Make Your Own Book Jackets for Notebooks

I enjoy the look of books that are part of a series, where there are volumes of books with the same look and feel.

This image displays a series of books on the North American Indian by Edward Curtis. These beautiful volumes are an enhanced reprint of the original series. This new series is $6,500, which according to the website, is “far less than 1% of the cost” of the original. You can achieve the look of a matched set of books using book jackets.

Book Jackets

Until the 1820s books were costly and most owners were wealthy. Books typically came unbound or were custom bound as part of the acquisition process. Each owner could then have the same style of binding for all of the books in his personal library. Since published books, notebooks and journals now come already bound in a variety of styles, we have lost this ability to customize the look for our own personal libraries. One way to achieve the look of a series is to use book jackets.

Book jackets, also commonly known as dust jackets, are printed pieces of paper that wrap around book covers. In the early days of printed books, these covers literally protected from dust and often enclosed the entire book, like gift wrapping. Later on, book jackets consisted of plain paper for the purpose of protecting the intricate designs of book covers. Charles Dickens asked his publisher to print the title of the book on the plain book jacket. By the 1890s more detailed book jackets were popular. These designs became even more detailed and artistic through the 1920s.

Today, book jackets are still useful for a variety of purposes. First, they can still provide a layer of protection from dust and spills of water or other beverages. Book jackets often include information about the book that is not included on the book cover (for hardcover books). Additionally, book jackets can provide a consistent theme across books in a series.

Notebook Collections

In a previous post I shared about the various categories of journals I have been using for several years. Mostly I use Moleskine notebooks, but I also have some notebooks from Paperblanks and a few that I created myself when I devoted time to the art of bookbinding.

The challenge of Moleskine notebooks (at least the ones I choose) is that they are black. I cannot distinguish different notebooks from different series (planner, field notes, music journals, etc.). If I have different types of journals used for the same purpose, they don’t appear related.

My solution for these problems is book jackets. I prefer “book jacket” to “dust jacket” because my primary purpose is to create a unified look for notebooks/journals in the same series and to identify the contents of each book.

Steps to Create Book Jackets

A book jacket needs to be long enough to cover the front and back covers, the spine and the part of the book jacket folded around the covers. For the small, pocket size notebooks (3.5×5.5) a standard letter size paper (8.5×11 inch) will work. Larger sizes (up to 8.5 inches in height) require longer paper. The Moleskine Large notebooks are 5.25×8.25 inches, and legal size paper (8.5×14 inch) works well.

1. Calculate the dimensions of the notebook.

The three essential measurements are the height and width of the covers and thickness of the spine. Make a note of the measurements and proceed to Step 2.

2. Create a PowerPoint template

Start a new, blank presentation in PowerPoint and format the slide dimensions to one of the sizes above – either letter or legal size. Turning on the ruler helps tremendously in aligning various measurements. Insert a vertical line to divide the page in half (at the 0-point on the ruler). The spine guidelines should be centered at this vertical line.

Insert three rectangle shapes. Format one to the dimensions of the spine (thickness of the book and the height). The remaining shapes should have the dimensions of the covers (height and width).

Center the spine rectangle along the vertical line (0-point). Align the cover rectangles against the spine. These are your guidelines for adding text, images, clipart and background image (if desired).

In PowerPoint, insert graphics and text boxes to create the book jacket. Typically book jackets have some sort of background, a title and spine text.

In this example, I created a book jacket for a 3.5×5.5 journal. I decided to go with a travel journal theme.

Before printing, delete the rectangle shapes and vertical line from the template.

3. Print and Trim the Book Jacket

The printed book jacket will likely need to be trimmed to fit the notebook. Book jackets for small notebooks can be printed using letter size paper. The book jackets for larger notebooks (up to 8.5 inches tall) will need to be printed on legal size paper.

Beyond book jackets, I do not need legal paper. Rather than buying a ream (500 sheet) package of paper, I start with 11×14 sketching paper and cut it to legal size. I recently purchased a paper cutter which can easily trim sizes up to 18 inches in length. This picture displays my old 12-inch trimmer and the new one.

4. Wrap the Notebook

Align the spine of the book jacket with the spine of the notebook. Hold the notebook with the spine face up and ensure that the book jacket’s spine text is centered over the notebook’s spine. Fold the front cover of the book jacket down over the front cover of the notebook and then crease along the front edge. Fold the book jacket over the edge of the cover. Repeat the same process for the back cover.


Carl Paper Trimmers

PowerPoint Template – Letter size

PowerPoint Template – Legal size

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