The Ultimate Guide to Art Journaling for Beginners

Table of Contents

    What is Art Journaling?

    Art journaling is a visual diary and a great creative outlet. You can utilize a wide variety of art supplies and techniques to express your creativity within a journal.

    You can use art journals to record your thoughts and express emotions while exploring different artistic styles. There are truly no rules for your art journal. You can make it however you’d like. That’s the beauty of creating this type of journal!

    If you enjoy writing and making art (whether it’s drawing or mixed media art), starting an art journal would be an excellent idea for your next creative endeavor.

    Art Journal Basic Supplies

    You only need as many supplies as you’d like to have when thinking about creating your first art journal.

    At the least, you would need a journal and a drawing utensil. Even if you can’t get your hands on a journal, you can create your own by binding some paper together.

    You can get started with whatever supplies you already have in the house!

    There’s no need to invest in expensive or fancy art supplies in order to start. Don’t let that be a barrier to you beginning this creative endeavor. 

    Best Journals for art journaling

    Your journal selection should be based on the different types of art mediums that you’ll be using the most for your journal.

    Sometimes I feel like just using watercolor and pen, so a watercolor sketchbook suffices.

    Other times, I want to be able to have the freedom to use heavier paints like acrylic and add tons of collage pieces. There are a few mixed media journals that fit this need.

    Ranger Dylusions Creative Journal

    This is my favorite journal to use. It’s a good size (roughly 8×11) and has 64 pages to fill up.

    The pages are very thick and perfect for many types of heavier paints and ink. It’s not so good for watercolor, but there are other journals I use for that. 

    Strathmore Hardbound Mixed Media Art Journal

    This is a sturdy hardbound book and is good for sketching and journaling. I’m currently using this one to watercolor and journal.

    As the binding is pretty tight, it probably is not as good for tons of layering or collaging as the book will not close very well.

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    Best Supplies for Art Journaling

    To add some art to your journal, you may want to think about using supplies like pen and ink, colored pencils, art markers, pastels, or watercolor.

    If you’re not as familiar with using some these, check out our beginner’s guides:

    It’s best if you explore with a lot of different supplies as you may prefer one over another.

    Creating an art journal is a great way to test out new supplies. The ones listed below are just a few of my favorite supplies to use in art journaling.

    Pens for Art Journaling

    Sakura Micron Pens 

    These are my favorite pens for both journaling and sketching. I use it primarily for my travel art journal. You can get a pack with different tip sizes, including a brush pen.

    Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight

    I have been using these Gelly Roll pens since I was a kid, so they also bring a little nostalgia to me as well. Gelly Roll pens also come in solid, metallic, opaque, glitter, and two-toned colors. I like the opaque ones because they show up well on both light and dark surfaces.

    Uni-Ball UM Signo White Gel Pen

    When I want to write white on a dark surface, I’ll use these gel pens. I’ve explored a couple and this one is my favorite. Another one I’ve tried is the Sakura Gelly Roll pens in white.

    Pencils and Crayons for Art Journaling

    Neocolor II Watersoluble Crayons

    These are water-soluble crayons that are great for adding color in your journal on its own or on top of acrylic paints. They have such a smooth and creamy texture when applied to a surface and blends very well.

    Stabilo All pencil

    I was introduced to these pencils by Dina Wakley in Art Journal Courage. It’s so great for mixed media art and can write on so many different surfaces. These pencils are also water-soluble and easily erasable, so keep that in mind.

    Paints for Art Journaling

    Koi Watercolor Travel Set 

    I think that watercolor is always going to be my favorite art medium. When I like to keep things light but still add some color, I’ll quickly splash on some watercolor.

    Right now, I’m currently using this Koi Watercolor Travel because it easily fits into my purse and I can bring it out when I’m journaling in different locations.

    Windsor & Newton Galleria Acrylic Paints

    This set of acrylic paints includes nine different colors, a canvas board, palette, and brushes.

