Decorating Notebooks: 3 killer design ideas!

Decorating notebooks for back-to-school is a time-honored tradition. It is either something that is intentional  {you are trying to hide a boring notebook} or happens organically  {you are doodling day after day after day in a snoozer of a class}. We love decorating notebooks because we can never seem to find the perfect notebook that to match our fave fashions, although Jonathan Adler makes some killer back-to-school stuff that comes pretty darned close.  But since notebooks are usually one of two things: bland or expensive, we made our own. Decorating notebooks is easiest if you just use the binders with the clear front and design on your computer or on a piece of paper. You can print your schedule and slip it in, or go crazy with patterns and have some fun. We printed out some free backgrounds and put in our classes and with a few tweaks, made some covers for binders that are bit more fun than plain old binders. But when it comes to notebooks, we wanted to see what else we could do besides just drawing on them on or putting cute tape patterns on them (which is always fun to do and can create amazing designs). Since glitter is a cure for just about anything, including a boring class, we got glittery and glam. But we also got preppy and perky with a traditional design in blue, cream and white. Let us know what you think!

I.  How to Decorate a Binder
Chloe decorates anything that can be decorated! iPhone backgrounds are a specialty and lately it’s been binder covers. She simply showed a few on her Instagram — @seebychloe1– and the orders for them have been rolling in. So Chloe suggested showing everyone how to make their own too!  We are in the process of opening a shop soon, but in the meantime, you can order from her on her Instagram or her blog, Preppy Diaries. Hopefully she’ll be creating some custom backgrounds :lol:  but have fun creating your own –> here’s Chloe’s binder cover secret:

decorating notebooks

1. open a file in Pages.

2. once you open a file in Pages go to the top bar and press view, then press zoom, and then zoom out. (repeat step 2 twice)

decorating notebooks

3. next, drag and drop your picture/print of choice onto your document.

notebook decorating

4. then stretch your picture to fill your entire page.

notebook decorating

5. click the “shape” tool (to the right of the text box tool), and choose the square shape to insert onto your page.

decorating notebook

6. stretch the square into a rectangular shape

notebook decorating

7. change the color to match one of the colors of your background.  TIP: white is a good base color and you can change the opacity (using the opacity tool) to 90%, and it creates the illusion of making the rectangle blend with the background

decorating notebooks

8. click onto your rectangle, and then click the “pt” button. manually type “20 pt” into the box, then change the color of you box’s outline to match your background

decorating notebooks

9. add your text into the rectangle, and change the color to match your background.

how to decorate notebooks

10. and you’re finished!!

how to decorate notebooks

UPDATED AUG 2014: click for more easy customizable notebook designs here

II.  Initial Notebook Decorating Design
This is an easy idea that takes more time to gather supplies and to let dry between steps than it does to create. This is such a fun look when done and is very classy!

notebook decorating ideas

step 1: gather supplies. Glue gun, notebook, scissors, duck tape, paint, heavy paper, letter design, pencil, ruler, fabric
step 2: measure 1″ around front cover of notebook and cut away excess fabric
step 3: fold fabric in over front cover only (you can do back as well, but we just did front!) Fold in corners first for the cleanest look. Use glue gun around inside seam to glue securely to inside of front cover
step 4: trace cutout of letter wherever you would like letter to be placed. We chose bottom right corner and placed a period for the effect. Paint letter with your choice of color.
step 5: use duck tape along seam to hide fraying and to help secure fabric to notebook.  Step back and admire!


III. How to decorate a spiral notebook: 
Another project Chloe did was to cover a spiral notebook. This is a great project to do in your favorite colors or school colors. Choose as many separate colors as you like for the stripes.  You can either combine the 1 part modge podge to 2 parts glitter in a tinfoil lined bowl, or follow the instructions below. Make sure to wash the brush in-between coats so the modge podge won’t harden and keep layering until the glitter is consistent!

step 1 — Gather your supplies! You will need two different types of glitter (perfect in your fave colors or school colors or team colors, etc), a sponge brush, a notebook, and modgepodge.
step 2 — Brush modgepodge onto your notbook, and sprinkle the first glitter color (or use technique above). You might have to spread some glitter out with your fingers.
step 3 — Continue step two until you reach the bottom of your notebook.
step 4 — Add a coat of ModgePodge on top of your final first coat of glitter.

step 5 — Add ModgePodge on top of your first coat.
step 6 — Sprinkle glitter on top of step five’s ModgePodge coat.
step 7 — Continue with steps five and six, until you reach the bottom of your notebook.
step 8 — Add paint to make the stripes “pop” more!

