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Junk Journal Basics

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Using extra things that you have in your stash to create a piece of art is what junk journals are about.

Using extra things that you have in your stash to create a piece of art is what junk journals are about.

What Is A Junk Journal?

A junk journal in simple terms is a bound book created with materials that you might otherwise throw in the trash. That is the pure explanation of what a junk journal is. It can be made from junk mail, throw-away envelopes, old greeting cards, calendars, old tickets, magazines, and more. You can also add old buttons, lace, fabric, music natural materials, pictures, and a lot more.

Your junk journal can have a theme or just be pages that inspire you.

  • You can use it as a daily journal where anything and anything might turn up. You can collect things from your daily life and use them to tell your story
  • Use it as a planner. Use it as a calendar format or as a daily to-do list
  • Use it as a memory book where you keep old greeting cards, memories, and ephemera
  • Give it as a gift for just about any occasion. Leave some blank pages so that the recipient can add some junk of their own.
  • Use it as an art journal. You can mix art journals and your junk. It is a perfect recipe for lots of fun and creativity

Pages in junk journals are often different sizes and may be made from any paper, such as book or magazine pages, coffee filters, scrapbook paper, maps, envelopes, and much more. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination!

Covers may be made from old book covers, cardstock, greeting cards, envelopes, cardboard food boxes, binders, or any number of other items.

You can recycle an old book or create your own journal. Bookbinding is not as difficult as you think. With a few simple tools, you can create your own journal in minutes.

Vintage Junk Journal

There are lots of choices when it comes to design too. Most often people think of vintage or vintage styles when it comes to junk journals. A vintage junk journal would use neutral or muted colors in its pages and design. Think about the colors you would see in old photos.

Think of tea and coffee dyed papers, lace, and other victorian trim, ribbons, and victorian images.

Boho Junk Journals

The Boho-style junk journal is a little harder to define as it can mean different things to different people. Some folks think of travelers and gypsies. Others may lean towards Indian fabrics and trims. Others think of it as lots of mixed bright colors with lots of bling.

You can choose to lean one way or the other. Or you can choose to use bits of each to create their own Boho-style junk Journal. It is your choice.

Shabby Chic Journal

Lots of lace, fabric, flowers, feminine elements and pastels make this a one of a kind junk journal

Steampunk Junk Journal

This style of the journal is very industrial in its approach. Consider using things like steam trains, clocks, cogs, chains, metal, metallic colors, and machinery/inventions in your creations.

Creating a junk journal is an outlet that will help you destress and reenergize

Creating a junk journal is an outlet that will help you destress and reenergize

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Reasons To Create A Junk Journal

You might be wondering why you should take time from your already busy day to create a junk journal. I know and understand how the day can get away from you.

But for me, taking the time to journal is an important part of my daily routine. I settle down in my craft space with a nice cup of tea and maybe a cookie or two and get lost in the moment.

  • Taking a pause in my day helps me to clarify and rechange
  • My journal helps me create a visual reminder of how I think and feel
  • Creates memorable moments and memories
  • It helps me develop my creative side
  • It helps me learn new techniques and how to apply them with tools
  • Helps me use some of the tools and supplies that I own.

Even if you just take 30 minutes from your day, you will find that you will come out of that precious time renewed and refreshed, ready to get on with your day.

Other Reasons To Create A Junk Journal

Create A Travel Journal-Create the story of your travels as memories for you and future generations

Use It As A Coffee Table Book- Create journals to use as decor on a coffee table or in a bookcase

Use It As A Wedding Gues Book-What a wonderful memory when your guests write in the book that you create. You can create a journal matched t your theme.

There are dozens of reasons to create a junk journal. Creating one is your expression of mixed media art. There are no right or wrong ways to create your personal expressions of who you are.

Supplies That You Need To Junk Journal

To get started in junk journaling, you do not need a ton of supplies. You may have many of these things in your craft stash. But if not, you can purchase much of what you need for not a lot of cash.

