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Junk and Art Journaling-Free Tools in Your Home

As a professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to turn family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Free And Recycled Junk And Art Journal Ideas


Have you ever looked around your home for the wealth of tools and supplies that are within your grasp at no cost to you? You can save yourself some money and time creating your junk and art journals when you use what is literally in plain view of your eye.

Some of these ideas use tools that you have and can repurpose. Other ideas are recycled ideas for things that come to your home. Either way, you are going to be saving time and money.

Using Cereal Boxes In Your Art Journals

Cereal boxes are the perfect way to create your own art journal .

Cereal boxes are the perfect way to create your own art journal .

Cereal And Cracker Boxes

I love re using cereal and cracker boxes. We all have them and they can be used in so many ways!

  1. Use them as a journal page. Cut the box to the size of your journal page. Apply several coats of gesso. Allow to dry between coats. Apply any journal technique that you would like. After you have your pages completed, punch holes and bind.
  2. Cut the boxes and use them as a paint palette. Especially good for brayer techniques.
  3. Use them behind journal pages as a craft board when apply paint. Helps keep the paint from soaking through the pages.
  4. Make your own journal using cereal boxes as the covers

More Cardboard Ideas

Use Drinking Straws In Your Art Journal

One of the many ways you can use drinking straws on your art journal pages

One of the many ways you can use drinking straws on your art journal pages

Drinking Straws

  • Drinking straws will make the perfect little circle in texture paste and other mixed media
  • You can also use them to create a special effect on your pages. Take a very small amount of ink with the straw or a dropper. Apply to the page. Place the straw near the ink and blow into the straw
  • Use straws with acrylic paint as single or in bunches to create small circles

Parchment Paper

You can add another interesting touch with parchment paper.

  1. Stamp the paper with a background word stamp, stamped with archival ink. Glue it onto a page to add dimension and interest, Rip the edges. If you would like, you can use distress ink on the edges to add more dimension.
  2. Once dry, rip the edges of the paper.
  3. Use a decoupage medium to cover a section of your journal page.
  4. Coat the piece of parchment paper with the medium
  5. Apply the paper to the area where you have coated with medium.
  6. Use a paintbrush to flatten it on the paper
  7. Cover with one additional coat of the decoupage medium

Corrugated Cardboard Uses

You can create delightful embellishments using corrugated cardboard. Consider creating whole pages with it too.

You can create delightful embellishments using corrugated cardboard. Consider creating whole pages with it too.

We all get boxes made from Corrugated cardboard. Most often they are taken apart and disposed of. But if you make journals, you are heaving a resource that is valuable heading into the trash can.

So what can you do with those pieces of cardboard?

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  1. Make hearts and other shapes. So easy to cut freehand or with templates.
  2. Create covers for your journals
  3. Create a book

Bubble Wrap Bible Journaling

Bubble wrap is a fun easy way to add more dimension to any journal

Bubble wrap is a fun easy way to add more dimension to any journal

Bubble Wrap

Who does not love to play with bubble wrap? It is so much fun to use on your journal pages. Just place some acrylic paint on a craft mat. Take a small piece of the bubble wrap and get some paint on the wrap. Make sure there is lots of paint on it. Place it on your page and gently press.

Credit And Gift Cards

You will want to save old gift cards, credit cards, and library cards. They are perfect tools for your craft room. This is another way to use something and help the environment. Here are some ideas to use them:

  1. Use them to smooth any materials that you have glued.
  2. Use the side of the card to add lines in texture paste and other mixed media.
  3. Spread gesso and paint with your credit cards and gift cards
  4. Use cards to create scores on a score board
  5. Use them in place of a nine folder
  6. Rip paper against an old card to create a ripped look
  7. Draw straight lines with them
  8. Use them as a template
  9. Use old cards as a small paint palette
  10. Use them to line up letters on a scrapbook page
  11. Make journal lines
  12. Create an old-world background technique by scraping acrylic paint across a prepped altered book page

Coffee Filters

This is a decoupage beauty using coffee filters. Perfect for any journal

This is a decoupage beauty using coffee filters. Perfect for any journal

Unused coffee filters are so much fun to use on your journal pages. Here are a few ideas on how to use them:

  • Stamp Them- stamp the filters with a line-lined word stamp. Black archival ink is best for this. You can also use background stamps on these. Once they are dry, add them to a page. They will add texture, dimension, and interest.
  • Rip Them-Rip the piece of filter that you have stamped. Apply some decoupage medium onto your paper. Cover the piece of the filter with the same medium. Apply to the paper and flatten with a paintbrush. Cover with an additional coat of decoupage medium.

