Last Updated on November 28, 2020 by Irene Seto
Isn’t this the coolest folded book art you have ever seen? I saw this style of folded book at a store one day and thought, “I can make that myself!” After a few months of procrastination, some Googling and a couple misadventures in book folding, I’ve learned some best practices to fold words onto the pages to make the most lovely folded book art.
These folded books make for great gifts for weddings, baby showers, birthdays and a lovely addition to any home or office. Follow my beginner book folding tips below to get started.
How folded book art is created
To wrap my head around this mind-boggling concept, I turned to Youtube to watch what this book folding art process looked like. I watched a bunch of videos like this one below.
Free book folding art templates to download
For those of you that are not handy with Photoshop, here is a free book folding template that you can print yourself. Print the book folding pattern in landscape orientation as it will come out on more than one sheet of paper.
This free book folding art pattern is for the word “love.” I have built it out in three different sizes depending on how many pages your book has. Choose the template that has less pages than the book you have. For example, if your book has 476 pages, choose the smaller 450 page book folding template to use. This is a difference of 26 pages so count out half of the pages (13) in the front that will not be folded. Once done following the book folding template, you will have 13 pages left in the back as well).
Choosing the right book to fold
- Find nice hardcover books at thrift stores around the city. I also love to stock up on books at annual book sales like CBC Calgary Reads Big Book Sale or the RESET Society of Calgary book sale. I recommend buying books with at least 300-400 pages as that will usually cover most words to fold.
- I find that 4-5 letter words are the best length to work with. I have done upwards of 7 letters, but the problem is that your book will fold into quite the crazy accordion which makes it hard to actually read the word. Less is better.
- You’ll need about 80 pages approximately per letter although this can vary depending on how think your page sheets are, how long the book is etc.
- Pull back the cover jacket on the hardcover book to see what is underneath. All books have beautiful covers and colors to choose from especially if you’re looking to do a specific décor theme. Sometimes you may want to find a specific book to use if there’s a special memory attached or for someone’s favourite author and the like. Steer away from the mystery book section – I find the titles of the books don’t make for very nice gifts to other people lol.
- Make sure the edges of the pages are flat. Sometimes books are intentionally published with a deckle or “jagged” edge but this will make your craft project so much harder to fold.
- I prefer books that are not too tall and not too small. As the folded book art is meant to be home décor, you want to find an appropriately-sized book in both cover size and number of pages to use.
- Check that the spine and pages are intact. You don’t want pages to fall out as you’re folding
- Make sure pages are easy to fold. I made the mistake of buying an older hardcover book that was quite well worn. The pages were very thick and “pulpy”. As I was folding, the pages would start cracking and ripping easily. Needless to say, this was very frustrating to have it fall apart as I was trying to make something beautiful.
- Have an extra folding book handy to use as practice. My first folding book art was full of folding issues and turned out crap.
UPDATE November 2020: I have to give full credit to the former see-saw blog for this tutorial! I have been following this method for years. Now that her site is no longer working, I am adding in this info here, but we wouldn’t be able to do this without her amazing expertise. Thank you!
There are a few different ways to make these books with many book folding templates available on the Internet. But the folded book art tutorial below is my preferred method. Trust me, I looked at a lot of different options, but I like this particular method because it:
- Provides a very handy Photoshop template to update and modify or you can borrow one of mine above for free.
- This template allows you to use any font and any word that you like.
- You can also use books with different number of pages rather than having to find a specific book to use.
- No rulers or pencils are needed to mark off spacing and specs for every page. You just follow the template you create which is much simpler to use.
Supplies needed for book folding
- Photoshop on your computer
- Printer and 8.5 x 14 size paper (legal size)
- Scissors and/or box cutter
- Elastics (extra large)
- Heavy books or other weighted object
Setting up the book folding template
Spend lots of time checking your Photoshop template to ensure it is done properly and correctly.
Step 1: Download this blank PDF template and save to your computer.
Step 2: Open the PDF in Photoshop. You will see a series of lines with page numbers on both ends.
For those of you that don’t have access to Photoshop, I’m trying to figure out how to make a template on a more accessible tool like Word etc. but it doesn’t seem to work. In the meantime, ask a friend who knows how to Photoshop to help you get your template organized!
Step 3: Create a text box layer and input your chosen word e.g. home, Jessica, love, etc.
Increase the font size as needed to make the letters the height you want them to be. Think about how tall your book is and plan the letters accordingly leaving enough room at the top and bottom. I find I am often over 200 or 300 pt size depending on the font chosen. Center your word on your template to best match the cover size of the book that you are using.
Step 4: Drag your text box to the far left so that the beginning of your first letter is lined up to the very edge.