Must-Have Supplies

  • Paper, binding supplies, a journal, or an old book
  • PVA glue
  • Scissors/ Paper Trimmer
  • Paper junk from the mail, old magazines, catalogs, and more
  • Needle, thread, or other binding materials like staples or binder rings
  • Printables
  • Hole punch

Optional Supplies

  • Double-sided tape
  • Ruler
  • Stamps and inks
  • Bits of ribbon and lace
  • Printed paper
  • Markers
  • Alcohol inks
  • Colored pencils
Junk journal page created with a washi tape background using magazine pages to create a though or emotion

Junk journal page created with a washi tape background using magazine pages to create a though or emotion

What Is The Junk In Junk Journals?

The junk part of junk journals comes from a variety of resources. Think about the kinds of paper you handle every day that you may throw away. Most of it can be recycled into your junk journals.

  • Book covers
  • Book page
  • Sheet music
  • Greeting cards
  • Maps
  • Magazines
  • Envelopes-all kinds of mail envelopes
  • Food packaging
  • Receipts and ticket stubs
  • Junk mail
  • Catalogs
  • Fabric scraps
  • Ribbon
  • Lace
  • Broken jewelry
  • Paper clips
  • Game pieces
  • Puzzle pieces
  • Postage stamps

Step 1-Decide What Your Junk Journal Is About

Like any other art project, it is helpful to have a theme or a general direction for your junk journal. It does not have to be super specific, but having an idea where you are going makes it easier to get there. You can collect the things specific to your subject and theme.

Theme Suggestions

  • Flowers and plants
  • Leaves
  • Herbs
  • Animals and wildlife
  • Butterflies
  • Birds
  • Holidays
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Babies
  • Home Improvements
  • Sports
  • Eras and time periods-Any decade will do
  • Country or City
  • Vacations-mountains, beaches, Europe, Asia
  • Camping
  • Books
  • Historical figures
  • The seasons
  • Color inspired
  • Family
  • Food
  • Genealogy
  • Pets
  • Dance
  • Hobbies
  • Coffee or tea

More Junk Journal Theme Ideas

Create Dimension In Your Junk Journal

Use embellishments to create dimension in your junk journals

Use embellishments to create dimension in your junk journals

Step 2-Deciding What Type Of Binding To Use

There are plenty of different bindings to use for your junk journal. Some are sewn. Others are bound. I recommend that you start with simple binding and then learn more techniques as you go along.

Using Binder Rings

For this method, all you need is a good hole punch and some binder rings. I like to use the large three-hole office punch so that I get the holes lined up evenly every time. You just cut your paper to the size that you want, punch the holes and thread them onto the binder rings. Instant junk journal.

You will want to male a front and back cover using cardboard. You can recycle shipping boxes, cereal, and other cardboard boxes from your kitchen or recyle old book covers.

Using Binder Thread-Sewn Journal

If you are making your own junk journal, you will need a heavy-duty thread to hold all the papers together. With sewn binding, you will actually be stitching the papers into the cover of the journal. There are many, many different sewn binding techniques and ways to stitch in the papers.

Rubber Band Binding

This is the easiest binding to use of all of them. You use rubber bands to hold sections of your journal (the sections are called signatures) on the cover. Could not get any easier than that.

Sewn Binder Method

This is a jink journal that is sewn rather than being bound in another way. There are dozens of ways to create the sewn binding. You can hand sew with a few stitches or sew the book together on a sewing machine.


You could hinge pages and a cover together using strong washi tape, framer’s tape, or even fabric. This is another great no-sew method but is best saved for smaller or more lightweight journals as it’s not the most secure binding method out there.


If you’re making a simple notebook or booklet, then you could even just staple your cover and pages together using a stapler (much like the notebooks you see in the shops). You’ll need to either use a longarm stapler

Ribbon Binding

With just two holes and some pretty ribbon, you can easily bind a small journal together. Again, this is best saved for smaller or more lightweight journals as it could put pressure on your pages.

Altered Books

These are books that you recycle into a junk journal. There are a few things that you will need to do before using the pages, but it is an easy and carefree way to start junk journaling.