Paper Towels On Art Journals

New or disregarded paper towels can be used in your art journal. Color them with inks. Get a blended look with distress inks and oxide inks.

New or disregarded paper towels can be used in your art journal. Color them with inks. Get a blended look with distress inks and oxide inks.

Paper Towels

  1. Paper towels add a lot of texture to your pages. Rip a piece from the paper towel and apply with decoupage medium. Cover the piece with more medium
  2. Color paper towels with distress inks and oxide inks. Cut them in pieces to make patterns or leave whole.

Create A Texture Paste With Baking Soda

With some Ranger Matte Texture paste and some baking soda, you can create some interesting texture pastes for your journal pages.

  1. With a palette knife or a plastic knife remove a small amount of the texture paste
  2. With another palette knife remove an equal amount of baking soda
  3. Mix the two till they are combined well.
  4. Use a stencil or some dry wall tape on the page
  5. Apply the texture paste over the stencil or dry wall tape

Art Journal Tools From Your Kitchen


From The Kitchen

Net Bags

  • Use the netting as a stencil
  • Use the netting to rough up some acrylic paint
  • Apply small pieces of netting directly to the page

Egg Shells

Crushed clean eggshells can be used to add texture. Mix the crushed shells with decoupage medium. You can add a little paint for color. Add the crushed eggshells to your page with a palette knife

Egg Cartons

  • Egg cartons can be used in place of a palette to hold acrylic paint
  • You can use the lid of the egg carton to dye cut pretty shapes

Paper Towels

  • Cut small pieces of paper towel to decoupage directly to the page
  • Roll the whole roll of paper towels over embossing paste to create texture

Plastic Wrap Technique

It is easy to use plastic wrap to create an artsy background

  1. Gesso the page that you will be working with
  2. Allow it to dry or dry with a heat gun
  3. Apply several droplets of ink. Use at least two colors.
  4. Wet the droplets with water applied with a paintbrush.
  5. Smear the paint around the whole page
  6. Cover the page with plastic wrap
  7. Allow to dry or heat with a heat gun
  8. If using a heat gun, heat both sides of the paper
  9. Once dry remove the plastic wrap

Bottle Caps

  1. Use them to create circles on your pages with all kinds of mixed media. They come in different sizes and can be wiped off and used over and over again.


  1. Use metal or plastic forks to create texture in modeling paste and other mixed media. If you do not want to use your kitchenware, buy a fork or two from your local thrift shop.

Plastic Knives

  1. Use plastic knives to smooth texture paste and other mixed media

Paper Napkins

Use any napkin that you have. Remove the bottom layer of the napkin. Rip apart and apply to your page with decoupage medium or white glue. Colorful napkins will add a lot of character to your pages.

Paper Bags

Brown paper bags can be used to make journals in different sizes

Plastic Meat Trays

  • Use those foam plastic meat trays as a paint palette.
  • Use them to mix texture paste and other mixed media

Plenty Of Free Tools From Your Kitchen Sink Area


From Your Sink

There are many tools that you can use in your art journal in and around your sink. Here are a few of my favorites:

Sponges-great tools because they can be washed and used again

  1. Can be used to sponge ink onto an art journal page background. This is really effective when you use distress and distress oxide inks
  2. Use them to apply acrylic paint
  3. Cut the sponges into shapes like hearts and circles to get a different effect.
  4. Sponges work well to apply media to stencils.

Vegetable Brushes

  1. Vegetable and other cleaning brushes. Use them to create a page background with the splattering

How To Reuse Old Magazines And Books

Restyling magazine pages in your journals is fun !

Restyling magazine pages in your journals is fun !

