Handmade Books: Easy Inside Pages from Office Supplies

19 Dec 2012

We recently got a new, super-duper photocopy machine at the office. It has so many different functions, I'm surprised it hasn't replaced one of us already. I remember when copy machines just made copies. And if that wasn't exciting enough for you, you could copy things other than documents and images.

mixed media books pages
Kathryn Antyr likes making handmade books with office supplies.
This technique for making inside pages for handmade books brings back the fun and excitement of making photocopies. The technique is quite simple, writes Kathryn Antyr in PAGES magazine: "Collect objects, photocopy them, and paint the copy with watered-down acrylics."

Step 1: Locate a photocopier or laser printer and some paper. You need a copy machine that uses heat and toner to make the copies. If you use an inkjet printer where the pigment is sprayed onto the paper and sits on top, the ink may smear when you apply the paint.

Step 2: Collect found objects. Flatter objects work better than bulky ones because the copier cover and close over them, letting in less light when scanning. Paper clips, shredded paper, brads, pencils, safety pins, and buttons all work well. But use your imagination!

Step 3: Make your copies. Be sure to make several copies of each object so you have plenty of material to play with. Adjust the density to make the image darker or lighter. Vary the size using the zoom controls. Go large!

background page for handmade books
Kathryn made the background for this book
page by photocopying brads under a
spiral bound notebook.
Step 4: Paint! Kathryn says inexpensive acrylics found at most craft and hobby stores work best. Water them down slightly and apply two or more colors in circular motion with a makeup sponge. You are going for a sheer watercolor effect.

Step 5: Layer. Apply another color or a darker shade of paint with a sponge, dry brush, or other tool that will add interest and texture. You can also pounce paint through a stencil (such as sequin waste) and use metallic or spritz paints.


  • If your page gets too wet, it may curl. To flatten the paper, iron it between two pieces of paper towel on a cool setting.
  • Group the same objects to give a sense of repetition, rhythm, and overall unity to the composition.
  • Notice how overlapping the paper clips holds the individual objects together visually. Avoid a scattershot effect where the composition has the objects loosely covering the entire page.
  • Consider the white space when cropping. Crop the pages to include some white space, and think of an asymmetrical balance. These spaces provide great openings for quotes.

Now that you have your pages, you're ready to make a book. You can add writing, collage, and stamping to your pages. If you want sturdier pages, mount them on watercolor paper or matte board. Then bind your book.

If you want more ideas for how to make a book, check out our new eBook, Bound and Beautiful: One-of-a-Kind Handmade Books, now available for download.

P.S. What office supplies would you use for your pages? Leave your answer below.

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LHRufi wrote
on 19 Dec 2012 9:13 AM

I am going to try a whole page of different colored sticky notes and colored paper clip, then stamp with alphabet stamps of various sizes, then spritz with tattered angels and maybe some reinforcement circles. I will experiment. Thanks for the ideas.

on 19 Dec 2012 9:21 AM

This looks like a terrific technique. However, be careful when placing metal or sharp objects on the copier glass.  Place a sheet of overhead projector plastic or a page protector sleeve on the glass before placing your paper clips, brads, etc.  Otherwise, the glass may get scratched.  That will mar your results, irritate other copier users, and it is not cheap to replace the glass.

colleenwork wrote
on 19 Dec 2012 10:18 AM

we do alot of measuring!..yards inches mm & cm..so i'm going to try this with our clear measureing devices!!!!

on 19 Dec 2012 10:55 AM

I use this method to create the cover page for my travel art journals.  I create a collage of my previous work by placing the pieces (no glue of course!) on the copier surface and copy using card stock.  I add additional color using color pencils.  The cover is plastic coated and the journal is spiral bound using watercolor paper.  I also have copied on my ink jet printer using watercolor paper.  Allow the ink to dry and spray with varnish to set the color.  Now it is ready to add acrylic paints.

faberino wrote
on 19 Dec 2012 12:33 PM

I keep a piece of very dense, black fabric near my copier.  Then you can copy those bulky items and keep the light out.  Cover the items with something white first, then the larger black fabric to cover the edges where light might leak in.  Cose the copier top and go for it.

Amazima wrote
on 23 Dec 2012 6:01 AM

What are "brads"? (I am English).

Amazima wrote
on 23 Dec 2012 6:01 AM

What are "brads"? (I am English).

rxxanne wrote
on 23 Dec 2012 10:02 AM

I don't know what brads are called in England. They are used to hold papers together. They are shaped like a thumbtack or a nail except that the point is made of two flat pieces of metal. The point is placed thru a hole or punched thru the paper and then bent to one side or ususally flared out on both sides to hold the papers.