Sell Crafts
Site Search


Arts and Craft Definitions

OR What's That You Said?
40% Off RPI at Joann.com (Code: AE975)
Free shipping at Joann.com! Code: AP975

When I was new to the arts and craft of making altered books, I encountered terms that I did not understand. Experienced ABers would kindly offer instructions for a particular technique, but all too often I had no idea what they were talking about.

This page explains some of the terms that puzzle newcomers to arts and craft. You'll find other terms explained elsewhere in this site. Don't be expecting dictionary definitons, though. I'm using my own words to tell you what these terms mean to me when used in the context of book altering.


A | B | C | D |E | F |G | I | J | L |M|N |O |P | Q |R | S |T | U |V |W |X |


A Humument
This is the name of the classic altered book created by artist Tom Phillips in the sixties. The original book was named A Human Document.More about A Humument ... click here.

A transparent or translucent plastic sheet material that is used for artwork and overlays. Acetate comes in a variety of colors. More about acetate ... click here.

This is a water-soluble polymer used in paints. Acrylic increases the toughness and flexibility of the dried paint.

Assemblage Art: GATHERING
As the name implies, arts and craft artists create pages using assembled 3-D items. You might find overlapping images, text, found objects, beads, wires, buttons, or anything else that caught the artist's eye. Assemblage art is similar to its first cousin, collage art. More about assemblage art... click here.

Acid Free
Acid occurs naturally in organic substances, such as paper. Acid will rot and destroy photographs or various other elements if it comes in contact with them. If presevering your projects for years to come is important to you, you must avoid the use of paper that is not labelled "acid free". A substance with a ph balance of 7.1 or higher is considered acid free. More about archival quality... click here.

Angel Stamps
Angel stamps are rubber stamps that the developer permits you to use in arts and craft projects that you intend to sell. Restrictions may apply. More about angel stamps... click here.

Artist Trading Cards (ATC)
Small artistic, cards that artists make for the purpose of trading with others. ATCs are usually about 2 ˝ X 3 ˝ inch (64 X 89 mm). Usually made from card stock, they can be used as embellishments in altered books.


To burnish means to polish or make shiny by rubbing. It also means to rub (a material) with a tool for compacting or smoothing or for turning an edge. Altered book artists burnish pages that have been glued together to reduce wrinkling and warping.

A brayer is an arts and craft tool resembling a paint roller in appearance. Altered book artists use it to apply color and to burnish glued pages. More about brayers.. click here.

Bead Craft
Bead craft is the art or craft of using beads to make or decorate objects. Altered book artists use beads in many ways. More about bead craft... click here.

Book Binding
The craft of making books. Altered book artists sometimes delve into book binding techniques to create special effects. More about book binding ... click here.


Card Stock (CS)
Heavy paper used for making cards, scrapbook pages, artist playing cards, and multiple other projects.

Color Wheel
A Color Wheel organizes colors in a circle so you can visualize how they relate to each other. More about color wheels ... click here.

Coptic Stitch
This is a hand-stitching technique used in the arts and craft of bookbinding. It leaves the spine exposed so the book can open a full 360 degrees. Altered book artists sometimes rebind their books with coptic stitch. More about coptic stitch ... click here.

Crackle Finish
Crackle finishes (created with crackle mediums) have an an aged, weathered look, resembling cracked glass. Faux finishes, including crackle finishes, are popular in vintage and heritage layouts. More about crackle finishes... click here.


Dremel is a brand name for a rotary tool that has multiple uses and purposes. Although intended for handiman projects, altered book artists have embraced this tool for its value in making altered books. More about the Dremel ... click here.


Encaustic Art
Encaustic artists use beeswax with damar resin added, then mixed with saturated paint. For more information, check out this book ... The Art of Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented Wax

The dictionary says it's 1 : something of no lasting significance -- usually used in plural;2 ephemera plural : collectibles (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) not intended to have lasting value. Altered book artists treasure it, however. More about ephemera ... click here.

Decorative, metallic fasteners often used to hold paper or fabric elements together. More about eyelets... click here.


Faux or Faux Finish
Faux finishes are simulations of other materials. A faux finish might simulate stones, wood, or metal, for example. AB artists use faux finishes for backgrounds, embellishments or book covers.

Filigree refers to delicate, open, lacelike ornaments, often made from wire. You'll find various uses for filigree in your arts and craft projects.

