Altered Halloween Books Tutorial, new and improved!

Altered Halloween Books Tutorial, new and improved!
My altered Halloween books are one of my most popular projects this time of year, so I’m bringing back a new and improved version of the tutorial. And I’m even remembering to do it BEFORE Halloween for once! *high fives self*


They are so fun to make, and way easier than they look.

You will need:

  • old books
  • paper towels
  • small plastic Halloween paraphernalia, spiders, skeletons, etc.
  • letters: either scrapbook stickers, foam letters, cardstock cutouts, whathaveyou
  • hot glue gun
  • Glue n’ Seal
  • black craft paint
  • metallic craft paint or Rub n’ Buff
  • paintbrushes
If you can’t find Glue n’ Seal like I have in the picture, you can use mod podge. However, I highly recommend Glue n’ Seal instead. It dries SO much faster. You can find it here.


halloween books before

Step one: Hot glue everything in place on your book cover the way you want it.  For the skeleton book, I cut the wings off the bat and hot-glued them on first, then the skeleton right over that.  I also hammered thumbtacks into the corners for extra detail. I bought these toys last year at Wal-Mart, they just came in a large bag of novelty toys, but I haven’t seen them this year. Something similar to these toys would work too.

Step two: Once you get everything glued into place, spread a damp paper towel (it’s best to separate it into one-ply) over the book and glue it right over everything. Make sure it’s damp! It will stick much easier that way, and then you can just brush the Glue n’ Seal right over it. Don’t try to make it perfect, the creases and wrinkles are what give it that leathery look. Use a small paintbrush to really jam it into all the crevices nice and snug.

Step three: When the mod podge dries, paint the whole thing black.  You will be distressed at this point, because your book will look super lame.  DON’T WORRY!  The next step is the best part.

Step four: Once the black paint dries, lightly brush the metallic paint over the details.  This is what really brings the book to life. I just dab a tiny bit on my fingertip and rub it in. A little goes a long way.

spooky altered halloween book

altered halloween book close up

halloween book closeup

altered book halloween 2

Last year I had a little craft party with my friends, and we made tons of these books, and it was so much messy fun.

1 altered halloween books

(The spiderweb on the “Spells” book was made with hot glue.  Just sketch out a web shape, then run a line of hot glue over it).

This year, my friend Alicia figured that the technique would probably work on glass bottles too, and she was right!  It works great!

altered halloween bottles

altered halloween bottle1

Follow the steps above, slap on a spooky label, and you’re the Queen of Halloween and the envy of all your friends.Here are a few others from Alicia:


If you make some too, I would love to see pics of your work!

 1altered halloween books 2 



Happy Halloween!


*this post contains affiliate links



  1. cara
    October 4, 2014 / 1:26 PM

    Great tutorial! I am going to try it with some of those fake book boxes they sell at Homegoods. I like my items that look good and have a useful purpose. Thanks!

  2. LeeAnn
    October 4, 2014 / 2:34 PM

    Thank you, Lindsay! This is awesome. I work at used book store so this is right up my alley!

  3. October 4, 2014 / 7:29 PM

    Too darn cute! Can’t wait to try it. Thanks.

  4. October 4, 2014 / 8:13 PM

    How cool! Thanks for sharing this tutorial.

  5. October 4, 2014 / 11:25 PM

    pure genius!

  6. Kristina
    October 5, 2014 / 9:01 AM

    Admittedly I don’t love Halloween, but I do love this idea. I’m trying to think of what other kinds of books I could make using these techniques.

  7. Bee
    October 6, 2014 / 9:26 AM

    I am not really into Halloween but this is so cool.

  8. October 6, 2014 / 11:08 AM

    These are so awesome. I remember being impressed last year but I’m even more impressed this year!

  9. Linda Uhl
    October 6, 2014 / 12:08 PM

    Hi. I was so happy to run across this site, I was in the process of trying to paint a couple of spell
    books with paint and stencils, but I wasn’t to happy with how things were going. I made some mistakes, but I am going to try and redo them with this technique. Thanks so much for the info.
    They are really awesome, I hope mine turn out as well.

  10. October 6, 2014 / 12:24 PM

    Hi Linda! That’s great! So glad I could help. I would love to see your results!

