How to make a concertina sketchbook from a single sheet of paper

I love teaching workshops, as I end up learning lots too. The ‘Painting birds in Watercolour’ workshop I did last week was no exception. One of the students showed me a little folded concertina sketchbook she had made to keep all her samples in. Genius! Usually, I suggest sheets of samples, but this is so much more convenient.

keeping your samples in a concertina sketchbook is so much more user friendly than on sheets

I’ve taken the idea and developed it a little further and thought you might like to make one of your own.

You will need:

  • Sheet of watercolour paper – I used a quarter sheet to make a book which ended up approx 10x7cm
  • Scissors/knife
  • Optional – 2 pieces mount board, slightly larger than your finished book to form the cover. Ribbon. Glue


Start by folding your paper into sixteen ‘pages’ by folding in half, then bringing the edges into the centre. Make each fold as sharp as possible. Either run your finger along each, use a bone-folder, use the end of a knife etc

Next fold in half the other way and again bring the edges to the centre, lining everything up. Depending on the size and thickness of your paper, you may find this tricky. If you are making a tiny book, use thinner paper.

The initial folds – make each fold as sharp as possible

Now open the sheet out and cut along the lines as indicated. Only cut along three out of the four sections. Use a knife or scissors.

The cutting lines

You will end up with a long zig zagged piece of paper. You will need to fold this backwards and forwards to form your booklet, again keeping the folds neat. Just start at one end and fold forward and back. See the video below for the folding technique. This is your basic booklet.

Taking it further

You could leave it like this, especially if you are using it for sample, just write what it’s about on the front page (your cover) and off you go. But you do have the option to ‘pimp’ your book.

A cover will make it more robust. The simplest is to cut two pieces of mount board or other stiff cardboard to the size of your book, or a few millimetres larger. These can be stuck to the front and back and decorated should you wish.

Your book can be kept closed with a simple rubber band, but adding a cord or ribbon is a nice touch. Simply enclose it between the back page and cover. The two ends which protrude can be tied at the front.

The finished mini book

You will notice that you have three ‘double’ pages because of the folding technique. These can either be used as a double page spread or turned into pockets to store loose items. To do so, identify the one facing up and cut a V shape out of the front. Glue down the edges to form a pocket. The one facing down will need to be left open, as everything will fall out! See the video below.

You could do this with a full sheet of watercolour paper, which would give you a very handy sized journal, or even a double elephant sheet. Of course you would need a larger working area and you may feel that you are wrestling an octopus! This is the simplest form of folded book. If you wanted to have a book without the double pages, you will need to splice strips together. This is not tricky, but just takes a little longer.

I used this book to store 27 different texturing ideas and you can see me both making the book and filling it with tricks and techniques here:

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