Twine Binding

This no-sew method is not only easy to apply it's the only binding system that is not permanent. In this system, the signatures are inserted under strings or twines attached to the cover spine. The great thing about this type of binding is that you can reposition the pages and change the signatures

Create A Junk Journal With An Old Cookbook

There are many old cookbooks that are perfect to create junk journals, Many of them are actually three-ring binders, Instant journal-no binding

There are many old cookbooks that are perfect to create junk journals, Many of them are actually three-ring binders, Instant journal-no binding

Perefect Beginner Bookbinding Kit

More Binding Ideas

Charms On Your Pages

Add charms to your pages to create junk journal jewelry

Add charms to your pages to create junk journal jewelry

Junk Journal Covers

There are a few ways to make junk journal covers. They can be made for old books, cardboard, or any other heavy stiff material. You can use the materials with a simple fold, or you can create a spine.

You can use scrapbook paper, cardstock, or even fabric to cover your cover. Using old sheets or fabric makes a great recycling project. If you plan to use fabric, always use a fabric glue rather than a plain white craft glue.

  1. Using Paper Bags- you can create a journal cover from a paper or glassine bag. Fold the bag over and glue some paper on top. This would work for smaller junk journals. The nice thing about this idea is that you get extra pockets from the bags. You can also use lunch bags and create the journal as well as the cover from them. You can also reinforce the spine with washi tape.
  2. Magazine Covers-even though they are not as thick as cardboard, you can use magazine covers to create just about any size junk journal you can think of.
  3. Thick Cardstock-your heavier and thicker cardstock will work well to cover a simple journal.
  4. Mailing Envelopes-they comes in white and brown color. Like other envelopes. you would fold them over to create your cover.
  5. The Back Cardboard Of Paper Pads-when you get those pads of cardstock, they are often backed by a piece of cardboard. Fold that cardboard and cover it and you have a cover.
  6. Notebooks-cover a spiral notebook, a composition book, or any other type of notebook. You have created an instant journal in minutes
  7. Kitchen Boxes-there is plenty of items in your kitchen to use for journal covers. Think about cereal boxes, macaroni boxes, tissue boxes, and tea boxes. When you cut them apart, they make perfect journal covers. They all have built-in spines when you cut them apart.
  8. Old Book Covers-you can get old books at your local dollar store, yard sales, and thrift shop, You can take them apart to create junk journal covers. They come in all sizes and widths. You can have a lot of fun with them. You can also use children's books as well.
  9. Folders -can be cut to any size that you would like to use as a junk journal. You can cut multiple folders out to create an entire journal if your creative side leads you in that direction.
  10. Cardboard Boxes-we all get the boxes from Amazon or other shipping boxes. Cut two pieces of cardboard to create covers for your journal.

Basic Junk Journal Covers

More Junk Journal Cover Ideas

Create A Mini Junk Journal

Mini Journals are fun to create and use

Mini Journals are fun to create and use

Step 3 -Decide The Size Of Your Junk Journal

You can choose to make your junk journal whatever size you want it to be. The most common sizes are

  • Micro Mini Junk Journals-These are really tiny -almost doll-sized
  • Mini Junk Journals-These are junk journals that would be no bigger than your hand. Think of them as pocket-sized journals.
  • Booklets-A booklet can be of many different sizes (micro, mini, or larger). They are usually thin and lightweight which would be perfect for traveling. Good as a starter journal as there are fewer pages to bind.
  • Traveler's Notebook(TN)-They’re usually around 4.5 inches x 8.25 inches, so they’re much slimmer than a standard-sized journal.
  • Standard- A standard junk journal is usually about the size of A5 (or roughly 8×5 or 9×6 inches). This is a great size for beginners as you don’t have to trim your pages as much; most A4-sized sheets of paper will fit just right inside a standard-sized junk journal.
  • Large-Can be any size above 8" x 5"
You can use just about any type of paper in your junk journal

You can use just about any type of paper in your junk journal

Step 4-Choosing Paper For Your Junk Journal

Signatures are groups of papers that are bound together. Several signatures make up a junk journal as they do in a book. They are typically 4 or more pages folded in half and stitched together. Start taking the paper you’ve gathered, and put it together in piles of 4 pages that look good together. (What looks good is subjective so you decide how you like it to look!).

Copy Paper

You can choose standard copy paper for your journal if you are planning to use lightweight materials. I prefer to use heavier paper like 80 to 90 lb cardstock. that way I know whatever I add to my pages will be on a heavy base.