DIY Notebook ModgePodge Glitter how to

VOILÀ! The finished notebook!

notebook decorating

IV. BONUS And as an added bonus… check out this amazing upcycled t-shirt notebook cover tutorial! Great for old band tshirts you might have outgrown! It’s right here on trashn2tees.

There you go – 3 killer notebook decorating ideas + 1 bonus idea! Which one do you plan to use?


UPDATE AUG 2014: click for more easy customizable notebook / binder cover designs here

@popcosmo on Instagram

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  • jmess8

    Whats the best way to do this not using a mac I have a dell?



  • PopCosmo

    Try using Word — the instructions should be approximately the same. Let us know!

  • PopCosmo

    Thank you for stopping by and we are glad you like them!

  • lucy

    what font did you use?

  • PopCosmo

    American Purpose. But there are plenty that are similar!

  • D.D.G

    Thank you for the help but it did not really help me. thank you though. :)

  • D.D.G

    do you think we could do it with scrap paper?

  • PopCosmo

    We are not really sure what you mean… can you explain what you want to do with the scrap paper?

  • Morgan

    I’ve been wanting to do this but I can’t figure out how to get the design I want, and how to paste it into the document. Where do I get them? Help!

  • PopCosmo

    Glad to help! email preppydiaries {at} gmail {dot} com and we’ll get you some more info!

  • Alison

    Where can I get the design?

  • PopCosmo

    Lots of websites have cute downloadable wallpapers, which make great notebook cover designs. For our cover, we used Lilly Pulitzer. Simply google “lilly pulitzer wallpaper” and you’ll find dozens to choose!

  • Melissa

    I absolutely LOVE this 1st idea! its easy and cute! thank you thank you thank you!

  • PopCosmo

    You are so welcome!

  • maya

    what software is used in 1st procedure ?

  • PopCosmo

    We used Pages, hope that helps you get started.

  • Guest

    thanx :)

  • maya

    but i use pc, whch software shud i use ?

  • PopCosmo

    Try using Word, it should be almost the same.

  • Emma

    How do I get pages on my mac?

  • admin

    Try the app store – it should be there.

  • Jasmyn Morrison

    Not the idea i had in mind. I don’t like any of them.

  • Deanna

    What font is used on the chemistry cover?

  • PopCosmo

    I don’t recall exactly which one, but it is one of Kevin & Amanda’s fonts from this page:

  • Gisselle

    This changed my life.

  • Jenelle Montilone

    I’m totally late to the party, but so grateful to be included as an extra bonus! Thanks for sharing TrashN2Tees upcycled tshirt notebook tutorial!! Have you tried it yet?

  • christina

    is the first method done in like word or what

  • PopCosmo

    It was done in Pages, but Word should be similar….

  • Andreea deea

    I totally love the first idea of decorating the notebooks!

  • Nidhi Singh

    cool ideas..i like it..

  • quinn edgar

    what if you don’t have a mac

  • PopCosmo

    It would be similar in Pages

  • Jess

    If you are using a PC, use Powerpoint. Much easier to use than Word

  • Donutssss

    Where you get the picture/print from idea 1???

  • PopCosmo

    Just google “Lilly Pulitzer wallpaper” and you’ll find tons of free wallpapers!

  • Rachel

    Do all your covers turn out pixelated? That’s my biggest problem.

  • mehak

    it was boring.not the idea which i wanted to look for . where can i get most beautiful designes.

  • Kirsten

    What is the name of the print in the binder example?

  • Mariah

    mine do the same thing

  • Karianna

    Love this! Thanks, PopCosmo!

  • Lana

    When you’re searching for a photo in Google Images, click search tools, size, larger than, 2 MP (1600×1200). That way, you will be guaranteed that the background photos that you choose will not be pixelated when streched

  • Katelynn

    What I did was go to lowes and grab a ton of paint swatches that are free! Then I cut them into squares. I applied each one onto the notebook and covered them with mod podge. It’s very time consuming by it comes out great! I did this on a spiral plastic covered notebook.

  • :)

    me neither

  • Annie

    LOVE these ideas!!!

  • Jessie

    I love the glitter one