Make your own sketchbook for under 50 cents

Make your own sketchbook for less than 50 cents




I’ve been a bit obsessed lately.

I’ve been making my own sketchbooks to record my thoughts as I experiment with a new technique, work on an art course or just practice mixing colors.

I was totally inspired by my interview with Anna Bartlett from Shiny Happy Art and her collection of personalized sketchbooks. On episode 91 of Art Made Easy, Anna and I chat about working with acrylic paints and how she organizes all of her projects. She paints the covers of pre-made, inexpensive scrapbooks that she can easily find in Australia. She also buys a matching plastic cover to protect her work.

While neither of these products are available here in the States, I decided I wouldn’t let it stop me.  I considered the benefits of how a simple sketchbook can be used to record your artist efforts on a small calendar cycle.

Anna uses her sketchbooks to create art projects that she uses for her paint parties. She puts a date in the upper right hand corner of the sketchbook for easy reference. So a 2/18 means the second quarter of 2018.


Sketchbooks are a fantastic resource for art teachers. They allow a student to have one place in which to practice their art, either for lesson warm-ups or free choice time. They allow a student to practice mixing paint colors or testing out media.


Sketchbooks can be expensive.

This was the ONLY reason why I didn’t use sketchbooks in my school. Maybe some of you can relate?

But after talking to Anna and after my interview with Kaitlyn Edington (Art Made Easy # 088), who creates these types of sketchbooks for her students, I knew I wanted to break down the very simple process for you.

Here’s what to do:

Make your own sketchbook for under 50 cents

You’ll need a long-arm stapler, 5-8 sheets of 12″ x 18″ white sulphite paper and some acrylic paints.

Fold the paper in half and create a good crease.

Use the long-arm stapler to secure the book together in 3 spots.

Fold the sketchbook well and use a hard tool like a ruler to really crease the fold.

That’s it!

Make your own sketchbook for under 50 cents

But here’s the best part….

Use acrylic paints (I’m using Crayola Acrylic paint) to brush one color over the surface. I like the white Gesso best.

Make sure to place a sheet of paper under the front and back cover so the pages don’t stick together during the drying time.

When the paint is dry, the kids can decorate the cover with more acrylic paint.

Note: acrylic paint is best for the covers as liquid tempera paint will have a chalky finish and is prone to cracking.



Do you think this would work with your students? I’d love to hear how you use sketchbooks in your art room….

What do you think?

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  • NYC

    I love this , thank you so much! I just have one question. I have had terrible trouble in the past with totally dry acrylic painted pages sticking to each other, which in this case would obviously be problematic if I were to store thieve sketchbooks together. Short of coating every single one with some kind of sealer (which I have also had problems with, depending on ?) is there any way around this happening? It’s incredibly frustrating for the kids & definitely me too! Thanks! Btw, I also loved your idea of the kids being able to continue to decorate their covers with more acrylic paint…but then obviously I really cannot even seal them at all then. Please help!

    • Lesly

      Thanks for posting , this is a very interesting question according to your own experience. Ye i also wonder how do we let the pages dry and avoid them sticking to each other as you say specially if we are going to have to let dry and ultimately storage several sketchbooks for our students.

      • Patty

        Hi Lesly…Great questions. I’ll answer the questions but first, I find that you learn the most by doing. When I actually made the sketchbook and started to use it, many of my answers because clear. It’s a matter of trying new things and seeing how they can work for you. Now…for the questions: Keep pages open and dry flat. When acrylic paint dries (and it dries fast0 you can then close the book. I know you teach small groups, so I would find a way to allow the page sot lay flat and opened for about 1 hour then you can close and stack. 🙂

    • Patty

      I use crayola acrylic paint and Liquitex acrylic paints. I haven’t experienced pages sticking together so I can’t offer a solution other than to try a few other brands of paint.

    • Alison

      Acrylic on acrylic can stick… I have found a super light sanding with a fine sandpaper can be enough to get rid of the stickiness. This is a great way to make an economical sketchbook.

    • Nadia

      Sometimes using matte finish acrylics will keep pages from sticking together. Also with a matte finish the kids can draw on it with colored pencils (if they want to decorate them in a different way), compared to glossy where you can’t use colored pencils on them.

    • Bailey Blu

      I paint pages in my planner with acrylic and have had pages stick even after drying. You can use a light layer of baby powder to prevent sticking. Silly, I know, but it works.

      • Patty

        Awesome tip! Brilliant.

    • Charlotte Anker

      Hi I have been using sketch books for my children’s art classes during the last two years as this is a way for me to keep things together and the children get their very own book to keep. Whenever we are using acrylics and the like I hand out some pieces of newspaper or any leftover paper bigger than their book and they stick this spare paper behind the page they will be painting onto, so that no paint gets on the other pages. This works a treat and we just leave the books open while drying. I am now tempted to make our own sketch books during my summer workshops as these homemade ones looks ever so amazing. When I was much younger I made my own presentation folders by using an ordinary stabler and then fit a piece of electrician tape/canvas tape on top of the staples themselves. Charlotte

    • Christy Day

      I know this sounds crazy, but get some cheap candles (like from Dollar Tree) and rub it over the page. The waxy finish will keep it from sticking.

  • Lesly

    I love this idea. Im going to try to make them but I do not have a long arm stapler , how can i do? any suggestion?

    • Linda

      I got my long arm stapler free through Scholastic Books bonus points.
      Not sure if you do scholastic books in your class, but this is one way to get one.

    • Bailey Blu

      They are fairly cheap at staples or amazon!