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.

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52 Journal Entries

I really liked the idea of keeping 52 cards to paint, but i dont have time to paint cards daily... so I'm following the idea except using index cards.

I like this blog.


Beautiful :)

I did this just last week when I received my letter-sized Evergreen zip folio, though it was obviously a lot easier for me since all I had to do was print borderless on regular 8.5" x 11" glossy picture paper and punch. :) In my case, I used one of those nifty images that are now available for digital scrapbooking. (I don't scrapbook, but I love the printable papers that are out now.) No laminating on that one since I'm using a frosted Levenger Circa cover.

Of course, this set me off (esp. when I discovered my ink jet cartridges were close to expiring - use those puppies up!), so now I have 3 x 5 cards with nifty backs and soft images on the front that I then overprint with a DIY template. Also have some business-sized note cards printed front and back for quick reminders. Someone's post about their wife liking the pretty floral Daytimers pages (memory is weak so that could be all wrong) made me want to print my own. It helps that I had all the supplies to hand - extra index card and business card sheets from Avery, ink jet, digital papers from another project.

Images. Nice.

That's the only downside to having a leather cover for the notebook (or the hPDA): you can't costumize it as much. Or much at all. That's the other reason I did not buy the black Circa PDA cover at Levenger last week. Aside from the sweetness of the upcoming Grapemist, it's just a plain leather cover. It looks the same as all the other leather covers from Levenger. It does not look like MY cover. I might have my sister burnish my foldover covers next time I see her. She is a leather artist, so might as well use her skills. Something uniquely ME!

"It's better to be a pirate than to join the Navy." -- Steve Jobs

I love scrapbooking

i love to scrap book also i was wondering if you could email me some templates

No, but...

You can download lots of them from this site.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Found way to make Circa type notebook Easily

Have Circa discs, punch on order from Levenger.

While waiting made small 3x5 inch note book with ease. I seems to function well can fold back like a stenno note book.

Made covers out of pressboard.

Used 2 hole punch for holes and adjusted the edge holder all the way in. Put hole one one side flipped paper over 180 degrees put hole on other side. That keeps pages symmetrical. Used scissor to cut thru to the hole but removed no stock. That takes care of the cover and pages.

Cut rings out of copper tubing one inch in diameter with my band saw. You can use any convenient way to cut rings out. Make rings just a tad smaller than the hole. Smooth out the rings. I used a drumel tool.

Put your notebook together.

The whole process should not take much more than an hour.

Circa rings from copper tubing

Saw your hack several days ago and cannot forget.

I admire your imaginative and practical solution. Now I need to try it myself and buy copper tubing and a saw. To avoid the expense of a Dremel, I can use sandpaper for smoothing the copper edges.

Of course, my rings will be chickified with pink nail polish.

How do you like your Circa punch?

Last month Levenger exchanged mine which was only two months old for the newer model with the larger holes/mushrooms, and I am even happier with the Circa system now.

Thank you for the fun idea.


circa notebook evaluations and comments

Hi; It has been long time since I tried to use rings cut out of copper pipe. I thought it worked but found the rings did not fill in the mushroom shaped circa holed and were not effective.

I use a lot of steno note books. Tried to make one with circa rings but the 5 rings I used did not stand up the rough use a steno takes. The pages tend to come out with 24# paper. I went to card stock but 80 pages make a thick steno and it is also heavy.
If you make the notebook so it opens like a book and takes 8 rings for a 8.5x5.5 inch notebook the pages stay in fairly well with 24# paper but it is no longer steno type. When this note book is filled I punch round holes in the pages put it together with split rings for storage make a new circa notebook with the old rings. The notebook with split rings is not as bulky as with circa rings.

I do make a 3x5 notebook with 24# paper with 5 rings on the side that I carry and use all the time. It is like a timex watch takes a beating and keeps ticking.

I have a second 3x5 that I have info off my old pda and do not have to charge batteries. Did that when my old pda would not run on my new computer.