Thursday, October 18, 2007

How to collage a journal cover -- step by step

Ever since I started dreaming up the "Dreamdark" world, I've kept all my thoughts and notes in a series of journals -- they have to be Clairefontaine hardcover journals from France, which I buy at Powell's Books. They're sturdy, lined, and have a good weight of paper. They're great. But their covers are BORING. So I collage them. I've been asked about that process enough that I thought I'd put up a step-by-step here. Here you go!

You will need:
-- journals
-- collage papers
-- exacto knife and straight edge for perfect cutting
-- acrylic matte medium
-- some pieces of cardboard (or heavy paper will do)
-- some craft paint
-- big cheap foam stamps
-- rub-on transfer designs & letters

Here are the journals "before" in their naked boringness:

1. Choose papers. I am in love with papers from Basic Grey and My Mind's Eye (which I think might actually be the same company). Cut them to just the right size.

(Since these papers are fairly thick, I cut them just a fraction smaller than the cover so the corners won't stick out at all and want to peel back in the future.)

2. Apply paper to cover using matte medium. I use this process rather than just spray mount or something because it is makes a totally permanent, sturdy cover that will never peel, that is essentially waterproof and that will last forever.

Applying the medium is the main part of the collage process and you have to do it just right. It's messy and you have to do it fast so there aren't air bubbles, so roll up your sleeves. First, stick a piece of cardboard inside the front cover, so if the matte medium drips (it will) it doesn't get on the pages and stick them together!

Okay, now, apply matte medium LIBERALLY to both the back of the paper and the surface of the journal. Put it on thick -- use more than you need. You want to be sure there isn't even a small space without medium, or you'll get air bubbles. Here's an example of first a strip of paper and then a whole piece:

Then, put the paper in place -- get the corners lined up just right -- and with your fingertips settle it gently but firmly in place. NOW -- get a big gob of matte medium on your fingers and gloop it right on top of the paper. See, this cover will be sealed with matte medium. That piece of paper will essentially be platicized. By having lots of medium on top, you can start smoothing the paper down. Start in the center and work outward, pressing it down. You want to a) squish out all air bubbles and excess medium (there should be a lot; I scoop it right back into the jar and use it again), and b) get the top of the paper fully and evenly covered in medium.

You need to press pretty hard and very thoroughly squish out all the excess medium. Get it as smooth as you can with your fingertips. Then, using more medium if you need to, worry about smoothing out the surface of the medium. I actually just use my fingertips during this part, because I like having a little texture. When I apply paint (next), the texture makes it look more interesting. But you can use a very soft paintbrush if you want it very smooth (just wash it off thoroughly after or the medium will turn it into a chunk of plastic!)

Now let it dry completely. Make sure you've cleaned any excess medium off the sides, and then prop the cover open so there's no risk of it drying shut.

Drying might take a while. Go make some tea and read a book. (hee hee)

I should specify: do one cover at a time. Don't try to do the back and front at once. And I also like to cut a small strip for the spine. I do that separately too.

3. The "technical" part is over. Now you can decorate! Here, do whatever you like. Use your own collage style. Here's what I do for my Dreamdark journals -- I'm keeping them fairly basic. I add a little paint and some stamping, and some rub-on transfers, and that's about it. Here's the first step with a cheap foam stamp and some cheap craft paint:

Below, I didn't use stamps but I added some paint:

I like to add text, often with transfer letters. I also have some cheap foam alphabet stamps:

That one's not finished yet -- there are still things I want to do to it, like put a big embossed dragonfly in the middle and paint over it and stuff. But you get the idea.

And then, lastly, when everything is completely dry again, I transfer on some swoopy patterns and letters. I love these transfers. LOVE them. There's a great variety availble now at scrapbook stores and they add SO much to a simple design. See:

So, that's basically it. That's how I collage my Clairefontaine journals. You can use the same matte medium technique to collage anything that needs to be fairly durable. I have covered picture frames in mulberry paper using this technique. You might practice first on something un-precious, just to get the hang of squishing out the air bubbles and getting a smooth application.

Have fun!


~Stella said...

I like the details you have put on the spines. Are those buttons on one of them? Cute!


Debbie Barr said...

Oooh, thanks! I'll have to put that on my "To Do when I'm no longer freaking out about college List"

BTW- I'm really liking your writing journal idea from Not For Robots, and I've been enjoying having half an hour a day to brainstorm or just write about how cold it is. Thanks for the great ideas!

Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

I love this project. I could really get into this ... once I retire and can set up a work area for it. Unfortunately, I spend more time at work than I do at home ... but only 3 more years and I can see me doing all kinds of things (besides knitting). Thanks for the demo. I love collages!

Deb Cushman said...

This is great. I can't wait to try it. Thanks for the wonderful step-by-step directions! I know I could write wonderful things with a cool journal that I'd designed myself!

Anonymous said...

I wish I could really see it - for some reason, my computer isn't loading the photos on all the way and I can just see a corner of a cute polkadot, I think. Of course, the photo of the jar of matte medium, is showing up completely! I wish I could wave a magic wand at the screen to show me the rest. I do love me some matte medium, though...
Can't wait to see your new Laini's Ladies.

I missed seeing Pushing Daisies the other night - we'll watch it on the computer this weekend, I think. That thing sure is handy!

Alex S said...

I remember how much fun it was making these together!!! Lets do it again!

Jone said...

Thank you for the lesson. I can't wait for some time to do this. Might make great Christmas presents.

Anonymous said...

Those are excellent! ^_^
I love the one blue eye one. Maybe I could make one like that...except red...and snowflakes instead og dots.

stargardener said...

My heartfelt gratitude! This is exactly want I needed to get started!

kr said...

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