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Art Journals-The Basics

Updated on July 15, 2017
linfcor profile image

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Everyone Needs A Set Of Fine Line Pens

Getting Started in Art Journaling

Have you ever wanted to create an outlet that enables you to express yourself in mixed media, diary special things about your life, and scrapbook at the same time? Welcome to the wonderful world of art journaling.

You can create a special book that tells of a specific time in your life, your feelings and emotions, a trip or vacation-just about anything that you can possibly think of. You can art journal an event, a trip , a person or a time of your life. This is your art ! Your books can be a legacy to future generations that tells your life story or who you were.

Any technique that you can use in stamping, collaging or scrapbooking can also be used in your art journals. You can use water colors, paints, chalks and inks to give you that unique page that only starts in your imagination. You can stamp, draw, paint, zentangle or use mandalas.

This is a very relaxing way to create something special and unique. You can combine all kinds to techniques to make something that no one has created before or will create again.

Let's get started with the basics ! hopefully you will get some ideas to get started creating your own art journal !

Art Journal Themes

So now that you have decided to get started in art journaling, what is your journal going to be about? in other words, what is your theme? What is your passion or hobby?

1. Garden Journal-I love my home gardens. Mostly I am a flower person, but my husband has a few veggies that he raises.Thinks about pictures, seed packets, pictures of flowers or plants from catalogs. Lists of what you love. Your timetables during the year could also be included. Do drawings, stamping-the sky is your limit !

2. Music- If you are a musician, why note journal about your musical passion? Include programs, pieces of music, lists of the music you have played, about your classes. etc

. If you are into a band or group why not journal about them?Ticket stubs, info, programs, album info and more

3. Sports- Passionate about a specific sports team? Why not create a journal? Pictures of course, tickets to the games, and stats are all part of what you can include. Program-s and information on specific players are also options

4. Gratitude -Journaling the things that you are grateful for is an excellent way to take time to meditate on your blessings.

5. Mandalas-Why not keep your colored mandalas in a journal. Add comments on each piece and you have a lovely art journal

6. Coloring or Art Classes- I take a monthly art class, so I take my pieces and make a journal of them with the class notes

7. A Tribute Journal- Why not honor someone with a art journal all about them? It is perfect for a special birthday or anniversary. Document things about them like what they love or like, their favorite things or people, special traits, any achievements they have won. Froom your heart, they will treasure it.

8. A Dream Journal- What are your dreams? What would you like to achieve or do?What is your bucket list. This journal documents your journey through life.

9. Food & Recipes- Family recipes with the stories behind them are a great way to journal. Journal about the foods you would like to try, your favorites, and what you tried but did not like. Add clippings, old recipes that someone wrote down in the family and clippings.

10. Home Journals- This is where you keep all your ideas for your house. Clippings, magazine ideas, Pinterest ideas, you journal it all. Projects that you would like to do, pictures of before and after fixes, and hat the project cost are great to keep as you make improvements. You could add information and inventories of the things in your home, just in case.

These are just a few ideas to wet your creative juices. Just remember, you can art journal anything your heart desires



What You Need To Get Started

To get your art journal started, you need the book itself. I like to use an artists spiral bound notebook. The cover is strong and it has plenty of pages to journal. If you are planning to use a lot of watercolor techniques, you might want to consider a water color journal. The paper in these types of journals is a heavier weight paper and will take the paint and water color techniques.

I like to gesso 5-10 random pages in advance. Adding gesso to pages make them stronger so that I can collage and add heavier elements to my paper pages. You can also get a tape runner ( a tape runner is a double sided tape on an applicator ) and "tape two or three random pages together to add strength. I do several of these types of pages as well.

Or you can put together your own journal using either cardstock or water color paper but to your size. You will want to punch some holes in the paper and use some binder rings to hold your paper together. I would use cardboard or foam board for the front and back cover.

