Upcycled Old Book Art

Make Art Decor from Old Book Pages in 9 Creative Steps!

Don’t you just love ideas that turn old, unused items into something new and interesting?

Old books are a particularly fun and versatile medium for this purpose.

Whether we’ve come to love reading at five or at fifty, the experience becomes a significant and treasured part of our lives. And if you are a reader, then you know that – after a while – not all books are worth the shelf space they occupy.

Make Art Decor from Old Book Pages in 5 Easy steps!
Creative Art Decor from Old Book Pages

Here, we make art using books, which you can use as wall art, shelf, or desk décor. This is the kind of art project that even those who don’t think they are artistic enough can accomplish!

This is a great idea for books at home that are already falling apart or those that you don’t need or read anymore. Don’t have any? Then you can buy old books from thrift stores.

Art with Old Book Pages
Creative Art Decor from Old Book Pages

Pick those that contain interesting or relevant texts for you. If you want to use text or pages from a good, sentimental book, what you can do is have them photocopied and cut those instead. But of course, your art will most likely look whiter and brighter than when you use old book pages.

Imagine having these lovely little canvases sitting on your bookshelves or work desk. Or why not buy a bigger canvas and hang them on your wall? Two or three pieces of these in a row will look good on a pretty wide, empty wall! Sure, this art project will take a long time using a larger canvas. But it’s definitely worth the time and effort, don’t you think? I personally find it as a de-stressing activity. And I’m definitely making a few of these as gifts to my close friends.

How about you? Do you know anyone who would love this idea? :)

To get started, take a look at some of the amazing ideas below. From wall art to home decor, there are plenty of ways to incorporate old book pages into your home. So get creative and start brainstorming some ideas of your own. Who knows, you might just come up with something even better than what you see here!

Creative art decor designs from old book pages

Click on any image to start the lightbox display. Use your Esc key to close the lightbox.8-)

Creative art decor designs made from old book pages can be a great source of inspiration for your next project. There are endless possibilities when it comes to reusing old books, and the results can be truly stunning. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:


  • Canvas (shown here is a 5×7)
  • Old Books
  • Image Photocopy (Important: must be from a LASER printer/copier, high contrast black & white image)
  • Acrylic Matte Medium
  • Oil Pastels
  • Liquid Watercolours
  • Acrylic Paints
  • Scissors
  • Paintbrush (medium or wide)

How to make art decor from old book pages

Making art decor from old book pages is a great way to add a personal touch to your home. It’s also a great way to recycle old books that you might otherwise throw away. Here’s how to do it:

1. Prepare your old book

Depending on the font type and size and paper size of the book you are using, you will need 2-3 pages of strips per 5″x7″ (small) canvas. Rip a few pages out, then cut them into strips. For this painting, I cut between each line of text.

Art Old Books
2. Layer canvas with the acrylic matte medium

Layer canvas with the medium. Acrylic matte medium is not shiny and is a lot like working with a smoother, more flowing kind of glue. This is an essential “decoupage”. Use a palette knife, small scrap of cardboard or brush to quickly spread a layer of acrylic medium over your canvas. If you are working with a large canvas, just do one part at a time so the medium stays wet.

Upcycled Old Book Art
3. Lay strips of paper into the matte medium

Lay strips of paper into the matte medium. Push them down with your finger and smooth them out. Wet paper can ripple, but acrylic sets quickly, so just keep an eye on your newly applied strips for a few minutes and smooth them out if necessary.

Upcycled Old Book Art
4. Add acrylic matte medium on top of the strips

Layer as many strips as you want, just think of them as a sandwich. You want to have matte medium under and on top of the paper. Once you’ve set strips into your first layer of medium, stop before it dries to smooth it out with a brush.

Upcycled Old Book Art

If you need to add more medium to make sure all the paper gets covered, do so now. You don’t even have to let it dry to add more paper. Just use your topcoat as a new base for more paper.

Upcycled Old Book Art

Tip: your fingertips will get clumpy, dry medium buildup quickly. Either wipe it off on a rag as you go or just rub it off (like we used to do as kids with Elmer’s glue) to avoid getting clumps of medium stuck into your painting. You can put some strips of paper between your fingers for quick access.

