Free Fun Friday – Book Covers

Children, back to school, kids, book cover

Today’s Free Fun Friday is all about school book covers.  Over the years of covering hundreds of books, we have tended to stay away from self adhesive book coverings, because they are tricky for children (and often adults!) to use. During that time, we have come up with a list of fun and easy ideas that can be used along side our How to Cover Books tutorial.

Book Cover Base 

This is the main material for the book cover – the stronger the better, so if it has some plastic in it, rather than just paper, that is ideal.  If this is not possible, you can cover thin paper with a layer of clear book plastic.


Children, back to school, kids, book cover

Book Cover Base Examples

  • Painted pictures that are usually done on heavy duty paper and have been made throughout the previous school year make colourful book covers and can be admired all through the year.
  • Maps are good for covering books because they are usually one large piece of paper and they look great.  They are perfect for covering geography books!
  • Wrapping paper is fun and colourful, although it can be thin, so it may need a layer of plastic over the top.
  • Newspaper can make book covers interesting, especially the puzzle or colourful comic pages, although you will probably need to use a plastic layer over the top, as newspaper is usually thin.
  • Magazine pages or junk mail are also sources of interesting paper, however, they are usually not big enough to cover a whole book with.  They can be joined together with sticky tape or glue to make one larger sheet, or glued onto the book cover or plain paper and then covered with plastic.
  • Old calendars usually have colourful pictures that look great, and if they are not large enough to cover the book, they can be joined together with glue or sticky tape to make a larger piece, or glued onto plain paper or the book cover itself and then covered with plastic.
  • Brown paper often comes in large rolls and is often a cheap choice for book covers.  It is perfect if you want to add decorations or pictures, but will sometimes need a plastic covering.
  • Plain paper is also a good choice if you have large sheets of it, and want to add your own decorations.
  • Ream paper wrappers – when you buy a packet of white paper in a ream (500 sheets) it comes wrapped up in a a special wrapper to keep the moisture and dust out of it.  The wrappers are often plastic coated and this makes them very durable and long lasting.  These are actually our first choice for book covers! The problem is that you may not use enough reams of paper to cover all your books with wrappers, even if you collect them all year like we do, however you might be able to find a business or some friends who use lots of paper, and ask them if they can save you the wrappers.   There are some tricks to using these wrappers, especially if you want to decorate them:
    1. You or whoever opens the wrapper will need to carefully open them to avoid tearing them.
    2. They will usually need to be trimmed quite a lot, unless you have large books.
    3. We normally use the plain side (normally white) up and draw pictures with felt tip pens or markers, however, it is often waxy or glossy, and if it is, you will need to use special marker pens that don’t rub off.  After lots of experiments, we found Bic Mark-It Permanent markers the only ones that work on the waxy surface… on the packet it says they work on glass, metal, plastic, photos, foils, coated paper, oily and damp surfaces.
    4. You may need a different sticky tape when you come to cover the book because normal sticky tape may not work – we use a type of ‘magic tape’, which is a matte tape, rather than glossy, or you could try masking tape, or electrical tape, but we haven’t used them so we are not sure how they will work.
  • Plastic coated food packaging – sometimes food comes packaged in paper and often has a plastic or waxy coating on one side.  Use it in the same way as the ream paper wrappers above.  
  • Self adhesive backing paper – if a friend or family member has been covering books with self adhesive book covering, they will have a free supply of useful book cover paper, which normally goes in the bin.  The smooth glossy sheet that the sticky plastic sticks to, is so good for book covers because the glossy sheet has a plastic type coating on it which makes it last longer than plain paper.  We have used it lots of times, but there are a couple of tricks to using it:
    1. To decorate it, we usually use felt tip pens or markers on the non-glossy side, but you will need to do that before you cover the book.  You should be able to see the marks or drawings on the glossy side when you flip it back over.  
    2. Just remember that everything will be reversed when you cover the book, because the glossy side will face out.  The drawing will actually be on the inside, so the picture will be seen back to front when it is finished.  So if you want to write words as part of your decoration, you will need to write everything backwards for it to come out the correct way on the cover. 
    3. Whatever you draw on the left hand side of the paper will appear on the front cover and don’t go too close to the edges as that part will get folded over to the inside
    4. You will need a different sticky tape when you come to cover the book because normal sticky tape won’t work – we use a type of ‘magic tape’, which is a matte tape, rather than glossy, or you could try masking tape, or electrical tape, but we haven’t used them so we are not sure how they will work.

Book Cover Decoration

This can be anything that you use to decorate your books or your book cover base with.  It is usually best if your books are decorated only with flat objects.  In most cases, we recommend that you cover your books before decorating them, because then you can see exactly where you want your decorations.  Sometimes you will need to decorate the book cover base first, especially if the decorating will get messy (like paint!).  If you are decorating before you cover the book, you will need to keep a few things in mind:

    1. Don’t have your decorations go too close to the edge if you want to see them, because the edges will get folded over to the inside.
    2. Whatever you do on the right hand side of the book cover base will be the front cover, and the left hand side will be the back cover.
    3. You can fold the book cover base in half to show the middle line which divides the front and back cover, making it easier to see where you will put things.

      Children, back to school, kids, book cover

      Book Cover Decoration Examples

  • Coloured scraps of self adhesive (sticky backed) book covering – if you happen to use self adhesive book covering, you usually snip the corners off before you fold the edges down.  You can use these ‘corners’ (triangles) to make great patterns on book covers or stick them straight onto spiral bound books – we love using them on art books!
  • Collaged paper, pictures or words – make a collage with coloured paper scraps, pictures from magazines, or words scattered all over.
  • Printed photo or picture – print out your favourite photo or picture and glue it on.
  • Drawings – the children here love to draw their own pictures, and sometimes they like to write or draw things on their book cover base that is to do with the subject that the book will be used for.
  • Glitter Glue – draw pictures or write with glitter glue, or use it to highlight the favourite part of your picture.
  • Stickers – stickers are great for decorating book covers!  You could use them to make a picture on your cover.
  • Pressed flowers and leaves that have been pressed and dried between old phone books for weeks can be glued onto your book cover base.  If you do this, it is best to cover the book with plastic as well to protect the dried pieces.
  • Crayons, felt tip pens, watercolour or acrylic paint and pencils are all great to use on a plain book cover base – you can do patterns, splashes of colour, drawings, or lots of colourful writing.
  • Ribbon is a simple but nice decoration for your book covers, and double sided tape is probably the best way to glue it down, although PVA or craft glue can be used to glue it on a paper surface, although this can be very messy.  You can just put one stripe down the side of your book, or a few!
  • Decorative tape – sticky tape sometimes comes in pretty designs, and you can use it a bit like ribbon with strips of it across your book.  Washi tape is another type of tape that can be used the same way.
  • Stencils can be used to make patterns or pictures.
  • Stamps and inkpads are a quick and easy way to decorate plain paper, but if you don’t have either of those things, you can use paint and chopped potatoes (cut into a square or triangle shape), the end of a carrot or other sliced fruit or vegetables to make your own stamps.  Wire, foam stickers and different size lids can all be used too.  Later in the year we will have a Free Fun Friday about this!

Do you have any fun book cover ideas?  If so, you can tell us what they are by leaving a comment.  Happy book covering!

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