How to Make Your Own Sketchbook

Learn how to make your own sketchbook, journal, or art journal with this simple DIY tutorial.

I’ve been a journal keeper since I was in first grade, but it wasn’t until my 20s that I discovered the joys of making my own journals. During that discovery period, I made piles of blank books. I stitched them, clipped them together, and attempted many different iterations of journal-making. There were times that I wistfully eyed the binding machines at work but the thought of hauling in my precious art journals and binding them in front of my coworkers on my lunch break kept me in check.

If only I had had this tiny Zutter Bind-it-All machine back then. I’m trying to make up for lost time now by binding (almost) everything in sight.

For this particular journal, my daughter had just finished her sketchbook from Easter so I decided to make her a smaller version.

How to Make Your Own Sketchbook

You will need:

Chipboard or cardboard (See note on cardboard below.)
Scrapbook paper, cut to size (I used a sheet from DaySpring’s Illustrated Faith line.)
Modge Podge and foam brush
Copy paper, cut to size
Bone folder
Zutter Bind-it-All machine

Assemble your supplies together. This project goes fairly fast after you finish the cover, so you’ll want everything in one place to make your sketchbook.

In my first try for this sketchbook, I used cardboard and while it will work, it also is more fragile than chipboard as it bends along the corrugated lines. If you don’t have any chipboard on hand, look through your art supplies. The “chipboard” I used is from the back of a watercolor pad. The back cover is perfect for sketchbook making.

Assemble the supplies you will need to make your own sketchbook. This project is simple enough for beginners.

Initially, I was going to paint the sketchbook and then collage circles I had cut out of various papers. I tried that, didn’t like it, and thought painting circles might help. As I painted, my daughter was inspired, so she joined me for circle-drawing time. I’ll share her work because I’m too embarrassed to share mine. To say I didn’t like it is somewhat of an understatement. It was not working.

We painted the art journal cover with white acrylic paint and my daughter decorated it with a purple gelly roll pen. She was excited to have her own drawing notebook.

Thankfully, I had several sheets of paper from DaySpring’s Illustrated Faith line, so I cut a piece down to size and applied Modge Podge to the back. I positioned the paper onto the cardboard and pressed firmly to adhere. I also used my foam brush to paint Modge Podge over the top of the cover for a matte look.

I'm using DaySpring's line of Illustrated Faith papers for this journal cover, plus some Modge Podge. I love how easy it is to make your own custom sketchbook.

For the interior pages, I used simple copy paper, folded in fourths. I was doing this the hard way until my husband stepped in and showed me how to use a bone folder to save my fingers. Much better.

Folding papers is made much easier with a bone folder.

The paper was slightly too big for the sketchbook so we (my husband) cut it down to size. You can use scissors for this part, but he used an X-ACTO knife and a cutting board to be more exact.

The copy paper I used is folded in fourths and is slightly larger than the sketchbook that I'm making.

Here’s our final stack of paper! Can I tell you how difficult it was for me to stop this project every few minutes to take a picture? 🙂 But I wanted you to be able to see the steps so you could see how simple it really is to make your own sketchbook or journal.

On a side note, you can use any kind of paper for the interior pages. Watercolor paper, construction paper, tissue, coloring sheets . . . it all works!

I let my husband cut the copy paper to size for this easy sketchbook tutorial.

Enter the Zutter Bind-it-All. This is such a small (but powerful) little machine. I love it so much. Because this project was so small, I didn’t have to measure or figure out how to line the sheets up so the punches would be even. There is a miniature book that comes with the Bind-it-All that does a good job of explaining how to bind various sizes.

That said, I do recommend punching a piece of paper that is the size of your sketchbook cover before you commit to punching the real cover.

The Zutter Bind-it-All machine has changed everything about DIY sketchbook binding for me. I only wish I discovered this binding machine years ago!

I placed the cover into the machine and pressed the handle down. Even after doing this many, many times, I still hold my breath.

If this is your first time using the Zutter machine, read all of the directions before punching and binding.

I thought you'd like to see what it looks like to punch the covers and the interior sheets for this simple DIY sketchbook.

The covers are punched! Aren’t they beautiful? This is seriously my dream come true. As I said earlier, I only wish I had discovered this little machine earlier.

How to make a sketchbook cover—this is what the cover looks like after it has been punched with the Zutter Bind-it-All machine. Almost ready to assemble!

Punch all of the pages. I usually punch 5-10 pages at a time, depending on the thickness of the papers I’m using. Now the sketchbook is ready to bind.

Again, it’s important to read the manual because you slide the pages onto the Owire in a certain order for it to work.

All of the interior pages are punched and ready to bind. The owire makes this small sketchbook lay flat, which I love.

Place the notebook with the Owire into the binding portion of the machine and slowly press the lever down. (The binding portion is the open area that’s pictured.) The lever makes a black plate slowly squoosh the wires together. Ta-dah!

Place the open owire into the Bind-it-All machine and press the lever down. It will close the owire and make it perfectly bound. You don't have to be an expert bookbinder to make this project. LOVE this!

And here’s the finished product.

It's not difficult to make your own sketchbook. Cover a piece of cardboard or chipboard with scrapbook paper, punch, and bind and you have a beautiful, homemade sketchbook, art journal, or journal.

The Zutter Bind-it-All retails for around $50 and the Owire costs between $4-6, depending on the sizes you need. (This page on Amazon has a bunch of different options.) The Bind-it-All is really small which is nice for those who don’t have a lot of space. If you regularly use sketchbooks or journals, this is a great option for you to be able to make your own. You can also DIY journals, art journals, scrapbooks, and sketchbooks as gifts for friends. It’s such a satisfying project to make. 🙂

I couldn’t resist writing a note on the first page for my daughter. She was thrilled with this sketchbook and has pretty much already filled the pages. Kids.

I had to write a quick love note to my daughter on the first page of her new sketchbook.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to make your own sketchbook. And by the way, I wasn’t paid by Zutter to create this post. I just sincerely love this binding machine! I haven’t seen it reviewed a lot by other bloggers, so I thought I’d just show it in action so you can get an idea of how awesome it is. 🙂

Have a wonderful {and creative} day!






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3 responses to “How to Make Your Own Sketchbook”

  1. Esther Diaz Avatar

    Amazing! A good one to do with the kids. Thank you for giving us a reference where you bought the machine. It really is a big help for my brother and sister especially for their projects. Anyways, thank you for sharing. I love it!

  2. Clarissa Avatar

    It turned out lovely! I am constantly buying little spiral sketchbooks like this from Michaels – I need to just make my own!

    1. Jennie Avatar

      You should, Clarissa! They’re so much fun to make. I can’t believe I didn’t start making my own earlier. (Since I’ve spent a lot of money on store-bought notebooks/journals too!)

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