Arts and Crafts Book ReviewsThe various arts and crafts books I’ve written about below are actual books that I have read and enjoyed. There are many more books out there that I would love to own and learn from, but sadly, there is just never enough time.
If you have a book you particularly love, leave a comment below, so we can benefit from your experience.
Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links, and all products suggested are ones I own, use, and highly recommend.
Creative Stamping with Mixed Media Techniques
by Sherrill Kahn
Here’s another wonderful book by Sherrill Kahn. Her distinctive style and colors pop right off the page. Chapters include: Creating Stamped Backgrounds, Color Layer Techniques, Mixed Media Recipes, and tips for embellishing and adding pizazz to your work. The best thing about Ms. Kahn’s books, is seeing how she plays with color and using her color mixtures to break free of my familiar color routine. I also like the way she’s able to layer colors and images and keep them from looking like mud, an ability I’m still working on. The end of the book is devoted to projects, including a treasure box and gift book with necklace. Even thought I don’t tend to make the projects found in these types of books, they often give me ideas for my own art work.
Complex Cloth: A Comprehensive Guide to Surface Design
by Jane Dunnewold
There are many similarities between Sherrill Kahn’s books and this one. Sumptuous photographs, detailed step-by-step directions, and a myriad of ideas to get your artistic juices flowing. It’s really amazing the amount of surface design techniques that Ms. Dunnewold has packed into her book: stamping, stenciling, silk-screening, dying, discharging, transferring, using foils and glitters, embroidery, beading . . . the list goes on and on. Her book is geared for the quilter, but so much of it has relevance for paper artists. Whenever I need an artistic pick-me-up, I flip through the pages of this book and I’m ready to go again. Beautiful!
Glorious Papers: Techniques for Applying Colour to Paper
by Ruth Issett
If you enjoyed Ms. Issett’s first book, Color for Paper and Fabric, you’re going to like this book just as much. Huge, beautiful color photographs reveal the depth and textures you can achieve on your paper if you use her techniques. She has ideas for color mixing, using resists and inks, methods for printing papers, how to use the fabulous texture gels available, and a huge chapter on achieving metallic effects in your art. If you’re like me and can’t get enough books about surface decoration, then you’ll want to add this one to your collection.
Artists’ Journals and Sketchbooks: Exploring and Creating Personal Pages
by Lynne Perrella
I am not a journal/sketchbook keeper, but I certainly do admire those who are. And if keeping an artist’s notebook is one of your passions, then you’ll definitely want to have this book. It’s not a book of directions, per se. It’s more a collection of ideas gleaned from a wide variety of artists’ work. Ms. Perrella shares a collection of examples around a theme such as adding text to pages, and then gives some specific ideas, examples, and quick tips that you can use in your own work. I am in awe of Ms. Perrella’s art and can’t get enough of it. How she manages to make papers which are so beautifully messy is beyond me. If I tried to put as many layers of colors and papers on a page as she does, I’d get a gloppy mess! But I keep looking through her book and trying to learn from her example and then apply it in my own way. So even us non-journal types can find useful ideas in this book.
What does an artist do when she’s tired of her own style of collage? She reveals all her wonderful secret techniques in a book so everyone else can give them a try. And then the artist reassesses her work and reinvents herself. That’s what Claudine Hellmuth has done. In her inspiring first book, Ms. Hellmuth manages to give us clearly written directions and useful examples for techniques to use in our own art. She gives instruction for using beeswax in collage, creating miniature assemblages, making image transfers, and creating backgrounds. Unlike other similar books, Ms. Hellmuth has enough of her own original art to fill up the pages, so we see a consistent style of art throughout.
Surfaces for Stitch: Plastics, Films & Fabric
by Gwen Hedley
Now I know what you’re thinking – another book on surface design?? But believe me, if I could find one book that covers every single idea, it would be here. But really, what fun would that be? Every author has her own unique ideas, and Ms. Hedley is no exception. Even though her focus is on embellishing fabrics for quilts, the ideas work equally as well for paper artists. Here is a list of the materials she explores using: Tyvek film, Tyvek fabric, polythene and pliable plastics, stencil film and plastic fabric, puff paints, softsculpt, and adhesive webbing. She shows how to make beautiful Tyvek beads and fabric book covers and has a section which illustrates basic embroidery stitches. I can just envision an entire altered fabric book filled with all of Ms. Hedley’s wonderful ideas.
The Designer’s Guide to Global Color Combinations
by Leslie Cabarga
The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations
by Leslie Cabarga
The Designer’s Guide to Color Combinations on CD-Rom
by Leslie Cabarga
Boy, would I like to have Mr. Cabarga’s job! He travels around the world, documenting color usage from different regions. Then he puts them in his books with their CMYK formulas. Although his books are primarily intended for graphic design artists, and don’t discuss color theory, they are a never ending source of unique and intriguing color combinations for any artist. Included are brilliant photographs of textiles, paintings, advertisements, packaging, and more. The colors are broken down and and displayed in different combinations and the RGB and CMYK formulas are given. Cabarga has a wonderful tongue-in-cheek writing style. Combine that with the glorious colors and art work from around the world, and you have a reference book that is constantly inspiring and entertaining. Great for those of us who want to expand our color repertoire.
The CD contains all the color combinations included in Mr. Cabarga’s books, so instead of typing in the ratios in Illustrator or Photoshop, you can use the eyedropper to sample and apply the colors to your digital art work.
