Witchy journal DIY

02/02/2019

Recently, it occurred to me that I still didn’t have the right picture for the “visit the blog” widget on my homepage. As a placeholder, I had a picture of one of my necklaces. Granted, it was a nice picture, and I love the necklace in question, but it wasn’t that relevant to the subject.

It was meant to be temporary, but, typically for me, I completely forgot about it. It didn’t take long for me to get an idea for the perfect picture: a nice journal, preferably with a quill pen laying on top of it, maybe with lit candles in the background.

witchy journal DIY, gothic moon phases journal with a pheasant quill pen laying on top of it
You know, like this ^

So, as you do, I took to the interwebs in the quest for a journal that would fit what I had in mind. Aaaand… couldn’t find anything I’d like. I should have seen it coming. After all, I started making jewellery because I’m ridiculously picky. I hate shopping for clothes, because I usually don’t like whatever is available. Of course I couldn’t find anything.

So, what’s a girl to do if she needs a witchy journal for a photo, but can’t find any? Well, if this girl is me, she buys a plain sketchbook, matte mod podge, black tissue paper, and gets to work.

To put it shortly: she makes her own witchy journal DIY!

I thought, that apart from just making it, I’m going to write a tutorial for a gothic, witchy journal DIY

materials needed for the witchy journal DIY
Materials used. After I started working on it, I realised I needed a few other things.

Witchy journal DIY

Of course, any project starts with a design. I had mine ready the same day I realised I still didn’t have a good picture for the widget, which was also the same day I confirmed my pickiness has no bounds.

Design for the sketchbook cover

Design for the sketchbook cover

Idea for what it'll look like in colour

Idea for what it'll look like in colour

Then, of course, you need to figure out how to get your design to become reality. I quite quickly figured out that for the look I wanted, I’d need to cut out the moons from cardboard, and maybe use cord for the spirals. At first I toyed with the idea of covering the shapes, glued to the cover of the journal, with fabric. Ultimately I decided to go with several layers of tissue paper.

Materials needed

Here are the supplies needed for the witchy journal DIY

Here’s what I used for the journal:

  • –  hardcover A4 sketchbook
  • matte mod podge
  • black tissue paper
  • waxed cotton cord (I used two, one thicker, and one thinner)
  • cardboard
  • acrylic paints
  • brushes – both regural ones, and foam ones
  • silver and white craft mica pigments
  • pale soft pastel
  • super glue (or hot glue, if you have it)
  • wood filler (you could also use air-dry clay, or maybe polymer clay)
  • strong black tea infusion

How long it took

Before we start, a word of warning: this is going to be a bit long. Not just the post, but the process itself. It took me, in total, a whopping 12 hours. Yes, 12. I spend about 5 hours on the first day making the moons, borders, and spirals, and 7 hours the next day covering the journal in tissue paper, painting the moon phases, and sealing it. Apparently, a witchy journal DIY is a much bigger undertaking than I thought it’d be. Good thing I’m basically a bat, so working late into the night doesn’t bother me all that much. And it was worth it in the end!

The process

I started by painting the pages of my sketchbook with tea. The pages are very white, which I didn’t like for this project. I thought that such bright pages would clash with the finished item, so I’ve decided to dull the colour a little bit. I put down three coats of tea to get the colour I liked.

painting the pages of a sketchbook with tea infusion
You can see the contrast between the section I’ve already painted with tea, and the untouched part.

Next I cut my tissue paper to size. I prepared 4 sheets that would cover the entire journal, with some excess left.

opened sketchbook laying on top of tissue paper sheets, showing how much excess to leave
I prepared 4 sheets of tissue paper that were slightly larger than the opened sketchbook

Then I printed out my design, and traced the crescent moons on a piece of scrap cardboard I had laying around. Obviously, I then cut them out.

cardboard crescent moon cut-outs.
Rough cut outs.

Because the process of cutting the moons crinkled and deformed the cardboard, I decided to smooth them out using all purpose filler. If you have air-dry clay at hand, you can use that. You could also just make the moons (or whatever shapes you want) from air-dry or polymer clay. To be honest, if I’m ever making another journal like this, I’d probably go that route.

cardboard crescent moon cut-outs covered in wood filler
First, rough layer of filler. After this dried, I added another, thicker one, and smoothed everything with a damp tool.