Old Books And Magazines

Old books, magazines and even catalogs are so much fun to use on your journal pages.


  • Rip a piece of a book and apply with decoupage medium. Apply a coat of medium over the piece
  • Rip pieces from a book. Cover two adjoining pages with decoupage medium. Cover both pages with overlapping pieces of the book pages. Cut off any excess print. Using a stencil, add watercolor through the stencil with a sponge
  • Die-cut pages of old books. You can ink them and color them too.
  • Use the covers of old books to recycle as journal covers.
  • Use an old book as a journal


  • Cut out words and images for your journal pages
  • Create a mosaic design with pieces from a magazine
  • Create envelopes for your journal from magazine pages

More Book And Magazine Ideas

Recycle Old Calendars And Planners In Your Journal

The images in your disregarded calendars and journals are a perfect addition to your journal.

  • Use the month and week titles to create pages
  • Use the images-they can be cut or used as whole images

Envelopes In Journals

Create a lovely envelope journal

Create a lovely envelope journal

Envelopes From Your Mail

There are lots of different ways you can repurpose envelopes from your mail

There are lots of different ways you can repurpose envelopes from your mail

Did you know that you can reuse those old bill envelopes on your journal pages? Open some of them and look at the patterns and think how some of those patterns would look on your journal pages.

Idea #1

  • Open the envelope flat
  • Rip the section of the envelope that you want to use
  • Apply some medium to the page where you want to place that section.
  • Place the envelope piece on the page
  • Apply a coat of the medium to the envelope

Idea #2

  • Glue top flap of envelope closed.
  • Slit an opening on the side
  • Decorate the front of the envelope
  • Apply to the journal page with glue or tape

Idea #3

  • Cut down the envelope to the desired size with an opening on the top
  • Seal any remaining flap with glue or tape
  • Decorate the front as desired
  • Glue or tape the envelope to the page

More Envelope Ideas For Journals

How To Emboss Toilet Paper

From Your Bathroom

  1. Make up adds color to your pages. So when you get ready to get rid of that old make up, just remember to put it in your craft space instead of throwing it away.
  2. Make up brushes can be used to apply ink to your art journal pages

Toilet Paper

  1. Toilet paper can be added to pages with a decoupage medium to create texture
  2. Toilet paper rolls can be used to create circles with ink on your journals.
  3. Create distressed looked circles with the ends of a roll. After you are done, just cut away the part you used and keep on using it.
  4. Use toilet paper rolls to create texture in modeling paste and other mixed media.
  5. Create more texture by embossing toilet paper. Emboss several sheets att a time with embossing folders

Toilet Paper Tubes

Never throw a toilet paper tube away. They can be used for dozens of purposes.

  1. Look in your favorite browser for all the kids crafts that can be made with these
  2. Use them to hold small or short electrical cords. Wind the cord and slip the tube around the cord
  3. Make a phone holder
  4. Toilet paper roll flowers


  1. Toothbrushes are a perfect tool to add splatter to your pages

Cotton Balls & Q Tips

  1. Cotton balls can be used to blend inks for a soft look
  2. Create flowers with Q-tips-Rubber band or tape 4 or 5 q-tips together. Use paint to dot flowers on branches
  3. Take a handful of q-tips in your hand. Dip them into acrylic paint and randomly stamp them onto your page

Apply baby oil onto some paper with the cotton balls. Allow drying. You will get paper that looks transparent.

Make Up Sponges

  1. Work well to apply and blend inks, especially distress inks
  2. Good for applying ink around the edges of a page.
  3. Can use them to apply inks to a stencil. Good for applying two colors together

Hair Picks

  1. Comb through modeling paste to create texture on pages and journal covers
  2. Dip the tips of the pick in acrylic paint then apply to the paper.
  3. Dip the tip of the pick in acrylic paint and drag it on your paper.

Blusher And Powder Make Up

  1. Use leftover powder makeup and blusher to add color to your pages.

Tea Bags And Coffee

All kinds of teas and coffee will help you age paper easily

All kinds of teas and coffee will help you age paper easily

Teabags and coffee are the perfect way to age paper in your journals. I like to do at least 10 sheets at a time.