Filigree refers to delicate, open, lacelike ornaments, often made from wire.

Found Poetry
Altered book artists using this technique use the text on a page to form a new message. You locate and isolate words to form a new message. More about found poetry ... click here.

Future Floor Wax (or Finish)
It's a liquid floor wax. Arts and craft people sometimes use it as an inexpensive sealer for polymer clay embellishments, embellishments made from hot glue, and more. It is also used in the Caught in Crystal Technique. Future Floor Wax is acrylic, dries to a clear, hard finish and is inexpensive. It can sometimes be used as a substitute for the more pricy Crystal Laquer or Dimensional Magic type of products.


Gesso is a primer made from gypsum and a binder. AB artists sometimes prime the book's pages with gesso prior to adding color. The gesso adds strength to a page, enhances coverage, and also adds tooth (ie.roughness) to help paint adhere to a smooth page. Traditionally, gesso's binder was made from animal hyde glue. AB artists favor acrylic gesso, and often use it simply to create special effects. Gesso is available in clear, white, black, and in various colors.

Gold Leaf
Gold Leaf is extremely fine foil that altered book artists sometimes use to create special embellishments. Apply adhesive to an area to be gold leafed (gilded), then rub the fine gold foil over it. The foil crumbles and sticks as you rub. Save the crumbs for something else. It's not inexpensive. You can purchase gold leaf at MisterArt.com

An opaque, watercolor paint. More about gouche... click here.

Gum Arabic
A binder dervied from hardened sap of the acacia tree. Watercolors and gouache contain gum arabic as a binder. You can buy the gum in bottles for other purposes. For example, Jacquard Pearl-Ex powders can be used as a paint when water and gum arabic is added.


Iris Folding
A paper craft in which strips of paper are folded to form a design in a cut-out shape. More about iris folding... click here.


Japanese Screw Punch
A Japanese-made tool used for punching holes in book board, polymer clay, etc. It is noiseless, powerful, and cuts through tough boards like butter.

Joss Papers
Chinese Joss Paper (often made with rice paper), is a thin paper with a handmade feel. Its imperfections add to the appeal, and make it perfect for use in collage, altered books and in other arts and craft projects. Please be aware that this paper is sacred in some Asian cultures, and to use it disrespectfully will offend these groups. You can often locate hard-to-find items like this at


Lamination or Laminate
To laminate means to permanently bond two layers of plastic film to an item by applying high heat and pressure. It's important for you to understand that the heat and pressure will eventually destroy the item you are intending to protect. Cold laminating, done with a Xyron® machine, is a different story. More about Xyron® lamination... click here.

A clear gloss coating applied to printed material for strength, appearance and protection.

Lazertran is a transfer paper that will transfer a color image onto glass, fabric, paper, metal, plastic, and even onto polymer clay. The transfered image is vivid, photo-quality, and transparent. More about Lazertran... click here.

Lignin is a substance found in all plants. Paper made from wood pulp is high in lignon unless the lignon has been removed. Photographs or other elements that come in contact with lignon will become brittle and turn yellow. If presevering the life of your photographs is important to you, be sure to use only papers that are lignin free and archival quality.More about archival quality... click here.

A beautiful fabric paint that altered book artists love to use in altered books. Made by Jacquard, Lumiere is acrylic, translucent, fast drying, and available in a wide range of colors. You can usually find it with the fabric paints at Michaels arts and craft store, or buy online from MisterArt.com


Mountain Fold
A paper folding term. The paper is folded so you are facing the outer fold, or ""mountain". The other side is the valley fold.


This Jacquard paint is similar to Lumiere, but is opaque. Use it for many effects, on almost any surface, including altered books and other arts and craft projects. When mixed with Lumiere it produces an antique effect. You can usually find it with the fabric paints at Michaels arts and craft store, or buy online from MisterArt.com


This Chinese, and later Japanese, art of paper folding is used to create shapes such as animals, birds, boxes, etc. You can purchase origami papers at craft shops including Michaels Arts and Crafts for your arts and craft projects. I once met Joseph Wu, possibly North America's leading origami artist. Check out his web site


Also known as Parchment Craft. This arts and craft skill is relatively new to North America. Designs are created on thick parchment paper using a combination of inks, dry embossing, and paper perforation. More about pergamano click here.