Creating with Paint: New Ways, New Materials
by Sherrill Kahn
I’m a sucker for books that are loaded with color, and this one certainly pulled me right in. I love the color combinations that Ms. Kahn uses in her artwork: shades of turquoise, purples, gold’s, and so much more. Her style is very unique and inspirational because of all the wonderful techniques and textures she uses. She starts off by going over the basics such as sponge painting, stamping, resists, and printmaking. While most of her examples are done on fabric, her creative methods for applying paint could be used just as easily on paper. In fact, her gallery at the end of the book displays a wide variety of items including boxes, dolls, books, ceramics and wearables. She ends with several different projects to try.
Unique Handmade Books
by Alisa Golden
Cutting, folding, sewing, layering, decorating: Alisa Golden shows you how to create so many interesting books with relatively simple methods. There’s something for everyone, from beginners to more advanced book artists. The types of books she covers include shaped and themed books, accordion-fold books, pocket books, and cloth books. She deals with different methods of decoration such as using typefaces, transfers, paste papers, and computer-based drawings. Her step-by-step directions are very clear and easy to follow, and she includes wonderful examples of all the books she writes about. She even has chapters on collaborations and creating containers and displays for your books. This is a great book for the aspiring book artist!
Collage Techniques: A Guide for Artists and Illustrators
by Gerald Brommer
Whenever someone on the message boards asks about a good collage book for beginners, this title invariably comes up. Mr. Brommer’s book showcases a lot of different collage artists’ styles and discusses a wide range of techniques.
He starts off with a discussion of the history and attitudes surrounding the development of collage as an art form. After that, each chapter is structured around a discussion of a particular technique, followed by a detailed demonstration, and personal applications with further photographs of collage art using that particular technique. Chapter topics include washi and water media, stained papers, found papers, fabrics and fibers and technological approaches.
One of the best things about this book is the second part, which talks about design and imagery. Mr. Brommer includes such a wide variety of collage types in his book, that you really get an opportunity to see the potential for self-expression through collage.
Creative Collage Techniques
by Nita Leland
In this wonderful book you will find forty-seven different projects and five different demonstrations that will take you from very simple, beginning collages to more complicated, intricate collage forms. What I liked most about this book were the different methods for creating and decorating distinctive papers that can then be used in your artwork. You don’t actually make the paper from scratch, you use plain papers that you already have, and then use acrylics, watercolors, rice paper, magazine clippings and other textures to make interesting textures and supports.
Full of excellent photographs that suggest ways to integrate your newly created papers are given to inspire you.
Collage: A New Approach
by Jonathan Talbot
In this succinct, informative book, Mr. Talbot explains a “glueless” method of creating collage using acrylic medium, a tacking iron, and release paper to adhere your collage elements to their structure. The benefits of this process is that you don’t have to constantly remove pieces of your project in order to glue them down. The result is a smooth, buckle-free collage that looks very neat and tidy and sophisticated. But even if this approach doesn’t appeal to you, Mr. Talbot’s suggestions for mounting and finishing the piece are invaluable, as are his explanations of the types of support and mediums available.
Collage Art: A Step-by-Step Showcase
by Jennifer Atkinson
Ms. Atkinson divides her book into four sections each dealing with a different type of collage: paper, fabric, collagraphy, and found object collage. In each section she discusses the background of that particular type of collage, the materials used, and techniques. She also profiles two artists who share their methods with the reader. Every chapter ends with an extensive gallery of work utilizing the method discussed.
The eight projects given are easy to follow with instructions that a beginner or more experienced artist would find useful.
Color for Fabric and Paper
by Ruth Issett
This book is filled with glorious color. The photography is sumptuous. Ms. Issett shows so many ways to finish fabric and paper with paints, dyes, inks, and powders that it will keep you happily creating for weeks!
The book is divided into three sections: materials, basic techniques, and combined techniques. She offers a list of US suppliers for the products she uses. You’ll keep coming back to this book over and over just to be inspired by the colors she uses. A real jewel of a book!
Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color
by Leatrice Eisemann
Although this book is a reference for graphic designers, I like it because it gives me unlimited ideas for appealing color combinations is my art. It talks about the basics of creating color schemes and the emotional impact that colors have on us. There are lots of examples of great advertising and page upon page of color combinations based on descriptors such as traditional, earthy, and elegant. A great book for anyone intrigued about color and how it affects us.
by Jean Drysdale Green
This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to learn how to decorate paper using acrylics, watercolors, pastels, inks, dyes, oils, and encaustics. Each one of these mediums has its own chapter. After an introduction to materials, you’ll page after page of color photographs illustrating an incredible assortment of techniques. The author doesn’t shy away from recommending particular brand names, and she includes a good source list at the end of the book. The ideas in this book are guaranteed to keep you happily creating for hours. You may never need or want to buy fancy paper again!
Ghost Layers & Color Washes: Three Steps to Spectacular Quilts
by Katie Pasquini Masopust
This book is subtitled “Three Steps to Spectacular Quilts,” but I have found it very interesting in terms of collage art. You can see a collage I made for an altered book based on Masopust’s quilting theory here. The three steps include making the base, creating the ghost, painting the color wash, and then putting all three together to create a unique and beautifully colored piece. Lots and lots of useful examples.