book folding

book folding

Have you seen some of those folded book art/sculptures on etsy?! They are so beautiful and make the perfect gift. As it turns out they are also, while time consuming, easy to make. Online there are methods for using photoshop to create your own template, but I felt like there would be an easier way. I decided to set up a template in Illustrator. This way I was able to create a guide for each page (I spaced them 1/8th of an inch a part) and number them so that they would match the numbers of the pages in the book I was using. This meant I wouldn’t have to mark off or keep track of what line I was on, I could just be sure the number of the template matched the number in my book. I have attached the template HERE for you to use; open it in Illustrator (or any vector software) and follow a few easy steps for creating your own template. This means, any word, any font (although I do have some tips at the end in picking fonts).

Step 1: Pick a book. I worked with hardcover books with 250-400 pages. The shorter the book the less opportunity for great detail but the longer the book the more folding you have to do. Obviously if you have a longer word you will need more pages to fit it in and still have the recognizable detail.I always picked books that had page numbers. This made my life so much easier when it came to folding and I was able to pick it up and put it down without having to mark my place.

Step 2: Open my template and type your text into the word layer. Pick a typeface and size. You will want the height of the text to fit within the book you have chosen. We will not be changing the height (only the width) so decide on how tall you want the text in your book. Mine were around 4″. For this “Gwen” book I am using Lavenderia

type text in illustrator template

Step 3: Select your text with the direct selection tool. Go to ‘Type’ > ‘Create Outlines’. This will make your text an outline for easy transformation.

book_folding_2Step 4: Now we stretch the text to the length of number of pages you have in your book. You will notice on the template there are page numbers running along the top and bottom. Just grab the center right anchor of your text box and drag and drop to the number corresponding with how many pages your book has. I have included the numbers up to 601 just so we could use one template for all books. You will notice that the pages numbers go up by two, since we will be folding a single page and the page numbers are on the front and back of each page.  The screen grab below is a bad example, since I had to hold down shift to take the screen grab, which proportionally changed the text, but really you want to drag the text horizontally without changing the height vertically. book_folding_3
So after you are done it should look like this.

book_folding_4The more it stretches the more detail you will have, so if you didn’t have to stretch it very far you might want to think about getting a longer book or making the text size smaller.

And that is it! I told you it was easy. Then we print the template and get ready to fold.

Step 5: Print your template. I printed on legal sized paper (8.5×14) so that I could have fewer pages. If your book height is equal or small that 8.5″ you are fine to print on letter or legal. If your book is larger you are going to want to print on 11×17 (you need some paper to stick out the top and bottom so you can be sure you are placing the template in the same spot on each page). When you print you print as “Tile Imageable Areas” so that the templates prints onto multiple pages and stays at 100%. You only need to print the pages that have your text on it, so in the example below, I only printed pages 1 and 2.

print text and guide templateYour finished template will look something like this…

template for book folding

Step 5: You will want to create two guides before you get started. One on your book to guide your fold and one on your template to ensure you are putting it in the same place every time. To create the former, take a blade and ruler and mark a line across all the pages about 1″ in from the spine.  score book to create guide

The goal here is that when the book is open you can see the notch and will fold each page to notch. So it doesn’t need to be deep, just enough so that you can see it.


the score


The second guide is on the template itself. This can be done by centering the pages in the book, with your text on the template running the same direction as the text in the book. Then fold down the extra paper on top and/or bottom. Then use a ruler to continue that fold across the whole page. This is just going to be a lip on your paper that will rest up against the book so as you change pages you can make sure the text will lineup from page-to-page.  fold edge of template to create a guide for where it is placed in the book

Step 6: We are ready to fold. Sit with your book open and perpendicular to yourself. Because of the numbers on our template and in our book, our life is going to be much easier. Insert the first page of your template about 20 pages into the book. Then line up the template with the page you are on. So on page one we line up the rule above “1”. Here is an example of how we line up the template if we were on page 5…. line up each page of template with page in book

Then you do your folds. There are two ways to fold. Fold to the notch you created in step 5 or fold everything on a 45 degree (and not use the notch at all). I find folding to one line (the notch) gives the finished project a cleaner look, but the principle of folding is the same either way, just the degree that you are folding changes. For this tutorial I will always fold to the notched line.

To fold, you are going to do two folds per page. The goal is to have the fold line up with the given text area that is on that line. So, we take away all of the white space and leave ‘page edge’ only where there is black ink on our template. So page 5 folded would look like this….book fold

Now on to the next page…. sneak your template into the book a little further, so page 6 lines up with rule 6 on your template and fold again. You can see after a couple of pages it starts to create some shape…book folding

You will notice that quite often there will be more than one black section per line/rule. For example, like this… alternate interruptionsWhat you want to do is only fold one of the sections and ignore the second (third, forth). Then on the next page you will alternate and only fold the section that was forgotten on the previous line. alternate interruptions

alternate interruptionsIf you have 3 or more of these ‘interruptions’ on a given rule you will simply work your way through each one, doing one ‘interruption’ per page, moving the template up and then doing the next on the following page.

If you have a line that has not black ink (text) you can do your two folds so that no ‘page edge’ shows, as you can see on the top page here…first letter of book foldingAs I mentioned, I tend to put my template about 20 pages into the book just so that I am not having to move the template down every page but rather every 20. Then you only need to shift the template into the book one line per page. As you fold, your template will eventually be so far inside the book it will hit the spine, at this point you can either tear off the extra or fold it back and keep working. tear or folded template

Here it is half way through the ‘G’ (I mention that it was not the best character below, based on how many ‘interruptions’ it had at some points.  start to book folding

And you keep folding until you are done. Really time consuming. Each book took me about 4h. But it is easy. Probably harder to write how to do it than to actually do it :)

Here are some of the finished books. I haven’t gifted these yet, so hopefully they don’t read this :) book folding tutorial  Gwen in page folded bookclose of of date folded into a bookclose up of book foldingclose up of book sculpture  date folded into a bookname folded into a bookbook folding

Tips 1: When picking a typeface I would try to avoid fonts that would have 4 or more interruptions often. Since you are alternating pages you only show one line every 4 or 5 pages, so you don’t get a clear line but rather leave it up to the eye to fill it in.  As you can see with the ‘G’ in “Gwen” there are 5 interruptions at one point. Not the best, but still turned out ok. There are techniques you can use where you cut the page, but I like the simplicity of just folding tip

Tip 2: After I am all finished the book I like to fold some of the pages, that have high exposure of the folds, the other way, as to give it a cleaner look.

Tip 3: If you don’t want to use the whole book, just center your word on the template on the page you would like to start on.

Tip 4: Pick a book that has a smooth or flat trim. When the pages stick out jagged its hard to get a crisp word

Tip 5: If the paper is thick you can get away with fewer pages, if the paper is really thin you will need more.

Tip 6: Have fun and experiment. If you need a custom order or if you can’t figure out how to make a template, contact me and I can make you a pdf version template for $10 or a finished book for $70.  Good luck!