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Art Journal Supplies

There are some tools and supplies that you will need to create your own custom journaling pages. Some of these you may have in your stash. Others will be a purchase, but none of them will break your craft budget. And for most of them, you will be able to use them for other papercrafts.

Just start out with a few basic supplies and add onto your tools and supplies as you learn new techniques, Like any other art form, you start with the basics and build your foundation. Then add more and more knowledge.

Art Journals

Of course, the first thing that you need is a journal to work on. Many beginners like to practice and learn their techniques from an old book. You get lots of old books in thrift stores and in dollar stores, that makes sense.

Art journals come in different sizes and types of paper. You can use lighter paper if you are planning to use dry materials like colored pencils. Once you ae using wet media, then you need to get into the heavier papers.

The spiral binding of these types of books is nice for beginners if you are worried about messing up and would like to be able to take out pages you aren’t happy with.

Your Art Journal-Surfaces

It all starts with having the right surfaces to work on. For some, that means starting with the right art journal. What should you think about when you are considering the type of art journal to use?

Paper- Your Art Journal

The first thing to think about is the kind of paper that you will be using when you select your art journal. The kinds of materials (media) that you will be using will determine the kind of paper you should select. 

If you are planning to just use materials like crayons or colored pencils, then any paper will do just fine. But if you are planning to do acrylic paints, watercolor paints, or other mixed media like embossing pastes, then you will certainly need a heavier paper in the weight of watercolor paper.

You can purchase the right journal with the right paper. Or you can get a journal with lighter paper and glue several pages together to create the weight of the paper that you need. Decide what your craft budget will allow and purchase whatever fits your need.

You also need to consider the stability of the journal you are going to use. If you purchase a ready-made journal, stability should not be a question. If you are using an old book, then you really need to consider the spine of the book. I have started several art journals and in the middle of creating, the pages pull away from the spine. It is frustrating for sure.

You want to make sure that the used book that you are considering is bound by stitching rather than glue To check a book to see if it is stitched rather than bound by glue is easy enough. 

  1. Find the center page of the book
  2. Look to see if you see actual stitching on the spine.
  3. Look at the other groups of pages (signatures) to see if you see stitching in those areas
  4. The more stitching you see the better

Size Matters

When you are just starting out, smaller art journals may be less intimidating, but larger journals give you more space to work on. Somewhere in the middle-like a 6" by 9" may be a good starting point.

  • Moleskin journals are very popular. But the paper within tends to be thin.
  • Spiral journals can be found anywhere. They come in a variety of papers, so there are plenty of options. The pages lay flat and can be removed and reassembled. However, depending on how you work them, the spirals can catch on the pages and cause some damage.
  • You can make your own journal. This is a good option because you can select the exact papers and size that you want to use. You can find them online or you can learn to make them yourself. The stitching will hold the book together beautifully.
  • Composition books are often used too. The pages are very thin, so there is a significant amount of prep work that needs to be done. They are very reasonably priced, Also a great starter journal
  • Old hardcovered books are another option. These are very ecofriendly. You can find many of them in a local thrift store or at garage sales, If you chose one of these, make sure that the book has a stitched binding rather than a glued binding.


Gesso is an important part of the art journal process. It adds a little bulk to thinner pages. It preps the page for any acrylic paint. It covers anything that you do not want to see. It comes in black, white and clear. There are quite a few manufacturers who make this product in different strengths of textures. The best place to start with this product is a Liquitex Basic Gesso. You can experiment with different kinds to see which one is best for you.

Gesso is an absolute necessity for art journals. It acts as a primer for your pages. It strengthens your paper so that you can add other media to it. It comes in black, white and clear. There are different thicknesses of gesso, depending on the manufacturer. With Gesso, your paper does not tear no matter what wet media that you use.

You are not just limited to white and black colors, There are also metallic gold and silver too. And there are other shades in the rainbow of colors available. Try them for creating backgrounds, stenciling, and stamping.

