Following my previous posts about my bookbinding tools/materials and preparing my journal cover, this week I want to share some information regarding choosing and preparing the paper that will go in your handmade journals. It’s it certainly a personal choice, regarding what type of paper or papers you choose to include in your journal. After all, if you’re making something custom, why not experiment? You can include found papers, printer paper, thicker cardstock, watercolor paper and a variety of other artist papers on the market.


Know that you will need to cut your paper to size, so that when folded in half they make up the size of your journal. A couple of sheets folded and stacked together make a signature and you would usually include several signatures, depending how many pages you want in the final journal. What is important to consider is the thickness of your paper as that will more or less decide how many sheets go in each signature. If you are using regular printer paper, you want to go for at least 6 or even 8 sheets in a signature. That will ensure that the signature is sturdy and can hold up to however you stitch the signatures into your journal cover. If you only had a sheet or two of thin paper, your thread would surely rip through!

On the other hand, if you are using a very thick cardstock, you want to use less sheets per signature. In fact, as you stack them together, you’ll notice that the open edges look a bit diagonal. I don’t mind the inconsistencies, but many folks prefer to stack up their signatures and then trim off the excess so that they have an even edge. It’s up to you!


Once you have decided on your paper and cut them to size, you’ll have to fold them in half and stack up your signatures. When it comes to folding paper, there is technically a right way to do it! Paper has a grain to it and you’ll be able to tell especially with thicker papers when you start folding. When your fold paper parallel to the direction of the grain, it will fold nice and crisply. If you fold¬†perpendicular to the grain, you might notice more resistance and a crackly, ragged edged fold. This is because the fibers of the paper are giving you resistance.

However, if you are using regular printer paper, you might not be able to tell much of difference at all. Paper with less fiber and less thickness simply doesn’t resist as much. I usually only run into a problem with really thick 300 or 400 lb painting paper. Normally, I don’t even check for the grain of the paper! Being in the more practical and economical boat, I usually buy white cardstock printer paper in A4 size and just fold in half to make my journals. However, I do use a bone folder to smooth over edges… makes it easy on my fingers. If you don’t have a bone folder, use a spoon! It’s totally works!


Once you have your paper decided upon, cut them size and folded them into signatures you are ready for the actual construction of your journal. Before moving on it’s really important to put your journal together and take a look to make sure everything checks out. Do you have enough signatures to fill up the journal as you envisioned? Do you need to take away a signature or add more?

If your journal cover wraps around, you’ll definitely have to check to make sure enough room is allowed… you don’t know how many times I’ve simply forgotten about the spine taking up space and thought that my journal could have been much thicker! Here’s a look at my mock-up journal, not yet sewn… but looks good to me so far. Join me next week for the final step of putting it all together!

Why kind of papers do you prefer to put in your handmade journals? I know that junk papers are especially popular for those who will cover up the pages with paint and ink… get creative! Feel free to share in the comments below…