What You Need to Start an Art Journal
art journaling,  blog

What You Need to Start an Art Journal

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If you’re brand new to art journaling, but intrigued by the idea of having a private place to express yourself creatively, no matter your artistic background, you’re probably curious about what kinds of art journal supplies you’ll need.

Perhaps you’ve wandered down the aisles of a large craft supply store, feeling overwhelmed by the millions of choices available, how much all these supplies may cost you,  and how you’re going to store it all!   You may not even be sure you’re going to like art journaling, so why spend all the money and time on something if it’s just a big hassle?

 I get it!  Even though I’ve always been a sucker for art supplies and will usually walk out of the store with more items purchased than originally intended, I still know the feeling of regret when I buy things without doing the research first, and end up with a bunch of unwanted stuff.

 So let’s start with the very basics, the minimum supplies necessary for starting a creative pastime of art journaling.  We can break it down into four things:

  1. a journal,
  2. paint
  3. collage materials and
  4. markers or pens for writing and drawing.
$29.99 Great Buy! Carts (Lexington, 5 Drawer and 10 Drawer)

1. Journal.

First of all, you need a journal.  There are all kinds of options available, from the blank journals of various paper weights, to the specially handmade, artisan designs sold on etsy to a simple lined composition book from the dollar store.  You can even make your own, very crude version by simply binding a thin stack of papers together.  No rules here, just find the thing that inspires you most, that book of pages that most invites you to dive in and start expressing yourself.

Here are some of my own journals.  I started with just one, but as I became more addicted to this hobby, I found myself wanting to experiment with different sizes, paper weights and styles.  Also important was the need to keep creating, even while my journal was still wet with paint or glue, so I wanted another fresh, dry journal (or 2 or 3!!) to pour out my ideas while my first journal was drying.  Having an extra journal on hand is also a great way to save paint; you can use up those last puddles of paint by swiping them across those blank pages, to be finished at a later time.  Nothing wasted!


Different sizes of journals, papers of different weights, textures and colors.


2. Paint

Next, you’ll want some paint.  Getting started on an art journal page is always easier when you begin by splashing down a colorful, painted background.  There are many options for paints, ranging from a simple old pan of watercolors you discover in your child’s craft supplies, to the higher end acrylic paints sold at art stores.  My favorites are the many hued craft paints found in craft stores or online.  

As you can see in the photos above, there are many different colors of paint to choose from, and several different brands, as well.   I would suggest starting out with a combination of warm colors, cool colors, and neutrals.  For example, warm colors could be your favorite hues of red, yellow and orange, maybe some hot fuschia if that’s what you like.  For cool colors, grab a few dreamy blues and greens. Then balance it all out with some earthy brown or tans, a simple white and pure black.

Hint: This awesome paint cart you see my paints in is sold on Amazon.  It is surprisingly sturdy and made completely of metal, so it can take a beating and won’t fall apart. Good wheels on the bottom to cart it around or just to cozy up to you while you’re in the middle of a project.  I highly recommend it!

3. Brushes

Ok, so you have paints.  Then you may ask, with what do I apply the paints?  The difficult answer: There are zillions of different paint brushes to choose from.  The easy answer: Start with a couple cheap foam brushes ,They are designed to be disposable, so buy several.  If you take care of them and wash them out after each use, they’ll last awhile, but eventually it’s ok to toss them.

 You will also want a variety of brushes for more detailed work. A few to start with might be a large flat brush for wide background swashes, a medium flat for filling in object color,  and a small fine round brush for details.  Best deals come in the variety packs, like this set.

4. collage materials:

A good way to start an art journal page is by laying down collage materials as a background.   You will need tools for cutting and pasting, and lots of paper to snip!

Here are my suggestions:

  • small, pointy scissors for fine detailed cutting.
  • glue stick for gluing small pieces or when you’re traveling and can’t make a mess.
  •  decopauge glue  (i.e, Mod Podge) or watered down plain white glue (my cheap alternative!)
  • jar of water to keep “glue brush”in during project time; they can dry up fast!
  • paper collage materials: old magazines, junk mail, ephemera, (random scraps of this n that, tickets, tags, interesting wrappers, etc.) scrapbook paper, colored cardstock.

Another Storage Tip!

Over the years, I have hoarded a rather massive collection of old magazines from the “free magazine” bin at one of my favorite libraries.  I like to pick a variety of genres, and will especially dive for any National Geographic magazines for the great photos of nature and cultures and everything else!

After I go through some magazines and have snipped enough pictures that I haven’t used yet, I organize and keep them in this little storage cart , in drawers labeled by topics:

Everyone has their own system of organization, and I’m sure you have yours too.  This is what works for me.  Any time I need a certain kind of image or background, I know where to go.

5. Markers

Markers are great for adding your own handwriting in different colors, as well as your own doodles and drawings to finish your page of expressive art.  While any kind of markers will get you started, it’s recommended to use good quality, acid-free markers like the ones used for scrapbooking.

Once you’ve gotten started, you may want to try your hand at fancy lettering; then you may opt for the different tips, like brush tips or  calligraphy markers.  (I’ve obviously got more than enough pens here, they’ve morphed over the years, so I attempted sorting them by color in old rinsed-out tin cans! Whatever works for you…)

You’re all set!

An art journal, paint, brushes, scissor, glue, markers and some old magazines.  That’s all you really need to get started!

Once you’ve jumped in and become a true fan of art journaling, you will probably want to experiment with other art tools in your journal, like stamps, stencils, and random objects for interesting textures and patterns. We’ll talk about how to use these other materials in the near future!

I hope this inspires you to take the first steps to keeping an art journal!

P.S. For more ideas on where to begin stocking your art journaling supplies, check out my post, “My Favorite Art and Craft Supplies”.




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