Faux Vintage Book Wall Art Installation – A How To

Hello friends! Nice to see you again, and on a more regular basis! If you follow me over on Instagram, you’ll know I revealed this guy today! I honestly was SO nervous to share this fzux vintage book wall art with you guys, and am BLOWN away by all the love I’ve received! I have a pretty long winded video tutorial up in my Insta-stories, but I wanted to give you a more step-by-step version here on the blog!

vintage farmhouse inspired living room with deconstructed sofa, black and white rug, chalk painted white buffet, and diy aged book art installation with hose sketch painted on the books
Meet Booker! Our new horse! Okay, not really, but doesn’t he just pop off the PAGE at you?! (See what I did there) ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks to all you IG followers for help on his name, too!

So yes, his name is officially Booker! And we love it – a little PUNNY, but also quite distinguished and wise for this old guy. ๐Ÿ™‚

My original inspo for this came from Goose’s uncle’s restaurant in Medellin, Colombia! It’s been on my project list since September when I first saw it, and I’m so happy to finally have accomplished it!

I’m going to bring this rather lengthy tutorial to you in 2 parts. Part 1 will be how to age new books to make them look old. Part 2 will be the actual vintage book wall art installation. Hopefully this helps keep things a bit segmented and if you already have old and aged books, or if you want a more modern look with newer books, then you can skip right to Part 2!

**This post may contain affiliate links – see my full Disclosure HERE.**

But first, what you’ll need:

Materials:

  • paperback books – I used about 60 – total cost was about $6 from the thrift store!
  • brewed coffee
  • spray bottle
  • bucket or large bowl
  • painters tape
  • finishing nails (.5-.75″ long)
  • headed nails (for the studs if you choose to go this route – see below)
  • hammer
  • stud finder (optional)
  • level
  • pencil
  • Glue Dots
  • Black acrylic paint (or whatever color you choose)
  • small paint brush
  • small foam brush
  • projector (I borrowed one from a coworker, which is why this project only cost me about $15 total! SO definitely ask around to see if you know someone who might lend you a projector. Otherwise, backyard movie nights might result from this project as well – although then you may want to invest in a higher quality version)!
  • computer with HDMI capability/cord or adapter

Part 1: Aging NEW thrift store books

Step 1:

Rip off all the covers of your books (I used about 60 books total). Starting with paperbacks is much easier, and generally a lot less expensive, especially if you are tearing them up anyway. Taking off the covers is not 100% necessary, but it is VERY helpful in getting the books to stay open when they dry, which is how you will want them to be when hanging them on the wall. I also ripped off those weird advertisement pages that a lot of romance novels have. Not necessary at all, I just didn’t like the idea of them being there! ๐Ÿ˜›

thrift store books in a bag
Here’s the giant bag of books I started with! Can you believe it turned into the amazing art above??

Yes, some of your books may ultimately fall apart. But usually this just means that 1 book turned into 3 “books” – i.e. 3 smaller sections that I could still use for the wall. That’s how I went from about 60 books to start with, to 67 on the wall.

Step 2:

Start brewing your coffee! I ultimately used 50 total cups (or 5 brews) to age about 40 of these books (I’ll get to the other 20 in a moment). This included watering down some of the coffee as well. Once your coffee is brewed, pour over your books (in a bowl or bucket, or even a paint tray) in sections. Allow the books to sit for 10-20 minutes, and then remove. Place them outside or in a dry place, and be sure to gently wring them out before you leave them to dry. Like I said above, you can water down the leftover coffee and reuse until you need more (a lot will be absorbed and disappear)!

PRO TIP: While wringing out the books is very important in order to get them to dry, be very careful doing it – this isn’t a wet washcloth! I quite literally tore a book in half just like that trying to wring it out too hard!

aging paperback books with coffee
Just the beginning of the coffee pouring – you’ll want to submerge the books as much as possible to get an even aging.

Step 3:

For the other 20 books, I filled up a spray bottle with water and just spritzed them all over to create a bit of crinkling in the pages. These 20 books already had more of an aged look to them, so I didn’t see the need to waste coffee or water trying to get them to look even older. I also wanted a variety of aging, so that all the books would go together, but still look a little different and have their own character!

aging books
I did this step outside to prevent mist from flying everywhere inside. If you’re snowed or rained in, I suggest a garage or even a bathtub/shower!

Step 4:

Let dry. Preferably in the sun. I didn’t have that luxury, and actually had to bring them inside due to rain. Many, like MANY, people warned me about mold while they dried, especially because they took quite some time. While a couple of my books did end up getting tossed because of this, overall I really didn’t have a huge mold issue. I will say that by day 5 of them not being dry though, I did start throwing them in the oven. I laid them out on baking sheets and put them in 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and would check on them every 15 to 20 minutes to flip the pages. About 20 (so half of the fully submerged books) ended up going in the oven, and about 10 of these TRULY needed it. The other 10 I just threw in to be sure they were super dry.

However, if you DO notice mold, TOSS that book, and then throw the rest that aren’t dry in the oven ASAP – one sign of mold likely means more is on the way. I prevented more mold by doing just this, and ultimately only tossed 3 of my original books! The rest are just perfect!

The oven is actually kind of an aging technique in and of itself – your pages will turn up at the corners, which I loved! But, if you have the luxury of the SUN, use that! We were saddled with rain and humidity for days after I soaked the books, so I think that’s a big reason my books dried so slowly and ultimately resulted in me using the oven!

diy aged books
I just love this shot! Nothing like “old” books!

Once your books are fully dry, you are ready to move on to Part 2!