Or you can consider using several same-sized envelopes to create an envelope junk journal. Envelopes can also be used as pockets too.

Paper Bages

You can use brown paper bags. These are especially nice when you are creating vintage journals. Another type of bag that is fun to use is the bags that your medications come in. Save them and you will have enough to create a junk journal with those bags.

Tissue Paper

I love to use tissue paper on the pages of my junk journals. Mostly, I recycle tissue paper from holidays and gifts. It does not matter if it is crumpled, That adds more texture to your pages. You can create a lovely tissue paper collage by ripping bits of paper and gluing them on your base page.

Old Book Pages

Again these can be added to a base page to add more texture.

Magazine Pages

There are so many ways to use magazine pages. Of course, you cab use the images to create a custom page. But you can also use the prints and titles on your junk journal pages.

Tea-Stained Doilies And Papers

You can stain papers and doilies to add interest to your junk journals.

You can stain papers and doilies to add interest to your junk journals.

Aging Paper

Aging paper for your junk journal gives it the appearance of vintage (old paper). It adds a certain amount of flavor to your journal.

Ripping Paper

The simplest way to age paper is to rip it. Simply hold the paper firmly with one hand, near the edge, where you’d like to rip off the paper border. Use the other hand to gently rip off the edge along the traced 1 cm border. Continue to rip the edge until all 4 sides have been covered evenly.

Light Crumble

Grab the paper with both hands and crumble the paper slightly to create some creases in the paper

Heavy Crumble

Take the paper and make a tight ball. Allow the paper to stay in a ball for one to two minutes. Unwrap the ball. You can lightly add some distress ink in brown color with a blending brush to add more depth to the paper.

Aging Paper With Tea

The easiest way to do this is to stain the paper with coffee or tea.

The easiest way to do a batch of papers at once is to use a cookie sheet or baking pan filled with tea. You can use any tea that you would like. Different brands of tea give different results. You want to use 4 tea bags per cup of water. That will give you the best results. Soak the paper till you get the color that you like and allow them to dry. Be careful handling the paper as it becomes fragile when handled.

Save the tea bags as they can be used to create texture paste and can also be used to splatter the paper to give it more character. The paper bag of the tea bag can also be saved and used to stamp on. Never waste a thing!

Staining With Coffee

Brew a cup or a pot of coffee. Sprinkle the coffee on the paper which is laid on a cookie sheet that has a side on it. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes. You can also stain envelopes, lace, paper pieces-just about anything.

Drying The Paper

You can dry the paper in the oven if you chose. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F (90 degrees C)

Place the paper that has been stained on a cookie sheet and place in the preheated oven for 4-7 minutes.

Watch the paper to make sure that it does not curl or burn.

Remove the paper and allow it to cool. Using oven mitts, remove the baking sheet from the oven. ...

Air Drying The Paper

My personal preference is air drying the paper. I lay some towels in my shower and lay the paper there until it dries. It is not as fast as the oven method but I find I get better results.

More Aging Paper Ideas

Step 4 Decorating Your Pages

There are thousands of ways to decorate your pages. You will want to create pages using your imagination and creativity. Here are some basic ideas to get you started.

  • A Collage Page-These are layers of different types of pages and images glued together to create a theme.
  • Belly Band Page-A belly band is a vertical or horizontal strip of paper or ribbon that acts as a tuck spot for anything that you want to place in it. You glue the paper or ribbon at both ends of the page and add what want you to want to tuck inside of it. You can also use lace.
  • Pocket Page-The pocket page is one of the most popular pages in a junk journal. To create a pocket, you use paper and glue it to the page on three sides leaving an opening on the top. You can leave it as is or decorate the pocket. Pockets can be square, rectangular or triangular.
  • Giant Pocket Page-You can glue two pages together to create a giant pocket page, The opening can be put on the top of the page or on the side. Or you could add cardstock (patterned or plain) over the page to create a pocket that covers the entire page.
  • Tuck Spot Pages-Unlike the pocket page, the tuck spot is only glued on two sides. This is always in a corner. It is usually made of paper in the shape of your choice. You can place any size of ephemera in it.
  • Hidden Journaling Page-This could be a pocket to hold some journaling or a fold-over where journaling might be found.
  • Hidden Flip Up, Down, Or Out Page-These are interactive add ons to your page. They can be envelopes or page that is added onto the page so that it is folded over to reveal some additional design.
  • Simple Fold Out Page-The fold-out page is slightly different from a flip out. While a flip-out usually involves adding something extra to your page, the fold-out page simply refers to a page folding out to reveal more journaling space.
  • Window Page-The idea behind the window page is that you’ll frame something beautiful or interesting to make a fun, interactive talking point within your journal. Or you might use a window envelope to frame something and then turn that into a bellyband, pocket, or flip-up, down, out, etc.
  • Decoupage Page-Using decoupage medium to create a page is lots of fun. You can decoupage images from a magazine, decorative napkins, or anything that you might want to add.

