Creative Companion Book Binding DIY

I just received my personal copy of the 2020 Creative Companion in the mail and am pretty excited to get it ready for the new year ahead. My 2019 Creative Companion (which will disappear from Amazon at the end of the year) turned out to be quite valuable to me and I used it to plan out all of my projects, keep track of my art supplies, and more.

Though the book was originally designed with coloring book enthusiasts in mind, there are many ways you can customize this journal to fit your own creative needs whether you are a coloring book fanatic or not. If you like to sew, for example, you can use the book to save instructions and even fabric swatches. Jot down your ideas for projects and tape pics you grab from magazines to the pages. You can even stick yarn or embroidery thread samples to the charts in the back of the book. Although there are several pre-designed charts for colored pencils, there are plenty of blank charts, too. Use them however you like!

Check out the flip-through review by Paula Stone Leach to learn how she plans to use to book for her projects – very helpful!

Speaking of colored pencils … even if you are not a coloring book fanatic, grab a set of colored pencils anyway. Faber-Castell Polychromos work beautifully for me on the paper in these books, though any colored pencil brand is perfectly fine. I find that coloring the small pieces of art helps me not only relax, but also encourages new ideas. The Creative Companion is less for coloring masterpieces than for playing with colors and sparking creativity. No one has to see what’s in your journal, so take chances, experiment, and get your wild ideas down on paper.

You can, of course, use the 2020 Creative Companion as it is in simple book form. But you also have the option of deconstructing it for use in a binder or binding system. Once the spine is cut off the book, you can either have it bound at your local office supply store, or punch holes in the pages and insert them into a ring binder of your choice. You could also use a “discbound” system which uses a series of discs to keep the pages bound together. If you are not familiar with this system (which is super customizable) check out this article for a great overview. And check out the Cira disc-bound notebook system, too.

Why bother cutting up a book and putting it back together? I like flexibility! I like being able to add and subtract and move things around as needed and for me, using a ring-binder is ideal. Most of the time, the binder lives on my desk flipped open to my current project notes. But I also like being able to flip to my calendars and to my color charts easily while working on art. And I like that I can toss the whole thing in a bag and take it on the road. It holds my most important numbers, information about all my books, ideas for future projects, etc.. It’s where all my essentials live.

Since I am looking forward to filling up my 2020 Creative Companion, I thought it would be a good idea to show you how I deconstruct it and put it all back together in case you wish to try this DIY binding yourself at home.

I recorded a bunch of steps off-the-cuff to give you an overall feel for how this will work and I ramble a bit, of course. I am not a professional videographer and don’t aspire to being one so pardon my skills in that department. But do give each of the steps a watch before you start cutting up your own book!

Step 1: Before you start:

  • Consider having your local office supply do it for you!
    Ask them about your CUTTING / binding options (i.e. spiral-bound, ring-bound, etc.)
    Make sure they cut as close to the spine as possible

Step 2: Bind at Home – Tools Needed:

  • Consider the size of the folder / binder you wish to use.
  • The Creative Companion measures 7.5 inches wide by 9.25 inches tall by about 3/4 ” thick
  • Make sure you have the basic tools needed:
    Metal ruler
    Paper hole punch
    X-acto or other sharp metal blade
    Cutting matt (I use an Omnigrid (from JoAnn Fabric)

Step 3: What Type of Binder?

  • Large or small?
    Bigger = more room for stuff (depending on ring size), better edge protection
    Smaller = more portable
  • Determine ring number and placement (i.e. 3-ring, 4-ring, 7-ring, etc.)
    What type of paper punch will you need to put holes in your pages?
  • Consider ring size: This is the diameter of the rings themselves. A 1.5″ to (better yet) 2″ ring is ideal for the 2020 CC which has 333 pages.
    My new binder has a 1.25″ ring diameter – okay but not ideal. I highly suggest going a little bigger so you can more easily insert additional pages and pockets.

