Art Journaling Basics to Get You Started


The pointers below are just suggestions, you can do this any way you want – it’s your journal. We recommend that you start small and experiment.

Journal Ready to Mail - Stars Model

A Small 6″ X 9″ Journal

To start, use art supplies that you already have. If you need to buy an art supply, buy one thing at a time.
Get more for your money by using coupons – sign up at for weekly coupons.
Experiment and try out as many methods as you can. You will eventually find what suits you best for your best self expression.

For a definition of art journaling a la Lori Wostl click here.


1. Small blank journal or sketchbook – by small I mean 15 – 20 pages and a small-ish page format.  Thicker drawing or watercolor paper is nice.
2. Adhesive –  glue sticks will work (especially when traveling). At home I use a gel medium and a brush.
3. Something for color – see paint, pen and collage descriptions below.
4. Writing pen – use a permanent ink so it won’t smear if it gets wet. This does not necessarily mean expensive.  Sharpie Ultra Fine Point has permanent ink and comes in colors and black and is inexpensive.
5. Scissors – small and pointed.
6. Paint brush – hardware store chip brush or a water brush.
7. Wax paper – to put between pages while drying.
8. Soft rag or paper towels – to burnish pages, wring out brushes or wipe up a spill.

Sample Art Journaling Supplies

Sample Art Journaling Supplies

You do not need an entire art studio to do art journaling. A small box for supplies is all you need.  A workspace where you can keep your art out and ready to work on is really useful but not necessary.

You can add craft stamps, ink pads, stencils, rub-ons and any craft supplies you fall in love with, but we recommend you start small!

  • 3 Elements and Journaling:
  • Backgrounds
  • Borders
  • Focal Point


Backgrounds –  start with lighter colors for a background until you see how it goes.

  • Paint
    • Acrylic is my first choice in that it dries quickly and once dry, will not smear or blend into the next layer of color. Good acrylics can be thinned with glaze or gel medium for more translucent color, or you can add metallic color for a shimmery look. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what happens.
    • Water Color – water soluble crayons, pencils, and pan paints – great if you will not be adding additional layers of color or gel.  Adding additional layers of water color or gel will smear or blend the previous layer.
      • Watercolor crayons – Crayons and Pencils may be easier to use for those of us who are less adept with a brush- Sargent and Caran d’Ache Neo Color II are two very good brands of water color crayons.  Note that the Neo Color I is NOT water soluble.
      • Watercolor pencils – same versatility and fine work capability as the crayons – I love to draw with them and then go over the color with a water brush or regular brush dipped in water. I use Derwent Inktense and Faber-Castell.
      • Regular pan paint – great for a light wash. Some of the children’s paints (Crayola) have remarkable quality.
  • Collage – a good way to get irregular color shapes for backgrounds, again keep the color lighter (more about collaging later).
  • Text – your own writing or pages from old books make a great background. A favorite starting place for me is to write on a clean page and completely cover it with my handwriting – then go over the writing with a thin, dry-ish layer of gesso, then put my background colors over that.

    Painted Background with Collage Borders

    Painted Background with Collage Borders


  • Paint or draw – drawing shapes or leaves and vines, boxes or hash marks and anything else you like can make great borders. You can do your lines and shapes with water color crayons or pencils and then go over them with a water brush. Or you could use permanent pens.
  • Collage – Anything goes! Designs and colors from magazines, book text cut in strips, other artwork of your own that you have copied and cut into strips or shapes.
  • Stamps & stencils – stamping around the edge of the page, stamping on other paper and then cutting out and gluing down the shapes. 
5" X 7" page - Focal with Collage and Tape

5″ X 7″ page – Focal with Collage and Tape

Focal Images: 
A stamp
Magazine image
Own painting or artwork
Mask/stencil figure

Your focal image does not necessarily have to have anything to do with what you write about. You can match your writing to the focal image or just use the focal image to draw your eye and complete the piece of art.

High Heels and Tats

High Heels and Tats


Most of us think of  journaling as something like a diary.  But in art journaling you can use visual expression as well as written self-expression. Journaling does imply that you are chronicling something –  your life,  a trip, a class, an illness, a pregnancy or something else  – over time.  You can use your page’s focal image to illustrate what you are writing about or you can have a series of  images that bring a message in picture or visual form.

If writing is somewhat new to you there are dozens of books on the subject. The ones we recommend are any by Natalie Goldberg or Julia Cameron. We also provide writing prompts on our blog once a week. Having more than one way of practicing art usually enhances all of your forms of art or expression.

We hope this is enough to get you started – enjoy!

5" X 7" Text in Stencil as Background

5″ X 7″ Text in Stencil as Background

Larger format - left border is a stamp - right border

8″ X 10″ format – left border is a stamp – right border is a folded in flap


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)