  11. October 6, 2014 / 12:56 PM

    This is ridiculously cool! Thank you for sharing the tutorial!!

  12. October 6, 2014 / 9:11 PM

    Love the books! But I do have a question…do you put a coat of mod podge over the top of the paper towel before you paint?

  13. October 6, 2014 / 11:53 PM

    Yes, you will cover the whole paper towel with mod podge, that’s what makes it stick to the book and everything. When that dries, you can paint. 🙂

  14. Diane Johnson
    October 8, 2014 / 1:04 PM

    I have read so many of these and this one is the best. You are so creative. I’m going to do this with my Grandsons Thank you

  15. Tiffany
    October 9, 2014 / 10:15 AM

    Love love love this! I have everything hot glued in place but I have one question… you put the mod lodge under the paper towel or on top of the paper towel? Thanks for sharing!

  16. October 9, 2014 / 12:03 PM

    You can do it either way, it really doesn’t matter. The mod podge will soak through the paper towel and get on both sides anyway. But I typically lay the paper towel down first, and then brush it on top of that, because it helps push the paper towel into all the cracks and creases.

  17. October 10, 2014 / 5:33 AM

    I loved your website! I tried your idea and LOVE LOVE LOVE the results! I just finished my blog and tagged you in it…thank you again!!!!

  18. October 11, 2014 / 7:10 AM

    I love this, this is genius!! I may be giving this a try very soon, thanks for the tutorial! 🙂

  19. sofie
    October 12, 2014 / 5:58 AM

    I love the idea! Even cool to to at school (I’m a teacher).
    I’m a fan!

  20. October 13, 2014 / 10:29 PM

    I SO remember these from last year and was telling my sister about them. Glad to see you re-posted them. SO awesome! Happy Halloween!

  21. October 15, 2014 / 9:12 PM

    These were a boost of inspiration to an idea I was already working on! One difference is I made one using a lenticular picture (one that changes depending on what angle you look at it from) as a sort of “shout out” to the moving photos in Harry Potter’s school books (and pics). You can check out what I made, and see the shout out I gave to you 🙂 , over on my blog: Make It Scrappin. (And I totally copied your idea of the bat wings on the skeleton. A friend told me that was like a shout out to a Zelda character?! ha.) Thanks. They worked great.

  22. chris rinck
    October 26, 2014 / 6:08 PM

    Doing this on a small wine bottle now, this is amazing! 🙂

  23. Brandie
    October 29, 2014 / 1:28 PM

    I am getting started on this project tonight since I have the house all to myself (hooray for bf going out of town! haha!) I just had a couple questions: 1. What kind of brush did you use for the metalic paint? Yours look so perfectly weathered… I am wondering if I should grab a brush or a sponge… 2. With the lettering: did you buy like vinyl style lettering or did you get letters that had some bulk to them and put them under the paper towel and proceed as usual? It is hard to tell by the pics. I guess either would work, but again, yours look so awesome, I would love to replicate!

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  24. October 29, 2014 / 2:33 PM

    You’re so sweet Brandie! Thank you! 🙂 I didn’t use a brush at all for the metallic paint, I just used my finger and rubbed it on the raised parts. Rub n Buff is by far the best product for this, and you only need the tiniest smidgen of it to work, but you can get the same effect with paint. Just use a tiny bit at a time and build from there. The letters I cut myself using my Silhouette machine, but they are just cut out of cardstock and put underneath the paper towel. So they probably need to be bulkier than vinyl, but cardstock worked fine. Good luck! I’d love to see your finished product! 🙂

  25. Carmen
    January 3, 2015 / 2:26 AM

    Awesome tutorial! Do you think it would work to use nail polish instead of metallic paint? No idea where I could find that near my place.

  26. January 5, 2015 / 10:46 AM

    Hmmm, nail polish might be tricky, because you need to be able to smear the paint around with your finger. You could give it a try! I’ve found plenty of metallic paint options at Wal-Mart!

  27. Ashley
    February 2, 2015 / 7:58 AM

    THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS!!! My room is going to be so cool because of you ♡

  28. February 15, 2015 / 12:07 PM

    Brilliant ideas!!! <3

  29. Tana
    March 16, 2015 / 4:56 AM

    This is freakin’ fabulous! It is the easiest and best tutorial I have seen on making spooky books. I am definitely going to be trying this!

