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Design Your DIY Journal Cover With This Fun Tutorial

Isn’t there just something so satisfying and appealing about a brand-new journal or notebook?

Why not design your own easy DIY notebook cover to set your journal apart from the rest and make it even more appealing to write in?

This tutorial will show you how to make your own DIY journal cover. Whether it’s a journal for school, drawing, or to fill with to-do lists, you can use this guide to create an exact replica of the one I have crafted or use it as inspiration to create something you love!

Turn plain notebooks into beautiful works of art you want to spend time journalling or drawing in.

In just six very simple steps, you’ll have your gorgeous journal, and I promise you, you’ll actually remember to use it because it just looks so cute!

Supply List for Journal Cover

Supplies for Journal Cover
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

How to Make a DIY Journal Cover

Step One: Design the Background

Prepare Background of Journal Cover
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Start off with a blank journal.

This background is very simple yet effective. You can use any color or texture of paper to tie in with the theme or color palette you want for your journal cover.

The first thing you need to do is cut out two pieces of paper or card the same width as your journal and around 2 inches in height.

Rip the cardstock paper along the top edge of one piece and the bottom edge of the other.

Using your glue stick, glue the pieces to the top and the bottom of the journal. Trim off any excess paper.

You can choose whether to do a whole border and also make pieces for the sides of your cover. Alternatively, you could rip lots of pieces of paper and make a collage background. Now is your time to play around with different designs and get creative!

Lay your design down on a flat surface or on the front of the notebook before you glue it all down, to make sure the composition works well together and you like the final background.

If you’d rather make a fabric cover, you could use fabric scraps to make really unique cover. Layer the pieces of fabric on top of each other to create a background, and then move on to step two below.

For a totally different kind of journal cover check out this quilted journal cover tutorial over on our sister site Scrap Fabric Love.

Step Two: Cut Out the Letters

Cut Out Letters
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Next up is to cut out the letters for your journal.

You can also get creative here and choose a different word, or maybe even personalize it with a name, for example, ‘Kristen’s Journal.’

If you have a purpose for your new journal, perhaps you could use those words instead. For example, ‘Dream Journal’ or ‘Junk Journal.

If you choose a fancy background, you’ll probably want to keep the letters pretty plain, but if you’re following this tutorial to a tee, you can choose fancy scrapbook paper to cut your letters out of.

You can use a mixture of plain colored paper, glitter paper, and patterned paper at this point. Have a play and see what works out best.

If you have neat writing and a steady hand, you can use a pencil to draw your letters onto the patterned paper.

Make sure you draw on the patterned side, not the back side of the paper, or the letters will be reversed when you come to cut them out.

If your hand isn’t super steady, then design the word you want to use on a computer, choosing the font you like and adjusting it to the right size. You can then print off the letters, cut around them, and trace them onto your patterned paper.

Even better, if your paper fits in the printer, you can print the outline of the letters right onto the paper and cut them straight out.

If you really don’t like the idea of cutting your own letters out, you could always buy pre-cut letters. Some even come with sticky backs, making them super easy and simple to add.

Step Three: Stick the Letters On

Stick The Letters Down
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Next up is to glue the letters onto your DIY journal cover. It’s best to choose a clear glue, like Elmers. (Plus is doesn’t hurt that it’s washable!)

To skip the gluing step, you could use contact paper which has an adhesive backing that you can stick directly down.

This is how your journal should look at this point! Cute, right?!

Finish Sticking Letters
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Step Four: Embellish The Cover

Cut Out Shapes
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

The next step is to use a pair of scissors to cut out any shapes you’d like to embellish the cover of the notebook.

Even better, if you have a Cricut machine, you can cut out your own embellishments.

Use the Cricut design space to make elements that fit in with your background.

Once you’re happy with the placement of all your additions, stick them down using clear glue.

TIP: Don’t add too much glue or your paper will wrinkle!

Glue Shapes Onto Journal
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Greeting cards or magazines can be a great place to find elements like this to embellish your journal cover. I also like to cut up greeting cards to make gift tags.

Step Six: Outline Your Letters

Final Journal Cover
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

To really make the letters stand out, use a black marker pen to outline each letter.

Use pens or acrylic paints to add some extra detail. Get creative with your notebook cover ideas.

If you want to seal the cover and make it more hardy, you could add a layer of Mod Podge at this point. Make sure you allow it to fully dry before using the journal.

And there you have it… your own DIY notebook cover!

Finished Journal Cover

Here is my finished Journal Cover. I had so much fun making this gorgeous journal. I absolutely love how it turned out, it was so simple to make, but it looks really effective! I think the black outline really makes it pop and stand out a bit more.

I am going to use this one to keep all of my notes and to-do lists in one place, but I think I’d also love to use one as a bullet journal.

Finished Journal Cover
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff
Journal Cover
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

This journal would make such a great gift idea for a tween or teen girl who is about to start high school. It could even be personalized with her name and done in a style she loves.

It’s also a great project to make with young children, so they have a book to use for coloring.

What do you think? Is there anyone in your life that loves to journal or write? Do you think they would love some of our DIY journal cover ideas?

I’d love to hear from you if so, or even better, show me the journal you make from this tutorial!

Don’t forget to check out my top tips and frequently asked questions about crafting your own journal cover below!

Top Tips for Making a Journal Cover

  • Choose a journal that has been designed to last. If you start off with a flimsy journal, there is no point putting so much effort into creating a gorgeous cover if it’ll just fall apart after the first few times of using it.
  • Why not extend your journal cover to the back cover as well? You can either continue the design from the front or do a whole different design on the back that ties in with the front cover. If your journal has a spine, why not decorate the spine of the book, too, to tie it all together?
  • Continue some of the simple design elements from your cover, throughout the journal pages. You could add little flowers in the corners or pages, or if you’ve created a striped cover, add stripes to your headings on the pages inside.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you customize a journal cover?

There are so many ways to customize a journal, from the colors that you choose, to the overall style and feel. Do you want your journal to be sleek and modern, colorful and bright, or, flowery and girly?

You can also customize the letters you add to a journal cover, choosing to add your own name, or the purpose of the journal, for example, ‘Kristen’s Quilting Journal.’

How do you cover a book with fabric no sew?

Use a strong clear gun or fabric glue to cover a book with fabric. You can just use one piece of fabric to cover the whole book if you have a particularly beautiful piece, or you could use lots of scraps of fabric to design a collage.

How do I print a journal cover?

If you’re more of a computer whizz than crafty whizz, you could always design a beautiful cover on your computer or iPad.

There are plenty of programmes or apps available to help you do this, my favorite is Canva. Simply design your own cover, or use one of the many that are available, print it off, and glue it to the front of your journal.

Printable Project Instructions

If you’d rather have a hard copy of this tutorial you can print off my step-by-step instructions here. These are especially useful if you’re leading a class of students for an art class and you’d like to hand out individual copies.

Journal Cover

How to Make a Journal Cover

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: 10

Make a journal cover for your scrapbook or diary using scraps of paper.


  • Notebook
  • Colored Paper
  • Glitter Paper
  • Patterned Paper
  • Scissors
  • Pencils
  • Black Marker
  • Glue


  1. Rip two pieces of colored paper, leaving one straight edge on each one, and glue them to the top and bottom of your journal cover page.
  2. Print off the word 'journal' or any other word of choice, or use a pencil to draw the letters out yourself.
  3. If you've used a printout of the letters, cut them out and trace around them on patterned paper.
  4. Cut the letters out and stick them down onto the journal cover.
  5. Cut out any other shapes or pictures you'd like to add to your cover and stick them down.
  6. Outline the words using a black marker.

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