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Easy DIY Journal from a composition book

Love journals? The Easiest DIY Journal you'll ever make!

If you're going to write in a journal, first you have to have one, right?  There's definitely no shortage of tutorials out there to turn a composition book into a cute journal, but I'm gonna promise you right here that this is the easiest journal you'll ever do.

If you're a notebook girl like me, you'll understand that you can't have too many.  I've made my fair share of them in the past, usually using Mod Podge. But being the all-encompassing perfectionist that I am, those bubbles were brutal.

Last year as a part of my job working with a pretty big group of 10-11 year old girls in Activity Days, we decided we wanted to make journals with them.  I knew it had to be simple, they had to be able to finish it quickly, and they had to be able to do it without a lot of help. Mod Podge was out of the question.  I read a lot of DIY posts about making the journals, and ended up pulling all the best tips I could find to come up with a plan. So if you're ready to make one (or a whole bunch), here's how:

This post my contain affiliate links that may pay me a small commission at no expense to you. I only link to things I have used and loved! You can read my full disclosure policy here.

Things you'll need for your DIY journal:

easy journal from composition bookYou'll notice there are two types of tape in this picture--you will only need one! I prefer the white roll, but see the note about adhesives below.
  • A composition book
  • Three sheets of coordinating 12 x 12 scrapbook paper
  • A paper trimmer (scissors and a ruler will work, but a paper trimmer is definitely easier and will ensure straight lines)
  • Double sided tape or other strong scrapbook adhesive
  • Decorative elements that you may want to use just to make it extra pretty!  (Washi tape, ribbon, flowers, stickers...stuff like that)

That's it! So far, pretty simple right?

A quick note about the adhesive:

I recommend double sided tape because it is strong and it holds.  I would tend to avoid glue sticks as they are messy and can clump under your paper, but they'll work in a pinch.  Any kind of glue with water (like regular school glue) is a definite no-no unless you want your paper to wrinkle up. This double sided tape is the best scrapbooking tape I have ever used! I buy it bulk every year at the Scrapbook Expo and for this project it is particularly awesome. But word of warning: it is super sticky and unforgiving. Once you've stuck it down, it's staying where you put it. If that scares you off, I would stick with the regular Scotch brand

Step One: Cut the paper for your journal

For the front and back cover you'll use two sheets of the paper.  Cut both sheets 12" x 8". If your paper has stripes or something where the pattern matters, keep in mind that the 12" side is going to be the up and down and the 8" will be side to side, so cut accordingly.  Reserve the scraps because you'll need them for another section.

You need a piece for the inside of the front and back cover and it can be cut from the third sheet of paper. Cut off a 3" strip, then cut the big piece that is left in half.  You should have two blocks that are both 9" x 6". Keep the strip you cut off and set it aside.

Easy composition notebook journalThese are the pieces you'll need when you're done cutting. Notice that my stripes are horizontal. If you want vertical stripes, be sure to cut the paper the other way!

Step Two:  Glue the covers on

Easy DIY Composition book journal

These purple strips show where the tape placement should go, but start with ONLY the strip with the arrow pointing at it.

Double sided tape can be VERY sticky and it's permanent.  Start by running a long piece of the tape down the front of the book about ½" from the black binding. Tuck the paper with the 12" side up against the black binding strip, making sure to leave equal parts of the paper hanging over on the top and bottom.  Try not to stick it to the tape until you're sure it's in the right place.
Once it's stuck down, bend the paper carefully back and add tape along the top, bottom and outside edge of the cover.  Carefully put the paper down onto the tape and press. Once you do this, there is no moving the paper, so go slow. Repeat this process for the back cover.

Step Three:  Fold in the edges

Easy DIY composition book journal
Start with the corners, be sure to crease them well, then open them up and stick them down.
Journal from composition book
Fold all the edges in and crease them, then go back and tape them.

Start by opening the composition book and folding in the corners and creasing them. Open them back up again and put some tape in there, then close them again.  Just a small piece is enough to hold it tight while you fold the edges. It will look cleaner if you fold and crease all the edges before gluing anything, so fold each side in, starting with the top and bottom, then doing the outer edge last. Once they are all creased, open them back up and put tape inside the book. Repeat this for the back cover.

Step Four:  Use the Skinny Strips to add a Border inside

Take the strips left over from front and back cover and cut a strip from each that is 1" x 9".  These are going to go on the inside of each cover where the cover and the paper meet. You can choose to match the strips to the paper you put on the cover, or mix it up and swap them.  Go ahead and glue them in.


DIY tutorial for making a composition book journal
Do this for the inside of the front and back cover.

Step Five:  Glue in the inside covers

Composition Book Journal tutorial

The smaller pieces you cut go inside the front and back cover. Now the inside should be completely covered. This could also be a place to add an index or a table if you had something you wanted to include.

Step Six:  Cover the binding (optional)

Creating a journal from a composition book

If you don't like the binding that's still showing, you can cover that with the strip you cut off for the inside covers.  Cut it to 9" x 2" wide.  Run a strip of tape all the way down the binding right along the edge on the top and stick the strip down. Crease it around the binding, then add tape on the back and stick it down.

That's it!  You're done.  Except the decorating part.  You can do whatever floats your boat to decorate it. If you're doing this with kids, they will love just about anything--buttons, washi tape, stickers, flowers. It's up to everyone to make it their own. For Activity Days, you might want to put a cute label on it with their name.

Easiest journal ever, right?

Composition book journalI added a strip of washi tape to mine down the binding just for a quick finishing touch

Use the journal for whatever you want!  I have one that I made for General Conference notes, one for a gratitude journal, and I have a couple of different books that I use for scripture journaling. These easy to make journals are so much fun you'll find yourself making them even when you don't have a need.

Related: Activity Days Journals--The Gift That Keeps On Giving (hop on over to this page for some printables to use in the journals for Activity Days!)

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