I took my printed out design, and rubbed a pale soft pastel (you can also use chalk) on the blank side of the paper. Then, I placed the printout on the front cover of my sketchbook, and traced the design, like I would with carbon paper. This left outlines on the cover, that acted as a guide for placing the cut-outs.

design copied on a front cover of a sketchbook. witchy journal DIY
Copied guides for cutouts and spirals

Since the moons were still drying, I started working on the borders, and the ribs on the spine of the sketchbook. I used waxed cotton cord for this – luckily for me, I had two bundles, differing in thickness, laying around . For the borders I used the thicker cord, and the thinner one for the ribbing on the spine.

I started with the diamond shape at the centre of the cover. At first, I used mod podge for gluing the cord down. Everything went swimmingly there. However, once I moved on to gluing the borders running along the sides of the cover, for some reason the cord just wouldn’t stick to the sketchbook. I had to use superglue for this. I imagine that hot glue would work as well. Generally, go with something really sticky, that bonds very quickly.

boarders made from burgundy red cord glued to front cover of a sketchbook
I had to use superglue for the borders. They just wouldn’t stick.

Once all borders were in place, I moved onto the spine. First, I drew lines were I wanted to put the cord down. I just eyeballed the placement.

spine of a sketchbook with drawn-on lines showing where to put the cords running across it
Placement for the cord drawn with a pale soft pastel.

To make sure nothing was too short or to long, I first glued the cord to the top of the spine, leaving the sides free. I also left the pieces of cord a bit too long than they needed to be. Once everything was glued, I cut the cord to the required length, and glued it down on the sides of the spine.

Cord glued to the spine, with the tails that'll go on the sides still untrimmed, and sticking out

Cord glued to the spine, with the tails that'll go on the sides still untrimmed, and sticking out

Everything glued down.

Everything glued down.

Once this was done, I glued the crescent moons to the cover. I don’t know if this was a problem with the filler I used, or what, but it flaked off in places while I was handling the moons. I had to add another layer, and smooth everything down again, with the moons already glued to the cover.

Moons glued to the cover. A few bits missing here and there.

Moons glued to the cover. A few bits missing here and there.

Everything smoothed down

Everything smoothed down

I waited for the moons to dry, and started working on the spirals in the corners. I used the thinner cord for this. After everything dried, I painted the moons, as well as the logo at the centre of the cover black, so they wouldn’t show through the tissue paper.

crescent moon, and a logo on the front cover of a sketchbook painted black
I see a white moon, and I want to paint it black….

Once everything was dry, I started to lay down the tissue paper. I started at the back. I put down a layer of mod podge on the spine of the sketchbook, and smoothed tissue paper over it. I pushed the paper down to make sure it was as smooth as possible, and used a thin metal tool to smooth it between the cords running across the back.

I put the glue on the spine first...

I put the glue on the spine first...

...and then smoothed tissue paper over it, making sure it lay as flat as possible.

...and then smoothed tissue paper over it, making sure it lay as flat as possible.

Next thing I did was to put mod podge in the crease of the back cover.

glue being put in the crease of a back cover of a sketchbook with a foam brush
Putting mod podge in the crease at the back

I glued the paper there, and then put a layer of mod podge over the rest of the back cover, and smoothed the tissue paper over it. Again, I pushed the paper down, and then used a sponge brush with just a tiny amount of mod podge on it, to push the remaining wrinkles down.

smoothing down wrinkles on the back cover of a sketchbook. witchy journal DIY
Smoothing wrinkles down

After this dried, I got to work on the front cover. I started, the same as on the back, by putting mod podge in the crease. I also put glue on the decorations in the top and the bottom right-hand corners.

glue put in the crease of a front cover, as well as ornaments in the corners of the cover. Witchy journal DIY
I put mod podge in the front crease, and on the ornaments in the corners. I used generous amount of mod podge over the decorations.

I carefully pushed the paper down with my fingers, and used a handle of a small file to push it down in the crevices created by the cord and the moons.