Keep a folder just for your art journals. Your folder can hold a treasure chest of materials for your art journals. You can clip [pictures from magazines, little left over embellishments from your scrapbooks, a few colorful envelopes that will enhance your pages and hold items. You can also save momentos from trips, pictures, and odds and ends of paper that you might like to use

Keeping Your Art Journal Closed

An art journal is like a scrapbook, a very full on ! You are going to find that it will not close easily. What I like to do is to add a twine or ribbon closure to my journals. Sew a button the front cover of your journal. Then add a grommet or a large eyelet to the back. Attach a piece of ribbon or string from the grommet to your and loop around your front cover button. Since I never know how thick my journal is going to be, this is the step that I do last

About Gel Medium

Gel mediums are perfect to add those things like tissue paper to your pages. Sometimes gel medium will cause your paper to buckle. I would suggest that you pre-tape a couple of pages together before you use get medium. Adding the gesso to the pages will also increase the strength of a page. There are several gel mediums on the market, so take a few minutes to think about which ones are right for you.

Always apply gel medium with a foam brush. If you rinse your brushes out, you can get several applications with them. You can buy then by the bag and they are very reasonable

Once a page from your journal has dried, keep a piece of wax paper between those pieces for about a week. That will allow time for the gel to cure. Otherwise your pages will "stick together"

Adding Embellishments To Your Art Journals

Because art journals are mixed media, almost anything goes when it comes to adding embellishments. This is the place where you let your imagination go wild ! The only thing that you might want to think about is not making your page too bulky or heavy. Here are some things to consider adding to your art journal ages:

Stickers...Dazzles...string....bakers twine...washi tape,,,.stamped images...fabric...pictures from magazines...chipboard pieces,,,buttons.....ribbon...tags

I'll bet you can think of more ! This is a perfect time to get out all those odds and ends that you have in your stash !

You also might want to think about personalizing them with ink markers, watercolors, and glitter

You can use water colors in your art journal, but I would suggest doing your watercolor images on watercolor paper first them gluing those elements in your journal

Acrylic Paint In Art Journaling -Tips

Yes, you actually can use acrylic paints in your art journals. You may have some paint in your craft stash. If not. you can always get some at your local craft store. They are inexpensive and there are a lot of colors to chose. Here are some tips to get you started with acrylic paints in art journaling.

  • Only use a little at a time because this paint tends to dry very quickly.
  • Wash your brush as you change colors. Otherwise the paint will dry quickly. The brush will be difficult to clean
  • Acrylic paints can cause the pages of your journal to stick together, so place a piece of wax paper between the pages. Or dust a small amount of baby powder on your acrylic pages after the paint has totally dried.
  • Texture the paint with common household items. experiment with different brushes, stamps and tools to create one of a kind pages
  • Using acrylic paint over gesso will help the page be stronger
  • Put a pice of wax paper under the page that you are applying acrylic paint to. That will prevent the page from "bleeding "through

Acrylic Paint With Flower Background

This journal is about my gardening and love of flowers. So I used acrylic paint and added some abstract flowers as a background
This journal is about my gardening and love of flowers. So I used acrylic paint and added some abstract flowers as a background

Using Gesso On Art Journals

Gesso is a great base for some of your art journal pages or your covers. You can use it to cover all or part of your pages. You can use a small amount to highlight words or graphics on a darker background. Gesso is a white type of paint that can be found in any art supply store

Pages With Gesso

I used gesso on these pages then used Modge Podge to glue the page to the page behind it for extra strength. Wrinkles are OK. It adds a nostalgic feel. I will be adding some distress ink to make the pages look like old paper
I used gesso on these pages then used Modge Podge to glue the page to the page behind it for extra strength. Wrinkles are OK. It adds a nostalgic feel. I will be adding some distress ink to make the pages look like old paper

Tea Staining Your Art Journal Pages

Tea staining is another technique that you can use to create very unique pages It's easy to do and makes a lovely retro journal page.

What You Need


Your journal or loose pages

  1. Tea bags or loose tea or instant tea
  2. Small amount of water
  3. A shallow pan
  4. Some brushes or sponges
  5. Some wax paper, aluminum foil or plastic wrap
  6. Paper towels

Separate the pages from your other pages. Place either wax paper, aluminum foil or plastic wrap below the pages of those you are staining to prevent the other pages from getting wet. Brew your tea and allow it to cool a bit. Apply the tea by either dipping the paper into the tea, or brushing it onto the paper. Soak a bit of the water from the paper and allow to dry.


