- Arts and Design
★ ART JOURNALING | Technique Tutorials, Inspiration and Prompts ★
Tips for Keeping an Illustrated Journal
An art journal is where you combine some writing with illustrations, painted backgrounds, magazine collages or other art. The writing can be a day-to-day diary, a scrapbook for your travels or life, favourite quotes, poems, to-do lists or life goals, or absolutely anything else you'd like to keep a record of!
This page provides lots of inspiration, ideas, prompts and techniques to help you broaden the range of techniques you use for embellishing the journal pages, and to keep you going through the motivational and creative barriers.
Art journaling is a great creative outlet and a fun hobby, and I hope that this page inspires you to give it a go, or experiment more with your existing journal!
Sketchbook Project Entries
Journaling Materials & Art Supplies
There is such an amazing array of art materials available to buy, and experimenting with new media is very inspiring - and also lots of fun of course! The more different types you try, the quicker you'll find what your favorites are.
Art journaling is a fantastic hobby for people who enjoy being artistic, and when you finish a journal it is so satisfying to look through the beautiful and varied pages you've created. I especially love journals that incorporate a wide range of media and texture experiments because these journals are literally bursting at the seams and are so fun to look through!
You can use a huge number of different materials in your journal, and you can really let your creativity run free without judgement. The most popular materials are pens (markers, felt tips, micron pens etc) and paints (acrylic, watercolor, oil etc), although I've seen everything from salt to tea bags being used!
More materials you can use include: magazine pages, recycled book pages, ephemera, crayons, pencils, photos, pastels, newspaper, inks, different kinds of paper (tissue, crepe, parchment etc), leaves, and thin fabrics like muslin and cheesecloth.
I find experimenting with art techniques to be the most fun part of this hobby. Images and patterns can be printed onto paper with rubber stamps, with methods like potato or lino printing, with textured materials like bubble wrap, or with stencils. You can make your own stencils or buy them, and they are extremely popular for adding patterns to backgrounds. People also like to embed memories into the pages by sticking in maps, notes, tickets, receipts and other paper souvenirs.
Further techniques you can use include embroidery and collage. Building up multiple layers of paints, papers and other media give a luxurious feel to the journal pages.
Art journals can simply be a notebook and a pencil, or you can make use of several different techniques on one page. It's completely up to you; nobody is going to see the journals unless you want them to ...so just go for it!
If you are planning to use paints on your pages you will need a journal filled with thick paper so that the paper won't warp and tear under the liquid paint. You can use thin paper with some paints though as long as you add a base layer of gesso (see below for info). Pick a journal filled with thick watercolor paper if you are going to be working with this medium.
And remember...every page does not need to be a masterpiece. Just relax and enjoy!
Art Journaling Videos
Mixed Media Art
A popular product for journalers is Gesso, which is a primer used as a base for (usually) oil and acrylic paints. It's ideal for using on pages which aren't thick enough to carry paints very well, and it's also great when working with layers.
Gesso can be added on top of a layer in order to fade it before writing or adding more layers on top. I especially like gesso on top of book pages because it fades the printed text to make a lovely background effect.
Gesso is simply painted onto paper before art is added on top. It's purpose is to stop the paper from being absorbent and therefore stops warping and wrinkling, plus it adds a good thickness and texture.
You can buy white, black or clear gesso.
Art Journal Background Techniques
Journal Prompts & Ideas
To Get Your Imagination Going
- Choose a quote, poem or song lyric and write why you like it, or just embellish it appropriately.
- Draw or paint a rainbow and come up with an alternative to 'Richard Of York Gains Battle In Vain', using things you like; such as Redcurrants, Opals, Yetis etc.
- Write down some facts you have researched about your favourite artist, and then either recreate one of their works of art, but in your own style, or draw a household object in the artist's style.
- Do you have anything lucky? Create a design using illustrations of your personal lucky things - whether it's a number, object, underwear etc and say why you believe it's lucky.
- Draw an aerial view of your old schools or homes, and write any memories down next to the rooms they occurred in.
- If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?
- How do you imagine Aliens to look? Would they be friendly? What is their mode of transport?
- If you had the ability to do anything and go anywhere for 24 hours, what would you do and where would you visit? (instant travel is allowed)
- Picture your favourite location or your dream destination and draw it. Mix different places together if you can't choose - how about the Eiffel Tower on a Thai beach?! Describe what's so great about it.
- What is your favourite word? Write down all words that rhyme with it (even made up ones!), or words associated with it. Try to cover the page.
- What is your favourite book? Who are your favourite characters and why? How do you imagine them to look?
- Do you wish you'd said sorry to anyone in your life? Regret something you did to someone else? Write your apologies down, then paint over them.
- Think of someone dead who you wish you'd met, or wish you'd asked/told them something in particular. Write a letter to them.
- If you could pass on one tip, quote or piece of advice on to your children (or future children), what would it be?
- What would your favourite 3 course meal consist of?
- Can you remember 3 specific moments of your life that stand out in your memory? What are they? Are they happy or sad?
- Do you have a talent or party trick? What is it and how did you learn it?
- Write down your bucket list. For more writing ideas click here for a list.
- What would you like to be remembered for?
