DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

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Hello friends! I have been promising for a while now that I would share my raised stenciling technique with you. I am excited to share my latest DIY project with you this evening. This project combines the use of raised stencils, image transfers, aging techniques and vintage books all into one!

I found the vintage books below at my local thrift store for 10 cents each. Yes, you read right; they were only 10 cents each! For that price I couldn’t pass them up.

What also caught my eye, besides their amazing price, was the ribbed indentations that were on the spines of the books. To me they looked similar to old antique books that you might find in a library in England somewhere.

As much as I loved the shape of these books, there was no way that their original burgundy color was going to fit in with my decor. They just had to have a makeover!

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Here they are all prettied up! What a great improvement, don’t you think?

I really love how they turned out!

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

If you would like to make over a set of your own books to put on display in your home, I have included the full tutorial below.

Why not make over a set for display on your mantel, your bookcase, or your coffee table? You could also use this tutorial to transform a hardcover journal that’s a little on the boring side or to make over a wedding registry book to give as a gift for a bride-to-be.

Here’s how I did it:

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • three new or vintage hardcover books
  • two printable images found here and here
  • damask stencil or a stencil of your choosing
  • Golden Soft Gel Medium (I used semi-gloss)
  • Golden Light Molding Paste
  • Mod Podge (I used matte finish)
  • acrylic gesso
  • Martha Stewart’s Sharkey Gray latex paint ( a taupey-gray color) or color of your choice
  • acrylic paints in burnt umber, medium grey and light ivory (I used Folk Art Burnt Umber, DecorArt Storm Cloud Grey and Delta Ceramcoat Light Ivory)
  • Delta Ceramic Gel Stain Medium (optional)
  • fine grit sandpaper (I used 400 grit)
  • small paint brushes, 4″foam roller and a spray bottle
  • ruler, pencil, tin foil and scissors
  • painter’s tape (optional)
  • plastic plate/tray for paint
  • rubber brayer or flat spreader
  • plastic trowel/spatula or old credit/debit card
  • paper towels
  • dish scrubber
  • plastic drop cloth to protect your workspace

Directions:

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Start by wiping your books down with a barely damp cloth to remove any dust or grime. Then give them a light sanding with 400 grit sandpaper and wipe away any sanding dust.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Coat the outside of the book covers with two coats of white acrylic gesso using either a foam brush or a 4″ foam paint roller. Once dry, sand lightly to remove any rough spots.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

In your plastic paint tray, place a medium-sized amount of Martha Stewart’s Sharkey Gray paint on one side and the same amount of white gesso on the other side. Scrunch up a paper towel and dip it into the Sharkey Gray paint. Dab off the excess onto another paper towel. Pounce your paper towel randomly onto your book covers leaving some of the white gesso showing through as in the photo above.

NOTE: If you don’t have Sharkey Gray paint, don’t worry! Just use what you already have on hand. Sharkey Gray is a great neutral taupey-gray color so if you don’t have a paint color at home that would work you could easily mix up some acrylic craft paint to create a similar color instead.

Next with a clean piece of scrunched-up paper towel, pick up a small amount of gesso from your tray, dab off the excess and then lightly pounce over top of your book cover leaving small amounts of Sharkey Gray showing here and there. This technique will give your book cover a great aged marble look.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Mix up equal amounts of Storm Cloud Grey (medium grey) craft paint and gel stain medium. Paint a light coat on your cover working in one section at a time. Before your gel stain has a chance to dry, wipe off the excess with a damp cloth. Gel stain medium gives your paint color more transparency and more working time, much like a glazing liquid would.

Again, if you don’t have the specific paint color I have mentioned above, any medium grey paint will suffice. As well, if you don’t have gel stain medium you could instead use a glazing medium or just dilute your paint with water.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

In this photo you can see how the paint stays in the crevices when the gel stain/paint mixture is wiped away.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

What’s next? Photo transfers.

