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Painting Old Books For An Attention Grabbing Look

How To Paint A Book To Look Like A Vintage Red Cross First Aid Book

Painting old books is easy. In just a few minutes and you can have new inexpensive decor. You can paint the books any color and add any design. The ideas are endless. The book I painted today features the Red Cross emblem and my favorite color combination of red and white.

Painting Old Books For Home Decor

Painted Book

Vintage medical cabinets and other items with the red cross symbol always catch my eye. I’ve been wanting to paint something with the red cross symbol for a while and this book is hopefully the first in a line of similar projects. I want to paint a wood box or case and a large wood trunk with the emblem. Just haven’t found the right project items yet.

It’s Thrift Store Décor Day and my thrifty pals have projects to share. The links are after my painted book tutorial.

old book recycle with white paint

I bought this book at the local flea market/thrift store for 50 cents. Not a bad price at all. It had a paper cover but I did away with that.


This is the wood box I spotted at the  Nashville Flea Market last month that reminded me I wanted to do a red cross diy.

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Painting Old Books For An Attention Grabbing Look

First step in the process was painting the book. I chose FolkArt Coastal Textured Paint in Sand Dollar for the project. The color isn’t white white…….it’s just right. The paint has a flat finish which I like a lot.

painting old books white and distressing the paint

I used 150 grit flexible sandpaper to distress the paint a bit and add to the vintage aged look. I love this sandpaper!

acrylic paint for a book painting project

Next step was finding just the right red in my paint stash. I found two colors to create the perfect red, FolkArt Acrylic Paints in Imperial Red and Apple Red.

how to stencil a red cross on a book

I didn’t have a cross stencil or a first aid stencil. What to do?? I tried cutting a stencil for the cross from thick paper but never could get it right. I went through my stencil stash and ended up using the bakery stencil. The top on the large T was 1 inch wide and 3 inches long, which was the exact size I was going for to make the cross. I painted one line of the cross and turned the stencil to paint the other line. Easy.

stenciling a painted book to look like an antique red cross first aid book

I found an alphabet stencil to use for “First Aid”. I painted each individual letter and was worried I wouldn’t have enough room to stencil the two words along the bottom of the book.

FolkArt alphabet stencil

This is the FolkArt alphabet stencil I used.

painting an old book to look like a Red Cross First Aid book

I squashed the letters together and “First Aid” came out just right.I looked at the finished stencil job and decided it needed distressing.

distressing white paint

Distressed paint makes me happy. Perfectly Imperfect.

painting books white

Well, that turned out great. Now I need to find that wood trunk and a small wood box or something similar for my next red cross projects.

briefcase for paint project

I bought this briefcase for $2 and it might work but I don’t know about the rough texture. It’s hard plastic too. Can you see it painted white with a red cross in the middle? I’ll give it a try since I have it.

How To Paint A Book To Look Like A Vintage Red Cross First Aid Book

I decided not to paint the segments that would fill in the letters (where the letters have the cut out parts).

how to paint an old book and make it a cool coffee table book

Did you notice the upside down Walgreens adhesive tape on the right. I never notice this stuff when taking the photos.

painting old books red and white with the red cross symbol

Sooooo, what do you think of my painted book? I think it turned out great. I’m patting myself on the back. Want to give this project a try? You can actually order cross and first aid stencils. I could make a stencil if I ever set up my Cricut. I need someone to do that for me.

Time to take the thrift store tour. Just click the text links under the “before makeovers” photo collage below.

thrift store decor tour March 2019 before makeover collage

Rustic Pottery Barn Mirror Makeover

Painting Old Books (you are here)

Mid Century Modern Makeover on a Lazy Susan

DIY Striped Serving Tray

Repurposing a Typewriter

Wine Barrel Makeover

Vintage Train Case Makeover

Pedestal Bowl Makeover

That’s it for me. You guys have a great day and thanks for being here, Kathy

Kathy Owen founder of Petticoat Junktion
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Author: Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen is the founder of the home decor blog Petticoat Junktion where she shares tutorials on painting furniture and upcycling thrifty finds into unique home décor. Her DIY projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Kathy’s newest website is HappyHomeDIY.com

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  1. Not crazy at all Naomi. I love your story. You paint that book and use your pen name. Glad I could inspire. Keep reading and commenting Naomi. I love reading all of the comments although it’s sometimes hard to reply to all of them. Happy painting friend.

  2. Well, Kathy, First Aid stuff doesn’t really call to me if I’m honest! However, I am intrigued with the idea of painting books. I never tho’t about it before but I think it might be fun. I’ve often tho’t of ideas for titles for imaginary books and I think I might paint a book or two with my imaginary titles and my pen name. My mother wanted to name me Jane Marie but her family, ie. parents and aunt mainly, didn’t approve so she chose the name I’ve lived with for seventy-five years: Naomi Rose. From Kindergarten on I’ve never been comfortable with my first name so I’ve imagined changing it to Jane Marie. I never did, but I’ve tho’t it would be a great pen name with perhaps my mother’s maiden name of Slater for a last name. Soooo…if I painted some books I could become a pretend author with a pretend name! Crazy, huh? But a great reason to pain a few books! Isn’t imagination wonderful??

    Thanks for the inspiration, friend!

  3. You should be able to paint that briefcase using chalk paint with no problems. It’s pretty good at covering anything, as long as the surface is cleaned and rinsed well.

    Your book looks great!

  4. Great job Kathy. I really would like to know where you found the flexible sandpaper. That would really come in handy.

  5. You could cut out the center of the book and actually store band aides and other small items. You did a great job! I love how it turned out!!

  6. Woohoo! Kathy, I think I love your red cross book. 🙂 I need to “collect” something. I know Sarah has a passion for first aid stuff too…. I think y’all are on to something here! 😉



  7. This is such a great idea! So many ideas running through my head for painted books!

  8. Love it, I have always wanted to paint a book or two to fit my decor. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. A couple years ago I started a small collection of old first aid stuff and didn’t get too far. This would be perfect to add to the collection for a vignette. Very cute!!!