From DIY home decor to handmade gifts, here are the best arts and crafts to spark your creativity

Light-Up Watercolor Paper Book

Here's an innovative way to add some bling to your bookbinding, by incorporating circuitry with more traditional techniques! This book structure, constructed with watercolor paper and a glowing spine, provides a unique canvas for acrylic inks and Zentangle drawings.

Tools & Materials


  • 1 piece of sturdy watercolor paper, cut to 5" high X 18" wide, grained short (I used 140 lb. cold press paper)
  • 2 pieces of sturdy watercolor paper, cut 5" high X 9 7/8" wide, grained short
  • 16 pieces of text-weight paper, cut 5" high X 9 3/4" wide, grained short
  • 1 piece of thin (less than a 1/4" thick) wood, cut 5" high X 1"wide
  • 2 pieces of sturdy decorative paper, cut 5" high X 1" wide
  • 1 piece of sturdy decorative paper cut 5" high X 7/8" wide
  • 4 LilyPad sewable LEDs in a color of your choice
  • 1 LilyPad sliding switch 3V lithium coin cell battery copper tapecraft or electrical tape
  • double-sided tape
  • conductive thread (there are others on the market, but I know this one is strong)
  • 2–3 ply waxed linen thread
  • 2 decorative beads (one big and one small)

Useful Tools

  • Dremel or hand drill with small bit
  • awl
  • self-healing mat
  • pen knife (or paper cutter)
  • cork-backed metal ruler
  • bone folder
  • straight binder's needle with a narrow head
  • acrylic inks, pens, or an artistic medium of your choice
  • clear nail polish
  • sandpaper (optional)
  • wood finish (optional)

Prep Materials

Tip: In order to make the watercolor paper easier to score and fold, make sure that you cut it so that the grain runs parallel to the paper's short side (grained short).

If desired, you may decorate one side of the watercolor paper (the cover, the three narrow strips, and the two 5 X 7/8" pieces) with an artistic medium of your choice before moving on to the next step.

For this demo, I waited until after I scored the paper to paint it.


Place the your cover paper right-side down on the self-healing mat.

From the left edge of your long piece of watercolor paper, use a bone folder and a ruler to score a straight line at the 5" mark.
Score the paper again at 6", 11", 11 7/8", and 16 7/8".

After you've scored the length of paper for your cover, you should notice a 5" X 5" square on the left side.

Carefully score and fold that square in half diagonally in both directions. Accuracy is important here. Unfold.

Flip the paper right-side up.


With the cover paper right-side up, score the paper in half once vertically (at the 2.5" mark) before folding it in half along the score line.

Flip the paper right-side down once again. Push the folds you just made toward the center to create a triangle. This will create a flap for your book's cover.

Crease all of the score marks with the bone-folder, carefully ensuring straight lines.

Finish Prepping the Watercolor Paper

If you haven't yet done so, decorate one side of each of your watercolor paper pieces.

In the images above, I made some Zentangle doodles and colored the paper with an acrylic wash.

Reinforce the Cover

For extra reinforcement in the spine, I use a sturdy piece of decorative paper, backed with double-stick tape.

If needed, trim the strip of decorative paper so that it fits without overlapping the folds in the cover. Apply double-stick tape to the wrong side of the paper strip.

After removing the backing, carefully adhere the 5" X 1" paper strip to inside of the book cover, to the right of the triangular flap you made in the last step.

Adhere the 5" X 7/8" strip to the side that will be opposing the spine when the cover is folded (as depicted).

Apply double-stick tape on the back of the flap on the right side of the cover and press it down.

Save the remaining strip of 5" X 1" paper for another step.

Drill Holes in Spine Piece

I used a piece of wood cut 5" tall by 1" wide for my spine.

Figure out where you want your LEDs and the switch. I chose to put my switch in the center of the spine, but you can place it at the top or bottom of the spine if you prefer.

With the wood lying vertically, position the LilyPad sliding switch in the center of the spine so that it's spanning the width. Use a pen or awl to mark the holes in the switch. Make additional holes to the immediate left and right of those holes as depicted.

Position two LilyPad LEDs on both sides of the switch with an even amount of spacing between them. Mark the holes in the LEDs, as well as additional holes to the left and right of those holes.

Use a hand drill or Dreml to carefully drill the holes.

If you are using wood, sand and finish the wood if desired.

Poke Holes

After drilling the holes in the wood, use an awl to poke matching holes through the spine of the watercolor paper cover.