White and clear gesso are staples for many mixed-media artists who use it as a ground for paint, a textural and design element, and a medium for transfers. But gesso comes in more than black and white—you’ll also find it in metallic gold and silver, plus pretty much every color of the rainbow. Try one new shade and see how it works as a background layer, for creating dimension with stencils, for stamping, and for carving into and creating texture.

Paint And Other Color Media

When it comes to adding color to your pages, there is a huge range of options, I could not possibly cover all of them, so we will do that on another page. Think about media like watercolors (you can get a basic watercolor pan set very reasonably) artist crayons. I particularly love the Tim Holt Distress Crayons. There are watercolors, pastels, sprays, ink, and a lot more.

If you are starting from scratch with any of these media, always start with the basic colors. 

Start with backgrounds, this is the place where you will use them the most. You can use one color or more. Just paint the background in,

Paint Brushes

When you are starting out, start with a set of inexpensive brushes in a set that includes different sizes of brushes. These ate found in any dollar store, craft store, or online.

Waterbrushes are also a great way to start getting into water coloring. These are brushes that have a barrel that holds water, They come in different sizes. Makes using watercolors so much easier.

Buy basic cheap brushes for your glue + gesso because they get trashed quickly, but purchase better brushes for your paints. If they are too cheaply made, they will shed hair onto your work.

Palette Knives

I use them to mix paints and other mediums to get an even spread, You can get a bag of plastic palette knives at very reasonable prices.

These tools are a necessity in your art journal. They are used to spread gesso on a page. They are also used to spread media over stencils. 

You can use these to mix your paints, stir your mediums, apply paint to your surface area, etc.

You can also use them to create texture in different media on your art journal pages.

While they come in different styles, you really only need a couple of them.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a great starting point for beginners in art journaling. They are creamy quick-drying paint.

Acrylic Paints offer a very wide choice when it comes to techniques and ideas. Though I would not suggest the cheaper brands like Folk Art and the Apple brands ( they dry out fast and tend to be somewhat like plastic on your pages). There are plenty of medium-priced brands that will work very well on your art journal pages. Liquitex Basic and Handmade (found at Target) are two brands that are worth looking into.

You can use it in so many ways, And it is a budget-friendly media, You can buy your colors as single colors or in a set, Generally speaking, you get more value in a set. Start with primary colors and build from there.

As a beginner, it is perfectly ok to start out with inexpensive acrylic paints. Paints like Apple Barrel brand is relatively inexpensive, especially if you start out with a set. Later on, you may want to move up to a better paint like Liquitex. These paints are a lot more creamy and give you better results.


This paint lives between the borders of watercolor and acrylic paint, shares some features with both but is its own color medium. Gouache is more opaque than watercolor, but it can be re-wet, unlike acrylics. It has a matte finish, unlike acrylics, so it won’t make your journal pages stick together. Like acrylics, you can layer light colors over dark. 


Watercolors are soft and elegant. They come in pans, markers, and pencils, Again, these are very budget-friendly for beginners or those wanting to add a new medium to their art journaling experience.

One of the main differences between cheap, student, and artist-grade watercolors is a thing called lightfastness. Lightfastness describes whether and by how much your color will fade over time. 

Another choice when it comes to watercolors is watercolor pens (also called brush pens). Look for pens that have dual tips for doing more with the same pen.

Inks And Stamps

Archival Ink

This is an oil-based ink, it is waterproof, and fade resistant. These inks don’t bleed and you can use them with the other two.

Archival inks are a must with other wet mediuns. It doesn’t fade and is waterproof. This is excellent because you can stamp an image and color over it, it won’t smudge.

Distress Oxide Inks

Many art journalists use them to give pages the vintage color. They are slow drying so you have time to blend.

Alcohol Inks

This ink he made with the company Ranger. It’s alcohol-based and applies to almost any surface. You can get a smooth shiny look. They come in a variety of colors, and the colors are delicious. You can find different applicators from this brand for using it with your art.


