Written February 2018
Before you read this post any further I want to clarify something. I’m not going to teach you how to make beautiful books, I’m sure there are many other posts out there that can teach you that much better than me. I’m going to teach you how to make a dummy book. A dummy book is exactly what it sounds like, basically a small trial book for kidlit illustrators which helps them understand the pace and flow of their story. It’s also very useful when showing others (meaning art directors and publishers) how well your book works as an actual book. A story and it’s illustrations might be brilliant as a standalone piece, but could suddenly not flow at all when put into a book format, so dummy books are vital in the process of creating a picture book.
I’ll make any number of dummy books while working on a project, most of them just scraps of paper folded together, however while getting ready for Bologna Book Fair I create more finished dummy books with a hard cover casing. They look a little more professional, the hard cover protects them while traveling, and they are really easy to make! They just take time, patience and a lot of glue!
What you need
1. A pencil
2. PVA glue
3. Spray Mount – this is probably the priciest thing on the list but a bottle will last you a long time
4. A scalpel or cutting knife
5. Double sided sticky tape
6. A ruler
7. Book Binding Mull – an old pillow case works just as well. I’m using a pillow case from ASDA
8. Grey board – Top tip, every time you finish a sketch pad keep the base board and store it away for book binding. I never actually buy grey board
9. A large sheet of paper – whatever colour you’d like the cover to be. To hand I only had white paper that was big enough. Keep in mind it will have to be big enough wrap around your book
10. A guillotine – This makes life easier but you could use scissors/scalpel
11. The work you want to bind – Each double page spread should be printed on one page
Lastly you need a fluffy companion to keep you company.
Creating the innards of the book
To start we are going to create the innards of the book, so put your grey board and coloured paper to the side. To start simply trim down each page – before beginning I sized each page on InDesign and added a border so I could easily see where to trim. After you’ve trimmed your pages, fold each page where the page break would naturally be.
Put your pages in the order you’re book will go in- please check at least three times to ensure you have your pages in the right order. The feeling of taking the time to bind a whole book to see a mistake in the page order is truly heart wrenching.
Next get out your spray mount. Before using spray mount try and ventilate the area as well as possible, open the windows, turn on a fan, put your fluffy companion in a different room (so they don’t inhale fumes into their little lungs), even do this outside if the weather allows you. If you live in Northern Ireland like me then chances are it will always be raining so you’ll have to do this inside. I also want to warn you, please move everything you love away from the area you are about to use spray mount in unless you want it covered in a thin layer of stickiness for the rest of your life. I find spraying into a bin is the tidiest way to do this.
Using your spray mount you’re going to carefully spray each page one-by-one and stick it to the next page. You’ll want to work your way up to a sort of book shape. Stick each page down and match corners as carefully as possible to make your finished book as neat as possible. Keep an eye on the ‘spine’ as you add more pages, make sure it doesn’t begin to slant in one direction.
After you’ve done this we want to reinforce the spine of the book. To do this get your mull (or pillow case) and cut a strip just smaller than the height of the book and big enough to cover the spine width wise. Use PVA glue to cover the spine with the mull.
Then grab all the coffee table books you own and leave your book to dry for a couple hours (or seven if you have to go to your day-job like me).
Congratulations! You’ve now finished making the inside of your book! It feels pretty good to be able to actually turn the pages- but we aren’t finished yet. We’ve got to make that pretty and protective hard cover. This is the fiddly bit where there’s lots of room for small mistakes!
The Hard Case
To begin making the hard case for your book you are going to want to measure it. Measure the width and height of your book, and also the depth of the spine. When measuring the depth of the spine be sure to include the width of your grey board on either side of the spine (see the picture below). I find it handy to keep a note of all the measurements I take.
Now you’ve measured your actual book, we want to make a note of what measurements we need to cut the grey board to. This is important! They are not exactly the same. The width of your book and grey board will be the same, but the height of the grey board will be 4mm more (2mm on either side of the book). This will create the natural overhang that a book cover has over it’s pages. When you’ve measured out your grey board correctly go ahead and cut it with a scalpel. You’ll need two separate pieces, one for each side of the book, as well as a third piece for the spine. I recommend using a cutting mat so you don’t scratch any desks.
When you’ve cut up your grey board, as pictured below, you can stick it to your sheet of paper leaving a large boarder. Use photo mount to stick the main covers and use PVA glue to stick down the spine. Most importantly leave 8-10mm between the spine and the main covers. This is such an important step!
Once your grey board is stuck down add double sided sticky tape all the way along the paper boarder. At each corner cut a little triangle, starting about 1mm out from the corner of the grey board. After this stick the paper down to the grey board.
Next we want to encourage the channel in the spine of the book. Use your finger to do this. After you’ve done this strengthen the inside of the spine with more mull. Wait for this to dry, or if you’re impatient like me grab a hair dryer. After the spine if dry we can bend our book and encourage the shape of the spine by gently squeezing the main boards together. Please ensure your spine is dry before you do this as we don’t want the paper to rip!
Yay, now you’ve made your hard cover! We’re almost finished now!
Attaching the inside of the book to the hard cover
This can be a tricky (and sticky) step as we’re going to be working with a lot of PVA glue.
Grab a scrap piece of paper and put it between your endpaper and the rest of the book to stop any excess glue getting on the rest of your pages. Then spread PVA glue from the spine outwards, covering the whole page. The pages will begin to buckle – don’t worry this is normal, but you need to not panic and act quickly. Once you’ve PVA’d the whole page carefully stick it into the hard case, ensuring that the width of the book overhangs into the spine by 2mms (again so we get that nice overhang that book covers have).
Press firmly to ensure the whole endpaper is stuck to the hard case. Now repeat this process with the opposite side of the book. When sticking the cover down ensure it lines up with it’s other side or else you’ll have a wonky book. I know it can be tempting to open your book now but please resist! Get those faithful coffee table books out again and leave for 2-3 hours to let your book dry.
Adding a cover image
Your book is pretty much done, give yourself a pat on the back. I know how tricky and confusing it can be the first time.
Now here’s the easy (and optional) bit! To spice your book up and add a front cover simply trim your cover illustration and stick it on using spray mount. Now you’re done! Happy days, you have your own dummy book!
It’s not perfect and it’s certainly not beautiful but it serves it’s purpose. It’s nice to physically hold your own book in your hand, isn’t it? Don’t worry if you’ve made some mistakes, it’s a confusing process with lots of room for error but once you’ve done it a few times it gets easier and easier.
I really hope this tutorial helps someone out, and if you do bind your own book please share it with me on instagram @eriberart!
Best wishes and good luck!