How to cover school books

How to cover school books with brown paper and contact in easy stepsIt’s back to school soon and as mums and dads gird their loins, so to speak, for the onslaught of the school routine I’ve been listening to a couple of friends moan about covering school books. It’s a funny thing because I enjoy covering the school books. I do the brown paper and contact thing and I draw enormous satisfaction from a bunch of cleanly covered books. With that in mind, I thought maybe others might like some tips on covering books. Of course, mine isn’t the only way and perhaps there’s a few better ways to do it. But this is the way I do it.

How to cover school books with brown paper

Materials: brown paper, contact, scissors, sticky tape, pen/pencil, ruler and Young Talent Time book labels, (or whatever the kids are clipping from Woman’s Day these days). You’ll need plenty of space, so clear off the dining table. Also, the quality of the contact you use will have a direct correlation to the level of success, and stress, that you feel while covering school books. For me, Presstik brand is pretty good. I get mine from Kmart. I’ve also used the Officworks contact, with the red gridded backing paper and find that OK also, but both types handle differently so just be prepared for a bit of an adjustment period as you get used to how thin and how sticky the contact is.

Step 1: Roll out the brown paper and put the book, open, on it. Leave about an inch from the left and right sides, then cut the roll.

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Step 2: With the book open, mark the corners with a pencil. This is to give you some guidelines to trim in the next step. Also, mark a V and an inverted Vat the top and bottom of the spine of the book. Again, these will be trim marks.


Step 3: Trim diagonally across the four corners of the trim lines. Trim the V and inverted V at the top and bottom of the spine. You should have a piece of paper that looks something like this. When trimming the ‘V’ sections don’t bring them to a sharp point, but rather a flat-bottomed V. This will give a little wiggle room in the last step when you’re taping the back cover down. You’re measuring the open book, but there are a few millimetres extra required when it is in the closed position.

Step 4: Place the book back inside the corner trim marks, using the V marks and corner markings to get the position as precise as possible. Fold in each flap and tape down inside the front cover of the book. When doing the back cover, make sure you close the book so the paper is positioned correctly and closes and opens easily.


Voila! You have covered a book in brown paper! The next stage, contact, is pretty much identical except for the handling of the contact. So let’s move onto that now!

How to cover school books with contact

Covering school books with contact in simple stepsStep 1: Roll out the contact and place the book, open, on the gridded backing side. Once again, mark all four corners and the spine with trim marks, remembering to make the ‘V’ marks a flat-bottomed V so as to give you some wiggle room.

Step 2: Trim at the trim marks.

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Covering school books with contact - peel backing from one side firstStep 3: Start with the back cover. Peel the backing side away from one edge to the spine only. Don’t remove the paper completely from the contact. This will make it too hard to manage.

Step 4: Put the spine of the book on the contact where the spine trim marks are.

Step 5: Slide the ruler under the contact while holding the book onto the contact. Gently start to run the ruler up the side of the book, lightly pressing the contact onto the book. Only do this for about two or three centimetres up the book cover.

This is the only tricky part of the whole process of covering school books with contactStep 6: Carefully lay the book down with the sticky side of the contact folded back on itself. Turn it so the book spine is toward you, so if the book were to be opened the cover would be lifting toward you. Put your hands under the contact, fingers touching the spine and with the ruler gently, slowly with steady pressure, press the contact onto the book, moving gradually away from you.

Get rid of bubbles easily by pressing them outStep 7: If you see a bubble forming don’t panic, just gently press on it towards the edge. The keys to successful covering is to go slowly, gently and smoothly. I try not to press too hard in the beginning so that if things start to get ugly I can actually peel the contact back a few millimetres and start again. This only works once, though and is really a last ditch measure. If you go slowly and gently you shouldn’t have any troubles. Bubbles like this press out easily Bubbles be gone!and you don’t have any further trouble as you can see in the pictures. (I wish I could say I deliberately caused this bubble to form just to illustrate the fix, but alas, I still get bubbles – it’s just par for the course, I think).




In the home stretch now - covering books with contactStep 8: When you’ve pressed the contact onto the entire front cover, open the book and press down the tabs over the brown paper tabs. Now onto the back cover. This is much easier than the front cover.

Step 9: With the book closed, gently start peeling the backing paper away and as you do, press the contact onto the book. Keep going until the whole cover is done.

Step 10: Open the cover and press in the tabs inside the cover.


Et voila! Beautifully covered books that are durable and attractiveEt Voila! Congratulations! You have covered a book! It might seem difficult at first and you may struggle with the bubbles, but if you push on you will become proficient. The first book is the hardest and maybe the second book will be tough but by the third you’ll be covering like a pro!

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Top tips for covering school books with contact

Tip: If you’ve got some air bubbles afterwards that you’d like to get rid of, get the hairdryer out and blow some warm air onto the contact. This will soften and stretch the plastic a little and will enable you to press out small bubbles.

Tip: Don’t do it on a really hot day. This will make the contact a little bit more pliable which makes it harder to handle. Also, if it’s really hot you may have a ceiling fan on and this can be disastrous, as I discovered last week. Big sticky contacty mess. Also, there were lots of bugs in the air that night and a couple of Fin’s books now have bug carcass permanently pressed in the covers!

Tip: Best done when the kids are in bed and you’ve got some calm, quiet time to yourself.

Tip: Don’t leave it to the last minute. It takes me about 10 minutes, sometimes 15 minutes to cover one book. This year Fin, in Year 2, has about 15 books to cover. DJ has about the same in Year 1. I spend usually just an hour or so at night, spread over three or four nights and they all get done without it being a big job.

6 comments for “How to cover school books

  1. Nicola
    January 16, 2012 at 9:40 am

    What an excellent tutorial Felicity. Thanks for taking the time.

    • January 16, 2012 at 10:21 am

      No worries, Nicola! Glad you liked it. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

  2. January 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    This is great Felicity!

  3. Henryetta Moore
    January 25, 2012 at 9:08 am

    This is so easy and it looks great.

    What i do with my kids is cover in brown paper then use letter stickers to write their name and magazine letters to write the subject then i help them cover the book once again using contact adhesive.

    It looks fantastic and it is soo easy’

  4. Mae
    July 17, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Thanks Felicity!!

I would love it if you would tap out a few words here!