I recently found Graphic #1 (below) on The Graphics Fairy’s blog HERE. I knew that I wanted to use some vintage handwriting for this project and The Graphics Fairy’s site is the first place that I go when looking for images to use for my projects. Did you know that all of her images are free? I know, awesome!

I downloaded her poem graphic and then prepared it for transferring by removing the aged background, flipping the image to “mirror image mode” and reducing it to fit on to the front of my book.

To save and print this image for your own project, click on the image below and right click to save it to your computer. This image has been sized to fit the front of my books. Please re-size it to fit your specific project.

Graphic #1

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers This next image I found online a couple of months ago but for some reason I misplaced the source for this graphic. I searched all over Google for the source but didn’t have any luck finding it. If you happen to know where this graphic came from, I would be grateful if you could please let me know so I can properly credit the site where it came from.

To save and print this image for your own project, click on the image below and right click to save it to your computer. This image has been sized to fit the spine of my books. Please re-size it to fit your specific project.

Graphic #2

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

To start, measure the spine of your books to make sure that Graphic #2 will fit the entire length of the spine once printed. Print out the graphic onto regular plain copy paper using either a laser printer or have it photocopied at your local photocopy center. Be sure to print off at least 4-5 copies of each image so you have extras. Also, if this is your first time transferring images, you may want to test your technique on a piece of cardboard at least once before working on your actual book covers. “Practice makes perfect!”

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Using a ruler and pencil, measure and draw out the size of the Graphic #2 image needed for the spine of your book with enough to wrap around the sides as shown below. One print-out should be large enough for two book spines side-by-side. Be sure to erase any pencil marks left on your image after cutting it out or the marks will show up on your final transfer.

Place your image face up on a piece of tinfoil and coat it with a even layer of soft gel medium. Quickly and carefully lift up your image from the tinfoil handling by the edges only and place it face down on the spine of your book. Try to line it up as best a possible before you place it down because once your transfer is stuck down it cannot be moved without messing it up.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Use your fingers to push out the air bubbles and then use your brayer with a little bit of pressure to roll over your image in all directions. This will help to make sure your image is firmly stuck down. Wipe away any excess gel medium with a damp cloth.

Leave your transfer to dry for at least two hours, preferably overnight. The longer you leave your transfer to dry the better your image will come out. You can use a hair dryer to manually dry your image if you are short on time.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

When your image is fully dry, use a spray bottle or a damp paper towel to wet part of your image with water. Wait 1-2 minutes and then use the pad of your pointer finger to rub away the paper layer of your image. Work in small sections and keep your image moist.

Try to get as much of the paper residue off of your image as you can but don’t rub too hard with your finger or you may rub away part of your image!

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Once you have removed as much paper as you can with your fingers, dampen a kitchen scrubber (type shown above) and rub lightly over your image in a circular motion. Be sure to scrub gently especially around the edges of your image or it may start to rub away. Use your hand or a dry paper towel to wipe away any leftover bits of paper.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

You will be using Graphic #1 as a transfer for the front of your book right above/below your raised stencil.

Print out the graphic provided and cut it out with scissors in a slightly larger size than the space you are wanting to fill. Tear away some of the edges of the paper to age the image further.

Transfer your image to the front of your book using the techniques described for Graphic #2.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Next is the raised stencils. My most favorite product to use when creating raised stencils is Golden’s Light Molding Paste. When you first open the jar of molding paste you will be surprised about how thin and fluffy it is.

I love this product because it is so easy to work with, it can be tinted to whatever color you want and it dries to a nice hard finish that can be sanded and painted. I find that it looks a lot like plaster when its dry but it has much more durability.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

First decide where you are going to place your stencil on your book cover.

Sorry, I don’t actually remember where I found this damask stencil as I have had it in my stash for a while now. Michaels or any other craft supply store should have a similar stencil if you are wanting to use something close to this one.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

When you are ready to mix up the molding paste for your stencil you will want to have everything set-up and ready to go as molding paste dries very quickly.

