What could be better than combining your love of coloring with your love of books and reading? And aside from using these DIY bookmarks in your own books, they make wonderful handmade gifts, too. They are a lot of fun to color and assemble, and I’ll show you the basic steps I took to make my very first one which turned out like this:
I highly recommend printing your bookmark page on heavier paper. I use 65# white card stock by Recollections which can be purchased at any Michael’s craft store, but I also like a few other brands as well. Card stock is nice to color on and you can use some watercolors too (with just a little buckling depending on the amount used), plus the card stock just feels sturdier⏤like a bookmark should feel.
Don’t forget to check your printer settings to be sure the entire image fits on your page. You want to be sure you can see the guide lines (and the little scissors around the edges). After you print out your bookmark, get busy coloring! I prefer to color the entire bookmark first, before making any cuts, but you can do whatever you are comfortable with. If you decide to color before cutting, you can easily test your colors in the margins since the excess paper will be trimmed away. You might recognize the color chart on the left⏤it is one of the Holbein pages from the Big Book of Color Charts. I used mostly Holbein pencils for my fish bookmark.
In the photo below, you can see how the bookmarks are laid out. For each sheet, you have the option of making 2 two-sided bookmarks (when two of your colorings are back-to-back and folded), or, you can cut along the fold line instead and make four individual bookmarks (with black backs).
If you choose to make four bookmarks but still want a sturdier feel, you can always tape or glue scrapbook paper or some other type of heavier paper to the back side using double-sided tape (or glue if you prefer).
Each bookmark sheet has simple instructions and I included cut and fold lines for guidance.
Once I had the fish side of the bookmark colored, I colored the other side (the octopus). The fold line runs down the center between the two:
I also did a little blending and burnishing with the Caran d’Ache Blender Bright which should also help protect the bookmark. And of course I had to add some gel pen embellishments. I can’t help myself.
Once the octopus was colored, I cut along the right (outside) edge of the bookmark.
Then I cut along the left side (toward the center of the paper). Make sure you don’t accidentally cut along the fold line unless that is your intention.
Next, trim off the bottom and top pieces:
Once the edges are trimmed, I used a ruler and a fairly dull x-acto knife to gently run a straight line down the fold line. Make sure you do not cut all the way through the paper⏤all you need really to do is make a dent in the fibers of the paper itself so it is easier to make a clean bend and fold. You could use a proper paper folder tool like this one from Michaels, but any fairly blunt, hard edge will do.
Next comes the paper folding. I wrapped my hand over the card to get it to bend at the fold, then laid it down and carefully pressed my thumb down all along the folded edge to give it a good crease.
Once your bookmark has a good fold, it’s time to get out the double-sided tape. You could try glue but that can be messy and tape works great.
I covered the back of one side of the bookmark with double-stick tape and didn’t worry about going over the edges since that can always be trimmed. The important thing it to get a good seal along the outside edges.
Press the insides of your bookmark together and apply firm pressure all over the bookmark to get that tape to really stick. I tried not to rub back and forth too hard because I didn’t want to smudge my pencil and gel pen work …
I then grabbed a hole punch and added a piece of yarn so my bookmark has a tail. The yarn is about 8″ long so I folded it in half, pulled the folded end through the hole in the paper so I had about an inch or so long loop, then fished the two “tails” of yarn back through the loop I created and pulled it snug. Easy!
Since I want my bookmark to last a while, I decided to cover it with some sort of protection. First, I tried Mod Podge on the octopus side of the bookmark (after removing the yarn tail) and I ended up smudging the turquoise gel pen I used for the tentacles. Not terrible, but not great. It did not smudge the metallic pens I used thankfully. I used “Furniture Matte” Mod Podge (which is pretty thick) so I am wondering if maybe the regular Mod Podge would have been better? I also could have thinned it with a little water, but didn’t.
The next thing I tried (on the fancy fish side) was Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish. It did not smudge any of my colors at all, but since I didn’t use the turquoise gel pen on this side of the bookmark, I can’t be certain that wouldn’t have smudged, too. I also got a lot of paintbrush lines using both mediums but I don’t mind the texture too much. You could try a sponge or roller sponge for different texture, or slightly thin your medium with a little water for a smoother surface.
If you do plan to use a final fixative, be sure the test it out on a scrap of paper using the same pencils, gel pens, etc. you used on your bookmark to be sure it doesn’t get ruined. The safest best is probably a good spray fixative (using several coats on each side) but I just used what I had on hand. Lamination is another option worth trying if you have a laminator or don’t mind running to your local office supply store to have them do it for you.
My friend and design tester, Paula Stone Leach (who is also an admin for the RubyCharmColors Facebook group) printed her bookmark page on watercolor paper and used brush pens and watercolors (can you tell by the pics which paints these are?) to complete her coloring. I love how soft and painterly her bookmark looks!
Below is side two of Paula’s fishy bookmark (so beautiful!) and she told me she had no issues scoring and folding the watercolor paper she used. Wouldn’t this make a lovely handmade gift for someone who reads a lot?
I currently have 6 different themed sets in my Etsy shop (Animals 1, Animals 2, Bugs, Birds, Ocean 1 and Ocean 2) but the best deal is the bundle. You can get all six sets of bookmarks (24 different designs in all) for the price of 5.
These colored bookmarks can make wonderful handmade gifts. Pop one in an envelope and send it to a friend or family member to let them know you are thinking about them and spread the joy of coloring and reading!
As always, happy coloring and crafting, my friends!
UPDATE! Check out my friend Lora King’s fully colored sheet of bookmarks – so inspiring!! Lora is also on my coloring team and an admin in our Facebook coloring community. If you love coloring the Ruby Charm Colors designs, this wonderful community has a lot to offer in terms of inspiration, coloring techniques, art supplies … just plain fun. If you join, be sure to answer the simple questions so we know you are not some rotten bot. 😉