Step 4: Assessing the new binder

My new binder (a 7.5″ x 9.5 x 2″ deep Franklin Planner) uses 7 rings. I don’t have a 7-ring paper punch so I’ll need to use my single-hole paper punch! In this video, you can see my 2019 CC inserted into my new binder to check the fit.

Step 5: Time to make the cuts!

  • Pay attention to the natural fold line:
    Not too close to the very edge because of the glue in the spine.
    Make sure you are cutting on a surface you are not worried about scratching.
    Line up ruler along the fold line.
    Press down on the ruler firmly and keep fingers and thumb out of the way.
    Pull blade firmly down edge of ruler a few times.
    Pull loose cover and first few pages off book.
    Set pages aside and pay attention to page order.

Step 6: Keep cutting!

Use new cut edge as your guide.
Take your time.
Keep pages in order.

Step 7: Still cutting …

Tip: stay as tight to the edge as possible.

Step 8: Still cutting …

Tip: trim off little slivers of paper that may get in the way so you can keep a straight edge.

Step 9: Final cuts!

Bend back spine to give you a little more space.
Be sure you firmly hold book so it doesn’t slide around while cutting.
Consider trimming the inside edge of your book if you like.

Step 10: Making a hole punch guide

Use heavy card stock or plastic and cut to size of book cover.
Line up guide in your binder to figure out where the holes should go. Center to the top and bottom of your binder and make sure the holes will all fit on the page.
Mark the holes.
If you don’t have a plastic pocket or folder that already fits your binder, draw a line 1/4″ from the inside edge of your page. Each hole should be punched 1/4″ from the edge of the paper.

Step 11: Punch your guide holes

Match up to guide/template to book and binder again to be sure everything lines up properly.
NOTE: Once you are happy with the template, write “TOP FRONT” on the side of the template that will face you – the holes should be on the left (the inside edge). You may have a little more (or less) space between the top hole and top edge of your guide depending on how you lined everything up. Be sure you punch all pages using the guide from the same side. See Step 13 for how I messed this up! 😉

Step 12: Keep punching and keep your pages in order!

Pay attention!

Step 13: Keep punching

Step 14: Punching and trimming excess paper

Yep, my hands are getting a little stiff but not bad…

Step 15: Final punches!

Step 16: Putting the pages in the binder

I mistakenly said my rings were 1.5″ – they are 1.25″ so I ended up having to take a few pages out. You’ll see, at the end of the video, I popped my rings open because I had too many pages in the binder.

Come to find out, once I enlarged my punch holes a little bit, I could fit those pages back in. Necessity is the mother of invention, yes? Since the single-hole punch I used has a rather small circle, the first holes I punched didn’t allow my pages to flip freely enough. Enlarging my holes seemed to greatly help and I could even add in my November and December pages from my 2019 CC to finish off this year. Bonus!


Old 2019 CC at top in black binder, new 2020 CC in blue binder

Tabs: I love tabs! I pick them up on sale at places like Target and love them because they make it easier to find things in books, and many of them are removable so you can move them around as needed.


I used one on my Index page and started a list of the books I have published so far, plus a list of simple notebooks I’d like to make soon.

I like to use pencil in my Index so I can more easily make adjustments if needed. I tried to keep a lot of open spaces in the Index of the CC so you have room to add whatever entries you need to stay organized.


The back of my planner has pockets for my sticky tabs – yay!


Here’s how my books pages turned out. I like having a quick reference to my ISBN numbers, publication dates, sizes, how many pages are in each book, etc..


By the way, it wasn’t until I finished taping little thumbnails of my books to these pages that I realized I have illustrated and published 9 books in 14 months! Of course, 3 of them are simple notebooks, but still. I used the whale on page 89 to write myself a little motivational reminder to help keep me moving forward with my goals to eventually be able to support myself doing what I love to do.

Life is short – enjoy each and every day!


And use your planner to keep track of those days however best works for you!


Links that can help get you thinking …

2020 Creative Companion Flip-through and Review by Paula Stone Leach

How to use the 2019 Creative Companion

2019 Creative Companion Flip-through and review