art supply store. I trekked out in the rain with an umbrella and rain boots, I know was very determined to craft.

Step 1: Preparing the insert papers

1. We will be folding 5 signatures. A signature is a stack of folded paper and in each of our signatures we will fold 4 pieces of paper together.

2. Fold the watercolor paper in half and press down with a bone folder for super crisp and clean folded edges (or I used the back end of my scissors but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re clumsy).

3. Next we will be marking points on the folded edge of the signatures. Mark 3 points 1 inch apart from the top and the same from the bottom of the paper. So we will have 6 points total. I recommend you measure the distance in the center and make sure all the signatures are spaced the same. You can also stack all the signatures together and transfer all the points by eyeballing it but keep them in the stack in the same order in case your points are a little off.

4. With the awl tool, puncture holes in all the points on the signatures.

Step 2: Making the book cover

1. Use one of the signatures we just made to measure a book cover. Trace around the signature on the book board and cut out two pieces. I made mine just a smidge bigger than my signatures.

2. Use decorative paper or wrapping paper of choice to cover the book board. I got this pressed flower paper from a local art store! Check out your local art supply store, they might have special papers on hangers. Cut the wrapping paper 1″ larger than the book cover all around.

3. Now use the PH neutral glue to glue the wrapping paper to the book cover. I squeezed it on the book board and used a wide brush to spread the glue. I remember in high school, my art teacher told us that pH neutral glue is important for bookbinding because it doesn’t yellow over time and it remains flexible.

4. After gluing the book board on the wrapping paper, carefully cut triangles to create a mitered edge but be careful not to cut too much or else you’ll have a gap there. I suggest folding it and marking the triangles first.

5. Now fold over the wrapping paper and glue it down. If you have a bone folder you can use it to press against the edges to make a super crisp and pristine edge.

6. Measure another decorative paper for the backside of the book cover. I am using a piece of gold paper I had leftover from another project and I just cut it in half hoping it’ll be big enough. But you should measure this sheet to be at least 1/4” smaller than the book cover all around then glue it down.

7. Stack some books over your book covers and let it dry.

8. After your book covers are completely dry, measure 1/2” from one side of the wider edge of the book cover and puncture holes matching the signature. Puncture 3 holes from the top and 3 holes from the bottom making sure they all line up.  

 Step 3: Coptic bind your watercolor sketchbook together

Now are you ready for the fun and hard part? You might want to watch the video for this part if you’ve never used coptic binding before. Fun fact: According to wiki employed by early Christians in Egypt called the Copts. How cool is that, right? It was used as early as 2nd century AD and now 1800 years later we are still using it. 

1. Choose a wax thread, double thread the needle and knot it. The reason we are using wax thread is because it will tangle less and make this binding process much easier. The threads will still tangle a little but it’s easier to untangle because it’s waxed.

2. You will be sandwiching the signatures between the book covers one at a time. It is helpful to bind your signatures in the same order as you stacked them in case your measurements are a little off.

3. Place the first book cover facing table, backside facing up. Stack first signature on it to start binding.

4. First stitch, sew through one signature from the inside. Bring needle around cover and sew into the cover from outside, tighten your thread. Then loop your needle through and inside the same signature hole and pull through. You will see a knot on the outside. 

5. Now repeat, pull needle through the next signature, out and into the cover, tighten and loop needle through and back into the same signature hole making a knot. Continue until you reach the end of the signature.

6. At the last hole of the signature you’ll want to stack your next signature on top except after you loop your needle through to make a knot, instead of returning back into the same hole you will return the needle into the next signature.

7. Keep going with the same stitch technique but instead of looping through the cover now, loop through the previous signature.

6. Continue until you reach the last signature. Don’t bind the last signature until we get to that step!

What happens when you come to the end of your thread?

When you have about 6 inches left, tie it off and tuck the thread. You can go back later to clean up the tail. Re-thread and keep going.

Last step: Stitch through the back cover and last signature together

1. Stack your cover and last signature, align the holes.

2. From the last stitch instead of returning it into the next signature, push it through the back cover first. Bring needle out between the cover and signature then loop the needle around the previous signature’s knot and come out once before going into the new signature. (You may want to refer to the video if this confuses you.)

3. Once you end up at the inside of the last signature just tie off your thread and tuck it away!

Done: Your DIY watercolor sketchbook & art journal

Voilà! Your new watercolor sketchbook/art journal is ready for use! Remember to subscribe to my mailing list for more creative hangouts! Enjoy!


Disclosure: When you purchase from one of my amazon links, I earn a small commission at no cost to you, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

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