Doodle Decorating a 3-Ring Binder

2 kraft 3 ring binders heavily decorated with pretty doodles
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Today I’m joining the Do It Over Designers Challenge with this idea to give your plain 3-ring binders a fun new look with some doodling. Stay tuned at the end of this tutorial to see all the other interesting and creative projects my fellow creative designers have shared this time.

Now I love a good doodle! When I’m on the phone, in a meeting or even writing a to do list, I do like to add some doodles to the edge of my paper! I’ve heard that doodling actually helps you concentrate in meetings, but if you get too carried away with your design I guess it could be a little bit distracting.

I subscribe to a lovely craft magazine, Mollie Makes, but 5 years into my subscription I realised that I can’t just keep all the magazines forever, they just take up a lot of space! In an effort to tidy up a little I pulled out all the patterns and projects that I think I might ever actually do, put them into plastic wallets/flimsies and then realised I needed folders or ring binders to keep them in.

I dug out a few old plain kraft card 3-ring binders from the back of a cupboard which are perfect for organising my patterns but they are a bit plain and boring. They need a bit of jazzing up so I thought a bit of a doodle would be a fun.

Some creativity is needed for this craft but you really don’t need any mad artistic skills. The designs I’ve done are really simple if you break it down step by step.

What you write on the ring binders, if anything, is dependent on what you are keeping in them of course.

In my big tidy up I sorted all the magazine ideas and patterns first and put them into piles to decide how I would divide and conquer them. I settled on Crochet, Knitting and then Papercraft and Embroidery Designs would have to share as I only have 3 ring binders and there were not so many of them anyway. I’ve actually only decorated 2 ring binders so far, the 3rd is yet to be decided, so my knitting patterns remain in a very boring and plain ring binder for now!

To make your own doodle decorated ring binder all you need is:

Let’s start with the “flower meadow” style design:

Doodle a flower meadow on a 3-ring binder

Honestly this is so much easier than it looks if you just break it down.

Start by drawing some simple flower shapes, dotted over the ring binder.

Then give each flower a stem.

Then give each stem some leaves and the embellish each flower with some extra dots and lines.

build up doodle flowers

Adding words is completely optional of course, but if you’d like to this is how I did it.

Print the words you want using a fancy font, mine is “bromello” which I downloaded from somewhere once a long time ago, I’m afraid I don’t remember where.

Trace the words on the reverse with the soft pencil then place the paper right side up on the ring binder and trace the words again. A faint version will transfer onto your ring binder. I went over this faint version in pencil again and then simple inked over it with my marker pen. I used the original printed version as a guide on where to thicken the letters and give the calligraphy look.


I finished off the design by adding a few butterflies with dots to show where they had been, some dotty pebbles along the bottom and a little ladybird/ladybug.

For the second 3-ring binder I went a little more over the top with my doodling. I started in the middle and just kept adding and adding in more of a freestyle way.

Pretty Doodles on a 3-ring binder

For this binder I started with the letters. I love the drawings and letter art of Lindsay Ostrom - The Creator of Cuteness. I had an early book of hers way back as a teenager and was thrilled to find her on Instagram a few years ago. Her letter art is super cute and she sells books and courses as well as sharing tips, techniques and her beautiful work online. The letters “Crochet” on my ring binder were very much inspired by her work.

I just drew in pencil then inked over the lines with my sharpie when I was happy.

Once the words were in place I just started to doodle. This is a totally freestyle technique so anything goes. Draw flowers, leaves or swirls. Join the elements up with wavy lines, or have one element bursting out the side of the last. Just build it up slowly and enjoy the process. Use these photos as a guide to get started if you like or go wild with your own thing.

step by step to doodle a flower design

This is not quick, but that’s ok as not everything needs to be quick. This is about enjoying your doodling, it’s a very mindful thing to do. Just spend 2 minutes a day adding a little more, or spend an afternoon doodling the whole thing, whatever works for you. When you run out of ideas just stop, then come back to it in a day or two. I covered the front and spine of this ring binder over the course of a week, mostly while watching tv. I will probably do the back and the insides at some point too.

When I was a school I studied art from age 14 to 16. We made large art folders at the beginning of the course to keep our work nice as we carted it back and forth to school on the bus. It was made of thick red card taped to a piece of hardboard, held together with a couple of bulldog clips. Over the course of the 2 years we decorated our folders. Some people did a collage, some painted them and, surprise surprise, I doodled on mine! It took the full 2 years to cover mine completely. A bit like this ring binder I just kept adding more and more until there was no room left at all. I have no idea what happened to it, but as I doodled away on this ring binder I remembered my old art folder with fondness.

I added the words to the spines of the ring binders in exactly the same way as the fronts and added some flowers there too, just so they look good on my bookshelves.

Can you spot the deliberate mistake?

It wasn’t until I popped the pretty ring binders onto the shelf that I realised the writing should really go the other way to match my craft books. Doh! I never noticed which way the writing on the spines of books goes before, probably another one of those things that everyone knows but me!

If you like doodling you might also like to check out these ideas too:

A plain ring binder decorated with pretty doodles

Now let’s check out the other ideas from the Do It Over Designer Challenge, click through each link to see what they have “done over” this time, giving a new lease of life to something old.

Unique Creations by Anita - Broken Terracotta Pot Repurposed

Sum of Their Stories - Doodle Decorate a Ring Binder (that’s this project)

Tea and Forget-Me-Nots - How to give Painted Shelves a New Look

The Apple Street Cottage - Not Just an Ashtray Stand

Birdz of a Feather - Wall Planter DIY

Exquisitely Unremarkable - Small Wooden Junk Angel

Little Vintage Cottage - Upcycled Wine Rack

Modern on Monticello - Grandad's Old Tools as Wall Decor

Purple Hues & Me - DIY Boho Placemat Wall Decor