How to :: Altered Board Books

One way of creating an art journal is to alter a board book (the small cardboard books usually for young children). There are several advantages I have found to altering board books.
  1. Inexpensive— I usually pick them up at Goodwill or other second-hand store for somewhere around 25¢ - 50¢ a piece. You can't beat that!
  2. Size—This is two-fold in the size of the book and the length of the books. Board books come in varying sizes but they are usually fairly small, and only a couple of pages. This allows for the altered book or journal to have a theme if you so desire, but also to complete it in a timely manner. It also takes away some of the intimidation you might feel on trying to fill a large journal—it seems more manageable.
  3. Transform—There is something great about recycling. One it takes someone else's trash and it becomes a piece of art. Two there is a beauty in the metaphor of transformation; transformation literally of the board book but also of yourself. 
  4. Inspire—By using a page that already has images on it, you do not get the same blank page effect (you know that "where do I start, I don't want to mess up this nice canvas/paper by doing something wrong" feeling you sometimes get). Additionally, board books often have idiosyncrasies that can be really fun to work with in your art; ie. flaps, windows, textures.
  5. Ease— Altering board books is relatively easy and takes little preparation. That being said, I am going to walk you through some steps to begin altering a board book.
  STEP 1 

Start with your board book. This one is just a small Christmas one I picked up at Goodwill.

  STEP 2

You might want to prepare the pages if they are really slick. This can be done in multiple ways.
  • Gesso— Gesso the pages (the disadvantage to this is drying time)
  • Sandpaper— Lightly sand all the pages so that the slickness is taken away.
  • Peel— Peel the paper layer off the cardboard layer. This is actually really simple, and they usually peel off in whole sheets.

  STEP 3

Begin creating art in whatever manner you wish. You might check out the downloads page for specific techniques (also check out the tutorials for more ideas).
In the image below, I added collaged book pages on top of the cardboard pages. I like the way this looks in my art, and I like to have bits of the type showing through sometimes; it also de-blanked the cardboard pages (a technique I find highly useful when trying to figure out how/where to start!)


These are pages from another board book that I am working in. Each page has a flap, or door on it and they are so much fun to incorporate into the artmaking. I feel like this book is turning into a tidbits of virtues or values, and am really enjoying working in it.


  1. What a lovely tutorial on altering board books! Thanks for sharing with us. The pages that you have created are LOVELY!
    Hugs and blessings

  2. Great tutorial, AND great Emma Goldman quote...she is my shero!

  3. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing. A way that I sometimes prepare a boardbook is simply by covering the surface with a piece of paper glued down by gel medium and then just work on that.

  4. thanks ladies! I appreciate your lovely comments! I can't wait to see how the rest of the book unfolds!

  5. Hey, the roses page ypi did just oozes with creativity!! I love it! Kinda wish u did a tut on how you did them..

  6. That is so cool! Thank you for showing the process. I am a beginner and all the tips and tricks you share are REALLY helpful to someone who has had virtually no art training.


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