Painted Book Edges #1

Sprayed book edges has become a trend lately in the bookish world. Lots of book boxes included sprayed edges as an exclusive and there are tons of Etsy shops and other artists that offer to spray edges or sell books with sprayed/painted edges.

It’s cool to have a book with a colorful edge or maybe something written or drawn on the edge. I’ve wanted to try my hand at painting my own edges, just to see if I can do it, but I’ve waffled back and forth because once a book is painted, it’s done, it’s over. You can’t go back. I was worried about ruining a book, getting paint on the inside or painting such a terrible design that I would put the book on the shelf and never look at it again.

But on a whim, I decided to give it a try. I got a secondhand copy of Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff from the library and dove straight in. I probably should have started with something simpler than a galaxy design, but I was excited. For a first try, it came out pretty cool.

I’ve looked up a lot of different methods of how people paint/spray book edges. The key is definitely to use something (rubber bands, binder clips, a press) to keep the pages firmly together so paint doesn’t leak onto the inside of the book. I’ve also used both paper and painters tape to cover the hardback edges of the book so paint doesn’t get on that. Both methods worked me so I’m not sure what’s best.

I did have a few issues along the way when I tried a few other designs on book edges. I’ve been using a lot of secondhand / library discards to experiment since I didn’t pay a lot for them and they already have blemishes (stamped words, rips on the covers, etc.). Sometimes paint still leaks onto the end pages even with a makeshift dust jacket made out of computer paper/newspaper and using painters tape. The spots on the hardcover that already had a tear from where I peeled off the book tape ripped further, even when I used painters tape. And when I peeled apart some of the pages after they dried, a few pages ripped. Not a ton. The book can still be read, but it was frustrating.

I bought some acrylic markers to add more intricate designs, like the arrow for Hunted by Meagan Spooner. But some of it peeled a little when I was separating pages. It didn’t ruin the design too much so I’m not mad. I tried it again with Sherwood by Meagan Spooner, painting a bow so they books match, and I think part of the reason the first design peeled was because I let it sit too long to dry before separating the pages.

It’s much easier to start separating the pages before they dry completely. I usually wait until the paint part isn’t wet but still damp to start separating. That was much easier than when I let one dry overnight and the book was basically glued shut. That’s when pages ripped and paint peeled.

Also using less paint keeps the pages from warping and leaking inside the book. I’m not the best at that because I’m not patient enough to go slow and do a little paint at a time. I just want to cover the whole thing and be done! XD But that’s now how art works sometimes. Less paint and making sure the book is held firmly together (with rubber bands or a press or whatever) definitely helps keep paint from getting inside the book or on the end pages.

It’s been fun to give this a shot. I don’t think I’ll paint every book I own. That would be insane. But I have a few ideas to try with specific books. I’m still worried about using a brand-new-paid-full-price-for-it book, so I’ll probably practice with more secondhand/worn out books first still and then go from there. I don’t completely trust in my artistic ability to do super fun designs on the edges, but I also don’t want to give up because it might be a challenge.

The galaxy design for Aurora Rising was much harder than I expected, but I tried it again with another series, Sanctuary and Containment by Caryn Lix, and it came out so much better. It’s not perfect, but it definitely gave me more confidence that if I just slow down, take my time, think about how I want something to look, I can capture it.


2 thoughts on “Painted Book Edges #1

  1. That’s a really pretty way to personalize your books! It’s not something I have the nerve (or the patience) to do myself, but they turned out really neat. I agree with your thoughts about practicing on used books. I would not be brave enough to start with my new hardback copies.


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