Hello everyone!

I am back today with a slightly different post than usual, instead of a book review, I will be sharing a DIY for those amazing sprayed edges we've been seeing in book boxes and other exclusive additions of books. They look really cool but sometimes you want a book with sprayed edges and don't want to buy another copy. Enter this DIY!

I also just want to give a special thanks to @booktalkwithrae over on Instagram for giving me the original instructions for this technique, I've adapted it slightly but I really appreciate the guidance she offered. At this point, I've used this method to spray about a dozen books, so I felt comfortable sharing it with you guys to try out!


First things first, you'll need to gather some supplies. You will need the following:

1. The book you want to spray the edges of
I would recommend picking up a book or two from your local thrift store or library sale to practice on first to get the hang of things before diving into your actual book. I'd would also advise against spraying the edges of paperback books - I've attempted it a couple times and it turns out alright, but a hardcover will work much better, especially if you are just starting out.

2. Newspaper or some sort of paper to cover the book in
I just used whatever weekly flyers came in the paper; the flyers are usually thicker than the newspaper newsprint itself. If you can't find a nice, thick flyer, or if you are concerned about bleeding, you can definitely double up on the sheets you use to wrap the book.

3. Spray paint in the coordinating colour of your book
I've used both the Rustoleum and Krylon brands of spray paint and they both work well, however, I prefer the Rustoleum nozzle, it's a little more uniform. Make sure that whatever brand you get, you get one with a satin finish. I've tried semi-gloss and that works fine as well, but I would advise against using a gloss finish.

In terms of choosing a colour, I usually look at the cover of the book and pick out a colour that is used in small amounts. In the example book I'll show a bit later on, the cover is largely a teal-y sort of blue with white and pops of red. I decided to use that red as the colour of the edges to really make it pop. This is usually a good technique because you're guaranteed that the colours will work well together since it's already a part of the cover.

4. Painters tape or masking tape

5. Scissors

6. Drop cloth or some sort of area to spray paint in

7. Something to weigh the book down
This is probably the most important component to prevent the paint from bleeding into the pages. I used a combination of an old metal box that weighed quite a bit (which I wrapped in newspaper to prevent overspray on the box) and a jug of windshield washer fluid we had in the garage - really professional, I know! Basically, you just want something(s) you can stack on top of the book to weigh it down.


Ok, now that we have all the supplies organized, it's time to get started!

1. Prep the book
Before going anywhere near the paint, you need to make sure the book is protected.

Take off the dust jacket of your book and set it aside. Next, lay out your newspaper/flyer on a flat surface and place your book in the middle.

Beginning on one side of the book, fold the flyer over so it covers the outside of the hardcover. Using a piece of tape, secure it to the inside of the book. Using painters tape will help with the removal and ensuring that you don't rip the endpapers when you remove the flyer after painting.

Repeat this process on the other side of the book so you have a book essentially in an oversized dust jacket. Next, you'll want to trim the edges of the flyer to make it a little easier to work with.

You'll want about an inch or two excess on both sides. You can see in the below picture that the newspaper/flyer is taped snuggly so that it isn't blocking any of the book's pages and there is an overhang on the top and bottom of the book.

Next, you'll want to cut two slits in the newspaper/flyer at the spine of the book on the top and the bottom. This will allow for easier folding in a minute. Don't worry if it's not perfectly lined up - you can see in the below picture that my cuts are a little wonky - you'll be covering any gaps with tape.

Note, in the picture, I cut my paper before finishing wrapping the other side, you can do it in whatever way feels comfortable for you.

Once you've got the cuts made, you can fold in the flaps on each end of the book. You essentially fold this like you would be wrapping a really tiny present, make a triangle and then fold it over. Next just tape it down to hold it in place, and repeat with the other side of that cover. Repeat both these steps for the other side as well.

After wrapping both sides, your book should look like this. 

Don't worry about the corners if they are a little messy or if rip some of the paper, like I did (let's be real, I usually rip the corners!) To add some additional security, just wrap some tape around the corners. I like to do this to every corner, even if I didn't (visibly) rip it because the book corners are usually sharp and might poke through accidentally in painting and I'd rather be safe than sorry!

After you've got the front and back wrapped and the corners taped up, it's time to move on to the spine. This part is a little tricky and is important in making sure that the top and bottom spray looks professional - or at least, not a messy disaster.

You should have the flap at the spine from when you cut the front and back to fold. We actually don't need that flap so you can cut it off.

Next, stand up your book so you can get good access to the spine. You'll see that my paper is a bit jagged and ripped, that's totally fine, we will be taping that area smooth in a second.

Then, get a piece of painters tape and press it into the spine area. I find it works best to start in the middle of the spine and work outwards. I also sometimes rip the tape in half so that the piece isn't as tall and makes for easier folding down.

This will be the paint line and any gap between the tape and the binding of the book will be the original paper colour of the pages. I find using a fingernail to make sure the tape is pressed securely helps. The piece of tape can be a little wrinkled and bunched up on the top - that's just the nature of the beast - just make sure the part that is covering the binding is straight and smooth.

Repeat this step for the bottom of the book spine as well.

Don't worry too much about the sides of the book where the spine is more like the sides of the book, the next step is to tape down these edges. If your newspaper/flyer has ripped here or is folded a little weird, just straighten it out as much as possible and then use a piece of tape to hold it taut. Repeat this step on the other side of the book as well as the other (bottom) side of the spine.