Figure about 2-3 hours to air dry lying flat. I prefer to air dry because oven drying makes the paper too brittle.

  1. Take a cold brewed tea bag and use it on a stencil. Just dot the paper behind the stencil with the teabag
  2. Take the tea grounds from inside the bag and add texture paste to them. This adds a lot of texture to a stencil
  3. Brew some tea for at least 1 minute. Then use the tea bag directly on the paper. Dab the tea bag a few times to get a blotchy look. To get a smoother look, drag the teabag across the paper. Color the edges with the tea to age the paper even more,
  4. Mix modeling paste with cold coffee grounds. Use a stencil. Apply the mixture to the stencil
  5. Once dry, you can cover them with gesso and add color too
  6. Cold-brewed coffee and tea can be used to age paper. Put some waxed paper behind your pages. Paint a light coat of tea or coffee on the page. Allow to dry.

You can also use a coffee pod with paint to add circles to your page

More Aging Paper With Tea And Coffee Ideas

  • How to Age Paper Using Tea
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Other Paper You Can Apply To Junk Journals

There is other paper around your home that can be reused in your junk journals. Once you realize the number of things you can reuse in your junk journals:

  • Old sheet music-look at your local thrift store or garage sale
  • Old book pages-use as dimensional backgrounds and pockets
  • Maps-makes interesting backgrounds
  • Magazines-cut out pictures and works for your journal
  • Game pieces
  • Wallpaper
  • Old Instruction manuals
  • Old sewing patterns-the tissue paper is great for backgrounds
  • Playing cards-use them as tags and journal cards
  • Wrapping paper- use it for backgrounds-check in your local dollar store
  • Tissue paper
  • Planners
  • Stationary
  • Matchbooks-make sure to remove matches before using them
  • Travel brochures- get them from rest stops and travel locations
  • Tags from clothing and accessories-use as is or color over them
  • Tea bags-create tea-stained paper /use tags as covers
  • Cereal boxes-most often used for journal covers
  • Candy wrappers-add your favorite candy wrappers
  • Paper tubes from toilet paper and paper towels- makes great pockets
  • Postage stamps-great for ephemera
  • Greeting cards-you can often buy these at local thrift stores
  • Napkins-makes colorful backgrounds
  • Coffee paper koozies-your favorite drink place
  • Receipts-any receipt can be pasted in to create dimension-gesso over them
  • Mail order catalogs-images and paper for backgrounds

Tissue Paper Background

You can use left-over tissue paper to create a background for your journal

You can use left-over tissue paper to create a background for your journal

  • Paint two adjoining pages with paint in the color of your choice
  • Cover the entire page and allow to dry
  • Cover the page with Modge Podge or any other decoupage medium
  • Crush the tissue paper in your hands like a small ball
  • Straighten out the tissue paper
  • Cover both pages with the flattened tissue paper
  • Allow to dry
  • Cut off any excess paper

Use Cardboard From Shipping Boxes

We all get those boxes from different companies that our packages are shipped in. These are great tools for our art journals.

  1. Take one box and cut the top and the front off. This becomes a box that you can use when you use spray inks or glues. It keeps the materials from going all over your craft space
  2. Use it like a spatula to apply paint. You will get amazing likes
  3. Use the edges to make line designs on your pages

From The Garage Or Basement

There are some things that are probably in your garage or basement that can be used in your art journals. Think outside of the box, and you will find things that will add to your art journal experience.

Dry Wall Tape

Dry Wall Tape is a stencil that you can use over and over again. Try it with different types of mediums to create dimension on your pages. Just lay it down on the paper, Apply the texture paste or other medium on top with a paint spatula.

You can also dip the drywall tape in acrylic paint and place it on your page for a different look.

Duct Tape

Duct tape comes in lots of colors and patterns these days. It can be used to cover and strengthen book spines

Sand Paper

Sandpaper can be used to age paper

More Art Journal Inspiration

Final Thoughts

There are so many things that you can use and recycle in your craft space. Being a responsible crafter means that we use materials at least one or more extra times before we dispose of them. It saves us money and makes the world a better place.

© 2021 Linda F Correa

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