How To Spray Book Edges | DIY Sprayed Edges

Featured image showing the finished books with sprayed edges.

If you are even a little bit bookish you’ve likely encountered books with sprayed edges. Special editions and limited runs from publishers often have sprayed or gilded edges. Today I’m sharing an easy (and relatively cheap) tutorial on how to spray book edges at home.

You don’t need anything fancy to use this method for DIY sprayed edges. Anyone can use this guide to learn how to spray book edges.

This post contains links to products I think you’ll like or will make this project easier. If you click through and make a purchase I make a commission at no cost to you.

Disclaimer: I am sharing the process I use for spraying my books and their edges. I can’t guarantee that you will have perfect results and therefore recommend you use this as it is intended…a guide. DO NOT COME FOR ME if you ruin your favorite books. I’ve been practicing on dollar store books and old copies in my library for months. I’ve perfected this process for ME, it might take you some practice to get the hang of it as well so BE CAREFUL and don’t spray anything you aren’t okay with potentially have bleeds!

Pin showing the title of DIY sprayed edges and how to spray book edges at top with finished books underneath.

I hate that I have to say that kind of stuff but I’ve been in the blogging world long enough to know that people assume that bloggers will be held responsible for whatever happens when they try to duplicate this process at home.

Not only do I not want to deal with a bunch of mean comments I also don’t want to see any innocent books destroyed, so be careful, ask questions if you have them, and practice a bunch first on books that you get for free or super cheap!

What are sprayed edges?

I assume you have a little knowledge of sprayed edges and that’s how you ended up here but for those who do not know, we often call books with painted page edges “sprayed edge” books.

In the bookish community sprayed edge books are sometimes special editions from book boxes, collectors editions, or special edition runs direct from publishers.

Since I love books and collecting them I don’t usually let myself get too crazy with purchasing special editions (because let’s face it that would get out of control in a hurry around here) hence me learning to spray my own!

Featured image showing the finished books with sprayed edges.

There’s just something that feels so special and unique when you pick up a book with sprayed edges. They just LOOK so different and fun. When I discovered I could use this simple DIY sprayed edges method I was hooked.

Now that it’s finally warm enough to paint outside I’ve been going crazy. I promised myself I wasn’t going to share a tutorial until I knew for sure that I could paint one of my favorites without being afraid…today I sprayed my UK collectors edition of A Gathering Of Shadows by VE Schwab which should tell you everything you need to know.

In case it’s not obvious, I ADORE this book. I’m going to spray the full series but since it’s my favorite I started with this one. I really love this unique collectors edition with a foiled cover, gorgeous boards, and to add to the challenge it has a ribbon bookmark!

Inner cover of A Gathering of Shadows.

What do I need to do this DIY sprayed edges tutorial?

You will need just a few simple things in order to recreate this process at home. I use printer paper, just regular sheets of white paper, masking tape and a heavier white packing paper to wrap my books before I spray them.

For the painting process you will a satin clear coat in a spray can (I only use the Rust-oleum American Accents Paints/Clear Coat), spray paint in the color that you think goes well with your covers / boards, bar clamps or C clamps, and some small boards or scraps of wood.

If you really needed to you could skip the clamps and use some heavy rocks or even heavy free weights in place of the wood / clamp setup that you’ll see below. I’ve tested this method and it does work but it’s messier and it’s harder to get thin, even, light coats of paint when the book needs to be squished down on a table or the ground.

Finished books with sprayed edges.

I’ve linked my favorites above and I’ll share the photo ads below for the products that I think work best. You’ll see I have two different clamps in my photos and I HATE that lever clamp. Do yourself a favor and get the screw type ones if you plan to learn how to spray book edges so you can do a lot of your collection.

How to spray book edges:

First of all you need to wrap your book cover and spine and tape off any holes, the edge of the spine, etc. Spray paint will get into little cracks, it will end up in any crevice, overspray is a bitch so take your time.

photo showing the inner boards of the book.

