15 DIY Journals, Sketch Pads, and Other Upcycled Books

Heart-Shaped Cereal Box Notebooks

DIY journals and other homemade books are great ways to upcycle all kinds of papers!

Got old magazines, junk mail, cereal boxes, macaroni and cheese boxes, coloring pages, printer paper with only one side written on, notebook paper with both sides written on, greeting cards, comic books, or literally any other kind of paper or paper by-product that you can think of?

You can upcycle it into a homemade book!

These upcycled books are super handy, because you can make them in whatever size, style, and thickness you prefer. I love to DIY little scratchpads to tuck into all my bags. One of my teenagers likes custom sketchbooks with new paper but covers made from cardboard snack food packaging. The other teenager likes homemade sticky notepads from all upcycled papers.

The below tutorials have all these DIY journals and sketchbooks and notepads–and more!

DIY Journals and Coloring Book

DIY coloring book. Did you know that you can make your own custom coloring books using coloring pages printed from the interwebs? It’s super easy, and guaranteed to thrill a kid with a hyper-specific Special Interest. Like, was I the only parent with a kid who ONLY wanted to color pictures of excavators, NOT dump trucks or diggers or concrete mixers? Ahem.

junk mail blank book. Utilize junk mail, especially the envelopes, as the pages of a mini blank book. The security envelope patterns make lovely endpapers! These DIY journals will be small, so you can get away with a less sturdy cover–a glossy magazine page, perhaps?

scrapbook paper booklet image via Carolyn’s Homework

scrapbook paper booklets. Got some scraps of scrapbook paper kicking around? Bind them into this mini scrap paper notebook, perfect for writing yourself a quick note when you’re out and about. And since the pages are already scraps, you don’t have to feel guilty about using a page once and then tossing it into the recycling bin!

DIY School Supplies: How to Make an Upcycled Notebook

upcycled notebook. Upcycle any thin cardboard (food packaging works great!) and any old papers into these versatile DIY journals. A guillotine paper cutter will save you TONS of time if your notebook is an odd size, and a little binding machine makes the spiral binding easy. Check out the journal writing prompts from our friends at DraftSparks for some fun journaling ideas.

file folder journal image via Creativity in Motion

file folder journal. Moved all your stuff to digital? File folders make wonderful DIY book journals! Unlike many of the other covers, which require smaller, cut-to-size papers, these you can fill with full-size copy paper or notebook paper.

Here's what you need to make a brown paper bag journal for yourself!

brown paper bag journal. A brown paper grocery bag makes the perfect easy book cover. It’s sturdy and takes to all kinds of embellishment like a champ! This is an especially kid-friendly book, and your budding author/illustrator will LOVE it.

magazine page journal. Similarly, thick, glossy magazine pages work well as covers for mini DIY journals. Not all book covers need to be cardboard or chipboard!

recovered spiral notebook image via Lynne Carson Harris

recovered spiral notebook. Here’s an eco-friendly way to save money on new school supplies! If last year’s spiral notebook looks grody but still has tons of clean pages, here’s how to break it down, switch out a new cover, and put it back together. Don’t forget to save the spirals!

Heart-shaped notebook.

heart-shaped cereal box notebook. You could substitute any simple shape for these notebook covers, but an old heart-shaped candy box does make the perfect template for these simple upcycled books.

Make a Book from an Upcycled Greeting Card

upcycled greeting card notebook. Wondering what to do with that cute greeting card? A simple, stab-bound notebook is a terrific way to enjoy that cute card for longer! This makes a sweet holiday scrapbook or journal, especially.

DIY Journals with Unusual Covers

These upcycled DIY journals have paper pages, but utilize more unusual materials for the covers.

playing card notebook image via Finding the Threads

playing card notebook. This perfect bound notebook is a perfect way to upcycle an incomplete set of playing cards. Larger format card sets like Uno and Old Maid are especially good here.

board game notebook image via Artful Panoply

board game book. A jigsaw or bandsaw will allow you to cut gameboard chipboard cleanly, and a power drill makes tidy holes for ring binding.

vintage book notebook via My So Called Crafty Life

vintage book notebook. Use the same technique as with the board game book, above, to resize children’s book covers and drill holes for ring binding. It’s extra cute to incorporate some of the book changes into the notebook with your other paper!

floppy disc notebook image via Diaphane

floppy disc notebook. Show off your relics if you’ve got them!

flooring sample notebook image via Sparkle of Sunshine

flooring sample notebook. Even though this cover looks like wood, it’s actually soft enough to use a hole punch on!

Do you have a favorite project that uses upcycled materials to make an awesome book? Let us know about it in the Comments!

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