  30. Hope
    June 7, 2015 / 7:42 PM

    Has anyone tried this on a bottle using white gift tissue instead of paper towel?

  31. Sheila
    June 24, 2015 / 2:21 PM

    This is really brilliant!!! I will use your technique for some future diy projects. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Lauren
    July 16, 2015 / 7:57 AM

    Love love love this!!! Thank you for posting! I’m getting ready to order my supplies and have a few questions. What is that metallic acrylic plaid paint used for? What shade of rub n’ buff is that?

  33. July 17, 2015 / 9:48 AM

    I used the metallic paint in a similar way to the rub n’ buff, just lightly dusted it on with my finger here and there to give it a little more dimension and glimmer. I think the rub n’ buff shade was Antique Gold, but any shade would work!

  34. Lauren
    July 20, 2015 / 6:59 AM

    One more quick question. What color is that Folk art metallic acrylic paint? I am trying to make mine exactly like yours. They are incredible!!! Thanks in advance for your reply and thanks so much for your time!!!

  35. Teri
    July 28, 2015 / 7:56 AM

    I’m making my own styrofoam tombstones this year. Wonder if I could use like saran wrap over skeleton using heat gun to melt plastic over/into tombstone, then paint it?

  36. Lisa
    August 17, 2015 / 4:36 PM

    I am so excited to make these books with my sisters! I am hoping you can tell me where you found your embellishments like the skeleton and bat? I’m trying to find “flatter” things to go on the books. Thanks for your cute ideas!!!

  37. Katie
    August 24, 2015 / 6:40 PM

    I agree I am having trouble finding flat embellishments! Help!

  38. August 24, 2015 / 10:14 PM

    I found them at Walmart! They seem to have them every year! It was a big bag full of plastic bugs and skeletons and cost around $6.

  39. Silvagran
    August 25, 2015 / 10:23 PM

    spookilicous! Oh so going to make some of these books n bottles!

  40. Tina
    August 29, 2015 / 1:40 PM

    It looks really cool…I’m going to try it! Thanks for sharing.

  41. Robin
    September 1, 2015 / 9:44 PM

    A ghoul after my own heart! Love it! Thanks for the tutorials

  42. Bobby
    September 10, 2015 / 6:08 AM

    These look fantastic! That said, I’m having a hard time locating something that isn’t way too big for a standard size book from the Walmart site. Do you remember the actual item name/brand of the plastic pieces? Thanks so much!!!

  43. Laura Ancheta
    September 10, 2015 / 9:52 AM

    I did this last night and I am having a hard time with the paper towel having air bubbles under it. Basically when it dried you can see it doesn’t fit snug to my skeleton or bat wings. I tried with a small brush to push it in last night but it definitely happen. When I paint will this be noticeable? Also do I need shiny black paint or is a jar of kids preschool type paint on?

  44. September 10, 2015 / 1:45 PM

    Hi Laura! Did you start with a wet paper towel? Also, I sometimes separate it into a single ply if necessary, the thinner the better. If you have air bubbles, just poke a hole in it and smush them down, it should lay across the book crumpled and wrinkly, to make it look more like leather. Any type of black paint is fine, the magic happens after that when you brush on the metallic colors to bring out the details!

  45. September 10, 2015 / 1:47 PM

    Hi Bobby!
    It was just a big bag of little items that I found in the Halloween aisle. You know where you would find things like Halloween pencils and plastic cups, etc? It also had lots of other things in the bag, fake bugs, centipedes, frigs, spiders, skulls, etc.

  46. September 17, 2015 / 4:07 AM

    This is awesome. I’ll try make one for this Halloween.

  47. Kristina
    September 19, 2015 / 10:19 AM

    I started the project last night and so far so awesome! I had to order the paint, no where nearby to buy it. So that won’t be done for a few weeks.

    I got the books, the paper towels, AND the embellishments at the Dollar Tree. They had packs of flat plastic items in the shapes of skeletons, skulls with hands, centipedes, spiders, roaches, and flies.