When I’m doing a really special book that I’m extra worried about I use two layers of protection for my covers / boards. I do a first layer with computer paper, just regular old sheets of white printer paper, and then I do a second cover with the packing paper. Again, linking what I use so you can see. I ship a lot of stuff so I have this on hand at all times.

I use masking tape because it’s cheap, you can use painters tape, it’s a little more gentle during the removal process so you don’t have to be as careful to not pull of the top layer if you are taping onto the cover (which I don’t recommend, just tape the paper to itself).

Next, make sure the page edges are clean. Give them a good shake or wipe them off, vacuum the edges if you want or if your copy is dusty 😉 and then we’re ready to clamp and paint.

You want the paint to stick so it can look like this when you are done!!

Finished how to spray book edges showing the red pages.

You can clamp the book directly. I don’t do this because I don’t want to damage my covers or leave dents. I use two scrap pieces of wood to create a vice…if you have a vice you can always just slide the book in there and clamp it down and spray it! The wood protects the covers and it will help distribute the pressure more evenly so the pages stay nice and tight all the way across.

I usually clamp my books with the clamps off to the sides, spray the front (longest) side first, and then loosen them slightly and flip them towards the front so I can easily spray the sides (shortest) afterwards.

You’ve probably noticed that I use a clear coat and a regular paint color, I realized with my first few trials that some types of spray paint bleed into the pages really bad so to combat that I do a really light coat with the clear and then do the color.

Book in the homemade vice.

The most important thing to remember when you are doing the clear coat and the paint is that you don’t want to have sloppy wet edges. Do very short bursts with the spray can in sweeping motions so you get light layers of paint.

My husband is a mechanic who went to school for auto body repair and the first time he saw me use a can of spray paint I think his brain exploded. You should never just hold down the button and go to town. Even if you are using the cheaters way out and using rattle cans to paint things you should use short, quick, bursts and keep the can moving so you aren’t getting a really wet spot anywhere!

Book edge being sprayed with paint.

I always do a little test spray before I spray near my edges now as well…again, husband, gawking at me for puddles and runs when painting random things for years and years…it’s a good way to make sure you don’t have a clog or the wrong color in your hand too!

Book with front edges sprayed in a vice.

Finally, let it dry. I usually take mine out of the clamps before I set it out too dry. I try not to mess with it too much until the paint is dry. If you do thin layers of paint you won’t have any issues with pages sticking together so it’s okay to let it dry before you mess with it!

book drying.

Notes and Tips for Best Results:

Keeping everything really tight while you are spraying is important. Make sure your clamps have things squished tight before you begin.

Light coats. It’s better to go back and do a second light coat than to have really wet edges. Even with the clear down first the pages will naturally want to soak up the paint and you’ll end up with page bleeds!

Better to go overboard on the tape and paper before you start than to find out your boards or cover got sprayed. Take your time on the prep work!

Spray painting in the house is a bad idea. If you have to spray paint indoors be sure the area is really well ventilated and make sure you have a HUGE area prepped for paint because overspray goes further than you think!!

If you are doing sprayed edges outdoors you still need it to be above freezing. It’s best to do this when the temps are appropriate for whatever your spray can says it needs!

Let the paint dry before you mess with it even tho the anticipation will be killing you…it’ll save you a lot of scrubbing to get the paint off your fingers and it will keep you from getting smudges on the inner pages and boards!

Books that have sprayed edges.

Looking for more DIY tutorials and bookish reads?

Here are some other posts that I think you’ll enjoy. Also check out these other DIY tutorials that I’ve shared!

Some books with sprayed edges ready to be enjoyed.

Video version of this tutorial is coming soon!

About Author

Meagen is a newlywed book loving, animal hoarding, beauty junkie that enjoys hanging out with friends and family! I love my library, my pets, my beauty stash, my family & friends, and not necessarily in that order. Remember: I'm almost certainly winging it no matter how good it looks!

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