How to art journal

I know I’ve been on a rampage lately about art journals.

Thank you for your patience while I get it out of my system. For those who want to journal, but are intimidated by it or don’t know where to start, below is my get-started checklist.

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Supplies needed:

  • Journal, notebook, or paper (obviously).
  • Bricks or heavy object to flatten pages or entire books (only when they’re definitely dry). Sometimes I use a blow dryer on pages to make them dry faster.
  • Waxed paper. Keep a stack cut to your page size and layer them between. Even if the pages feel dry to the touch, they may stick when pressed together. Better safe than sorry, although this sticking and ripping process can also add interesting layers.
  • Art supplies, glue, papers, other collected junk.
  • Cheap paintbrushes and sponges. I use the least expensive ones I can find because I mistreat them, leave them soaking in water for days, and I use them in glue as well as paint.


I keep a very small notebook in my purse or pocket and write down phrases or a few words to remind me of things later. Use this when you journal to spark ideas or memories.


I am always on the look-out for paper objects or other flattish things throughout the day – plants & leaves, fortune cookie strips, found notes or lists. My pockets and purse are always littered with this junk.

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Start following other journalers on Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr and Instagram. I mentioned a few in this blog post and if you have trouble finding them, look at who I’m following on my social media pages. They’re full of this kind of stuff.  Don’t be intimidated by them, but try to emulate their style to see what comes of it.


Don’t concern yourself with pretty, precious, or what others think. Journals are not created with the purpose of pleasing others or required to be beautiful. They are a means to tap into your creativity and authentic self.


Work in 2 (or more) books at a time so that one can dry while you’re working on the other one. Dedicate an area, no matter how small, to your journaling so that you can easily add something when the mood strikes. If you have to put everything away and get it back out again to work, you won’t do it very often.


LAYER. This is the key for me. Sometimes I start a page and it’s so ugly that I want to rip it out, but by the time it’s been layered with paint, tape, words, and magazine pictures, it’s one of my favorites. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened.


Recycle. I don’t throw away yogurt cups, styrofoam, odd plastic containers and lids, etc. Use them to hold paint or supplies, or to mark and stencil on journal pages.


Never waste paint or glue. If you have extra on your brush, wipe it on another page which is waiting off to the side for just this purpose. Keep adding to it in this way until you’re ready to bring it to center stage.I have quite a few stencils that I’ve collected over the past few years, but if you don’t want to invest in these, be creative and find other ways to stencil. Cut your own designs into styrofoam, or use something with holes in it. Popping paper is my favorite way to add patterned paint to a background.

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You don’t need to go in order. Flip through the pages until you find something you want to work on that day. Continue flipping back and forth and layering each day.


Add words:

  • Words from a song
  • Inspiring quote or Pinterest meme
  • Stream of consciousness
  •  It doesn’t need to be profound or important
  • Use alphabet stamps. I like the acrylic or clear ones you can get at Michael’s.
  • Use markers, crayons, gel pens, or sharpies.
  • Cut words or phrases from magazines, sale ads, etc.
  • Use a white pen or paint to place words on top of dark sections or colors.
  • When you’re stuck, write anything. Just get something on paper. You don’t even need to make it legible. Scribble or write nonsense.
  • You can write one way and then turn the page around in a different direction; this way you get to say what you want but no one can actually read it. Maybe write really big in one direction, then super small in the other.


Add shapes:

  • Close your eyes and paint or write with markers.
  • Paint abstract shapes.
  • Carve your own stamps and use them.
  • Glue images (like a face) and then use it as a template to paint over parts.
  • Use household objects as stamps:
  • Lids to a hairspray can, netting that fruit came in, paper doilies, etc. I have a whole drawer of weird things with different shapes.
  • Make your paint watery and let it drip.
  • This is my favorite right now (Thank you, Flora Bowley). Dip vegetables in paint and use to make shapes. Cut potatoes or parsnips into shapes and use to stamp. You can carve these with a knife or something sharp and make lines and interesting shapes.
  • Something that took me a while to learn: When wet, don’t mix warm colors (red, orange, yellow) with cool colors (blue, green) and don’t mix either of these things with the ugly colors like brown, gray, or black. You can use them all in the same page, but let them dry first, otherwise you will get really ugly mud. White goes with anything and the warms and cools can be used together and mixed when wet.


 Add paper:

  • Scraps of paper
  • Lists
  • Pictures or words from magazines
  • Torn book pages
  • Fortune cookie strips
  • Old tickets or programs from events


Don’t feel like the stuff already in the journal has to stay. If you’re no longer happy with a page, layer over it completely or partially until it feels right again.

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Save old credit cards or hotel room keys to use as scrapers or to apply and thin paint.

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Decorative tape (sometimes called Washi tape) doesn’t have a very strong adhesive on it so you probably want to apply a coat of glue over it when the page is done.

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Anything goes. Today I added stitching to this page.

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When you’re finally done with a page or a whole book, you might want to go back and coat  a final time to keep everything intact. I have used Mod-Podge, or various coating sprays available in art supply stores.

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There are two new ways you can participate at Ink & Alchemy – one on FB and the other on G+. I love curating the daily features, but I have been looking for a way to allow more interaction between everyone and let people post images and bits of writing that are in process. Please join us and share your latest creative masterpiece!

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