How to DIY a Rainbow Bookshelf (Easy Step by Step)

The rainbow bookshelf of your dreams is actually really easy to create!

rainbow bookshelf living room

Step by step instructions to put together a rainbow bookshelf. The process is easier than you think!


Skip the colorful artwork and put a rainbow bookshelf in your living room!

For a few years, we’ve been wanting to do a rainbow bookshelf in our home. There’s a big floor to ceiling fireplace in the living room and we have custom built floating shelves on either side. The rest of the room is pretty neutral, and organizing your books by color is like a piece of art, a statement wall, and a big pop of color all in one!


All the details on how we created this rainbow bookshelf

Today I’m sharing how to collect the books for your rainbow bookshelf, the rainbow bookshelf order we landed on, and a few tips to make it look really amazing.


red yellow and black books in a living room with brown leather chairs
living room with rainbow bookshelf
rainbow bookshelf in white floating shelves with marble fireplace

How to put together a rainbow bookshelf


1. First, get the right books.

The question everyone asks when they see our bookshelf is, “are they all your books?” and “are they all real books?”

Yes, they are all real books, and no, not all of them were our books.

We went to Half Price Books in Dallas and discovered they sell books by color by the yard! It’s super easy  — you tell them how many boxes you want (one box is one yard), and which colors you want. Show them pictures, tell them general book sizes you want, and give them any other instruction.

Philip collects religious books, so we already had a lot of beautifully bound books. We got six additional boxes and it ended up being perfect for our space.

These are the boxes of books we purchased from Half Price Books:

  • Black
  • Blues
  • Greens
  • Yellows and oranges
  • Red to dark red
  • Browns and tans

It is much less expensive to purchase them this way than individually at a used book store (these beautiful books are still about $5-15 per book individually).


2. Take all your books off the shelf and organize by color

If you have books already on your shelf, remove them and divide into piles by color. Any purchased books should get sorted into those piles as well.

Don’t worry about sorting them by shades within the color family. You’ll do that as you put them on the shelf.


3. Decide on your color organization

This was by far the hardest part of the process. There are lots of rainbow bookshelves out there; some are great, some are not so great.

We found THIS PHOTO on Pinterest and fell in love with the snaking rainbow color scheme.

Here’s the rainbow bookshelf order we followed:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
  • Purple
  • Gray
  • White
  • Brown

As you can see in the picture it snakes from left to right, then down right to left, then down left to right.


4. Organize your books by color on the shelf

Once you decide on a color order for your rainbow bookshelf, it’s time to place them on the shelves!

Since our bookshelves are tall, we needed two people. I stood on the countertop and placed the books while Philip handed them up, stood back, and had me adjust where needed.

Make sure you stand back regularly and adjust the color tones and heights of the books.


A few tips for making your rainbow bookshelf look amazing

  • keep your books similar in height. Don’t include the tiny books or the really big coffee table sized books. Try not to have more variation than 3-4 inches.
  • Don’t make the color gradient too perfect. I think the imperfections make it look even better than perfect gradient from one color to the next.


Organizing your books by color is such an easy and fun way to make a statement in your bookshelf. Seriously, try it!


Links to other things in our living room

Gray rug (literally hides everything and has held up so well)
Gray couch
Leather arm chairs (also available HERE)
Woven Coffee Table
Ceiling Fan
Paint Color: Sherwin Williams “Bright White”

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photos by Aubrey Stock

rainbow bookshelf with fireplace and living room

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