First sketchbook prototype


Making a simple sketchbook from leftover things. No special tools are needed, but they help.


  • ring to bind the papers (bookbinding ring, or make one from a piece of wire or whatever)
  • carton for the back cover
  • thicker paper for the front cover
  • papers
  • pointy stuff to make holes in papers
  • scissors or cutter to cut your papers to size


  • hole puncher makes the job much faster and easier (the screw one is the best)
  • grommets eyelets and pliers to set them (often the pliers also have a hole pucher) to make the hole in the covers look nicer
  • piece of ribbon and suitable glue to glue it to the covers for binding the lower part
  • flat elastic cord, or other cord or ribbon to keep the book closed, (craft knife and engraving tool or thread and needle for easier attachment)

something to make the covers look nicer:

  • wrap it in fabric - glue and fabric
  • wrap it in a nice paper - glue, paper and varnish to protect the paper
  • paint it with acrylics
  • paint it with something else + varnish to protect the paint and paper
  • laminate it


  • Find and test a design that would fulfill the requirement of a perfect sketchbook
  • Arrange leftover papers so it is enticing to use them
  • Gain some experience for when I want to make something nicer
  • Made from not valuable materials, so it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out

Perfect sketchbook

A perfect sketchbook has a suitable paper for any technique I want to use right now. It is a well-knit unit to be browsed as a whole, but filled pages can be removed to storage and new pages added periodically.

Design choices

  • A4 size
  • Sketchbook needs to be as light as possible because I carry it with me, therefore no thick front cover. The back cover must be sturdy to support drawing without a table.
  • A ring holds the papers together while allowing to replace them, the downside is that it makes a hole in the paper. Papers are held together by only one ring, so a minimum of the paper surface is wasted. It also makes adding the papers much easier, since you don’t have to worry about the distance between holes.
  • While the top part of the sketchbook is held by the ring, the lower part of the covers is held together by a ribbon, so the sketchbook still opens like a book and the pages remain inside the covers

Finished sketchbook

The making


First I collected all the papers I wanted to use. It was usually from filled notebooks where only the last few papers remained blank, or some loose sketches that could be elaborated, but would otherwise remain forgotten. Cut the papers to the size of the sketchbook, it doesn’t matter if some are smaller, but the majority should be the right size.

Collected notebooks

I collected my pointy things. The hole should be a little closer to the edge than what is the radius of the ring, so you could turn the pages comfortably. First I press the needle on a stack of papers to make a mark on multiple papers at once (take care to align the edges of the papers on the two sides nearest to the hole).

Preparing to make holes

Then I take one paper at a time and gradually make big enough hole with increasingly larger tools. I still keep the hole as small as possible, only for the ring to fit through.

Preparing to make holes

Then I cut off the excess paper with a knife. Some of the holes I cut out using only the craft knife by cutting out little squares. Both these processes take too long, buy a screw hole punch tool, it is amazing.

Preparing to make holes


It is nice when the covers are a little wider than the papers, but not necessary. For the front cover, I took one of my drawings, glued it to a thicker paper, painted the other side with copper acrylics and laminated it. I didn’t think to take photos, sorry. The back cover is made from back of one of the old notebooks. It was thick enough to hide the elastic cord for keeping the book closed. First I made two thin holes to pull the cord through. I also made the hole for the ring in a simillar way with the craft knife, it was almost square at first and then I rounded it imperfectly.

Holes for the cord

Then I cut a leftover fabric around 1.5cm bigger than the carton on every side. I put glue on the carton, spread it around with a piece of fabric, paper, an old sponge, or whatever you have. Gradually stretch and press down the fabric on it while smoothing.

Gluing the fabric

If your fabric is not thick enough, every little buildup of glue will make a stain, as you can see on the picture. I thought this will bother me, but it got dirty from paint pretty soon anyway. Depending on your glue, let it rest under a weight for a while.

Glued fabric

I choose the place where the cord would go and disturbed it with a craft knife. Then I removed the material with an engraving tool, but it could be done without it. Then I glued the cord in. It didn’t hold well enough, so I put a thin piece of silicone adhesive tape between the cord and the carton. Alternatively, you could sew the end of the cord together.

Glued in cord

I also tried to hide a magnet in the back cover, and make the blue ribbon go all the way around, so it would connect to this magnet with a magnetic pad hidden in it. But I didn’t have a magnet of more suitable dimensions to hide in the back and the magnetic pad is very weak, so it didn’t work.

Hidden magnet

Then I glued the rest of the fabric on the inside of the cover. To do that I first wrapped the corners around and glued them to the carton and then I glued the sides over them. Back cover almost done!

Inner side of back cover

Now for finishing the back cover, I used the silicone tape again to attach the ribbon that will also connect to the front cover.

Ribbon on back cover

And I covered it all by gluing a paper on top of everything. This looks better in reality.

Finished back cover

By this time I bought some tools, so I could put eyelets in the holes of the back and front cover, it makes them look much nicer. First I punched through the fabric (the carton already had a hole, so it was easy) and then I pressed in the eyelet. Here is the eyelet in the front cover. When the paper is too thin, it doesn’t look very good from the inside, because there is too much material. But it may depend on what kind of eyelets you get.

Eyelet in the front cover

Now I measured the amount of ribbon that I needed (by the thickness of all the papers and a little more) and glued the ribbon to the front cover again using silicone tape. This doesn’t look very good, but hey, it’s a prototype.

Ribbon on the front cover

And that’s it! Sorry for the crappy photos.

Finished sketchbook

It opens all the way around.

Finished sketchbook

Final thoughts

Finally, I discovered, that I prefer a more permanent bind in a sketchbook. But I still like this one and I am using it for paint swatching and other references, it is ideal that I can easily add and remove sheets.

The method with the one ring is very efficient once you have a hole punching tool and I made several more.