Give back-to-school supplies personal touch

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When it's time to start stocking the school backpack, it's easy to just grab a stack of plain, boring notebooks.

But since kids have to tote these things to and fro every day, why not trade the standard-issue ones for something snazzy and personalized?

There are plenty of eye-catching options to buy or to make yourself.

At Zazzle and Cafepress, you can upload favorite images and decorate custom journals and notebooks with different fonts and colors. There are also fun backgrounds such as chevrons, animal prints, sports themes and nature motifs that can be jazzed up with monograms or catchphrases. (www.zazzle.com;www.cafepress.com)

Frecklebox offers cute, 50-page, wide-ruled spirals printed with owls, hearts, flames, robots, camouflage, flowers and other kid-centric patterns for grades 2-8. They can be personalized with names or initials in a variety of styles. (www.frecklebox.com)

My Paper Monkey's got some fun designs, including sporty cartoon dinosaurs for the younger set, and star, splatter and checkerboard designs for older kids. Names can be ordered in cool fonts that resemble graffiti, industrial stamps or pretty, Parisienne-style script. (www.mypapermonkey.com)

Add your name to a chalkboard image of inspiring words on a notebook at Tinyprints, or choose from designs such as patchwork, meadow or feathers. (www.tinyprints.com)

If your kids are crafty, consider making a notebook or journal from scratch using recycled paper. Magazines, scrapbook paper and maps make good cover art, and can be cut into geometric shapes or left intact; apply to chipboard or cardboard, add blank or lined paper, and secure. Online tutorials suggest binding them with staples, duct tape, brads, book rings, wire, elastic or stitchery. (www.babbledabbledo.com)

Yarn and ribbon make pretty patterns on a plain book. Create stripes of color, or make a bunch of little bows or loops as embellishment. You can affix bandanas or cloth napkins in zingy designs. Glue on buttons, sequins or shells.

Or give a composition book about three coats of chalkboard paint and add a bulldog clip to hold some chalk so you can carry an always-ready art space.

Find some craft pipe cleaners and create a colorful notebook cover. Or add a rainbow of rubber bands to a notebook cover to hold clips and pencils.