  48. Theresa Brundage
    September 20, 2015 / 7:21 PM

    Hi Lindsey!
    I used your tutorial to make these potion bottles and they turned out fantastic! What a cheap and easy way to make incredible Halloween decor!

  49. Marie
    October 3, 2015 / 2:30 PM

    Hi!! These books look fantastic and I have been creating my own using your instructions, but I don’t understand what you are doing to get the paper towel to fit so snug around the embellishments?? I have done multiple books now and even though they still turn out looking very cool, the paper towel will not fit snug around the embellishments. They bubble up and pop off the details on one side as I’m trying to push the paper towel around the details on the opposite side. Any tips for me? Poking holes in the paper towel to release air just results in the hole tearing and exposing the embellishments. Do you have a video tutorial for this? Thanks in advance!

  50. October 5, 2015 / 10:01 AM

    Hi Marie!
    I think the biggest thing that helped my paper towel stay down is that I got it wet before I placed it over the book. Then it kind of clung to everything and the mod podge just helped it stick even further. I did poke a few holes in it to get some air out, and if the embellishments show through a little, that’s ok, because you will paint over everything anyway. You’ve inspired me to make a video showing the process, maybe I’ll get around to that this year! 🙂

  51. Madison
    October 5, 2015 / 1:13 PM

    I’m doing a Fantasy art project, so I have a slightly limited budget (and I’m in the UK, in case that may a product name thing) and this is the sort of thing I am looking for because I’m working into old books as it is, and this would be great for my art project!

    So for the jars, is it the same process of just adding paper towels then adding the mod podge stuff on top? How do you keep the papers towels on or do you do the mod podge first for jars and bottles?

  52. Kelly
    October 6, 2015 / 4:53 AM

    I am totally going to Michael’s (and the bookstore) to get supplies this week! I don’t even own a glue gun and I plan to in the next 5 days, lol. Can’t wait to do this! I’ll post pics when I do, if I can figure out how! lol Happy crafting folks!! :oD

  53. Kelly
    October 6, 2015 / 5:09 AM

    Also! Where did the little label on the bottle come from? I tried to enlarge it and copy it somehow but, have been unsuccessful so far, lol.

  54. October 7, 2015 / 9:17 AM

    Yes, same process! Just make sure your paper towels are damp with water first, then they will stick onto your bottle easily as you mod podge. Good luck! I’d love to see your results!

  55. Zandryn
    October 7, 2015 / 5:52 PM

    Hi. I love this idea and have already started… I do have a question 🙂 Do you wrap the paper towel around the whole book including pages or just the cover? I think I am going to try just the cover but wondered what you did on your project. Also love the idea of a video, I look forward to that for next year! Thanks for your wonderful & hard work.

  56. October 7, 2015 / 5:58 PM

    Yep! Just the cover! I do wrap it around the edges, but not the pages.

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  58. Jennifer
    October 19, 2015 / 7:35 PM

    I made a book and it turned out amazing, thank you for such a fun idea! I shared with my mom and she did a lampshade and lamp the same way it is amazing!

  59. October 20, 2015 / 7:36 AM

    Wow, I’ve never seen a lampshade done before! I’d love to see a picture! 🙂

  60. janna hite
    October 20, 2015 / 9:15 PM

    Does it matter if you have to overlap paper towel in areas because of the size of the book?

  61. October 21, 2015 / 12:42 PM

    Nope! I would just suggest tearing the edges so it looks a little more natural vs. a straight paper towel edge.

  62. Ellen
    October 21, 2015 / 6:10 PM

    I’m so going to try this and make a non scary sticker book for my 5 year old from a composition note book 🙂

  63. Tina
    October 21, 2015 / 11:20 PM

    Found this just in time for the kids Halloween party. I made these this week and love them. I didn’t have a any craft paint but i did have black, gold and bronze spray paint. So that’s what i used. If i could add a picture i would but i don’t see an option on doing that.

  64. Chrissi
    October 22, 2015 / 5:26 AM

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. It worked like a charm. In germany, it is still hard to find nice Halloween decoration that does not look cheap. I found those instructions on Pinterest and it turned out great. Greetings from Germany!

