I recently received this question from a fellow altered book artist:
…how do you have such neat gutters? i am doing my first board book using your info to guide me…my gutters are the worst…i thought i read something in your pages about some kind of tape for them, but i am not sure…could you let me know when you have time…
Here are some techniques I use to avoid having yucky gutters in my board books:
Gesso Method :: If I know that I’m going to be painting the inside of my book, I cover it with two coats of gesso in order to obliterate the printing inside. I paint the first coat and let it dry. Then I open the book and bend it back so the gesso splits open at the gutter. I take a fine grit sandpaper and sand back the gesso and the paper ridges that come up. Then I cover the book with gesso again, and maybe, if it needs it, I gently sand again.
Tyvec Method :: Tyvec is a type of paper that is used for USP Priority Mail envelopes and insulation for houses. I save the envelopes when I get them in the mail. One time I ran out, and I got a box at Office Max which will probably last me forever. This method is particularly good if you need to reinforce the gutter as the Tyvec is very tough and sturdy and doesn’t curl up. I use adhesive (Xyron, double-stick tape, or soft gel medium) to adhere the Tyvec down the center over the gutter and then I paint over it when I paint the rest of the book. The edges of the Tyvec will be visible.) I have found that it’s important to make sure there’s a little bit of “give” in the gutter; I’m not sure how to explain this. I put a crease down the center of the Tyvec and center it over the gutter of the book, adhering the left side first. Then I fold the book backwards ever so gently as I adhere the right side of the Tyvec. Next, as I close the book, I use a bone folder, popsicle stick, or palette knife to tuck the Tyvec into the gutter, trying to make sure the Tyvec doesn’t bulge over. I usually get a very tiny crease, but it doesn’t look bad.
Tissue Method :: You can use the same technique as mentioned for Tyvec, but use a strip of tissue instead. It’s not as sturdy, but it will the gutter look smooth.
Collage Method :: Finally, using collage papers over the gutter can make it look neat as well. I make sure my paper is very wet with soft gel or fluid matte medium.I lay it over the gutter and gently fold the book backwards, then close it up, then lie it flat and apply medium over the top of the paper, and push the paper gently into the gutter with my paint brush (if it won’t change the texture of the paper). If I don’t want to put adhesive on the surface of the papers, I use the same folding process, back then closed, and use a bone folder to smooth the paper along the crease. This take a bit of practice; I’ve messed up plenty of books. Even some of the ones on my web site look a little less pristine when you see them in person.
You can see several examples of board books that I’ve done using these methods on the altered books pages of my web site.