IMPORTANT: You will want to wash your tools and stencil immediately after using molding paste, especially in between stencil impressions as it will leave a residue and harden on your tools if you don’t. I wash everything up with water and a little bit of hand soap as I go which works really well.

For the mixture above, mix equal parts of burnt umber craft paint and medium gray craft in your plastic paint tray. Then add in an equal part of molding paste and mix thoroughly with your spatula.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Hold your stencil firmly with one hand and use your other hand to trowel on some of the molding paste mixture on to your stencil. I found that the easiest way to do this is to put on dollop of molding paste on the corner of your stencil and use the flat part of your spatula to spread the paste around lightly covering the entire stencil in an even layer. If you keep your spatula flat you will avoid digging into the stencil and possibly getting some paste underneath where you don’t want it. (see photo above). It is almost like icing a cake!

To remove the excess paste, turn your spatula on its side and lightly scrape across the top of your stencil putting the excess back into your paint tray. If you are using an old credit card as a scrapper, you can just drag it across your stencil lightly. You want a raised stencil that is at least 2-3 millimeters thick.

When you have your paste spread out in an even layer and you are happy with how it looks, carefully lift your stencil straight up. You should be left with a nice clear and clean impression.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

The photo above shows what the raised stencil looks like when it is still wet. Don’t worry if there are some ridges and/or bumps on your stencil. Once dry, these ridges can easily be sanded away or left alone for more texture. FYI, you will see below that I sanded the ridges off my raised stencil once it was dry.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

Next, coat your stencil with some medium gray craft paint mixed 50/50 with gel stain. Leave some of the original brown color showing through near the edges of the stencil. Once that is dry, mix up some light cream craft paint also 50/50 with gel stain and add highlights to your design as show above.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

As a final step you can age your books even further by glazing over them with a mixture of medium gray craft paint, with a touch more burnt umber craft paint and some gel stain to make a glaze that will settle into the cracks and crevices on your books.

Just brush it on…

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

…and use a damp cloth to wipe it off. Continue this treatment over the entire book leaving extra glaze around the spine of the book and over the areas you want to look more aged.

Finally coat your book with at least two coats of Mod Podge for protection. Leave your books to dry for 1-2 days before displaying them side by side so they don’t stick together. Please don’t ask me how I know this! Haha!

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

I decided to change the placement of the raised stencil and transfers on the three books so each of them were different.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

To display my books all together, I tied them into a bundle with a pretty piece of cream ribbed ribbon from the Dollar Store.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

In case you didn’t know, these Readers Digest books are either burgundy or gold colored at the top of the books so I decided to paint out the book pages so that they would blend in better with the rest of the book.

If you have the same kind of books you can paint the tops of the pages by dry-brushing some white gesso on top of them. Then you can then age them further by lightly dabbing on some Sharkey Gray paint or some of your medium grey craft paint randomly.

To keep the paint from seeping down into your book pages, use one hand to firmly hold the pages together while painting with the other hand. Also, use a fairly dry foam brush or roller to paint with. If you do this you should have very little seepage onto your book pages. After you have applied your paint and the top of your book is slightly dry, fan the pages a few times to make sure the pages are not stuck together.

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

So instead of sending your old books off to the recycling facility or giving them to Goodwill because their covers are ugly and you plan to never ever read them again, you now have a tutorial to help you to turn them into a set of decorative books that you would be proud to display in your home.

You know what else you can do with these books to make them even more functional? You could cut one big rectangle out of the middle of each of your books to use as a “safe” for your keepsakes, jewelry and money. Place a small cardboard box that has been measured to fit inside and no one would be any the wiser as to what your books contain!

These decorative books only cost me $1.00 to make! That’s it! It was 0.40 cents for the books with tax, 0.60 cents for the amount of ribbon I used and the rest of the supplies didn’t end up costing me anything as I already had them on hand. Woohoo! I love projects that cost almost nothing to make, don’t you?

DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers

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DIY decorative books with raised stencils and image transfers