“Sprayed Edges” are all the rage now. You see them all over Bookstagram feeds. Not only are they beautiful, they make a book more exclusive, more rare. But they can be expensive and hard to obtain. And you’re limited to what’s available.
So why not learn how to do them yourself? It can be intimidating. “What if I ruin my beloved copy of A Court of Silver Flames?!” This is a valid concern. But I think if you follow the correct steps, and practice on some junk copies, you’ll be fine.
Step 1: Select your spray paint. I don’t have an air brush for acrylic paint. That’s the fanciest way to do it. But I didn’t want to get that deep. So I use canned spray paint found at Ace and Home Depot. It’s an inexpensive investment. I think each can is $4 and can do tons of books.
Suggestion: Satin/Matte finish works best. It seems to have a better look and go on smoother. I don’t use gloss much and its unpredictable when I do. But gloss DOES work. I used gloss recently and it did fine, just looked a little ...grainy? Before it dried. Looked fine after.
Step 2: Mask your book. It’s important that you mask your book well enough to cover the entire cover. Use painters tape (blue tape) because it is delicate and won’t peel pages or the cover away. I wrap mine like a present. I have a roll of brown butchers paper from Ace hardware. You can check out my instagram reel for a video (time laps) of me doing this. But in the end, you need to play around with masking yourself to see what system works best for you.
I do the front hard cover, then the back hardcover, and then I wrap around the spine with a third piece of paper. I use tape to cover the areas that the paper doesn’t necessarily reach. Especially the top and bottom of the spine to keep from bleeding behind the bound pages. It takes practice, but after you’ve done it a few times you’ll get it.
Step 3: Prep your area. Don’t use spray paint indoors. I use it in my husband’s huge shop so it’s a large open area. Outside is also preferable. I wear a medical mask or else the fumes get to me. I once blew my nose and found bright spray paint particles in there. So...wear a mask. I use boxes and old news papers and things like that to mask a large-ish area. Especially when my aim wasn’t as good.
Step 4: Invest in a book press. NO. No such thing as a book press exists. You’ll have to get creative. I got two wooden presses from Harbor Freight for $10 each. I use them over and over! I found these “presses” in the “C-clamp” section. This is the hardest part about learning to spray edges. You need to INVENT your own book press. There are tons of videos out there. I watched a few. I came up with this elaborate plan. Then I never carried it out because I found these two great presses that were way better than anything I could invent.
You could use C-clamps with blocks of wood too. The idea is, get pressure over the full cover to compress the pages tightly so that paint doesn’t leak through or bleed. I like these presses because they have adjustable arms for tightness. Don’t try to just use your hand to press down while spraying. My husband did that and as soon as he lifted his hand, removed the pressure, the pages started to bleed inward.
Step 5: Put the book in the press, tightly, and start spraying. I like to shake my can for about 1 minute before spraying. And I always spray upright, or at an angle, OR with the can parallel to the ground facing down for the top pages, but never upside down.
I do sweeping motions. It doesn’t go on even at first. You can see in the image above. Just keep sweeping and it will fill the area after a few sweeps.
On and then off again as I sweep my arm up, or across, depending on what section of book I do. The press allows me to do all sides of the book without having to remove it. Light layers work best.
DON”T saturate it!!!
Just enough to completely cover the book and then stop. Usually 5-6 sweeps is enough. And don’t get too close. Farther away gives larger spray coverage.
Tip: Don’t remove the book while the paint is wet. You remove the pressure and the paint bleeds. My husband did this in the beginning, so I have several books with page bleed. Not the end of the world. But if you’re a perfectionist like me…
Step 6: Let your book dry before doing a second coat. Sometimes a second coat isn’t necessary. I like to do two. I let it dry for about 25-30 minutes before my second coat. After that, I don’t touch it. I leave it in the book press or compressed under pressure (if I want to do another book right after). Compression while drying is KEY. I let it dry for about 4-5 hours before I remove masking.
If I want to do a book right after, that requires me to move it from the press. I try to keep it clamped tight as I remove it, and immediately compress with something heavy. HOWEVER, I’ve found that this leads to page bleed. So if you’re particular, DONT remove it for several hours.
Tip: DO NOT fan the pages until about 24 hours later. I did this after 5 hours and some of the paint flaked off and it looked awful. I think 24 hours lets it sink in and fully dry. Sometimes I don’t touch the pages until I actually sit down to read it. And that’s best. Because fanning the pages can sometimes cause paint flake IF YOU PUT A THICK LAYER ON. Try not to put a thick layer.
That’s it. You’re done. Don't be afraid. I was so scared. Now it's so easy. You'll get the hang of it, I promise.
I made a REEL over on my instagram! You can watch it HERE.