My Top 5 Tips for Starting an Art Journal

Good morning everyone! I typically enjoy sharing tutorials and pictures of my work here, but I wanted to mix it up a little bit by giving you my top five recommendations for starting an art journal. I think there are many people out there who would love to dip their toes into the mixed media waters but are afraid. They say to themselves “I can’t draw”, or “I don’t have the right supplies”, or “I don’t know where to start” etc.
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The most important thing to remember about an art journal, especially when starting out is that it’s a place to experiment and play. A place to try new techniques, make mistakes, try new products. There’s no pressure for perfection here. I’ve created some of the most beautiful, as well as the most hideous pages in my art journals! πŸ™‚


There are so many choices out there now for art journals. You can purchase, or even make your own. Consider the type of art you think you might like to create. Also consider the size and paper type for a journal you think you would feel comfortable working in. I have used many different types of journals through the years: ones made of handmade paper (a little challenging), Strathmore mixed media books in varying sizes (my personal favorite right now!), watercolor paper books, books with paper made from heavy cardstock, and the Dylusions journals (also very good). These types of journals can be found in most local Hobby Lobby or Michaels stores now. Of course Amazon is also an option!


When starting out art journaling you don’t need to buy every single mixed media item you come across (although I won’t lie, there are WAY too many tempting goodies out there!). Some basic items you will use over and over again include:

  • gesso–this is a must have. You can erase virtually any mistake with a coat of gesso. It’s my best friend!
  • decoupage/Mod Podge/matte medium/gel medium/heavy duty glue stick—anything that you want to use as an adhesive
  • acrylic paints (I started out using the cheaper brands paints, gradually adding higher quality paints)
  • decent brushes-at least one flat brush is good, also some foam brushes–nothing too fancy)
  • stencils-these can be store bought or homemade
  • texture tools-again, these can be bought, but look around your house for things with interesting textures
  • stamps-background texture stamps, word stamps, letter stamps (I like the ones at Michaels that cost $1)–this is an area of supplies that can be built up over time.
  • Pens for drawing and doodling. I like the Faber Castell Pitt pens.


I am not ashamed to say that I am on online art class junkie. I like these types of classes because they are self paced. There are so many amazing artists out there that are willing to share ideas and techniques through online classes, YouTube videos, blog tutorials, and even live teaching events and retreats. Go online and Google mixed media art. Find examples of art that you like and find out who the artist is. Check out their blogs or You Tube video channels. Browse Pinterest for styles of art that you might be interested in recreating. For a long time I was so worried about finding “my style”. I don’t worry about that anymore. The more you learn, the more you find that you will start incorporating bits and pieces of many styles–and eventually YOUR style will emerge. Don’t be so quick to put yourself into a “style” box–experiment!

Wondering exactly what to fill your pages with? There are many art journaling groups on Facebook and elsewhere online that offer great art journal prompts. Check out magazines like Art Journaling by Stampington & Company, or other art journal blogs for even more ideas. Getting connected with like minded artists is a big benefit. Some people host art journal swaps, where everyone takes a turn working in someone else’s book. These may or may not have a specific theme. Speaking of which, themes are also a good way to fill your book. A while back I created an entire “Love” themed journal. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Create a “background” journal. Fill an entire book with nothing but layered backgrounds. You can always add to these pages later.
  • Create a journal based on a word. I just started a book for my OLW for this year, which was GROW.
  • Start a quote journal. Collecting quotes that inspire you into one journal can be very uplifting!
  • Create a color journal. Challenge yourself to use one palette or particular color through the entire book.
  • Start a “Study the Masters” book. This is actually one I want to do myself. I always thought it would be fun to make a list of artists whose work I admire and try our their styles in one book dedicated to only that.
  • Create a memory journal. Document the special moments of your life with a combination of photos of your family or from your travels, with paints, doodling, and written journaling.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and feel inspired to start an art journal of your own if you haven’t already. I’d love to see your work, so feel free to post a link to your gallery or blog in the comments below!


18 thoughts on “My Top 5 Tips for Starting an Art Journal

  1. Thanks for a great article Melissa! I have been dabbling in mixed media and art journaling for a short time and am still learning. I am in San Antonio and don’t have “art friends” to gather with in person. I am like you and love the online classes but I think it would be a blast to create in person with a group! I appreciate your encouragement and inspiration and am amazed at your ability to keep creating while managing your (what I imagine to be) full life! Thanks again!


      • I would love to get together and create! I have told my daughter (14) that we can do some art projects this summer (made a Pinterest board to gather projects) and she can invite friends to play along, which should be a lot of fun. You should join us! Who doesn’t need art friends! Would love to know what you are creating this summer…


  2. Thanks for writing this informative and succinct article. Although I have been an artist for very many years, mixed media journaling is new to me. I just started this year as the time I have to commit to my “regular” art has diminished. I am thoroughly enjoying using new media, trying new techniques and generally working in a way that is less result focused than it is process and pleasure focused. I am going to jot down your list of dedicated journal ideas for future reference. Thanks.


  3. Hello and thank you for this post. I love the tips you’ve included but for me #1 is really hard to do.I always feel that I am not an artist therefore starting a journal will just be a waste of my time. I’ve started a cut and paste journal to slowly break in through art journaling.

    Cheers and have a great weekend!


  4. Really enjoyed these tips! I’m ‘working’ on my very first journal and I have to say the biggest set back is not having the ‘right equipment’ to make beautiful pages like the ones I’ve seen and fallen in love with all over the internet! I try not to let that stop me though.


    • I’m glad you enjoyed the tips! Remember, it takes time to build up “the right equipment”. Start with the basics and invest in more product over time. It really helps you learn to stretch your creativity! πŸ™‚


  5. Pingback: Thursday Links to Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways #zentangle #Giveaways #ArtJournal | lifeimitatesdoodles

  6. Pingback: How to Find Inspiration For Your Art | Mel's Art Journal

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