Corner covered in tissue paper

Corner covered in tissue paper

I used a handle of a niddle file to push the paper down around the moon and spirals

I used a handle of a niddle file to push the paper down around the moon and spirals

Once this was glued, I painted another section of the cover with mod podge, wide enough to cover the moon at the centre. I smoothed the paper over that, and then repeated the same steps over the remaining portion of the cover. This is how the front looked like with the first layer done:

front cover of the sketchbook with the first layer of tissue paper done. witchy journal DIY
First layer done!

I left everything to dry, and then repeated the process with the other three layers of tissue paper. I planned to stop at 3 layers, but I accidentally ripped the third one on the back, so added one more to cover it.

Once everything was dry, I cut the excess paper so only about 1.5cm /2cm was sticking outside the sketchbook. I also cut through the paper on both sides of the journal’s spine, so that it became separated in three sections I could fold independently of each other. Here’s a quick doodle:

diagram showing where to cut the excess paper

To finish the cover, I glued together the excess layers, put a layer of mod podge on the paper sticking out along the lower edge of the back cover- and folded it in half.

folding in the excess along the edge of the back cover

Then, I cut off the folded piece crossing over on the excess paper running along the longer edge, and glued the folded excess to the inside of the cover.

I repeated the process on the remaining edges. Here’s the finished result on the back cover:

finished inside of the cover
Here’s what a finished cover looks like on the inside

I cut the excess even closer at the spine, carefully, with a small brush, put a layer of glue on the inside of the spine, and glued the excess there. I did this with the sketchbook closed, and made sure I didn’t get glue on the pages.

spine of the journal showing how close to cut the excess paper during the witchy journal DIY
This is how close I cut the excess paper on the spine – just enough that it’d fold inside

I waited for everything to dry, checked if everything was holding up, and if generally everything worked as it should.

Painting

Once everything dried, I ran a slightly damp cloth over the back of my printed out design, making sure I left the moon phases completely dry. Doing this binds pastel to paper, so it doesn’t rubs of as easily. I waited for it to dry completely, and then traced the moon phases on the front cover.

moon phases copied on the front cover of a sketchbook

Next, I painted the moons. I used acrylic paints, mixed with mica pigments where I wanted a bit of a subtle shimmer.
Now, if you plan to make a similar journal, I’d strongly suggest you first check if whatever you want to use to paint on the cover works well with whatever sealer you’ll be using. At first, I wanted to use just mica pigments, mixed with water, to put down the base colour for the moons, but discovered they don’t play well with mod podge- for whatever reason, it smears them around, even after they fully dried. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, since those pigments were made specifically for painting, and have binders in them that make them behave like any other paint when mixed with water.

I decided to go with acrylics instead. Of course, I checked how they perform with mod podge, to avoid nasty surprises once I started to paint on the cover

With the moons painted, the only thing left to do was to let them fully dry ( I left them for a few hours), and add two layers of mod podge over the whole journal, to seal everything.

Here’s it is, all finished:

All finished!

All finished!

Here's the spine

Here's the spine

Back cover - no idea what's with the spots, it's fully sealed with mod podge

Back cover - no idea what's with the spots, it's fully sealed with mod podge

I spy with my little eye a nice photo prop!

I spy with my little eye a nice photo prop!

Final thoughts

So there you have it. If you’d like to try making your own witchy journal, here’s one way to do it. Now, there are few things to keep in mind:

  • unless you’ve done something like this before, it’s probably going to take much longer than you may think. I was not expecting this to take such a long time!
  • do a trial run. See if your ideas will work on a smaller scale. This will help you figure out what works best for you, and what lets you achieve the results you want.
  • Once again, if you’re going to paint something on the cover, test your medium of choice with the sealer you’ll be using! Otherwise, you may end up ruining your hard work.
  • I have no idea how durable this particular way of covering a sketchbook is. I always intended to have it mainly as a photo prop. It’s completely usable, and I will fill it with sketches, but if you want to carry it around with you… maybe figure out a way of testing durability before you spend hours of your time working on something that may get scratched and torn apart after a week of being put in and out of a bag.
  • And also, apparently me and the people making mod podge have very different ideas on what “matte” means. I’d say matte mod podge has more of a satin finish. It definitely imparts a sheen to whatever you put it on.

I hope you found this useful!

Would you try doing your own witchy journal DIY? Let me know in the comments!

Are you going to try doing your own witchy journal DIY? Let me know!

Have a great day,

Kasia.

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