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Writing

How to Make a Hardcover Book 10 Steps

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 4 min read

You can self-publish your book online, but there’s something special about having the physical object that makes it feel more real—plus, it’s a great gift. Go the old-school route and learn how to DIY your own hardback book.

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What Materials Are Needed to Make a Hardcover Book?

So you’re ready to bind your own book. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Content, of course. You can learn how to write a book in our guide here.
  • Uncoated printer paper for book pages
  • Decorative paper for endpapers, such as wrapping paper or cardstock
  • Davey board (aka bookbinder’s board), thin chipboard, or cardboard for the book covers
  • Craft knife
  • Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue such as Elmer’s glue
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Ruler or straight edge
  • A long stapler
  • Thin fabric or book cloth for cover
  • Binder clips
  • Thick decorative paper (optional, for dust jacket)
  • Paper trimmer (optional, for trimming book pages)
  • Paintbrush (optional, for spreading glue)
Person making a hardcover book

How to Make a Hardcover Book in 10 Steps

There’s more than one way to bind a book, and you’ll find tons of great tutorials online for making homemade books, including Japanese bookbinding and perfect bound softcover books. The most popular style of hardcover book binding is called case binding, which is traditionally done by stitching pages together with thread. Here we’ll show you how to make a hardcover book step-by-step—no sewing or special materials required.

  1. Assemble the content. The number of pages and the type of paper you work with depends on whether you’re binding a novel, a full-color photo book, or a sketchbook. Familiarize yourself with the format by taking some hardcover books down from your bookshelf and observing how they were made.
  2. Format your pages. If you’re creating a blank book, you can skip this step. If you’re printing a book with text, you'll need to format the text so that you can print it into a book. You can get help with this at a copy shop, or you can download book design software and print at home. Eventually, you’ll end up with a PDF with a page count. This page count has to be divisible by four so that your book can be bound as folios made up of eight sheets of paper (32 pages) each. You may need to add some blank pages at the end of the book to keep your page count correct for the folios.
  3. Print and fold. Once all of your pages are printed, fold pages in half and stack eight within each other, making sure the pages are in the correct order. Staple the folios together in the folds, alternating the location of the staples so that you don’t end up with a bulge in the spine.
  4. Bind your folios together. Arrange all of the folios in the correct order and flatten them between heavy books. Once your folios are flat, it’s time to glue them together. Hold the folios together with binder clips and use a glue gun to glue the folios together along the stapled edge. This will become your book’s spine. Be careful not to overdo it on the glue: Use just enough to keep the folios together. Before the glue cools, use a thin piece of fabric to cover the spine only.
  5. Even out the pages. Carefully trim the edges of the pages with a paper trimmer or craft knife, if needed.
  6. Make the hardcovers. Cut two pieces of cardboard for the front and back covers of your book. For the spine, cut a piece of cardboard that is the same height as the front and back covers, with a width equal to the thickness of the spine plus the front and back covers.
  7. Attach the hardcovers. Paint the cardboard (both covers and the spine piece) with a thin layer of PVA glue and attach to the cloth you’ll use to cover your book, leaving a space between the covers and the spine equal to one and a half times the thickness of the cardboard. Let dry.
  8. Assemble the book. Use PVA glue to attach the fabric-lined spine of your bound folios to the cardboard spine. Keep the book propped up between other books while you wait for it to dry.
  9. Attach the endpapers. Trim the paper lining so that it’s twice the size of the first page and fold it in half. Paint glue onto the inside of the front cover and the front page, and attach paper lining. Repeat with the back cover.
  10. Make the dust jacket. If you’d like to cover your book with a dust jacket, measure a piece of thick decorative paper as tall as your book and as wide as the entire book, plus a few extra inches to fold over the edge of the cover. Fold the dust jacket over the bound book. Lay another heavy book on top of it to help the dust jacket keep its shape. This is the place to add a cover design, if you’d like.
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