DIYdiy projects

Digital DIY Project: Electronic Bookplates

by Maxwell Tielman

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 Ever since I switched from my woefully outdated flip phone to the touch-screen version of today, I have been an advocate of lock-screen bookplatery.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.

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