Part 2: Installing & Painting your Faux Vintage Book Wall Art

Step 1:

Remove everything from the area where you will be working (or cover large pieces of furniture with towels or drop cloths), and visually take stock of your space to decide how large you would like your art installation to be. Ours is approximately 5 feet tall and 97″ wide, and I wanted it to span most of the wall. I used blue tape to mark off exactly where I wanted the books to go, so that when hanging them, I would be able to use that as a guide.

I used a level and pencil to make small marks on the wall, and then put up blue painters tape along those marks. I didn’t see the need to do a strip at the top, so I just added little horizontal strips of tape to mark off the top corners.

PRO TIP: MARK YOUR STUDS! We did not do this, and while it’s not a HUGE deal, it will save you a headache later if you ever want to take this down – because yes, there will be a LOT of nails in your wall! (Also don’t do this project if you don’t want nail holes in your wall, because there will be a LOT). And because I used finishing nails, which have little to no head, it’s nearly impossible to remove them from a stud! If you mark your stud, you can use regular headed nails in these spots, which will help you remove them at a later date if needed!

Step 2:

Mark out an identical space on your floor. I just marked out the corners, not the full sides. You are just doing this to have a spot to lay out all your books so you can visually see them laid out in the same size space before nailing into the wall.

Now lay out your books until you like what you see! Some things I kept in mind included equally spacing out larger books and smaller books, as well as more aged books and less aged books. You don’t want a whole row of large books at the top and then none anywhere else, etc!

diy aged book wall
This actually isn’t ultimately what they looked like on the wall because we had to move a LOT of them around after the fact – I’ll explain a bit more in a second. But you can see here that there are darker books throughout, lighter books throughout, etc.

Step 3:

Start at the top left, and begin nailing your books to the wall using finishing nails (or headed nails in your studs)! Start by holding up your book where you want it, and nail a finishing nail into a decent chunk of pages on one side. Now, take a level underneath the book to be sure you are hanging it straight. Once leveled, take another nail on the opposite side of the book, and nail down (also be sure you are nailing down a good chunk of the pages). You want to nail an inch or so from the spine, and near the top of the book.

nailing book to wall
You can see here the finishing nail is about an inch from the spine and near the top of the book. It’s holding down about 20 pages. If your books are very thin (i.e. the ones that fell apart, or just very short books to begin with), you don’t need to secure as many pages with the nail; just enough to ensure that the nail will hold and not rip through.

PRO TIP: If you can, project the image you want to paint AS you are hanging the books. I couldn’t do this because I didn’t have the projector yet. This meant that after we finally DID project the image, I ended up moving a bunch of books around because several were too far apart or not situated right to have the image look as good as possible – i.e. the eye of the horse was in between books – no bueno! If your image is projected as you hang, you can hang the books accordingly to ensure a maximum amount of the image will be seen! This wall also save you extra holes in your wall – gosh there must be hundreds in mine! Oh well!

Step 4:

Repeat until ALL your books are hung. I went from left to right, and top down. This might sound daunting, but once you get going, its really not bad! It took me about an hour and a half total.

diy book wall
Here is a bout a third of the books hung – you can see many aren’t staying open – we’ll fix that next!

Step 5:

Once all your books are hung, go back to the ones that won’t stay open, and use glue dots to secure the pages. I found that on most of these, I also had to use another nail. I nailed these nails in just ONE page down on either side (in other words, ALL the pages were secured on both the left and right side, except the very top ones that you could see). I then used a glue dot right on top of the nail to hold that ONE page down on either side.

I didn’t do this to all the books. I wanted some to seem more open than others, especially the ones where there would be no paint. I like the texture and organic look the more open books provide, but it is definitely helpful to have the books you are painting on be flatter because you can see the image better, so those are the main ones I tacked down with extra nails and glue dots.

diy book wall glue dots
It’s a little hard to see, but where my finger is pointing there is a nail and a glue dot on top.

Step 6:

If you don’t already have your image projected, now is the time to get it up! I just pulled the image up on my computer and plugged it into the projector using an HDMI cable and adapter (Apple computers need an adapter for HDMI, just FYI). Also, in order to create the image, I used an App called Imaengine – it will take a regular photo and change it into a line drawing or sketch, or a bunch of other options! I did ultimately alter the line drawing image a bit on the final piece, but I did that after a majority of the horse was already painted. Place the projector somewhere where the image is as straight on as possible – ours was a little off straight though, and it didn’t seem to matter much!

Step 7:

Now it’s time to paint! I used simple acrylic paint in black, one small paint brush and a sponge brush for large areas I needed to fill in. It’s easier to paint when its darker in your room, so close the blinds and turn off the lights. You’ll be able to see where the image is actually projected more clearly. Don’t worry if it seems weird or doesn’t look like what you think it’s supposed to as you start painting (being up close to it is super weird, I know)! Once you get a good chunk painted, the image will start to come through!

PRO TIP: Keep your nails and glue dots handy as you work, you may find that the paint has caused a page or two to curl, and you’ll need to tack it down.

Step 8:

Clean up your space, wash your brushes, re-style everything and you are DONE! You now have a VERY inexpensive ($15 if you own or can find a projector to borrow!), but absolute STATEMENT piece in your home. Trust me, it’s a definite conversation starter!

diy painted book wall art installation
A close up of Booker! We love his wise but sweet face!
vintage farmhouse living room with balcn and white rug, chalk painted sideboard, and diy book wall art installation with horse painted on the books

And that’s all, my friends! We just love our new “old” friend! So tell me, what do y’all think?! Is this faux vintage book wall art installation a project you might try in your home?

Sound off in the comments below! And until next time…

diy vintage book wall pin
PIN ME if you love this project

XO,

Ana

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