  • To prevent other pages from getting wet, place a couple of sheets of wax paper blow each page as you stain them. If you are using hot tea stain, then use a heat resistant material like aluminum foil or plastic wrap to protect other pages
  • You can apply the tea with a regular brush, a foam brush, a sponge or a toothbrush. You can even use the tea bag itself as a brush if it's not too hot
  • If your pages a loose, you can submerge them in a tea bag bath
  • Use loose tea to create a variegated effect. Color the page with the tea infusion and leave the leaves on the paper to create a variegated effect
  • Your tea stained pages may be lighter than you think depending on the strength of the brew that you made. You may want to re dye it a second day to get a richer color.

Finger Painting- Perfect Art Journal Technique

Get a unique background by applying any paint or ink with your fingers, It blends the colors perfectly and you can get very artistic effects

Modge Podge-My Glue Of Choice

Modge Podge is my glue of choice for art journals. It helps what ever paper ephemera that you want to add to your pages. It actually strengthens your pages. It also blends the paper materials into the paper which leaves less bulk than other glues

It's also perfect to use to glue your pages together. I like to use a brayer to make the pages as "smooth" as possible. But don't worry if you get a few wrinkles. It makes your pages look like they are old paper, especially if you add some distress ink on the wrinkles

Rip A few Pages From Your Journal

Because you will be adding additional material to your pages, you will want to tear a few pages to give room to the rest of your art. You can take the torn out pages and modge podge them to other ones still in the book to strengthen the pages that you may be adding paint or wet techniques to

Consider Adding Some Thread To Your Pages

Sewing techniques add some new dimension to your art journal pages. I especially like the sew easy system to add those elements especially in a book with pre-bound pages. You could use a sewing machine but it might be difficult with bound pages. With a loose sheet art journal you could easily add some stiches. Consider a border or some fancy stitching to highlight some art work. You can also get some stamps that actually stamp a stitch like design. It's your choice !

Using Magazines On Your Art Journal Pages

Before you throw out any magazines. Check out the pictures, sayings, titles or anything that has potential to use in your journal. I keep mine in a file that I can refer to if I am doing a collage or want to add a bit of text to my pages

Add A Border To Your Pages

I love using washi tape to add a colorful border to my pages, but there are also other things you could use. Strips of patterned or solid paper works just fine, Really nice if you use scissors that cut with designer edges. Ribbon will also work. Think about a glitter border too. You can edge completely around your page or only on one side. There are no rights or wrongs or rules. It's your call

Add A Pocket To Your Journal Pages

Add a pocket to your journal pages. Either make a pocket or glue an envelope to your page. It's perfect to tuck in little memorabilia, a picture or some jounaling notes

Art Journaling Tips

Remember your art journal is your expression of what you are feeling. You don't have to be a master artist to create one. Here are a few tips to help you along the way

  • Select something with a simple shape. You can always add details later
  • Work on something that you like rather than what someone else would like
  • Draw one thing-one cup, one flower, one shape
  • Add a border or frame to your page
  • Add dimension to your page
  • Use scribbles and doodles
  • Add lots of color-don't be afraid of color

Add Labels Of Your Favorite Things

Why not consider adding the labels of your favorite wines, candies or any other products that are your favorites

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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      This sounds like fun to do. Some of my members of my writers group have been art journaling--that's the topic for next month's writing group meeting. I might consider giving it a try. Thanks for sharing.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Excellent information. I just discovered art journaling and find it extremely fascinating. I like the idea of using tea to stain the paper. I'm not a very artistic person so it was good to read that I don't need to be a master artist to create an art journal.

    • linfcor profile image
      Author

      Linda F Correa 2 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      I use tea stained paper for all sorts of projects. It's a fun and inexpensive way to get a real vintage look

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      I like the idea of tea stained paper. Now I'm thinking of all the ways that could've useful.

    • linfcor profile image
      Author

      Linda F Correa 2 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      Once you get started, you will find out how addicting it is. The nice thing about it is that I get to use my left over scraps, my stamps, paints, and just about everything in my craft room

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 2 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      I love projects like these. I like to journal. I have done some of scrap booking, but so far have not thought of painting designs on the pages. It's a great idea to put the two together. Voted up.