DIY Faux Vintage Book Wall Art Installation

15 Materials
20 Hours

Hello friends! Today I'll be giving you a tutorial on how to make a HUGE statement piece for your home out of old books and paint! I actually pre-aged my books (using thrift store book finds that I soaked in coffee and let dry), but you can use any books you want! Paperbacks tend to be easier though, and I recommend ripping off the covers. Then, you just need some nails, glue dots and projector!

Here are my pre-aged books - I used 67 total on the wall!

As you can see, this wall before the art went

Step 1: Remove everything from the area where you will be working (or cover large pieces of furniture with towels or drop cloths), and visually take stock of your space to decide how large you would like your art installation to be. Ours is approximately 5 feet tall and 97″ wide, and I wanted it to span most of the wall. I used blue tape to mark off exactly where I wanted the books to go, so that when hanging them, I would be able to use that as a guide.

I used a level and pencil to make small marks on the wall, and then put up blue painters tape along those marks. I didn’t see the need to do a strip at the top, so I just added little horizontal strips of tape to mark off the top corners.

PRO TIP: MARK YOUR STUDS! We did not do this, and while it’s not a HUGE deal, it will save you a headache later if you ever want to take this art installation down – because yes, there will be a LOT of nails in your wall! (Also don’t do this project if you don’t want nail holes in your wall, because there will be a LOT). And because I used finishing nails, which have little to no head, it’s nearly impossible to remove them from a stud! If you mark your stud, you can use regular headed nails in these spots, which will help you remove them at a later date if needed!

Step 2: Mark out an identical space on your floor. I just marked out the corners, not the full sides. You are just doing this to have a spot to lay out all your books so you can visually see them laid out in the same size space before nailing into the wall.Now lay out your books until you like what you see! Some things I kept in mind included equally spacing out larger books and smaller books, as well as more aged books and less aged books. You don’t want a whole row of large books at the top and then none anywhere else, etc!

Step 3: Start at the top left, and begin nailing your books to the wall using finishing nails (or headed nails in your studs)! Start by holding up your book where you want it, and nail a finishing nail into a decent chunk of pages on one side. Now, take a level underneath the book to be sure you are hanging it straight. Once leveled, take another nail on the opposite side of the book, and nail down (also be sure you are nailing down a good chunk of the pages). You want to nail an inch or so from the spine, and near the top of the book.

PRO TIP: If you can, project the image you want to paint AS you are hanging the books. I couldn’t do this because I didn’t have the projector yet. This meant that after we finally DID project the image, I ended up moving a bunch of books around because several were too far apart or not situated right to have the image look as good as possible – i.e. the eye of the horse was in between books – no bueno! If your image is projected as you hang, you can hang the books accordingly to ensure a maximum amount of the image will be seen! This wall also save you extra holes in your wall – gosh there must be hundreds in mine! Oh well!

Step 4: Repeat until ALL your books are hung. I went from left to right, and top down. This might sound daunting, but once you get going, its really not bad! It took me about an hour and a half total.

Step 5: Once all your books are hung, go back to the ones that won’t stay open, and use glue dots to secure the pages. I found that on most of these, I also had to use another nail. I nailed these nails in just ONE page down on either side (in other words, ALL the pages were secured on both the left and right side, except the very top ones that you could see). I then used a glue dot right on top of the nail to hold that ONE page down on either side.I didn’t do this to all the books. I wanted some to seem more open than others, especially the ones where there would be no paint. I like the texture and organic look the more open books provide, but it is definitely helpful to have the books you are painting on be flatter because you can see the image better, so those are the main ones I tacked down with extra nails and glue dots. Here, my finger is pointing to a nail topped with a glue dot which is holding down that top page.

Step 6: If you don’t already have your image projected, now is the time to get it up! I just pulled the image up on my computer and plugged it into the projector using an HDMI cable and adapter (Apple computers need an adapter for HDMI, just FYI). Also, in order to create the image, I used an App called Imaengine – it will take a regular photo and change it into a line drawing or sketch, or a bunch of other options! I did ultimately alter the line drawing image a bit on the final piece, but I did that after a majority of the horse was already painted. (I’m sorry, I cannot share the horse image we used for several reasons. This is a one of kind piece, and while I’d love to see you do this in your home, I encourage you to do so with your own unique image! The Imaengine App is easy to use and you can create your very own unique piece of art!) Place the projector somewhere where the image is as straight on as possible – ours was a little off straight though, and it didn’t seem to matter much!

PRO TIP: It will be easier to see (and ultimately paint) your projected image if your room is darker - so close those blinds and turn off the lights, too!

Step 7: Now it’s time to paint! I used simple acrylic paint in black, one small paint brush and a sponge brush for large areas I needed to fill in. Don’t worry if it seems weird or doesn’t look like what you think it’s supposed to as you start painting (being up close to it is super weird, I know)! Once you get a good chunk painted, the image will start to come through!

PRO TIP: Keep your nails and glue dots handy as you work, you may find that the paint has caused a page or two to curl, and you’ll need to tack it down.

As you can see, even with just a few books paints, his face starts to take shape! Keep painting until the entire image is transferred onto your books!

Step 8: Once you are done painting, clean up your space, wash your brushes, re-style everything and you are DONE! You now have a VERY inexpensive ($15 - $20 if you own or can find a projector to borrow!), but absolute STATEMENT piece in your home. Trust me, it’s a definite conversation starter!

We named him Booker, and we LOVE HIM!

Here is a close up of his sweet face!

He truly is the perfect piece of added farmhouse charm to our home, and while a bit time consuming, truly not hard! I hope Booker has inspired you to create something you love in your home, too! You can check out more of my work on my blog or at my Instagram handle @fiddleleafinteriors!



Resources for this project:

See all materials
Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Hometalk may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.More info

Ana Ochoa - Fiddle Leaf Interiors
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

3 of 48 questions
  • Carolina's Art Carolina's Art on Jan 05, 2021

    Do you have a posting on how you made the sofa?

  • Lisa Lisa on May 23, 2021

    Do you have recommendation for sources for finding so many books the same size? I’m thinking these were all paperbacks?

  • Cary Cary on Jul 23, 2021

    I thought that if you didn't want or could not (renters) put nails into walls then couldn't you do this on plywood or something and just hang on the wall?? I'd hang wood on wall then go for it-- and in this case you would want to nail into a stud for support! I'd also paint the board first like an antique cream color so it doesn't distract from the books - I'd dye books first, bring to a paint store and have them match color!!!! Beautiful!


Join the conversation

2 of 732 comments