A journal is a gift that keeps giving throughout the year, but a homemade journal can be even more meaningful. This guide shows you how to make a simple 50-page journal using tools you already have, including a color inkjet printer, your Mac, and Pages ’09. Be sure to have heavy paper, Elmer's Glue-All, wax paper, an X-Acto knife, a metal ruler, and a paintbrush you don't mind using with glue on hand before you start. You'll also need access to a paper cutter.
Create interior pages
In Pages, select File -> New From Template Chooser, then the Blank Canvas Landscape from the Page Layout templates. Each page of this document gives you two journal pages.
Select View -> Show Rulers, then with the page in layout mode (View -> Show Layout), drag a guide from the vertical ruler to the exact center of the page. Select Insert -> Text Box, then View -> Show Inspector. In the Metrics inspector, set the box’s dimensions to 4.25 by 7.5 inches. Click the placeholder text, then hold the Shift and dash keys until you have several complete lines of underscore characters. Double-click to select them. In the Text inspector, click the black color swatch and choose a lighter color that won’t obscure handwriting. Change the underscore’s Line Spacing to 1.6 to approximate college ruled paper. Next, click the Center Text button to ensure the lines are flush with each other. Select Edit -> Copy, then Paste several times to fill the text box with lines.
Position the text box .50 inches from the top of the page and .75 inches from its left edge. Select Edit -> Duplicate, then position the second text box .75 inches right of the center guide and .50 inches from the top of the page. This looks lopsided, but it will give your pages a .50-inch outer margin while ensuring their writing spaces are easily accessible after binding. In the sidebar, select your page and choose Edit -> Duplicate until you have 25 pages. Now save the document.
Create a new blank vertical canvas from the Template Chooser, then duplicate the page so that the front and back covers will appear on two separate pages.
Select View -> Show Media Browser, then click the Media Browser’s Photos button and pick two vertical photographs from your iPhoto library. Create the front cover by dragging a photo to your first page, and with the photo still selected, choose Format -> Mask. In the Metrics Inspector, enter the size of your cover, 5.5 by 8.5 inches, and position it roughly in the center of the page. Hold the shift key and drag the image’s handles to resize the picture proportionally to fit the mask. Use the Edit Mask slider to resize and reposition the image or double-click the picture and reposition it within the mask as needed. Double click when you're done to move the mask and image on the page. Repeat this process on the second page to create a back cover. Print the pages onto photo paper, then cut out each cover precisely using an X-acto knife and ruler.
Print and assemble
Print the interior pages and cut them in half with a paper cutter (cutting just a few pages at a time). Making sure the pages’ .75-inch margins face the spine, stack them between the covers and tamp them flush against the spine on a table. Clamp the pages and covers together near the spine with binder clips. Then, with your book lying flat, apply several coats of Elmer’s glue to the spine with a stiff paintbrush. Squeeze pages together as you work, and allow the glue to dry somewhat between coats. Be sure to leave no gaps between pages. Be careful to avoid getting glue on the covers. When finished, fold wax paper around the book and flatten it with heavy weights for at least half an hour or until dry.
Meanwhile, cut a strip of heavy paper 8.5 inches tall and an inch wide. When your book is ready, crease the strip around its spine, then completely paint one side of the strip with glue. Apply it to your spine and allow to dry.
Your new journal’s lucky recipient will think of you whenever he or she writes in it. And because journals are so easy to make, it doesn’t take much extra work to create more for others to enjoy beyond the holidays.
[Adam Berenstain is a freelance writer based in upstate New York.]