Stamps come in any shape or theme that you can think of. Geometrical shapes add depth to your pages. You can add borders to your pages with them. You can add stamps anywhere you wish on any of your pages.

Any inks or stamps you invest in also will help you make greeting cards and scrapbook pages too.

Masking Fluid

Artists have used this medium for decades, but since it’s not that glamorous, it’s often overlooked. Masking fluid (also called frisket) can produce incredible layered results, and comes as a liquid that can be brushed on, or in pens that can be used for drawing and writing. After the fluid dries it acts as a resist for anything put over it, so additional layers of paint won’t stick.

Masking fluid (also called frisket) can produce incredible layered results, and comes as a liquid that can be brushed on, or in pens that can be used for drawing and writing. After the fluid dries it acts as a resist for anything put over it, so additional layers of paint won’t stick.

Pens/ Markers

The most important thing to remember when it comes to pens and markers on your pages is that they should be waterproof. Especially if you are planning to use wet mediums.

A black waterproof pen is a must-have for your art journals. You can doodle with it. You can also outline, draw, shade and journal with it. 

A white waterproof pen is handy if you are working on dark paperThere is no better way to add highlights quickly to a page, whether for mark-making, lettering, or drawing on dark surfaces. White pens come in various forms: markers, paint pens, gel pens, and pigment pens. Artists have their favorites; experiment with a couple to see how they work on a variety of surfaces and how they react with other mediums.

There are also paint pens in delicious colors that add a lot to your designs.


Not all markers will work well on painted and media surfaces. But when it comes to art journals, there are no rules. So give the markers you already have a try. You can use alcohol markers, Sharpie markers, watercolor markers, and more. You can just use markers on one page or mix them with other media.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to markers. Some markers you would only use until they become dry. Oher markers (Often more expensive sets) are refillable. I like the refillable ones like Copics or Spectrum Noir because the refill inks are much less expensive than replacing the whole pen. And I feel I am doing my bit for the environment by using less plastic. Of course, the refillable markers are more expensive on the initial outlay, but in the long haul, they do save you money.

The other side of the issue with the more expensive markers is that you have a choice of nibs. As you grow with your art journaling, you will find that different nibs will give you choices when it comes to techniques.

If you are using any alcohol markers, the thing to consider is the paper that your journal is made of. Some thinner papers will have bleeding through the paper. Again, as we have said before, you may want to consider prepping the page with gesso before you use alcohol markers. 

Another tip for using alcohol, markers is to put some waxed paper or parchment paper behind the page you are working on. That way none of the ink will bleed through to the page behind it.

Having said that, when you are starting out, there are a lot less expensive choices. You can get a reasonable set of Crayola markers for under $20. They work just fine in your art journals.

Gel pens are another fun choice for your srt journal. 

Gel Pens

Gel or Gelly pens are super fun for art journaling. They are often used to highlight the eyes and to add text. Though, they come in so many colors you can draw, write, add details to your heart's content with these gems.

White Pens

 There is no better way to add highlights quickly to a page, whether for mark-making, lettering, or drawing on dark surfaces. White pens come in various forms: markers, paint pens, gel pens, and pigment pens. Artists have their favorites; experiment with a couple to see how they work on a variety of surfaces and how they react with other mediums.


Oh the fun you can have with stencils is endless, Stencils can be used with acrylic paint, watercolors, gesso, relief paste, spray inks, and many others.

You can partial stencil on your pages or stencil the whole page. It is your choice. You can add papers on top of your base like tissue paper and napkins and stencil on top of those. There is an endless supply of stencil designs and they are reasonably priced. You can use them on scrapbooks and greeting cards too.

Transfer Foil

Transfer foils add a gorgeous touch of luxe shimmer that takes an art journal page. Chances are you won’t add foil to every page or layout, there will be times when your artwork needs something, and this will fit the bill.