    The colors go on pretty well and include cadmium red hue, crimson, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, phthalo green, ultramarine, yellow ochre, raw umber, cerulean blue, and titanium white.

    Ranger Dina Wakely Gesso

    If you want to use acrylic paints, I would definitely recommend a layer of gesso primer to give the paint something to grab onto. It will also help minimize the amount of paint you need to use.

    Other Supplies for Art Journaling

    Collage Paper Pieces

    I like the vintage look, but sometimes I can’t exactly find what I want with modern magazine material.

    Luckily, there are tons of scrapbooking supplies that can also be used in your art journal. This set gives my pages a pretty neat vintage look.

    Rubber Stamps Letters

    I am a big fan of using block letters and this set is perfect. I use it to add headings, words, or short quotes to my pages.

    Ink Pad Kits

    In conjunction with the stamps, I like to use Ranger’s archival ink pads. Since I’m generally using the stamps for headings and words, I want to avoid any water-soluble ink pads. These also stamp very well over acrylic paint.

    Large Stencils

    Using stencils in your art journal can help add some texture and design in your spreads. These stencils aren’t the exact ones I have but are very similar. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the brand as the ones that I use were given to me a while back.

    Best Adhesives for Art Journaling

    For adhering items into your journal (like clippings or collage sheets), you want to use the thinnest adhesive you can to lighten up the weight the paper is taking.

    I like using the purple UHU glue stick, but those have been more difficult to find lately. They have blue ones but in my experience, these aren’t as good as the purple ones.

    Another way to adhere items into your journal is by using craft tape like washi tape. 

    Washi tape is a versatile craft tape that comes in a variety of colors and patterns. It’s light and can easily peel on and off without leaving any residue.

    Using washi tape can allow you to adhere things on to the pages of your art journal AND add some color.

    Art Journaling Prompts

    If you’re in a creative block, try using any of the art journal prompts to help jump-start that creativity! Here’s a few to get started:


    • Your favorite inspirational quote
    • A quote you will always remember from a parent, grandparent, or significant other
    • Your favorite movie quote
    • Your favorite song lyric
    • A quote that describes the world’s current events
    • The funniest thing that you heard today
    • A Bible verse or quote from another religious text

    Journaling about Today

    • What you did today
    • The happiest moment of today
    • The worst moment of today
    • What you are most grateful for from today
    • What was on your to-do list today
    • What’s on your to-do list for tomorrow
    • What you ate today
    • What you wore today
    • A random moment from today

    Journaling about the Past

    • Your favorite childhood memory? If you can remember, try filling an entire journal by choosing a memory that represents a different age for each page.
    •  Your biggest achievement
    • Your childhood best friend
    • Your elementary/junior high/high school/college memories
    • Your first job
    • Your favorite job
    • Your favorite teacher
    • Your favorite family vacation
    • Reflections of your growth 
    • Biggest lessons learned in life 

    Travel Journaling

    • A map of where you are traveling to
    • Your travel itinerary
    • Where you are most looking forward to visiting
    • What foods you are most looking forward to trying
    • The different sites you visited
    • The people you met on the trip
    • Your favorite moment on the trip
    • Your favorite foods on the trip

    Other Prompts

    • A favorite recipe
    • Favorite television show
    • Favorite movies
    • Favorite books
    • Favorite activity
    • Favorite person
    • A pivotal moment in your life that changed you
    • A lost loved one
    • Your thoughts on your family members
    • Your thoughts on your friends
    • Your thoughts on your schooling/career
    • What you are most looking forward to in your life

    Art Journaling Inspiration

    The best inspiration when you’re just starting is to see what other experienced art journalists are doing.

    You can begin by trying similar techniques until you find ones that you enjoy and can start developing your own style.

    Check out our post on art journal inspiration to get inspired.


    Art journaling is a great hobby for any creative soul. You don’t need many skills or supplies to get started.

    Art journaling is all about creative freedom and expressing your emotions through art. You can use supplies you already have or check out some of the products recommended above.

    Let us know in the comments below if you’re thinking about starting an art journal or if you already have one!

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