Designing your own bookplate 101

Designing your own bookplate 101

Jessica Le

Designing your own bookplate can be incredibly satisfying! Below are some hints and tips on what to consider when making your own.

1. Finding inspiration

Some great places to find bookplate inspiration is on Pinterest or Flickr. The Pratt Institute Libraries Ex Libris collection contains over 1000 bookplates and is one of my favourite resources. There's also the Digital Ex Libris Museum which has more European bookplates and the New Australian Bookplate Society has an Instagram page posting bookplates too.

2. Size

There's no hard and fast rule for size, I've seen bookplates go as large as A5 and others as small as a thumbnail. I try and design around 90 x 66mm rectangular since it's a good size for both paperback and hardbacks but you could experiment with different shapes like circles, hearts or diecutting around your design.

3. Paper and printing

Usually bookplates are printed on matte or uncoated papers, between 90-150gsm in weight. Paper stock that is too thick won't sit flush inside a book. You also want to opt for good quality acid-free paper that won't deteriorate or turn yellow with time. Depending on ease of use you could choose from self-adhesive stock or non-adhesive. 

Printing may be a matter of budget since there's so many ways to utilise modern or traditional printing techniques -- you could consider standard inkjet printing straight onto self-adhesive paper, specialist metallic or foiling, die cutting, letterpress or lino, engraving and other print making. In any case, be sure to consider the longevity of each print.

If you're printing by yourself also consider sheet size -- how many bookplates can fit on the one printed sheet? Can you optimise the bookplate size so you can be more economical about how many you can fit on a sheet? Reducing paper waste may not be on everyone's mind but it's just something to consider!

4. Wording

A key part of any bookplate is adding your (or if you're designing for someone else - the owner's) name. While 'ex libris' (Latin for From the library of) is the most traditional there are a number of other ways to indicate ownership:

  • Ex libris [owner's name]
  • From the library of [owner's name]
  • From the books of [owner's name]
  • This book belongs to [owner's name]
  • From the home library of [owner's name]
  • This book is mine [owner's name]
  • From among the books 
  • [owner's name] their/her/his book

A word of advice, if you're planning to put the text together digitally consider the look and feel of the font in relation to your imagery - the two should complement each other. If your artwork contains soft flowing lines try a font with a similar line weight. At times I'll find a font that looks perfect but against my illustration it could feel too stiff and perfect so I end up 'tracing' the font onto my design. As a result the font blends more with my illustrative style. 

5. Imagery

Bookplates are highly personal objects that reflect the interests of their owner so definitely take some time to brainstorm what sort of imagery or symbols you'd like your bookplate to have! Some designs utilise a border to separate it more from the endpapers but like anything this is entirely up to you.

I hope this was helpful! There's always space for more bookplates in the world. 


Jessica Le is the founder of Fleur & Fable. She writes about bookplates and is a member of The New Australian Bookplate Society.
☛ info@fleurandfable.com.au

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