Little Marvel Designs is now Heather Ferlazzo Art! Same artist; new business name.
My Handmade Stationery Process

My Handmade Stationery Process

I love art for art's sake. I don't mind collecting more fine art prints than I can hang on my walls. But it's also nice to enjoy art when we write our grocery lists and daily to-do notes. This idea led me to create handmade stationery such as notepads, notebooks and journals using art from my own watercolor paintings.

“Handmade” seems to be a very popular term to throw around these days. In my opinion it’s a term with a large gray area. Lots of products are “handmade” at some point in their development meaning a person altered the raw materials in some way even though a factory did 80% of the work. On the other hand, there are craftsmen who do everything from gathering the raw materials and transforming them into a final product with nothing but their bare hands. It all depends on what you’re creating. Each of these methods has value, a need, and a place.

That being said, I want to let you in on how “handmade” my “handmade” products are by giving you a brief look at my process.

Step 1 – The Daydream

Initial Concept & Drawing It

You guessed it, I’m a dreamer. Quite often you can find me lost in a daydream. I enjoy watching clouds puff up and drift along and imagine what it would be like to live in that gnarly old tree.  The subjects of my paintings typically come from these daydreams, observations of nature, or personal spiritual beliefs.

I try to keep that initial spark of inspiration alive as I sketch out my vision. In my artistic style, I favor realism with a touch of fantasy. I’m big on figure drawing and making sure objects have a good sense of volume. Even after years of drawing study, I struggle with draftsmanship. Art is a lifelong pursuit. So after many crumpled up drawings, eraser crumbs on the floor and frustration out the wazoo, I am satisfied enough with how I communicated my vision that I proceed to Step 2. (Artists, we’re never satisfied!)

Preliminary drawing of "Angel Blessings"

Step 2 – Bringing It to Life

Painting It

Adding that first bit of color is magical. It transforms a grayscale drawing into something new, yet at the same time reveals how much MORE work needs to be done to complete it now that you’ve committed to color. Deep man, deep.

The art mediums I currently use are Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils and Winsor Newton professional watercolors. I started off using colored pencils and was excited to see what watercolor would have to offer. I’ve been experimenting and painting with watercolors for about a year now.

My painting method consists of starting with an underpainting using a relatively cool neutral tone to build values in order to communicate forms. I keep these tones on the shadow side of all objects. On the side where the light touches, I do a light wash with my “sun” or “light” color…usually a warm yellow tone. After the underpainting is complete, I add the local colors, the color of the actual object. I then continue to build up values (lights and darks), color saturation, and define details.


Underpainting of "Gabriel - God is my Strength"

Final painting of "Gabriel - God is my Strength"


Step 3 – Make Yourself Useful

Making Handmade Stationery

Now that the painting is complete, I can use it to create some artistic stationery products. First comes the process of scanning the painting, color-correcting and test printing it to make sure the reproductions look as close to the original as possible. I then set up my graphics files for notepad, notebook or journal covers and pages using the new painting. Now it’s on to printing!

Printing is for the most part a “set it and forget it” process, except for when the paper jams or requires a manual feed of one sheet at a time. I use an Epson Stylus Photo R2000 with pigment inks. I’m also lucky enough to know someone who has the exact same printer and lets me borrow it. Two printers! Woohoo! While all those pages are printing, let’s talk about the materials I use.


Inkjet Paper
The papers I use are professional quality and vary in weights. Prints are made on heavy-weight paper. Cards use medium-weight paper so they don’t require extra postage. Journal covers use light-weight paper so they can be wrapped around a sturdy chipboard cover.
Colored Paper
I actually use colored drawing papers such as  Colorline or Canson’s Mi-Teintes for the inside journal covers and back covers. I also use these to make the journal pocket and pocket pages. A bit unconventional? Possibly. But I know they are quality papers and they come in sizes large enough to wrap an 8x10 cover.
Laminating Sheets

I use self-adhesive laminating sheets on the journal and notebook covers to protect them from dirt etc.

