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A Custom ABC Board Book

by | DIY, Paper

We’ve been reading to J at bedtime since he was about 2 months old in an attempt to establish a solid bedtime routine, since in my new mom naivete, I thought that a solid bedtime routine = more sleep for mommy.  Well, that didn’t really work out, but we HAVE established a love of reading and associating of objects in the house.

For example:
kindle = Bob the Builder
laptop = Grandma on Skype
Daddy sitting down = Skyrim
book = crawl onto Mommy’s lap for a bit of a cuddle.

We have recently moved beyond Pajama Time and Moo Baa LaLaLa to an old alphabet book that I must have picked up at some yard sale somewhere.  I thought it would be a great way start teaching J the letters that go with the things he points to and blabbers about.  Once through the book, however, I knew it was not to be.  Seriously?  D for daddy and “do-it-yourselfer”?  R for rat?  Um….no.  So, I made my own alphabet book, complete with pictures of objects J is familiar with, like his own shoes, toys, and his own face!

DIY, Make your own ABC board book using family photos


I wanted a board book, since the little man still has a tendency to want to destroy paper.  I looked for options online, but most publishers don’t offer board books, and the ones that do, don’t offer board books with 13 full spreads in it.  After rooting around in his board book collection, I found a book that I bought for almost nothing at a yard sale that he never seemed to have an interest in, and Voila! – it had EXACTLY 13 full spreads, just enough for an alphabet with one letter on each page.

Then, I spent WAY TOO MUCH time going through old photos, taking new photos, and designing each page, but it’s what I like to do, and I’m particularly particular about it.  Each image is the size of the page on the board book.  I printed it out in a full spread, on 11×17 paper since the full image was legal size and I did not want the printer to resize the images.

I cut out the first page, held it up to the board book and realize the book wasn’t square.  Fine.  I cut the image down to each individual page and trimmed the edges to match the non-square-ness of the book, and then realized that if I glued the page all the way to the far inside fold, the paper will interfere with the fold and make a bloody mess.  So, the paper is only glued to the edge of where the inside fold begins, which leaves for some trimming on the outer edge.  So much for my anal retentive measuring of each page.

The pages were glued onto the board book using an acid-free glue stick, and it worked really well.  There was no warping or bumps in the paper.  I did have a damp rag nearby to clean my hands after every page because I felt like the kindergartener who has glue all over her fingers and smearing it everywhere she didn’t want glue.

The cover is two separate pages plus a spine, which I had cut to be about an inch larger than the actual spine, in order to create a bit of overlap when gluing everything in place.

Once all the pages and cover was glued on, I stacked some cookbooks on top to set the glue.  Then I walked away, because ENOUGH already with the glue.

Then, I trimmed the edges and the rounded corners with an exacto knife.  The edges aren’t perfect, and you can see the book underneath at the inside folds, and I think Josh might destroy my efforts in a couple of days, but for now, it looks pretty nice.  I hope to spray on a clear gloss seal, and maybe cover the outside in contact paper, just to protect my investment a bit.

Here are some shots from the inside:

We’re hopefully going to take this book for its debut sometime this week, so hopefully the little man likes it!


  1. Kate a.k.a. Gwenelle

    What a fantastic project! I’d been wanting to do something like this for my godson’s birthday and nothing I tried turned out quite right, but I think this idea is brilliant – definitely gonna have to copy it – and pinning it too!

  2. heidil

    this is really cute…i have to steal the idea

  3. Maia Bee's

    This is amazing! I’ve been wanting to create a board book for my daughter and I think I just found my inspiration! 🙂 I’m your newest follower!

  4. Justine

    Not sure how i missed this post, but i LOVE it! It turned out sooo great! I sure hope Josh hasn’t destroyed it yet. Fab idea!

  5. Sugarr2518

    This is really just so darling:) I love your layout! I going to pin this, thanks for the inspiration:)

  6. Mama Jodi

    This is such a great idea that yielded really cool results. I love it.

  7. Anonymous



    This is so great! I love how the letters look like those books used to teach handwriting to little kids. How did it hold up?

    • Chiwei

      I have to admit, the cover is coming apart a bit with the glue just giving up, and the gloss seal didn’t do much in terms of extra stickiness, so we’re just really careful with it!

  9. Sara

    Could you provide some more details on how you created the layouts? What software did you use? Fonts? Etc… I’m creating an alphabet book for my niece and I love how yours turned out!

    • Chiwei

      Hi Sara, I created the layouts in Gimp – a free photo editing tool. I created an image the exact size of the book page, and then filled it with the pictures I wanted, then added the wording, all as separate layers. When I got the layout I wanted, I flattened and saved as a jpg. The font is Penmanship Print, and it can be found at Hope that helps!

  10. LeAnne

    This is so cute. I have wanted to make a board book of photos of my granddaughter, but like you said, no one has them; I’ll keep my eye out for an old one at a yard sale (or look through her own for neglected ones) to perhaps do a project like this! You did an AWESOME job on it, and it will be treasured, I am sure!

  11. Bronwyn

    You photos are beautiful and the book is fantastic. I did the same for a friend a little while ago – – but like you had trouble finding a book to fit it all in – hence two letters per page. The idea of reusing an existing book was inspired.
    I found the blank board books you can find suit the number books more – – as you don’t need so many pages for the numbers 1 to 10!

  12. Abbie

    Gorgeous! Really neat idea! I did a personalized drawn alphabet for my son’s wall, but the pictures in your board book are super cool!

  13. soniaock

    Beautiful job you have! Congratulations!

  14. Jessica

    You did such a great job with this. I have been looking for a website that would print a custom board book, but they are all only 8 pages 🙁 Seriously considering this as an option. Did you print all the pages from your home printer? And did you use any special paper?


    I was pretty pleased to uncover this web site. I wanted to thank you for your time just for this
    wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I
    have you saved to fav to see new things in your website.

    • ChiWei

      Thanks Amy! It’s crazy, it’s still intact and every once in a while, we’ll go back and look at the pictures.

  16. Dalia

    HI. Love this! What software did you use to create each page layout and do you mind sharing the letter with what word you chose (maybe a quick list of abc’s) so I can get ideas to do the same? Thank you!

    • ChiWei

      Dalia, I used Gimp back then, which is a free photo editor tool, similar to Photoshop Elements, but available as open source software. For the letter representations, it’s really up to you to choose what fits best with your family. I started with photos that I had and picked letters from there.

  17. Rachel

    Wow! This is absolutely darling! I’m so impressed. You totally need to clear coat/protect it however you can quickly. This is something that he could treasure for the rest of his life. Beautiful!

    • ChiWei

      Thank you! Yup, my little one likes peeling the pages, so it’s out of reach until I can archive it 🙂


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