The easiest way to do this is to adhere the wooden spine to the outside of the cover with a piece of double-sided tape, and to then pierce through the paper with the awl.

Get Ready to Sew LEDs

Before sewing the LEDs and the switch to the spine, make sure you keep track of which end of the LEDs is positive and which is negative.

I use double-stick tape to temporarily adhere the LEDs and the switch (and mark the polarity of the LEDs) on the back side as a visual cue.

Sew the Positive Trace of the Circuit

Knot one end of your conductive thread (not both).

Using a single piece of conductive thread, begin sewing the positive sides of the LEDs to the spine, as well as one side of the switch, through to the back side of the watercolor paper.

When sewing, be sure to wrap around the pads of the LEDs four or times, keeping the stitches taut.

Once you're finished sewing the positive side, tie a knot in the conductive thread and seal it with clear nail-polish. When it's dry, trim off the tail. Mark this side with a plus sign.

Using a second piece of conductive thread, sew the other side of the switch to the spine (through the cover). Wrap the thread around the switch pad four to five times.

Seal the knot, but leave the tail of the thread long. Cover the knot with a piece of craft or electrical tape. Mark this tail, connected to the switch, with a plus sign.

Sew the Negative Trace of the Circuit

Repeat the process you used for sewing the positive sides of the LEDs to the spine, to sew the negative sides, skipping over the switch (which you should have covered with craft or electrical tape)

Make a knot and seal it, leaving a three-inch tail.

To prevent a short circuit, apply a piece of craft or electrical tape over the positive trace. Cross over the negative tail, and tape it down as depicted above.

Mark the negative side of the circuit with a minus.

Test the Circuit

Test the circuit by touching the negative tail to the negative side of the battery and the positive tail to the positive side of the battery. The LEDs should turn on when the switch is positioned to "on" and turn "off" when switched off.

If all goes well, cover the inside of the spine with the final strip of 5" X 1" decorative paper, backed with double-stick tape. Use a needle to poke holes through it.

If the LEDs don't turn on, determine whether you might have a dead battery, a short circuit, or an LED sewn on backwards.

Prep the Signatures

Fold the pieces of 5" X 9 7/8" pieces of watercolor paper into halves, creating two folios.

Divide the 16 pieces of 5" X 3/4" text weight paper into two piles of eight.

Fold each pile in half, nesting them into one of the folios to create two signatures.

Use an awl to poke holes in the two signatures to match the locations of the four LEDs (but not the switch).

Sew the First Signature to the Spine

Tip: If you encounter a lot of resistance when trying to sew through the spine, change the angle of your needle to avoid piercing the conductive thread.

Thread a needle with about 12" of waxed linen thread.

Open the first signature. Start by placing your needle into the top hole of the first signature.

Exit through the left-most top hole of the cover, leaving a three-inch tail. Sew in through the neighboring hole of the wooden spine.

Re-enter the top hole of the signature. Tie a knot where the tail and rest of the thread meet.

Continue sewing down the length of the spine.

After re-entering the last hole of the first signature, use a kettle stitch to tie a knot.

Re-exit the last hole of the first signature without exiting the spine.

Sew the Second Signature

Enter the last hole of the second signature and repeat the process you used to sew on the first.

Upon re-entering the top hole of the second signature, use a kettle stitch to tie a know.

Test your circuit once more. If all is well, continue on.

If the circuit stops working, it's possible that you may have pierced the conductive thread when sewing on the signatures. If attempts to locate the source of your trouble fail, you will need to disassemble the book and try again.

Create a Paper Battery Holder

Make a paper battery holder, using copper tape to adhere it to the inside of the cover flap (as pictured). The template included above was created by Jie Qi under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License.

If you are unsure how to make a paper battery holder, please watch this quick paper battery holder tutorial on the Chibitronics website.

Complete the Circuit

With the battery holder taped down, use a piece of tape (copper, craft, or electrical) to connect the positive tail (attached to the switch) to the positive side of the battery.

Close the battery holder, ensuring that you don't come between the battery and the negative lead when you close the flap.

Complete the Cover Flap

Poke holes in the triangular flap as depicted above.

Use a 36–40" piece of waxed linen thread to through the two holes at the tip of the flap (or shorter, if you prefer). Add a decorative bead and sew back through the inside of the flap. Tie a smaller bead to the end of the threads.

Poke two more sets of holes to tack the sides of the cover flap together, at the base of the triangular flap. Sew through the holes a couple of times and tie a bow or knot in the thread on the inside of the cover flap.

To keep the book closed, simply wrap the thread around the book and twist it around the bead.


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