Upcycled Old Book Art

5. Trim the strips

If you carry your work over onto the edge of your canvas, you’ll have a more finished-looking piece that won’t require framing when you’re finished. Trim strips that extend past the edge or paint with the medium all the way around to the back of the canvas.

Upcycled Old Book Art
6. Transfer the image photocopy

Once your ground of paper strips is to your liking and dry (seriously, this won’t take long even with lots of layers), you can transfer an image onto it to give your piece more interest and depth. You can use one of your own illustrations, free clip art, or any image not protected by royalty or copyright.

Upcycled Old Book Art

In this piece, I used an illustration from a vintage Good Housekeeping Guide. Make a black-and-white photocopy of your image. Trim it close to the borders of the image, but keep the paper a semi-regular shape so it’s easier to peel off later.

Apply a thin layer of matte medium to the face of your photocopy image and the area on your canvas that you’ll be applying it to, and stick it down.

Upcycled Old Book Art

Tip: Tweak the contrast on your image on the copier or in your photo editing program for a crisp, dark transfer.

Once you’ve applied the photocopy image, burnish or rub it for about 30 seconds. I use the smooth plastic handle of my scissors. Use your fingers or anything that won’t snag and tear the paper. This light pressure will help transfer the copy toner into the matte medium on the canvas surface.
Upcycled Old Book Art

Now let the paper dry. It does not have to be completely dry, but if you touch it and it still feels cool or moist, wait. When you think it’s ready, slowly peel a corner of the paper away. Peek in to see if the copy toner is staying on the canvas as planned, or coming off with the paper. If it’s coming off with the paper, it needs to dry some more. If you used a lot of medium, it will take a little longer to dry.

Upcycled Old Book Art
7. Peel off the paper

Once you peel off the paper, you should see the toner behind a thin layer of remaining paper. Rub the remaining paper off with your fingertips. It will come off in little balls. If you have trouble with this, you can lightly dampen it with water and rub it with a soft rag (or fingers).

Upcycled Old Book Art

8. Add color to the surrounding area

As you’re assembling this piece, chances are some words you like will pop out. If you wish, you can highlight a particular word or grouping of words that you like with a quick circle of oil pastel (which you can smear/soften by rubbing with fingertips), or add some color to the surrounding area with a layer of acrylic paint.

Upcycled Old Book Art

Use the acrylic matte medium if you want to thin/blend color as seen here with the magenta. Here, I applied a thin layer of matte medium to the center of the painting, then began brushing the magenta from the bottom of the painting. As I reached the medium, the paint on my brush mixed in with the clear medium and gave a blended appearance.

Upcycled Old Book Art

9. Add some drops of liquid watercolor

Adding some drops of liquid watercolor is an easy way to give your piece another layer, some movement, and of course, color. Liquid watercolor is more saturated than cake watercolor and comes in glass bottles with droppers, so it’s easy to splash it on in drops or lines. Put drops next to each other so they will swirl together (I used orange and burnt sienna; the brown gives depth to the orange and they’re in the same color family, which I like).

Upcycled Old Book Art

You can also drop a little bit of water on the edges of the watercolor drops on your canvas, which will thin the color a little and give it a different look. Try dabbing some of the watercolors with a rag or paper towel as it dries as well for more variance in tone.

Upcycled Old Book Art

Once you have it how you like it, let it dry flat to keep it that way. It may take several hours to dry fully. Or, while the drops are wet, quickly stand up your canvas in a direction you’d like them to drip in (their pattern may be affected by the paper strips unless you have a thick layer of medium over them).

Upcycled Old Book Art

This can be a fun and original gift idea, especially if you have a literature-loving recipient in mind. You can mix papers from different books and create your own free association poetry as you go along. Add any image easily with the photocopy transfer technique. Make artful splotches of color like a pro just by using liquid watercolor. The possibilities are endless!

Art Old Books

Thanks to trucdart for this great idea!



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