Making a Picture Book Dummy

Tools for making a dummy
As publishers lean more and more towards picture books both written and illustrated by artists, creating a presentable dummy to show illustrations and text together is an important skill for illustrators today. This week Margaret Sturton explains one method.


I have had a fair amount of experience in bookbinding sketchbooks but making a dummy book is a challenge. I think the problem lies in having images and text already on the page that have to be kept in order. I used to try sticking images into a sketchbook but the results were disappointingly messy and changes were time consuming. 

I learnt the method described below last year. Watching a tutor make one made the learning process easier and the finished book was good enough to show editors and agents.

The main challenges of making a dummy book like this are the range of possible mistakes. I have stuck a dummy book together so all the pages were back to front. I have sliced off text and once when cutting down the book I strayed irretrievably from the ruler. I now check the order and orientation of the pages over and over again.

The whole process takes around 30 minutes to an hour. Good luck!



Metal ruler
Embossing tool or equivalent blunt point
Box wood modelling tool or other blunt knife for folding. A butter knife would do just as well
Sharp Stanley knife or scalpel
Cutting board
32 pieces of double sided sticky tape – length about half the height of the page (10-11cm for A4)

Your book printed out or photocopied as double page spreads. I usually scale down the pages to 70 or 80%. You should have a total of 16 pages if you are printing a double spread to A4 or A3 and have included end pages and title pages.


This is a fairly easy way of mocking up a dummy book without the hassle of trying to split up the spreads as a publisher would. 

1) Put the cover to one side. If you have the front and back cover on separate sheets, don’t worry, you can sort that out later. The other pages should be stacked in order, first to last page.

2) Take each page in turn, image side up, and score down the centre line using the embossing tool and a ruler.

Keep the ruler in place, fold and flatten the centre line using the modelling tool so the page lies flat. 

Stack the folded pages in order. Do not worry if the pages look wonky. That will be sorted out later.

3) Take a page from the top of the stack. Stick a strip of tape to the folded page close to the spine. 

Work through the rest of the stack, from the back to the front of the book. Keep checking the orientation of the pages.

4) Stick each page to the one in front using the guides on the cutting board to keep the spine lined up. Work from front to back. 

5) Fitting the cover is the next step. Using the cutting board as a guide, score two lines, 2mm from either side of the centre line. 

Use the knife to flatten the folds. You need a snug fit so make the fold for the spine smaller than the book.

6) Making sure the cover and book are the same way round; stick the cover to one end-page along the spine. 

 Flip the book over and stick the cover to the other end-page along the spine. To make this as neat as possible, stick the tape close to the spine.

If your front cover and back page are separate, do the steps above with a blank sheet of paper. Cut and stick the images on afterwards.

7) Mark pencil guides on the edges of the book to show where the images end. Use the cutting board to square the book. Trim down the top and bottom with a metal ruler and scalpel. Cut away a couple of pages at a time. Work from the spine to the outer edge and remove the scraps as they come loose.

8) Mark guides for the final rough edge and trim down.

9) Stick tape inside each set of blank pages.  

Remove the tape backing and stick the pages together, working from the back to the front so the final book lies flat.

The finished dummy


Margaret Sturton is a writer/illustrator based in Winchester. Her website is at


  1. Brilliant! Best tutorial I've come across on putting a dummy together. I gave up making my own dummies a little while ago and started just photo copying straight into notebooks, but will now give this a try. Thanks Margaret.

    1. Hi Jaime - I hope that your book looks good!

  2. Useful tips Margaret thanks. I like the bit saying "make sure the covers and the book are the same way up', obviously from experience! : )

  3. Well done Margaret, this is an excellent step-by-step, I think you've galvanised several of us to brush up our story submissions!

  4. Margaret this is brilliant - I am in total awe of and very grateful to people who can so beautifully demonstrate with such clear images and instructions how to perform task. This is essential for any picture book creator. Thank you

  5. Hello there Margaret!!! What a blast from the past (Jane S from the Summer School). Brilliant demo for the dummy book - really clear. Will pass on the post! xx


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.