Photo Books
Displaying your art work creatively in the best photo books possible has been a concept for quite some time. Photo books can be personalized with images and texts. Photographic printing technology has improved over the years which allows for more creativity and flexibility with your albums and books. Click for more great photo book ideas and examples.

A technique in which rubber stamping is done over of photographs. The photographs are likely to be scenes, skies, sunsets. etc.

Polyester Plastic
The Polyester plastic used in the altered book world is strong plastic sheeting, often erroneously called acetate. More about polyester plastic click here.

Polymer Clay
An acrylic based clay used for making embellishments, beads, jewellry, etc. Brand names include Fimo, Sculpey, and Primo. Arts and crafts people sometimes use a pasta machine to roll polymer clay into sheets.


Also known as paper filigree, this arts and craft involves twisting strips of paper into shapes which are then glued in place to form a pattern. More about quilling ...click here.


Release Paper
This is the shiny, slick paper that stickers are attached to. Nothing will stick permanently to release paper. AB artists use it for various purposes, including the Jonathan Talbot method of image transfer.

Round Robin
An arrangement in which two or more people agree to work on one or more books, according to an agreed-upon theme. More about round robins ... click here.


A completely different art form sometimes called a memory book or a memory album. Some scrapbooks feature altered art, however, and some altered books may contain elements and components borrowed from scrapbooking. More about scrapbooks at this link ... click here.

An undercoat of paint or varnish used to protect a surface

Shabby Chic
Currently trendy in arts and craft projects, this style involves distressing or aging page elements to give a look that is "shabby chic." The technique includes paper crumpling and scrunching, sanding, aging, using transfers and transparencies, water spritzing, burning, bleach applications and more.

Sign in Page (or sign-in)
When more than one altered book artist works on a book, they often incorporate a sign in page. Each artist signs in, including information such as name, date, and possibly an individual art embellishment. More about sign in pages at this link ... click here.

Nope, it's not your John Hancock. In the world of the altered book artist (or the book binder), a signature is a sheet of paper that has been folded into 2, 4, 8 or 16 pages. For example, you might stack two papers, one on top of the other, then fold them in half. This forms a signature of eight single pages. More about signatures at this link ... click here.

A substance, usually a liquid, capable of dissolving another substance.

A spread refers to the two pages you see when a book is opened. Also called a "double page spread".

Stippling means creating a design with dots instead of lines. Arts and craft people use stippling effects when drawing, painting or engraving. Any tool capable of making dots will work (pencils, pens, crayons, brushes, etc). Stipple brushes have bristles that are all the same length. The stippling is performed with an up and down wrist movement.


When used by arts and craft artists, this term is not a judgement about the tastefulness of your work. :-) It means sticky, and usually refers to a glue's drying process. i.e. The page will be tacky for several hours.

This refers to attaching or "tipping in" an extra page or image to an existing book. More about Tipins... click here.

Thermal Transparency Paper
This term usually refers to paper such as that used in transparencies for overhead projectors. However, not all projector paper is thermal. You will need the thermal variety if you plan on applying heat or heat embossing. This material is used in the Caught in Crystal technique. You can purchase it at office supply stores such as Staples.

Transparency Paper
This term usually refers to the acetate-like paper used for page protectors, etc. It is used for various purposes, such as making shaker boxes and stamping, etc.

A versatile material developed by DuPont that combines some of the properties of paper, film and cloth. Arts and craft artists, including altered book artists, sometimes use Tyvek® in their work. More about Tyvek®... click here.


It's Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel, usually just called UTEE. Developed by Susie Weinberg, the product comes in a variety of colors and has many uses for your arts and craft projects. Flex is an optional, accompanying product that adds strength to UTEE items. You can purchase UTEE at ... joann.com


A paint containing a solvent and an oxidizing or evaporating binder. Varnish can be applied over dried paint to protect the surface or to modify the surface sheen (i.e. gloss, matte, semi-gloss).

Valley Fold
A paper folding term. The paper is folded so you are facing the inner fold, or ""valley". The other side is the mountain fold.


Walnut Ink
Walnut ink is an aging medium that is often used to make pages, tags, fabric, or other embellishments appear old in arts and craft projects. More about Walnut Ink... click here.


Xyron® is a registered trade name for a machine with four uses: The Xyron® can turn a paper into a sticker; do cold laminating; make labels; and make magnets. More about the Xyron® machine... click here.

Return to Home Page when you are finished reading the arts and craft definitions.