Double-Sided Tape

This permanent tape is used to wrap the journal cover around the chipboard. There’s no drying time like glue and I don’t have to worry about ripples.

I use 24pt chipboard for the notepad backing and nice thick 45pt chipboard for the journal covers. Notebook covers have a 45pt black backing board.
Wire Coils
These are obviously used to bind the notebooks and journals. I prefer the bronze color coils with my art and use them in various sizes according to the thickness of the notebook or journal.

Wire coils and backing boards

Padding Adhesive and Sponge Applicator
This non-toxic glue is specially formulated for making notepads. I find the sponge applicators do a nice job of application.
Padding Knife
This looks similar to a painter’s palette knife. It’s super sharp (trust me) and is used to separate stacks of glued notepads.

Sponge applicator, padding adhesive, and padding knife


Epson Stylus Photo R2000

Manual paper cutter

Ruler and craft knife

Bone folder

Manual punching and wire-binding machine

Make-shift padding press

Cutting tools

Manual wire-binding machine

Putting it All Together…


I print sets of notepad pages on 11x17 sheets and then trim them to size using either a ruler and craft knife or a manual paper cutter. I cut the chipboard sheets to size using the same method.

Next, I collate the notepad sheets together (if they have alternating designs) and place a sheet of chipboard at the bottom of the pad. The individual sheets need to be lined up as evenly as possible. I also place a blank sheet or two at the top of the notepad. Will explain why later.

I secure each loose-paged notepad with a rubber band.

Once I have a set of say 10 notepads, I am ready to glue them.

Notepad sheets ready for trimming





Make-shift padding press

Since real padding presses are rather expensive, I use a make-shift one out of two bookshelves and two workbench clamps. A stack of heavy books would also do the trick.

I take the bottom shelf and lay a piece of scrap paper on it so I don’t glue the notepads to the shelf. I then take the 10 rubber band bound pads and stack them as evenly as I can. I place another sheet of scrap paper on top of the notepad stack. Then I carefully put the other bookshelf on top of the stack. I use one clamp around the shelves on either side of the stack to squeeze the notepads down tight.

Now it’s time to apply the glue. I apply a thin coat of padding glue using a sponge brush to one side of the notepad stack. I make sure each of the sheets are saturated and let them dry. I apply a second coat in the same way.





Once the stack is dry I carefully remove the clamps and top shelf cutting it away with the padding knife if necessary.

I use the padding knife to carefully separate each notepad from the stack. Remember those scrap pieces of paper I put at the top of each pad? And that super sharp padding knife? Well when separating the pads, it’s easy to accidentally cut into the first sheet of the notepad. So those scrap sheets are there to protect it!


Finished notepad


Notebooks are less messy to make than notepads, but involve a punching and wire-binding machine.

The interior sheets are printed on 11x17 paper and trimmed to size just like in making the notepads.

I print the cover on heavy-weight paper, trim it to size and laminate it using self-adhesive laminating sheets. The back cover comes pre-cut to size.

Next, the interior sheets and covers are punched using the binding machine. I assemble them on the wire coil and close the coil using the binding machine.


In progress notebook

Finished notebooks


The journals by far take the most work. The interior sheets are printed and trimmed as before. The dedication page is personalized and printed along with the front cover and pocket. The back cover, inside covers and pocket page are all trimmed down from the color paper.

The front cover and back cover are both laminated using self-adhesive laminating sheets. They are then wrapped around the 45pt chipboard using permanent double-sided tape. The bone folder helps the wrapping process by providing a strong smooth edge for making creases and folds.

For the pocket, I use an edge punch to give it a pretty scalloped border. I fold the other three edges using the bone folder and tape to the pocket page.

All of the pages and covers are punched using the wire-binding machine. Then I assemble them on the coil and close it. Voila!

Journal parts


There you have it!

It’s a lot of work, that’s for certain. But there’s also something very satisfying about making a product from start to finish. And there’s something even more gratifying when that product is in return given as a gift. Enjoy!

Heather Ferlazzo

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