After all of that, your books should look a little like this on the outside and inside. All the corners are taped, the inside is secured smoothly and the top and bottom edges are also taped. The smoother you get the paper and tape, the better you're spray will look.

2. Painting
Now you are (finally!) ready to get painting! It's quite the process to prepare your books for painting, but if you want them to come out clean and mess-free, you need to make sure that they are prepped properly.

For my spray painting set up, I McGyvered a paint bucket with a roll of tape and a drop cloth. You can use whatever setup you have access to for a contained spray. As always with spray paint, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area and in the proper temperature range for best results. Check your specific cans' manufacturer instructions for all that sort of info.

Essentially, you just need something that will allow you to get all of the sides and to flip the book easily. The paint bucket I was using had a bit of a lowered part with the rim sticking up an inch or so, which would have made it tricky to pick the book up and get in all the areas so I placed a roll of duct tape underneath the cloth on top of it to elevate it slightly.

Next, you can place your book on your painting setup. Make sure the book is facing you so that you can access the three sides, so spine to the back. That way, while you're painting, you can move around the book, instead of moving the book with the wet paint.

Then, place your weight(s) on top of the book. You can really use anything you have, as long as it is heavy enough to compress the book. Like I mentioned earlier, my weights consisted of an old metal box that I wrapped up to prevent overspray and a jug of windshield washer fluid. I don't really have an exact weight but use your judgement.

Once everything is weighed down, you can start spraying. Make sure you shake your can before you get started. If you're new to spray painting, try a couple tests on some paper or cardboard until you get the hang of it. It's pretty straightforward but it's always good to do a test before diving right in.

After you feel confident, you can start spraying the book. You'll be doing two light coats. The key here is fairly quick, light sprays from a bit of a distance. I usually do a spray right, then a spray back left, then another one back right (although I'm left-handed, so the directions might be backwards for you - either way, you're aiming for about 3 light sprays)

Once you've sprayed the side facing you, you can go ahead and repeat that technique on the top and bottom of the book. You'll see from my pictures that the first coat is VERY light, you can still see paper through it. Don't worry about this, you'll be doing another one. If you do one heavy, slow coat, you run the risk of bleeding into the page, which is not the look we are going for.

Set a timer (yes, you'll want to time this!) for 5 minutes to let the first coat dry. Once the time is up, carefully remove the weight and flip the book over, keeping the front facing you and the spine at the back. Don't worry about applying a ton of pressure to the book when you do this; just try to flip it as carefully and gently as possible.

Place the weight back on top and spray again, just like the first time. Make sure this coat covers any areas that were missed in the first coat, including any areas that may have been missed or blocked by the hardcover. Often, you'll get a line of exposed paper (on the bottom after the flip) that was missed due to the angle of the first spray.

After you've sprayed the second coat, set your timer for 10 minutes and wait for it to dry.

3. Finishing Touches
Once the time is up, you can take the weights off and carefully unwrap the book. I find that starting with the beside the spine pieces of tape first, then peeling off the first piece of tape that was used to secure the initial wrap. Make sure to carefully peel off the tape covering the spine. After that, depending on how you've wrapped it, you can just slide the paper 'case' right off.

Next, fan the pages to make sure none of them are stuck together (which, if things went according to plan, they shouldn't have!)

At this point, the paint is pretty much dry but I usually let it dry fully overnight before reading or interacting with it further. You can, of course, put the dust jacket back on and admire your work! When the book is open, you should see a lighter colour because it is fanned out a bit and there shouldn't be any bleeding onto the pages.

And voila, the finished product! You can see that when the book is closed, the colour is nice and solid opaque.

Additional Tips

In order to get the best results, here are a few other tips for getting the best sprayed edges!
  • Practice on a book from a thrift store, library sale, or one you don't mind possibly messing up. The process is pretty easy to do, but you might want to test out how far away to spray or how long to spray, that sort of thing.
  • This technique works best on a hardcover book. I've done a few tests on paperbacks and I've had problems with paint bleeding onto the first page because paperbacks don't usually have the space or endpapers to protect the actual pages of the book. That isn't to say that there should be bleeding on the endpapers, but it just adds a bit more insurance.
  • Solid coloured spray paints work better than metallics. I've used metallic paint successfully, but, I've found that they rub off a little bit on my hands when I'm reading the book. I've had no problems with transfer once solid colours are completely dried.
  • Put in the effort and time to wrap the books properly. If you do this, your books will come out so much better than if you did a quick, sloppy job. Make sure your edges and corners are crisp and that you cover the spine/binding carefully.
  • As I mentioned, it's ideal to use a spray paint with a satin finish, or worst case, a semi-gloss. I haven't tried with a gloss finish so you can try that out with a tester if you want, but I wouldn't use it without testing it first. Same goes for chalkboard or other finishes - they might work, but test them first! I have used a couple different brands, but Rustoleum is my go-to, and they have a fairly large range of colours available.
  • If you are painting multiple books the same colour, to save time you can stack them on top of each other under the weights with no problems. I just did this with this round of books that I painted black and it worked beautifully. Just make sure when you are flipping them that you remember which ones have already been flipped.

Hopefully, these instructions will be helpful in making sure you are able to successfully spray the edges of your favourite books! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions and tag me on Instagram and Twitter (@ryleyreads) if you decide to try it out for yourself!