Creating a japanese bound journal

Japanese bound book with watercolor art

I decided to make some Japanese bound journal as birthday gifts. It’s a good gift to do as you can customize the cover, paper, string types and the binding patterns! So pretty much everything lol.

The journal I made is 8.5×5.5″ with watercolor paper as the cover since I wanted to try playing with watercolor 🙂 I chose this size since I can just use a regular 8.5×11″ paper and cut it in half. Here’s how I went about making the journal with Japanese binding.

Materials used:

25 Sheets of blank paper
2 Sheets thicker watercolor paper (for front cover and back cover)
47″ length thread (5.5 times the length of book)
Paper cutter

Or buy a Bookbinding Kit

#1. Creating lined paper

I took 25 sheets of regular blank paper and used this grey lined pdf that I created to print the lines on the paper. Then I cut the paper in half so the resulting size of the paper is 8.5×5.5″. So the total number of paper I end up with is 50 sheets.

#2. Make the holes for binding

I am doing the 4-hole binding technique with a slight variation so I’ll need to measure out and mark 6 holes on the spine of the paper. Here you can see what the stitching pattern look like for the binding.

book with japanese binding completed
Book with the spine threaded using the Japanese binding techique.

One easy way I found out to mark the holes is to cut out a thin strip of paper the same length as the book length, then fold the paper in half, and then in half again (do this a total of 4 times). You should end up with a very small strip of folded paper. Then open it up and the folded lines is where you’ll know where you can choose from to mark on the paper. So lay this strip of paper on the spine of your journal paper and mark a dot near the top and bottom ends of the journal (2nd folded lines from the ends of the strip of paper). Then count 3 folded lines away from the 2nd folded lines at each end and this is where you’ll mark the 3rd and 4th hole. For the 5th and 6th hole, measure equal distance in the middle between the 1st hole and ends of the paper (the 4th hole for the bottom end of the paper).

After writing this I realize it may still be confusing so I created a PDF with holes marked that you can just print it out and the holes will be where you need it. After you’ve marked the holes, use the binder clips to hold the stack of paper together (including the front and back cover) and clip the sides of the paper so it doesn’t move. I put a strip of paper under the clips so that the clip doesn’t make any dents on your journal. Then use the awl to make the holes.

holding paper down with clips
Clips and holes on paper book

#3. Thread the holes together

Cut a thread length about 5.5 times the length of the journal spine, so for this it would be about 47″. Then use the needle and put the thread through, and make a knot at one end of the string. Now follow the instruction here to making the binding pattern.

4 hole japanese binding technique instructions
4 hole Japanese binding instruction


4 hole japanese binding technique variation
This is the additional steps you need to do in addition to the regular 4-hole technique. You do these step after the Step #5 on the regular instruction.



For the book cover art, you can either make the cover art before making the binding or after the binding is already finished. It would be safer to do the cover art first so then if you don’t like it you can do redo it. Below are the two journals I made using this 6-hole Japanese binding technique 🙂

Final Japanese bound book with watercolor anime art
Japanese bound book with watercolor art
Japanese bound book with watercolor art

PS. Here’s my process on creating the watercolor journal cover you see above 😀

first sketch drawing
Sketching with pencil
colored inking on paper
Inking with colored inks
watercolor on drawing
Watercoloring the drawing

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