The Art of Darkness

Tutorial: Spell Book

I got the basic guidelines for this project from Voltaire’s Paint It Black; it’s similar in execution to the Goth Photo Frame featured previously.


  • A blank book, such as an artist’s sketch book (make sure the pages are unruled)
  • Spooky things to glue to the cover
  • A hot glue gun
  • Ultra flat matte black spray paint
  • Silver metallic or grey acrylic paint for accent (optional)
  • Sepia acrylic paint (optional)
Click the thumbnails for larger images.

Blank Book

Begin with a blank book. The color of the cover doesn’t really matter, since you’ll be painting it black anyway, but black ones aren’t hard to find. I wanted to make an oversized book, so I got a 14″x11″ sketchbook from Dick Blick.

Diluted Paint

Decide whether you want to “age” the pages or not; this is time-consuming, but looks fantastic. If you don’t, skip down to the part where you start gluing things. If you do, dilute some sepia paint with water; you want just enough paint to color the pages (test on a scrap of paper).

Painting Pages

Now for the time-consuming part: Paint each page, either with a wide housepainting brush or with a sponge dipped in the paint solution. The wet pages will tear easily, so be careful. Also be careful not to get the spine too sodden or the pages will begin to loosen from the binding. Put a piece of newspaper or other absorbent material between each page to help sop up the excess water.

Before and After

Put the book somewhere warm and dry and let dry thoroughly. If possible, prop it up in front of a fireplace or forced-air vent. If not, lay it out in the sun and flip the pages periodically.


The centerpiece of this book was a fake amulet that I got at a costume shop. All kinds of cheap stuff like this is available around Halloween, so stock up.

Decorations on Book

Other decorative elements included the same foam skulls and rubber critters used in the Goth Photo Frame project. The decorative hinges were cheap crucifix brooches with the backing pried off, also from Oriental Trading.

Arrange the items in different combinations until you’re happy with the overall effect.

Hot Glue on Book

Use hot glue to attach all of the decorations, then prop the book up and drip hot glue all over so that things look melty. Let dry thoroughly.

Painted Book

Time to paint. Carefully cover the edges of the pages with masking tape so that you don’t spray paint on them. (Alternately, use a paintbrush to paint the cover rather than spray paint.) Also cover anything that you don’t want painted; in this example I covered the gem in the amulet with a bit of tape.

Paint and let dry.

Accented Book

Leave as-is, or dab on a bit of metallic silver to accent certain areas. Let dry, and spray with sealer.

Another Book

Here’s another, smaller book that I did as a prototype. These books take a bit of time but aren’t at all difficult, and they’re much more fun to write in than a spiral notebook.