Digital DIY Project: Electronic Bookplates

One of the problems with iPads, tablets and ebook readers is that, while normal books cost just a few dollars, their electronic counterparts can set you back several hundred. The loss of a book can be irritating, especially if it has sentimental value, but it pales in comparison to the nerve-racking annoyance of losing one’s tablet or phone. In addition to their monetary value, the electronic devices we carry every day are stocked not only with reading material, but also photographs, contact lists, e-mails, notes and ongoing games of Words With Friends. To accidentally leave such a thing on a subway seat or in the back of a taxi can mean hours of agonizing regret and proverbial self-kicking. Fret not, dear readers. There is a solution!

In addition to using the fabulous Find-My-iPhone/iPad features that Apple has introduced, it can be incredibly useful to take a page from ye-olde paperbound books in the form of custom bookplates that grace the heretofore unused space of electronic lock screens. Ever since I switched from my woefully outdated flip phone to the touch-screen version of today, I have been an advocate of lock-screen bookplatery. Perfect for those times when you leave your device at a restaurant or bar (“It has my name written on it!” you can scream to the bartender over the phone), these cute reminders of yesteryear prove stunningly useful in our modern world.

Follow the simple directions below, and you too can live fret-free with your chosen electronic pal! — Max

The full how-to continues after the jump…


  • iPad/iPhone/smartphone/tablet
  • scanner and/or digital camera
  • Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or similar photo-editing application (Gimp is a great free alternative.)
  • photo or scan of a wallpaper, pattern or texture you like (We used patterns from the V&A Museum’s series of pattern books. For a truly book-like experience, scan the endpaper of a book that you love.)
  • vintage clip art book for images to attach to your bookplates (We used Dover’s handy-dandy book of nineteenth-century animal engravings.)


iPad/Tablet Directions

1. Create a Photoshop file with the exact pixel dimensions of your device’s screen. The new iPad’s retina display uses wallpaper that is 2048 x 2048 pixels. (It’s important to maintain a square format for iPad wallpapers so that it looks good in both portrait and landscape positions.)

2. Paste your wallpaper or pattern photo into your Photoshop file. If your scan or photo doesn’t fully fit the file, you can expand it while maintaining its proportions by dragging the image’s corner and holding down the Shift key.

3. Next, create a 500 x 800 pixel Photoshop file. This will be your bookplate. You can also use one of the templates provided in our bookplate package (download the .zip file here).

4. Design your bookplate any way your heart desires. For maximum insurance against loss, include your name, address, phone number and e-mail. Use scans from your clip art book to add some nice imagery to the top of your bookplate.

5. If you’re using one of the Design*Sponge templates, we suggest inserting your information with a contrasting font and color. We used the typewriter font Courier (standard with most computers) in a bright red.

6. Next, “Flatten” your image [Layer >> Flatten Image] so you can copy and paste all of your text and image layers into your final wallpaper file.

7. Copy and paste your bookplate into the wallpaper file. If using Photoshop, the bookplate should paste directly into the center of your file. If not, you can just drag your bookplate layer until it’s centered.

8. For some added flair, add a light drop shadow to your bookplate layer [Layer >> Layer Style >> Drop Shadow].

9. Save your file as a JPEG and e-mail it to your device.

10. Save the image to your device, set it as your lock screen’s wallpaper and BAM! Bookplate awesomeness!

11. For an added touch, also save your wallpaper file without the bookplate on top and make this your home screen’s wallpaper.

iPhone Directions

Download our pre-made iPhone wallpaper template as a .zip here or, to make your own, follow the directions below.

1. Start by taking a screenshot of your iPhone lock screen. To do this, turn your lock screen on and hold down your home button and top lock button at the same time. This will save a screenshot to your photo library. E-mail this photo to yourself.

2. On your computer, open your screenshot in Photoshop. This will allow you to arrange your “bookplate” information within the space created by the upper clock and the lower unlock button. If the lock screen information is too distracting, or you have covered it with an opaque layer, simply change the opacity temporarily on one of your layers.

3. After designing your bookplate, erase the background screenshot layer and save the file as a JPEG.

4. E-mail your final image to your phone and save it to your phone’s image library.

5. Set the image as your lock screen’s wallpaper. Ta-da!

Click here to download all template files as a zip.

Note: All patterns from the Victoria and Albert Museum are property of the V&A and are for personal use only.

  1. Sharyn says:

    Although this is far prettier, for a simpler solution you can use Contact Lock (the icon says “Bob’s”) to add an informational banner at the bottom of any image you have on your phone and then use it as your lock screen. I think it was $0.99 and I am not sure if it’s available for the iPad as well.