  65. caroleigh
    October 25, 2015 / 10:04 AM

    This is fantastic. I am a poet, and want to create my own personal book of poetry. This has given me great inspiration. I’m thinking a beautiful blue, with rhinestones, and pearls, or a title in letters, or something…….. my mind is racing …..

  66. October 26, 2015 / 10:43 AM

    That sounds so cool! I’d love to see your finished product!

  67. Erin
    April 9, 2016 / 8:00 AM

    For the titles of the books (spells/potions) did you just paint the words on? Also do you think marble notebooks would work for this, it would make it easier to have pages for the kids to write on?

  68. Erin
    April 11, 2016 / 10:34 AM

    Do you think these would work on marble notebooks? Did you pain the word on or were those toys as well?

  69. April 11, 2016 / 2:14 PM

    The titles were made using letters that I had cut out with cardstock, using my Silhouette machine. You could use scrapbooking stickers or foam letters too, anything to give it a little raised edge. I think this would probably work on composition notebooks, if the covers are sturdy enough. Once the mod podge dries, it makes the covers extra stiff too.

  70. SharonJ
    May 22, 2016 / 2:09 PM

    How do you get the font just right?

  71. May 24, 2016 / 1:16 PM

    Hi Sharon! I cut the letters out myself with my Silhouette machine.

  72. Sarah
    July 28, 2016 / 2:58 PM

    I never comment on blogs but this post has changed my life! I have been collecting old books and jars for a year hoping to find the right diy tutorial. I ADORE Halloween and cannot wait to get these started! Thank you!

  73. August 30, 2016 / 4:18 AM

    So clever!! This would be cool on those hollowed-out books you can find at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s – Hide stuff inside!

  74. Krista
    September 30, 2016 / 12:11 AM

    These books are so awesome! I host a Halloween craft night every year with my friends and for 2016…this will be it for sure! A few questions…How do you mask off the book pages so they don’t get smudged with Glue & Seal/Mod Podge or black paint? (or red wine from my friends? just kidding. sort of) Do you do anything to the book pages to “age” them? And you said that Glue & Seal dries faster than Mod Podge…fast enough for my guests to complete their books in a ~3 hr timeframe? Wondering if I could combine Glue & Seal with black paint and make that all one step…

  75. Laurie
    October 1, 2016 / 5:33 AM

    What a wonderful idea! Thank you so much for sharing. I plan to do this at our library’s next Book Art program.

  76. Krista
    October 30, 2016 / 3:34 PM

    My spell book party was a success! Here are some tips I learned from making them:
    * It works best to use 1-ply of a 2-ply paper towel to cover the book (not an as-bought 1-ply sheet, and not tissue paper, it won’t go into the cracks as easily).
    * I got my books at Goodwill ($2) and the dollar store ($1)
    * I “aged” everyone’s pages using watered-down brown paint, and adding smudges of brown, orange, and yellow chalk with my fingertip
    * The words worked out best when I used “thickers,” a brand of sticker I found at Michaels and JoAnn. I also found foam alphabet stickers at the dollar store, but the letters weren’t as defined in the final product.
    * Glue & Seal beats Mod Podge, hands down!
    * I taped wax paper to the plastic tablecloth for each person, and then gave them additional wax paper sheets to put inside the covers so the pages didn’t get glued or painted
    *I found embellishments at Wal-Mart, the dollar stores, and Michael’s (they have little metal “Steampunk” skulls and such in their bead/jewelry dept). I also used shapes and corners cut from adhesive craft foam sheets (Michael’s again).
    Thank you so much for this tutorial!

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  81. Darci
    March 28, 2017 / 11:12 AM

    If you’d like to see a pic of a steampunk-style book I made, using your tutorial, I’d love to share it with you. It was fun and turned out awesome!

  82. Aimee
    September 29, 2017 / 7:29 PM

    I tried it and loved the results your a great teacher. This is the first pin that has worked in months so I thank you!

  83. Annie
    October 26, 2017 / 10:05 AM

    I adore this tutorial. I have a question though, can I use elmers glue or do you have to have mod podge or glue n seal? Keep up the great work!

  84. Holly
    October 29, 2017 / 7:46 PM

    I’m going to try this! Thanks for the great instructions!

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