Covered in Color: Mastering the Art of Painting Book Covers

Painted Book covers using Rose Chintz paint inlay.

Hey DIY friend! Not sure what to do with some of your old books you found stashed away? Why not paint them and easily turn your home into a gallery of decorative charm. In this article I’m going to show you how to master the art of painting book covers. That’s right, art! Painted books make beautiful home decor. It’s not a new idea, but I’m excited to show you a new technique using a product called Paint Inlays. Don’t worry, it’s not hard! It IS a process but it’s so worth it! So grab your materials and let’s get started!

NOTE: If you learn better with video, I’ve got you covered! Scroll down for full video tutorial.

Materials Used for Decorative Book Cover

Creating decorative book covers is super fun and easy. All the materials listed below are not necessary, but it sure does take them up a notch.

How to Decorate a Book Cover

Step 1 – Create Clay Castings for a Decorative Book Cover

Adding decorative clay castings are perfect for DIY book covers. They add so much detail that can be highlighted for a beautiful effect. I used a Trim Mould to make a casting and added it to the front of my book. I later added little “lock castings” to the front as well. When to add the castings depends on how you want to paint them and/or if you’re placing directly on the book or on another decorative item, such as the paint inlay.

To make a mould casting, simply press air dry clay into the mould, remove excess clay from edges, pop it out and glue it onto the book.

Tip: Brushing a little corn starch into the silicone mould, prior to adding the clay, helps the image release much easier.

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    Step 2 – Painting a Base Coat of Chalk Paint

    Once I had my trim glued on, I then painted both the inside and outside of the book cover, with a coat of chalk paint, and allowed it to dry. Painting both sides prevents the book from warping. Trust me, I know about this. It’s important that you use a chalk style paint if you’re using a paint inlay; not one with a built in top coat. There are a few exceptions, but I won’t cover those in this article. Also, the paint color you choose will show up behind the pattern of the inlay, so make sure you grab a color that suits the chosen design! Using different colors for the same inlay can create dramatically different results, so feel free to play around with what you like and try a few different styles! I chose two different paint colors (a white and a blue) but used the same paint inlay design. I really love how both turned out!

    Again, let the base coat of paint dry, either by waiting for it to dry or using a heat gun to make it dry quicker.

    Step 3 – Measure and Cut Paint Inlay to Size

    This can be done prior to painting the book as well, but this is the order I did it.

    What are Paint Inlays?

    Paint Inlays are a new patent-pending product by Iron Orchid Designs.  Think “Paint on paper” that is laid in wet chalk paint, which dries and then embeds  onto your painted surface.  There are many to choose from so it’s easy to compliment your existing decor. For more details and another Paint Inlay project, check out my article on How to Use IOD Paint Inlays.

    Browse more available Paint Inlays Here!

    Paint Inlays come in sheets of 12″ by 18.” You’ll want to cut them down to fit the areas of your book cover that you want to decorate. The sheets even had grid lines on them to help you get a straight cut.

    Tip: When designing how you want the inlay to look, remember you will be laying it paint side down; the side with the bright colors. This is important depending on the image pattern of the inlay.

    For more tips and projects using Paint Inlays, Check out my article, How to Use IOD Paint Inlays.

    Step 4 – Add Another Layer of Paint and the Inlay to Painted Book Cover

    Once the first coat is dry, go ahead and add another layer of paint, but we aren’t going to wait for this one to dry. You want to lay the inlay into the wet paint, making sure to put it design side down (the side where the design is the most vibrant ). I have laid it down the wrong way several times! But don’t worry! If that happens, just lift it and turn it over. (I actually learned a little trick from doing this: Lightly misting the paint inlay with water before laying it into the wet paint help it embed a little easier. ) Now when you first lay it down, don’t panic, you have a little bit of time to straighten it out. Once you have it like you like it, gently pat it down, and spritz it all over with water. This is where the painted design is transferred onto the book, so you’ll need to use a little pressure . I like to use a damp cheese cloth or rag while pressing the design into the paint. A brayer works great as well and also helps to remove wrinkles from the paper.

    Set aside and allow to dry for at least 30 minutes. You’ll notice it gets very light in color when dry.

    Step 5 – Remove Paint Inlay and Reveal DIY Book Cover

    Once the Paint Inlay has dried, spritz with water all over again and let sit for about 10 seconds. You want to make sure the inlay is thoroughly damp before picking a corner and peeling back the inlay. If it isn’t coming off, or it starts to tear, spray more water to moisten the inlay. After the inlay is fully off the design, set it to the side and allow it to dry so you can use it again in the future!

    Note on reusing inlays: Some of the base paint you use may stick to the inlay and transfer the next time you use it, so keep that in mind! After each use, the design will fade, but you can use it to your advantage and make really cool faded vintage effects!

    Step 6 – Protect Painted Book Cover with a Sealer

    Finally, once your book is fully dry, you’ll want to protect it from wear and tear with a good sealer. I used a clear wax to seal mine, but a clear polycrylic would work as well.

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      Step 7 – Add additional embellishments to your DIY Book Cover

      Paint inlays can look amazing on their own, or you can use them as a backdrop for more embellishments! Adding lettering or extra design elements can add additional character to your already amazing DIY book cover! I added lettering from the Flora Parisiensis Transfer and made clay castings of locks using the Lock & Key mould. Finally, I highlighted the book and clay castings with gold metallic paint.

      Painted Book covers using Rose Chintz paint inlay.

      Video Tutorial

      There you go! That’s all you need to know to become an expert on DIY book covers. I hope this post has inspired you to dive into the beautiful new world of Paint Inlays and their many uses for DIY book covers!

      For more book decoration ideas, head over to Upcycle Old Books into Beautiful Home Decor! In this article, you’ll find another DIY book cover tutorial using paint, mould castings and decorative stamps.

      If you decide to do a book cover painting for your next project, leave a comment and let me know how it turned out!

      Until next time!


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