Transfer foil is a super-thin layer of metallic or pearlized foil that’s attached to a thin plastic transfer sheet. Brush some adhesive on the page (there are specific glues for this, or you can use acrylic medium, glue pens, and even a glue stick), burnish the foil, wait until the adhesive dries, then pull off the foil sheet. Insert audible gasps. One sheet goes a long way, and you can find transfer foils in every shade, plus color blends. Use it on a final background layer, to highlight a focal image, or to draw attention to a quote. You’ll wonder how you lived without it for this long!


Have you ever heard of glue pens? These are a great option for art journals, especially where small pieces and die cuts are concerned. They are white PVA glue in a pen-sized format with a small tip.

If you are planning on doing any type of decoupaging or collaging, then you will need a decoupage medium like Mod Podge. It glues the paper on and can act as a sealant. The matte medium can work just like decoupage glue on your art journal pages.
Washi tape is another good choice. You can use these colorful tapes anywhere on your pages.  Use it to border a page, make a grid, frame something, make banners, create tabs, build patterns and backgrounds, and lots more.

Glue sticks and white PVA glue are used to hold bits of paper and other materials onto your pages. Make sure that these adhesives are marked archival


Masking tape, it is great for reinforcing journal pages along with the binding, adding texture, and it's great to write on too!

You may also want to have some double-sided tape on hand. It is good for adhering to larger pieces.

Washi Tape

Washi tape is a low-tack colorful tape that comes in solids and prints as well as glitter and foil tape.

You will easily add new colors and dimensions when using it.

Use it to border a page, make a grid, frame something, make banners, create tabs, build patterns and backgrounds, and lots more.

Oil Pastels

These are oil-based and have a wax texture. If you want them to blend you have to put some work into it. I’ve seen it down, however, they are not known for their easy bendable nature.

Chalk Pastels

In these areas the name implies chalk-like. I adore them. You do need a fixative so they don’t smudge once you are finished. They come in sticks, pans, and pencils. 


Gelatos are sticks of highly blendable colors. You blend them wet or dry. They are super creamy and fantastic for all sorts of needs. You can easily create beautiful skin tones, you can use them with stencils. They also are made by several different brands, so you have a lot of options.

Watercolor Crayons

These crayons can be used as a crayon and left as is, activated with water to create watercolor effects, or you can take your paintbrush and take the color from the stick on your brush and apply it to your paper. You tend to get a heavier coverage with these versus traditional watercolors. They are super fun to play with and should be tried at least once.

Modeling Paste

Is great for adding 3D texture to your pages. It can be used with stencils, or to make brush strokes pop off the page. The more you add the thicker it gets. 

Modeling paste has to be thick enough so it can create 3D smooth texture on a surface. When thick, it can be used to cover an object but also through a stencil. Sometimes the paste is “gel-like” and sometimes it's fluffy like frosting.


There is an endless supply if these right at your fingertips. Almost anything can be used to embellish your art journal pages. Think about things like buttons, lace, and ribbon., You can use memory items like coasters, matchbooks, tickets etc. There are unlimited amounts of embellishments all around you. You just need to think outside of the box.

Binder Or Bull Dog Clips

These are commonly found in office supply stores and online. They are used to hold down/open your journal while you work in it and/or as paint or glue dries They can also be used to hold pages together that you have glued together for strength.

Old Key Cards And Credit Cards

Old gift and key cards work just like palette knives. You can use them to spread paint and other media on a page. You can also use them to spread media on a stencil. They can be wiped off with a baby wipe or wash them in warm water and dish detergent. They can be used over and over again. 

Spray Bottles

\Have a bottle to two in your stash to help some of your techniques. You want to have one bottle filled with water, It will be used to spray for distress and oxide distress inks. 

You can also use spray bottles to hold spray inks to spray color on your art journal pages.

Heat Gun

  Getting a craft heat gun is a wise investment if you are planning to do any papercrafts. It can be used for lots of different papercraft projects where you want to speed up drying times.

When you are art journaling, it speeds up the time to dry any medium that you have applied to your pages. There are different types of heat guns to choose from. If you can get a gun that has dual heat controls which will give you more options.