  2. Linn says:

    This is a great look! Now I wish I had a iPhone or iPad. I might make a modified version to my old samsung phone! :D Great idea!

  3. Jill says:

    These are fantastic. I can’t wait to start making my own.

  4. caitlin kelch says:

    Awesome :)

  5. Kate Woodrow says:

    Brilliant! I love this digital application a beloved analog tradition. Way to elevate the ordinary, Max. Thank you!!

  6. EXTRAORDINARY! Love these! Great work Max!

  7. Can’t wait to buy my first iPad. Question – what size should I get; 16 or 32 GB? That is the last hold out question I have.

  8. Matt Allison says:

    Thanks Max! I’ve actually just used your template to create one for my iPhone, though a somber thought occurred to me. It may NOT be advantageous to leave your physical address there. God forbid, but if you phone is stolen with your home keys, say your gym bag is swiped, your home address may not be something you want publicized. I think I’m going to modify mine to have an alternative contact number instead of address. That aside, thanks again for the great project.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      hi matt

      i actually first read max’s “add” section as “additional” so i used that for my website. i’d suggest doing that if you’re nervous about an address (not a bad idea) ;)


  9. Max says:

    Hey, Matt!

    I, too, was hesitant about putting my address on my phone, but considering the amount of other items that have my address on them (photo ID, datebook, magazines– all of which could theoretically be in said swiped gym bag), I figured one more couldn’t hurt. Of course, if you’re more concerned about security, I suggest to take Grace’s route and put a web address instead! :)

  10. allison cloud says:

    i must be doing something wrong, but both bookplates for iphone and iPad are fuzzy. i can mostly make out what my information says, but it is not clearly displayed. i didn’t do the background wallpaper, just downloaded the zip for the bookplate, added my info, and emailed/saved/set as lock screen. any thoughts? thanks for the template, they are useful and lovely to look at!

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      when you add your info, are you saving it as a high res file? my guess is that’s where the stretching is happening?


  11. Matt Allison says:

    Hey Grace, good call! I think I may do that. Thanks Max, yeah, I guess living in a different country where crime and theft is rampant it makes one a little more conscious of these things.

  12. Max says:


    Are you by any chance using the iPad bookplates for the iPhone screen? That might be the problem. The iPad bookplates in the download are 500x800px, smaller than the iPhone screen size. They are meant to be added to a larger wallpaper background and added to the iPad screen. If you use the iPhone bookplate template (made for the iPhone’s retina display), it should be fine. Likewise, if you are using the iPad bookplate by itself on the iPad screen without first adding it to a much larger background image, it will be stretched larger than its actual size. This may explain the fuzziness.

  13. Lauren says:

    I’m just learning photoshop…for the iphone template, how can I replace the bear with the starfish? Thanks!

  14. Madeline says:

    I am completely and totally head over heels for this tutorial. I’ve always been frustrated by the standard options, and I love the idea of including contact info.

  15. bobbie says:

    I just did it in 5 minutes with MS publisher and it looks great! really easy – no need for photoshop.

  16. Genevieve says:

    These downloads appear to be dead! Any chance you could reinstate them?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      hi genevieve

      i just re-tried this and the link opens for me- does this link work for you and open a pdf?

      (do you have pop up blockers? maybe it’s stopping you from opening that pop up download window with the pdf?)


  17. Genevieve says:

    Thanks! Not sure why that wasn’t working x

  18. abbie says:

    I’ve made a few of these for friends and family, and they’ve been a huge hit, so thanks! Could you provide the specs for the new iPhone 5s? I wanted to make a new one for my phone, but am having trouble getting the bookplate to fit. Thanks!

  19. Faisal says:

    Hello, I know that this is kind of late, but would you be so kind as to re-instate the downloads?

  20. Burgess says:

    I too would like to access the downloads and they don’t work for me in Safari or Chrome.

  21. Maria says:

    Found out about this project in Max’s last post. Is it possible to reinstate the Zip files?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Hi Maria

      They’re working for me- what error are you getting?


  22. Rosie says:

    I, too, had trouble with downloading the file (I kept getting a message that read, “Sorry, we could not find”)

    Then I tried the deleting “assets5.” out of the URL, and it worked perfectly.

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      I’ll see if Max still has these floating around- stay tuned.


      1. Grace Bonney says:


        Ok- all fixed! It should work now :)


  23. Maria says:

    Thank you, Grace!

  24. steph says:

    broken link:)

    let me know when its fixed?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      hi steph

      which link isn’t working for you? i just tested this this morning…


  25. steph says:

    the zip file wasnt working but now it is!

    1. Stoo says:

      The link is dead again? Anyone know where I can get these? They’re great!


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