DIYdiy projects

diy project: vintage-style book dustcovers

by Kate Pruitt


Looking at this picture, can you tell which of these books are actually hardbound? I’m not super fussy over the books on my shelves, but I will admit that sometimes a really garish or unattractive book spine will jump out from the bunch and irritate me every time I walk by. I don’t think I would ever take the leap to cover all of my books, but I really like the idea of using these nifty deceptive hardbound dustcovers by Alex Cobbe to gussy up the real eyesores in my collection.

Alex used a few inexpensive materials — construction paper, a ruler, a gold pen — to quickly turn her collection of paperbacks into a library of classics — even the Chuck Norris book looks like a masterpiece :) This would be a fun rainy day activity, and the possibilities for customizing this look are endless. Thanks so much for sharing, Alex! — Kate

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  • construction paper (enough to cover your books)
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • pencil and eraser
  • thin gold pen
  • gold marker
  • adhesive (Elmer’s or archival glue)


1. Lay your book flat on the construction paper — completely flat — ensuring the spine is flat as well, otherwise you won’t get a truly accurate width for your book. Align with the bottom of the construction paper; this way you don’t have to cut out the entire shape of the book.

2. On the construction paper, roughly mark the height of your book. Make sure to leave sufficient space on either side of the book to fold the side flaps.

3. With a ruler, draw a lovely straight line for the top and cut out. You will be left with a piece of paper the same height as your book, but wider on each side.

4. Fold the construction paper template around the book cover. What I do next is put pressure along the edges to make sure the folds are defined, and I use my fingernail to define the edge of the spine.

5. Using a ruler and your gold marker, draw a design down the spine of your cover. Here’s where your creativity comes in. I took inspiration from some of my favorite old books; alternatively, you can find images of old books. I also cut out a little label for added charm.

6. With your pencil, lightly mark where you will place the text. Once you’re happy with it, go over with the thin gold pen. Affix any labels if you choose, et voila, you’re finished!


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  • Oh, and your comment on Hydrangea Girl that you are thinking of doing this for your brother’s XBox/PS3 games … well SHUT my MOUTH. You deserve a medal, and I do mean a real one, not one of those online achievement badges.

  • super cool!
    I order all my books by colour, so some sets (like Harry Potter) get split up or relegated to another shelf (my UK covers have bright primary colours in stripes…*shudder*).

  • What a simple and easy idea! Thank you for sharing. Now I may have to make a shelf full of lovely aqua and robin’s egg blue covers for my coverless books. :)

  • This gives me something to do with all the purple paper I have left over from making wedding stuff more than a year ago! YAY!

    What a cool idea!

  • I think this is an awesome idea, but I barely have time to read my books, much less recover them!

  • This is genius on SO many levels! Now I can cover all my old business books and not look like such a dork!

    I bet this could be really interesting using old newspaper, too.

  • So smart! Love this DIY project! I have lots of ugly book covers, I’ve tried arranging by color but that never seems to work out…this may be the perfect antidote! Thanks!

  • Nice project, but it seems a bit “overkill” for a book such as “The Truth About Chuck Norris”!

  • It’s a really lovely project and looks great. I’d recommend getting a paper like Canson Mi-Teintes or other artist quality paper instead of contruction paper if you are going through the time & effort to do this. It has a wonderful texture and isn’t going to fade like construction paper. Anyone who’s put a child’s project up for a month or two knows how quickly construction paper fades or discolors.

  • Thanks for all your thoughts and comments!

    Beth – haha, thanks. But realistically, I don’t know if I’ll have the time. He has way too many …
    Frida – it’s actually a good quality weighted presentation paper. Roughly €2.50 for a 420mm x 594mm size piece.
    Dominique – guess which HP book was used for the tutorial ;)
    Frimbo – I covered the Chuck Norris book to show a wide selection of books, with the aim is to reinvent their covers. Don’t be hatin’.
    LH – you’re right, and it is actually heavier quality presentation paper that I used. My bad referring to it as construction paper. It’s quite sturdy, but relatively inexpensive.


  • So excited about this post considering I’ll be getting a brand new bookcase today. Thanks for the wonderful/beautiful idea! Just gorgeous :)

  • Love this idea!! I have been wanting to recover all the ugly paperbacks in our home office (we seriously need some ‘pretty’ in here) and have been thinking, thinking, thinking of how to do it. Now you come up with the solution! Thanks a bunch! I think I will go with white and turquoise with a silver pen…

  • I absolutely love the idea!! way more easy than doing a complete bookbinding to make it prettier!

  • I do something similar using designed card stock/paper that comes either in single sheets or tablets. The problem has always been the size of the paper. This solves that issue.

  • I have so many books that I arrange by subject (gardening, sewing, knitting, folk tales, art, you name it) so if I used a different but coordinating color for each group.. I ‘ve always wanted to arrange my books by color, but was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find what I was looking for quickly. With some elbow grease now, problem solved!

  • Amazing, I was just thinking of doing this today, as I looked at my bookcases. Hadn’t stopped long enough to give it an more thought on the process involved and you saved me all the trouble! I love it…they are gorgeous!!!

  • Oh a fancy shmancy upgrade would be to heat emboss some of the lines and maybe the main title. And maybe use modge podge or something to reinforce/protect the paper :) Very clever DIY though. Why haven’t I thought of doing this?

  • Hi can some one give me the names of retailers for the materials shown here, as I would love to start making vintage style books thank you chris

  • That is kind of expensive. I love the idea, though. Just need to think of a cheaper way to do it and still get the “look”.

    • Deborah

      This only uses construction paper and a few around-the-house materials- it’s definitely not expensive. you should give it a try! :)