Use a craft heat gun rather than a hairdryer to dry any pages or mediums. Hairdryers may be too hot and melt or burn your pages.

Waxed Paper

Wax paper is a valuable tool when you’re working with damp pages in your art journal or illustrated diary. Wax paper isn’t foolproof, but it’s still one of the best and least expensive ways to keep damp pages from sticking to each other. You’ll have the best luck when you’re working with gel medium.

You can use waxed paper as a paint palette, to protect your work surface, or to separate pages if they’re sticky


A brayer is a needed tool that will bring joy to your mixed media art journal. It comes in different sizes and you can create lovely textures with it. A brayer is a printmaker tool with a handle and a roller. It is fun to use it to apply paint. It can also be used to ensure that glue is applied evenly when applying embellishments. You can use it to even out paper when you apply it to your pages. 

Tools And Supplies You Have In Your Home

A Kitchen Sponge. 

You probably have a least one of two clean sponges in your home that you could use in your art journal. Even if you need to buy one, they are very inexpensive. You can use it, wash it and use it again,

It is great for applying paint or gesso to your page. I like to cut my sponges into quarter pieces to make them easier to handle. You can dab the paint on or run it across the page in strips. With thicker paint or gesso, you can get a lot of texture. Sea sponges can be used to give an entirely different texture,

Sponges are not just limited to paint application, they can also be used to apply ink. 

Another thing that you can do with sponges is to cut them into shapes and print those shapes on with ink or paint.

Sponges work great with stencils, You have complete control over how much paint or ink will be applied

Makeup Sponges

While we are on the topic of sponges, grab yourself a bag of makeup sponges from your local dollar store. They are soft and you get a creamy effect. They also come in different sizes.

When you use them with paint or ink, you get a smooth even application. I especially love using them with the distress and the distress oxide inks. They blend beautifully.

You can also use these with stencils. You will get a soft dreamy look. Try using two different colors with your stencils, You might like the results.

Baby Wipes

You can spread paint with them, clean your supplies, fix tiny mistakes, etc. However, try not to use them too much, it just creates big waste. What you can do after you’ve used them to clean paint is to save them and leave them to dry. They can be used in other mixed media projects when they’re dry.

Toilet Paper Rolls

Recycle your toilet paper rolls to use in your art journals. They are perfect to create distressed circles on your pages. Acrylic paint works well. When you are finished with the color, you can just snip that piece off your roll and keep using it.

Bottle Caps

Hang onto those bottle caps from the kitchen. Dip them into acrylic paint and see what imaginative things you can create.

Left Over Cardboard

There is cardboard all around you that you can recycle for your art journal. Boxes from your kitchen are easy to collect, 

You can paint with them. Use the pieces like a spatula to apply paint. It looks very worn out and distressed.

You can also use the edges to make sharp lines with the paint.

Bubble Wrap

Who does not like playing with bubble wrap?  Dip it into some paint and press it on the paper. Be gentle, though so that the bubbles do not pop. You will get a different very artistic stamp like pattern every time.

Baby Oil And Cotton Pads

Create transparent paper with baby oil and a cotton pad. It reminds me of vellum paper.

Apply the oil onto the paper with the cotton pad until the paper is completely covered. Let it dry and watch the magic happen. 

You can stamp on this with archival ink to create all kinds of goodies for your art journal pages/

Q tips

Q tips are handy tools to have in your craft room. They can be used on your art journal page to place any kind of medium.

Think outside of the box on things that you can do with q tips. Start with the idea that you can use them with paint. Create designs using the q tip to make trees and bushes, for example,


Use straw ends to stamp small circles, or you can use them to blow paint around on your page. This works great with watercolors and ink, but not acrylic paint (because it’s thick and not watery).


You can use it to spray paint onto paper, creating little splashes of paint or a starry effect.

We have included some supplies that you may find helpful. Any earnings from these supplies come at no cost to you and are used to enhance this community.