Creating a Custom Circa Notebook Cover

When I was in high school back last century, it was before computers had taken ahold of society. There were no inkjets and no print-it-yourself scrapbooking ephemera from CD-ROM collections, and even “clip art” collections –usually of the Dover variety– where generally only available in messy third-generation Gestetner reproductions from unclean woodcuts and etchings. (You folks older than 35 probably know what I’m talking about… you kids, you just hug your svelte little Macbooks and thank heaven for Epson.) In short, it was nowhere near as easy to create a custom notebook or journal without grabbing your X-Acto knives, some glue, scraps of leatherette or thick paper, and a bunch of markers or paints. Yup, those were actually a lot of fun, those little craft projects, but for every personalised tome worthy of keeping, there would inevitably be five sorry-looking collections of folded scraps sporting misshapen heads you drew, glued beads and plastic charms from gumball machines that would fall off within two days, and perhaps a photo-machine strip of yourself and a friend making goofy faces. Not that these didn’t have a personal connection of some type, but you just knew everybody would make fun of you if you took it out of your knapsack in public.

Now, it’s not so much that a Levenger Circa Notebook out of the box is a plain thing. In fact, it’s rather elegant in a way. But sometimes you just want to make something your own.

Sherlockian NotebookThe other day, I decided that I wanted a nice little notebook to keep track of my Sherlockian notes for a new website. It had to be Junior/Classic size, since I wanted the sheets to be interchangeable with my planner, but I wanted something a little more inspiring. Herewith, a little guide to making some slick custom covers.


  • A cover/binding set, such as a Circa punch, rings and covers, or another binding system, such as with plastic combs — check your company’s office supply room
  • Computer and inkjet printer
  • Photo paper (I used Kodak Gloss 44 Lb)
  • Avery 9″x12″ Self Adhesive Laminating Sheets (73603) (or a laminating kit)
  • A simple page layout program, such as 2 Draw (or a more complicated one, like Adobe Illustrator, if you know it)
  • Sharp scissors
  • A guillotine or other paper cutter; alternatively, an X-Acto knife with metal ruler, or scissors with a steady hand

These instructions assume a Junior/Classic size cover created from a letter size sheet, but please adjust accordingly for your paper size and materials. Except for the ink drying time, the procedure can be done in about fifteen minutes if you have the supplies handy.

  1. First of all, choose an image for your cover. It could be a photograph, a poster you scanned, a piece of art you downloaded, or so on. For mine, I chose a poster image I retouched for my old Sherlockian blog. You may also want to choose a back cover image as well, perhaps something more subtle or smaller than your cover.
  2. In your page layout program, create a blank letter size page in landscape (i.e., horizontal) orientation. Drag a guideline across to the half-way point at 5.5″. This will show you the eventual cut line between the two Classic sized pages.
  3. Import or place your images on the Classic pages so they are in a suitable position — say, centered within each page. You can also add a text title if you so wish.
  4. Print the page onto the photo paper. Note that you may need to adjust your printer settings for brightness for optimal quality. Don’t use card stock or any other absorbent paper, lest the colours really dull./li>
  5. Once the ink safely dries, usually within a few hours, take a laminating sheet and peel off the back. Then, very carefully, start laying your printed page onto the sticky side, image face down, starting from the short edge. Do this slowly, and use your fingers to flatten each portion as it rolls onto the laminate. Once it’s all down, rub your fingers all over the back, pressing down the paper to ensure that it’s in contact with the laminate everywhere. A large air bubble may ruin the appearance of the cover, although it’s possible to let the air out with a pin prick.
  6. If you want a thicker cover, you can also laminate the other, unprinted side as well. (I didn’t see a need for mine.)
  7. Using the scissors or a cutter, remove the excess plastic. I found that the inside of an open pair of sharp scissors could be “pushed” along the edge of the paper, stripping it off without harming the paper.
  8. Using a guillotine or cutter, divide the paper at the 5.5″ half-way point. If your guillotine isn’t very sharp, I’d advise cutting a half-inch notch with scissors to get the cut started, then using the guillotine for the rest of a nice clean and even cut. You could also use an X-Acto knife with a metal ruler: use newspaper or a self-healing mat so that you don’t damage your table.
  9. Sherlockian Notebook, backYou should now have two covers, ready to be punched and inserted into your Circa notebook.

If you use thicker or double laminate, these can actually replace the thick plastic Circa covers. However, I sort of like the “frosted” look of the Levenger covers, and so have used a single laminating sheet with my printed covers inside of them.

Fill your new notebook with blank paper, templates, quality drawing paper, tabbed dividers, or anything else to make it your own.

The costs to create a custom notebook are actually pretty cheap if you already have a punch — and if you’re going to make cheap Circa paper to keep your notebooks and planners filled, you really need a punch. The laminating sheets generally work out to about a dollar each (thus two long-lasting covers) and you can always buy a batch of reusable Circa rings from Levenger, and cheaper cover materials to cut down, such as report covers, for next to nothing at your local mega-mart. You can also get a tall stack of Classic-sized paper for five dollars, or get your local print shop to cut a pack of letter-size paper in half for a few dollars more. Thus, you’re getting a never-ending supply of beautiful Circa personalised notebooks for pennies each. Take it from a guy who knows his quality notebooks: that’s a sweat deal, and especially when the results are so professional-looking and so finely attuned to your life and interests.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.