I got a call the other day from a neighbor. “I have seven bricks, do you want them?”
“Yes! Yes, I do!”
I have plans for bricks, and free ones are the best kind! These plans were sparked by regularly spending hours on Pinterest (Can’t sleep? It’s Pinterest time!) and randomly remembering a few pins where people painted bricks (or pavers) like books.
There are differences between bricks and pavers. Bricks are fired, like pottery and can end up much smoother than pavers. Pavers are poured concrete and aggregate, they’re usually pretty rough. Bricks can have holes through them (these are called extruded bricks). The holes allow the bricks to dry faster, use less material, weigh less, and provide an area for mortar to bind the bricks together. Holes are beneficial to walls, drying and transport, but: not so accurate for painting to look like a book.
My neighbor’s bricks turned out to be pavers, which were even better for this project! Pavers are solid cast concrete and gravel, and they look a lot like the shape of a book. They’re easy to find at your local hardware store (and usually cost less than a dollar each), that is: if you don’t have a cool neighbor that donates some to you!
Either non extruded bricks (no holes) or pavers will work for this project. So, it was a big bonus that these were pavers. They were free and without holes! Yay!
The first thing you’ll want to do is scrub these clean with soap and water and allow them to dry. My pavers weren’t new, so they were covered in algae and dirt. Clean them enough to paint on. You don’t need to be perfect.
After they are totally dry, you want to work on the basic color of the cover of your book. Why? Because the “pages” take more time to get right and you don’t want to accidentally slop some “cover” color on them. I also made a trip to Hobby Lobby and got outdoor acrylic craft paint. I’m hoping it holds up better than the generic acrylic craft paint I already had.
Paint three sides in a solid color of your choice: paint both large sides and one connecting narrow side for the bound edge, let dry and start on the pages. The page sides will all be narrow sides. I bought a bunch of different colors of paint (although you really only need white, black and primary colors). If you use a color and run out, or if you are trying to do these over several days, having an entire bottle of the color you are using is handy. You don’t have to worry about saving the tail ends of your mix for tomorrow, or matching your colors if you run out, or ending up with a lot of extra that you don’t have a container for.
Getting the pages right is pretty simple, your goal is to streak the side of the paver “book” with slightly different hues of white, brown and cream. Start with a nice thick, wet coat of white and a small, squared bristle brush. I didn’t mix the page colors before adding them to the sides of the pages.
I used brown and yellow with the white. I added small blobs of color to the brush, and let the brush mix them on the “book”. I found that this was the best way to go. Using a dry brush technique at the end, with minimal white, will make the pages look finished. You can’t screw this up. If you don’t like what you did, paint it again until you do.
Let the page sides dry completely. Next you want to tape off the center of the page sides to make the “bound edges” wider. You can also use a t-square or ruler. It’s up to you. I found a roll of frog tape in the garage that I bought when painting my son’s room. I’d never opened it. Wow! It is impressive! I got super straight lines on very rough pavers. (You can get your own here: link) I am definitely going to use it on our walls next time I paint and need exact lines!
Let the details dry completely.
Now comes the fun part: The artwork on the cover! You can look online for cover art for your favorite books (or look at books that you own) and copy them. Alternatively, you can use fancy gilding (like old law books have) and skip titles. You can make up your own artwork or just paint the title on the spine of your book (or your favorite word from the book, like I did on “The Raven” book. Crafting should be fun, rules are never fun!) I decided to make some books from my childhood. I have a long list of favorites. I chose to make the free pavers into books and then get some different sized pavers at the store and make more. That will be a more realistic library look, since real books come in all sizes.
If you don’t have really neat handwriting or a cutting machine (like a cricut), you can choose to skip wording. Or you can use a regular printer and print out the title on thick paper, cut the words out with an exacto knife and carefully sponge on the titles, but that’s going to be a lot of work. If you trust yourself, you can freehand, like I did. I actually own a cricut maker but I didn’t use it for this project. It depends on your goal with your books. It would look much nicer with a stencil of your making, but I’m OK with mine.
I don’t like my painted script, but I did freehand the title and spine on the books and I’m happy with them. However, I knew (after I started the basic book colors), that straight lines were going to be really difficult on this rough surface. I was OK with the limitations it presented.
You can keep the lettering straight with a strip or two of painter’s tape as guides. Don’t use permanent markers on this. Although it would be easier to use for some details, if you seal it with lacquer: the lacquer will dissolve the ink. Plus, permanent markers sun bleach easily. They are not good for outdoor projects.
As far as intricate decorations, I’ve seen these types of paver books online, filled with nonsanded grout and then painted. I have also seen what I believe was printed paper, glued over the grout. Using grout will give you a flat, clean surface. You will be able to put a lot more detail on that sort of surface. But, it’s another step and I’m currently doing 7 “books”. At number 4: I’m done trying to be perfect.
Grouting or stenciling is definitely a choice you can make for your project, but I’m already getting tired of painting, so I’m just using them as they are: without grout. I didn’t want to apply the grout and then possibly sand. It’s just too much extra work for something I’m putting outside on the ground!
Also, if you modge podge printed pages on the bricks, and you put them outside in your garden, they will sunbleach and get ruined. If you are going to go that route, then the bricks would be better used inside, as bookends. After you are done decorating your book, seal your work with a clear lacquer and allow that to dry. You can use several coats here.
Once they’re dry you’re done! Place your books out in your garden and enjoy your honorary library of your favorite literary gems!