Artists Books

I've really enjoyed this process of creating a tunnel book and wanted to share a step-by-step approach. Just like the old days of when Step-By-Step Magazine shared the techniques of top illustrators. I don't consider myself a top illustrator, but I enjoy sharing techniques and processes.

What is a tunnel book? It's like a diorama. There is a scene created by a number of pages that have been held together with accordion folds. I've posted a couple of images of two tunnel books that I've made to make things more clear.

First you need to have a clear line drawing of what you want to see in your tunnel book frame. I created a line drawing and then scanned it into the computer to clean it up. I resized in Photoshop to accommodate my smaller book size. Then I printed it out. I figured out what I want to appear on each layer of the book pages. You have to consider your illustration with real depth.

I am using lino cuts to reproduce each layer. If you are familiar with lino cuts it's a nice way to reproduce your work in case you want to sell prints. I personally like the look of relief printmaking. I also enjoy cutting out the sections in the lino blocks. You have to really think about what you are doing, because if you accidently make a mistake you can't correct as easily.

Once each plate has been cut for each page I make the initial proofs on newsprint. It's cheap. I also use styrofoam meat trays to mix my ink. Once again I'm cheap, and it's a good way to recycle. I use Speedball water based inks. I prefer Daniel Smith's water based inks. The DS ink has a better hold on the paper, and comes in larger tubes. I mix retarder to keep the ink from drying too quickly. I roll up each plate and then test out colors. I use a rolling pin for a barren.

After I figure out what colors work I start printing each plate on the nicer thicker paper. A thicker weight is necessary for the pages to be able to stand up. I use Stonehedge paper. It's about 100 lb cover weight paper. Maybe slightly thicker. Once I've printed each of the pages I use watercolor to fill it in with color, and add details. I use an Xacto knife to cut away the parts of the illustration that the page behind it needs to show through.

For my frame I make it out of a piece of old cardboard hanging around the house. I'm such a pack rat that I can usually find something in the house to use for the frame. The inner cut of the frame is 1/2 inch smaller then the illustration. I had some handmade paper around that I used to cover the front of the frame. I fold accordion folds out of the Stonehedge that will be glued to the front and back frames to hold the pages in between.

Once the frame is assembled I can slide each of the pages in. The final looks like one entire piece. Sometimes I'll take the time to create a portfolio that will protect the book. Some artists will make limited runs of their books, but once I've finished one book I like the idea that it is unique and one of a kind.


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