- If you could throw a dinner party for any 10 people (living or dead), who would you invite? What would be the seating plan and why?
- Document a week in your life. Include photos, drawings, words, and/or paper momentoes like tickets, food packaging etc. Do this once every year or two to see how your week has changed.
- If you could go back in time, what era would you go back to and why? What is the general fashion and style of that time? What do you see?
- Design a dress for Lady Gaga to wear for an award ceremony...but it must be made entirely from food!
- If you've just had a baby, or you have a young child, why not document their life and adventures in your art journal?
- Write and illustrate 10 random facts about yourself - do you like a weird food combo? What was your favourite toy as a kid? Do you have a natural talent or party trick? What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
- What are your favourite possessions, present and past? Perhaps an heirloom or something which you made yourself? Or it could be your favourite childhood toy, or your first grown-up dress?
- Write about your favourite Christmas present(s) - when did you receive it, how was it wrapped, and why was it the best?
Using Teabags for Texture
Try and stick different household items in your journal for texture - including bubble wrap, clingfilm, aluminium foil, yarn, threads, leaves off your house plants, scrunched up paper, fabric/swatches, old clothes, film tape/negatives, photos, candle wax etc.
Art Inspiration & Visual Examples
- Google Images
Useful to browse lots of examples.
- Flickr Journal Groups
Search through the groups for lots of images.
- One Artist Journal
A range of journal photos.
- Journal Girl
One of the best blogs about art journaling.
- An Artist's Blog
With lots of journal pages on show.
- Mixed Media Artist
Loads of tutorials and inspiration.
- Comfortable Shoes Studio
Home to many fantastic video tutorials.
- Danny Gregory
My favourite journal illustrator.
- Daisy Yellow Art
A collection of techniques and tutorials, with inspiring photos.
- A Man Who Crafts
Fantastic blog with lots of photos of journal work.
- 11 Journal Spreads
I especially like the circular journal example.
- Inspiration Wednesdays
I think the beautiful pages on this blog might be my favorites :)
Watercolour Pencil Shavings
More Background Techniques
Painted Travel Journal
Creative Background How-Tos
- Upcycled Art
Using old book pages.
- Colourful Pastel Backgrounds
Using water soluble oil pastel crayons.
- Marbled Paper
Using shaving cream.
- Video Tutorials
Lots and lots of videos on art journaling.
- Journal Cover
Pretty cover using paints and glue on letters.
- Techniques Galore!
Many how-to's for fun and unusual techniques.
- Soul Journaling Series
Step-by-step journal pages.
- Recycled Stamps
Flower and oval shapes made using toilet rolls.
- Tie-Dye Tissue Paper
I think this would make a wonderful background or stand-alone art.
How to make ink splotch patterns.
- Lino Printing
Cut out simple patterns on lino to use for journal backgrounds.
- Dyed Paper Towels
Dye paper for an interesting coloured background.
- Recycled Magazine Pages
Use Gesso and paint to make really artistic backgrounds.
Record What's Close At Hand
Illustrated Travel Journal
More Prompts To Inspire Your Page Designs
- Cut out photos (particularly people) from newspapers or magazines and doodle on them. Or cut the image in half, stick one half in your journal and then draw the missing half yourself.
- Write out your favourite quote by using letters you have cut out of a magazine - in the style of a ransom note.
- Pick your favourite colour and create a page spread with this theme - try and find paper and magazine cuttings in the chosen colour, and other things around your home that you can stick in; such as fabric scraps, gift tags, wrapping paper, tickets, old credit cards, stickers, balloons, letters, envelopes, stamps etc.
- Before you start painting or drawing on a page, cover it with scraps of white and cream papers - as many different types as possible such as lined, graph, tracing, watercolour, mulberry, embossed etc.
- Try painting with coffee.
- Print a pattern in paint using only naturally occurring items as the stamps e.g. leaves, grass, flowers, bark, potatoes etc.
- Draw something simple like a glass cup using just charcoal and your finger to create the light and shadow.
- Incorporate written words and sentences into a painting - like in this Black Bear painting (complete with a tutorial.)
- Why not try a mini journals? Smaller books are perfect for beginners because they're much less daunting to fill.
- Cut-out and sew a fantastic self-portrait.
- Try and create moulded tissue paper art using rubber stamps or other moulds.
Illustrate Your Recipes
Sticking photographs in your journal are great for adding a personal touch, but you can also create art with your photos - for instance by 'painting with light' as shown in the photo above.
More Journal Background Ideas & Painting Techniques
- A Color Study
Easy to do and will create a colorful variety of watercolor pages.
- Bubble Paper Art
Fun to do with paint and straws.
- Masking Tape Magic
Clever way to include text blocks within your art.
- Gesso Bubbles & Texture
2 videos showing interesting background-making processes.
- 5 Methods to Get Rid of Blank Pages
Using spray, drip and stencil techniques.
- Watercolor Coffee Filters
Easy way to make a background of blended colors.
- Vegetable Dyed Paper
How to use beautiful natural colors.
- Gesso Wash & Borders
How to build up a layered collaged page.
Collage Journal Pages
Art Journaling Books
Art journaling books are excellent and inspiring resources where you can find unique ideas, expert tips and tutorials all in one place.