Painting on an Old Book

Today I want to show you how to take an old book that you get from a thrift store or may have on hand and turn it into a unique piece of art you can display in your home or give as a gift.

* This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase, I could make a small commission at no charge to you. Please read my Disclaimer and Privacy Policy HERE.

You can get old books at thrift stores pretty inexpensively. I think I got this one on sale for 50 cents! It has a cool textured cover that will come through some when I scape paint on the edges with a palette knife.

Cross Painted on an old book. The Social Easel (1)

Painting on an old book can make a neat piece of art that you can then set up and display on your shelves as a change instead of doing something on canvas.

I didn’t make a plan before painting on this old book. I knew I wanted it to coordinate with my Spring Chapel painting so they could be displayed together in my Easter home decor, but that’s about it.

Spring Chapel Abstract Poppies The Social Easel

Chapel Painting Tutorial is available now for you to learn how to paint!

When painting on an old book, you don’t need anything special. You can use the regular craft paint I use on all my canvas paintings too.

On this book, I paint a cross with some florals on it. But the sky is the limit!

I think adding some lettering above the cross, a verse, or an inspirational quote would be gorgeous too.


There really isn’t much prep work to perform before painting on an old book. Just make sure to remove any stickers and dust from the cover.

Base Coat of Paint

As I said, I do want this to go together with other spring decor I have in my home. I always have my Spring Chapel displayed in my foyer or family room in the spring, so I chose the same turquoise paint as I used in it for my base color.

Painting on an old book and Spring Chapel

You may have something in your home you want to coordinate with or take inspiration from to help you choose your paint colors.

Paint the cover of the book in your base color. I’m going to paint the spine as well, and after they are dry, you could even paint the back.

I used Deco Art acrylic craft paint, which is a little more opaque than some other brands. It gives excellent coverage, especially for painting projects like this.

Painting a Cross on an Old Book

To go with the theme, I decided to paint a cross on the front of the book. When deciding what to put on yours, imagine all of the elements you want to include.

I know I might want to add some flowers or a verse above or around my cross, so I try my hardest not to make it too big so they will all fit on the cover.

With a small amount of black paint, paint a cross on the cover. If you aren’t wanting to freehand, you could wait until the base color of the paint is dry and sketch it out lightly.

I start my cross when my base paint is still a little wet. I wanted the cross not to be pure black, and I like the colors blended together in some areas. This created more of a gray color than black.

Palette Knife Painting on an Old Book The Social Easel

Try not to overthink your cross! A benefit of painting with acrylic paints is that all you have to do is let it dry and then paint over it! You can fix just about anything with a little bit of patience.

Add Texture with a Palette Knife to the Background

You know I love texture in my paintings! Sometimes I just can’t resist the look painting with a palette knife adds to a piece of art.

With a palette knife, grab a little bit of the background color and some white, and lightly ‘scrape’ texture onto your background.

It’s not really scraping… hold your palette knife softly in your hand, parallel to your surface and lightly smear on the paint… don’t apply much pressure at all.

You don’t have to use a palette knife, it just gives you a different look than brush only. I personally love that texture. I can’t believe there was ever a day I didn’t use a palette knife.

Paint Color on the Cross

You know I love metallics in my paintings, and ultimately, I chose a textured gold cross. This gold is one of my favorites from Deco Art. It’s just a gorgeous gold acrylic paint.

Any metallic gold paint you have on hand will be perfect!

I use my palette knife to get the textured look I want without using any thickeners like gel medium to my paint.

I like to drag a little of the gold into my background too, just for some more color variation.

Palette Knife Flowers

My book is pretty small, but I know I wanted a colorful touch on my cross, and that is when I decided on palette knife flowers, of course!

Because of the size of the book, these blooms are petite. I only needed a bit of paint on my palette knife’s top edge to swirl a few of my rosettes on in a pretty pink and plum.

Add in a few touches of green leaves poking out from behind those blooms, a few white dots resembling baby’s breath, and dark centers in the center of the flowers too.

Cross painted on an old book tutorial The Social Easel Online Paint Studio

Learn more about how to paint palette knife flowers HERE. They are simple and so cute and will fit perfectly with your spring home decor!

You can paint anything you want on your book. I originally thought I wanted to add some script above my coss, but I decided to add some greenery and flowers in the corners instead.

I didn’t use a palette knife for those and opted for a brush. Whatever the style you like, try it out!

Finishing Touches

With a small amount of black paint on the tip of a small round brush, lightly outline the gold cross. I even add a few wispy lines of white too.

If you haven’t seen my tip for getting tiny dots, it can keep you from making your spots too big and be more uniform! Grab a small brush and flip it around and use the end of the handle!

Dip the end in white paint and poke your surface to add little white dots around the corner laurels.

For even more texture in the background, drag a small amount of back around the corners and up the spine. I love how the palette knife grabs onto the texture of the book cover.

You could even put a cute little title on the spine if you wanted to.

Painted old book on shelf The Social Easel (1)

There’s seriously no right or wrong.

This is all about letting loose, having fun being creative, and doing something just a little different.

What the full Painting on an Old Book video tutorial!

I have purchased painted books from several other artists at craft shows. I have seen them with Christmas, Easter, and fall paintings on them, and I love them all.

Hopefully, you enjoy this fun quick lesson, and it gives you an idea of how you can paint an old book from a thrift store and transform it into a piece of art with lots of character.