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Art Journal Basics


If you are new to art journaling or considering starting an art journal, we want to help you get on the right foot. Learning the basics of art journaling will help you apply your creative side to a wonderful art form where you can express your thoughts, feelings and ideas.

What Is An Art Journal?

Think of an art journal as a diary where you can express your thoughts, feeling, ideas. And at the same time, you are learning and exploring new techniques and ideas. 

You do not have to be an artist to create an art journal. You go as you grow. There are no rules to follow. This is your art, your way. 

What Do You Use For An Art Journal

You can purchase an art journal. There are many great art journals out there. These types of journals come in all kinds of sizes and papers. If you are planning to use multimedia , paints or watercolors, you want to have good heavy paper.

You can also use planners, sketchbooks, old books, notebooks,,, just about anything. You can even take heavy paper and bind your own art journal,

What To Look For In An Art Journal

Size Matters

Using a smaller art journal makes sense if you are a beginner. You will not feel the pressure of having to fill a large page. Smaller journals are easy to carry if you want to use them on a plane, while waiting for a doctor's appointment, ect.

On the other hand, if you want to go big with images, letters, and art, choosing a larger journal.

It really comes down to a personal preference.

The Paper

The type of paper that you chose has a lot to do with the type of art that you may want to create. 

So, if you are planning to use watercolors or sprays, you need to use thicker paper. so that the material does not bleed through the paper. In that case, you will want to use a journal that is made for watercolor and mixed media. Or you can take some watercolor paper and create your own art journal.

On the other hand, if you are just planning to do sketching, drawing, doodling or acrylic paint, you can opt for thinner paper. 

Art Journal Tip: If you have a journal with thinner paper and you would like to use wet media, you can gesso the thinner paper to make it stronger. Or you can glue two pages together to make them stronger.

The Binding

The binding of your journal is more about practicality than it is about the media that you use. 

Spiral binding is the most practical of all the bindings. You can actually remove pages to work on them separately. And then you can replace them anywhere in your journal that you would like. You can also lay this type of journal flat. So it is much easier to work with. 

Stitched journals can be a little more tricky to work with. I  like to hold the pages open with paper clips or binder clips to make them easier to work with.

Making Your Own Art Journals

I love to repurpose old books into art journals. 
  • First thing, you will want to remove some of the pages to make room for your art. Use a craft knife to remove the pages close to the binding. How many pages you remove is up to you. But you should start by removing every 10 pages to start with. You can always remove more later.
  • You may want to strengthen the pages by gluing two pages together, Use a brayer or some other tool to spread the glue and flatten the pages.
  • You will also want to gesso the pages as a base for your art. Gesso is like a white paint that covers the wording on the page and strengthens the page too.
You can make your own journal with paper and simple binding.
  • Gather some paper together and cut the paper to the size that you need.
  • Fold them in half
  • Make two holes in the center of the crease
  • You can use brads or twine to hold the pages together.

Reasons To Start An Art Journal

There are so many reasons to start an art journal. Here are just a few thoughts :

  • Art journaling is fun! It is a playful activity where you can unleash your inner child, You can create anything you want without being judged by anyone. You create wherever your creative side takes you.
  • You can create a small piece of artwork every day. There is no pressure to finish or make each piece perfect.
  • You can grow artistically. There is the ability to learn new ideas and techniques. You can take this as far as you chose, It is your choice.
  • It is a stress reliever. In a world where stress is everywhere, your art journal will be a place to relax and create. You can express your thoughts, fears, ideas and shut the world out.

Supplies For Art Journaling

You do not have to go out and spend a fortune to start art journaling, If you are a paper crafter, you may have many of these supplies all ready, Start small and add on as you go.

  1. Pens-Look for pens that are waterproof and do not smudge. You want them to be waterproof so that you can use other media with them. Pens can be used for writing, doodling, and drawing.
  2. Markers- There are so many markers to chose from. Try buying a set of markers in basic colors and add on as you go. Note that many markers have different tips from fine lines to broad tips to brush markers, Decide which ones will work best for you.
  3. Paint Brushes- Start out with student grade brushes, When you get more experienced you can move up to a better grade.
  4. Acrylic Paint-You can go crazy with these. There are so many colors to chose from! Start out with less expensive paints. Sometimes you can buy them as combinations in sets. They are more reasonable that way. Later on, when you feel more comfortable, you can start getting the more expensive version.
  5. Watercolors- If you are not too fussy, experiment with an inexpensive set of student-grade watercolors. 
  6. Stamps- Word stamps and alphabet stamps are a great way to start. If you have other stamps in your stash, you can certainly use them.
  7. Ink Pads-Stick to archival inks because they are waterproof
  8. Stencils- there are so many things that you can use these for.
There are other things that you may have around your house that you can use on your art journals: You may want to start gathering these
  • Sponges give you texture no matter what media you are using.
  • Make up the sponges-give smooth texture
  • Q-tips- Give a unique stamp on your art
  • Bottle caps-used to make circle stamps
  • Used drier sheets added to pages to make the texture
  • Paper towels and napkins can also be used as a texture on your pages
  • Toilet paper rolls

Allow Yourself Time To Create

This is time dedicated to you for you. Make sure that you have a place where you can have a peaceful, undistracted time. You will be a better more relaxed person for it. 

Don't feel guilty about taking the time for yourself. You need that time to unwind and relax in your own way.

What Will You Create?

That is totally up to you. Remember, your art your way! You can journal your dreams, your goals, your ideas.

You can journal a quote that has inspired you or a song lyric that meant something special,

You can journal an emotion that you are feeling good or bad.

Your art journal is all about you!

Are You Inspired?

We hope that you will take some time to think about art journaling. It is an art form that is as unique as you are as a person. Let us know about your experiences with art journaling. WE want to hear from you! Happy Crafting !