Now zoom your screen to about 50% so you can read the page numbers on the bottom of the template. Scroll over to the last letter of your word while keeping the page numbers visible.
Step 5: You now need to stretch your text box to match the number of pages in your book. With your mouse, select the right edge of your textbox (not the corners) and make the box wider. Pull the text box until the very last letter is lined up to the number of pages in your book. It helps to set up a ruler so you easily find the page number.
More font and template tips
Make your letters “thicker” by hand
Play around with different fonts to make sure the letters are “thick”. As you fold the pages to match the outline on the template you won’t want the letters to be too skinny and hard to fold. I sometimes draw on my printed template to widen out parts of the letters that are too thin to fold to.
Interruptions in your font
Avoid having too many book folding breaks or “interruptions” in your chosen font/word. This happens with typefaces that have lots of embellishment like cursive fonts.
Try to have no more than three interruptions in your design. As you fold these parts of the word, you will find that you lose some detail as you’re trying to create multiple parts of a letter with a very limited number of pages available. See the picture below as an example.
In this example, there are 3 black sections or “interruptions” all meeting at the same line. Try not to have more than 3 interruptions in your design as it can be too difficult to show the detail of the typeface.
Printing your book folding template
It’s time to print out your template! I prefer to use legal size paper as it usually means only 2 sheets to work with. You can use regular 8.5 x 11 paper as well, but you’ll probably end up with 3-4 sheets for your template.
You’ll need to play around with your printer settings to get the page to come out properly. I prefer to save the Photoshop file as a PDF and then printing horizontally onto the pages. I find everyone’s printer is a little bit different so you may need to do a few print runs until you get the template to come out full page.
Print your pages out neat and straight – if it comes out crooked on the copier then your folding will end up crooked too.
Do not print double-sided!
Setting up your book and printed template
So before we get folding, there are still a couple more preparation steps.
For your book, you need to set up a folding starting point on both the top and bottom.
Holding the book closed, looking down at the top of your book. Draw a line across all the pages of your book (about 1 inch away from the spine). Flip over and do the same thing to the bottom of the book as well.
Using your box cutter or scissors, start scratching out a small divot along the line you just drew on the pages. This notch cutout will help you see where your fold line will start.
Complete the same notch cutout on both top and bottom of the book. Make sure this line is equal distance from the spine on both sides.
For your printed template, we need to create a folding edge to follow. On the long edge of your sheet (bottom of your word) create a 1 cm fold on your printed template. Do this to all sheets of your printout.
How to fold the pages of the book
Now it’s time to finally get book folding!
Place your book on a flat surface with the spine facing away from you.
Open up your book into the first 100 pages or so and place the folded edge of the printed template along the left side of the book (which should be the bottom of the book). Pull the folded edge tight along the edge of the pages of the book as this will keep your book folding straight and even (you don’t want your beautiful art to come out crooked!)
Pull the sheet in to start at line 1. Put the 100 pages you lifted back down.
Open your book to page 1. Sometimes you may have a number of blank and introduction pages in the book before you get to the first page.
Starting with the left side of the page, take the corner and fold from the left notch cutout to where the letter begins. Crease the fold well. Repeat on the right side from notch to letter. Once both sides have been folded, flip the page over.
Repeat the folding process from left to right by moving your template sheet up one line as you fold the next page. Make sure the page number of the book is always matched up with the line number on your template.
As you fold, you will have to continually adjust the template by moving it below another stack of pages. Keep the folded edge of your template tight on every page.
Continue this process until all pages of your book have been folded!
What to do when there’s more than one section to fold
You’ll get to a point in your template where you’ll have two or more different sections of a letter show up at the same line. Now what to do?
Starting on the left side, fold both corners of the page to match up with the first part of the letter. Ignore the second part of the letter. Flip page over.
Now on the next page, fold the corners of the page for the second part of the letter. Ignore the first part of the letter. Flip page over.
Continue alternating back and forth until your template goes back to a single folding part again. If your word ends up in three sections, follow the same premise of folding one part of the letter at a time until you complete the section. This is why it is important to choose fonts that limit the number of interruptions as mentioned above.
Tips during the folding process
- Use heavy-duty books or weights to help keep your book from moving around as you fold.
- I like to use these extra big Staples rubber bands to keep the folded pages out of the way as I continue folding.
- With folded books that have 6 or more letters or if you find the spine of the book is weak, you may want to tie a ribbon around the bottom part of the book to keep your folded book art standing upright.
Are you ready to get folding? Practice makes perfect and I am totally here to help you along the way. Comment below or message me @heyseto if you need any feedback on your folded book art. Good luck!