More Page Ideas

You can get free printable ephemera on the internet from your favorite browser

You can get free printable ephemera on the internet from your favorite browser

Using Printables In Your Junk Journals

Printables are images that you print out to use in your junk journal. There are a wealth of free images available that are free and others are at nominal costs. You simply download the image and print it on your printer.

Use your browser to find the latest ephemera. When you find the printable you like, print it and copy the page.

There are quite a few shops on Etsy where you can buy pages, ephemera, and embellishments for your pages.

There are printable pages and all kinds of ephemera for your use.

Free Junk Journal Printables

Add A Belly Band To Your Journal

A belly band is a piece of cardstock the is adhered on the top and bottom. You can add tags, photos or any ephemera to your page with the bad holding it in place.

A belly band is a piece of cardstock the is adhered on the top and bottom. You can add tags, photos or any ephemera to your page with the bad holding it in place.

Using Inks And Stamps In Junk Journals

Stamps and inks can be used in lots of different ways on your junk journal pages. If you have some stamps and inks, these ideas will expand the use of supplies that you already have.

Here are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  1. Edge the pages of your junk journal with some distress inks. To get an aged look use brown distress inks. Consider matching or contrasting color is distress inks to give your page a designer look.
  2. Create a scene using flower stamps, butterflies and words, trees, and bushes
  3. Use background stamps to create a background
  4. Use word stamps to create expressions and thoughts
  5. Use distress inks blended together to create a background
  6. Use ink to outline and highlight an envelope

Junk Journal Corner Pocket

Using a small piece of paper, you can create a corner pocket for your junk journal.

Using a small piece of paper, you can create a corner pocket for your junk journal.

Adding Pockets In Your Junk Journals.

There are endless ideas when it comes to adding pockets to your jink journal. You can make pockets from any paper that you would like. But consider the weight of the paper if you are planning to add a lot of materials to your pockets. I prefer to use an 80 lb-weight paper or higher if I plan to add lots of materials.

Using Envelopes

The simplest way to add a pocket to your junk journal is by using envelopes. You can use any envelope that you have or you can make an envelope from paper that you have in your stash. Printed paper and vellum work just fine.

Consider the envelopes that come in your mail and recycle them. You can color the envelopes with alcohol ink, acrylic paint, or cut paper to fit the outside of the envelope.

Glue the envelope to your page with the flap on the outside. Or cut the flap off. It's your call.

You can use the envelope horizontally or vertically. You can use the envelope anywhere on the page. One way to use them is on the edge of the page.

Pockets are a great way to use some of that leftover scrap paper.

Floating Pocket

A floating pocket is an envelope that is not attached to the page with glue. It is often attached by a paper clip to a page. It is usually a small envelope the size of a coin pocket.

Corner Pocket

Another super-easy way to create a pocket. They create an extra tuck space on any page that you use them.

All you have to do is rip the corner of a piece of paper into a triangle in the size that you wish it to be. Instead of ripping the paper, you can also use decorative scissors.

Now glue the two straight sides of the triangle to any part of the junk journal page that you would like.

Glassine Bag Pockets.

Glassine bags are another simple way to add clear pockets to your junk journal pages.

They are glued anywhere on the page that you want.

Add Pockets For Interest

Pocket can be as simple or as fancy as you want them. The simplest pocket is just a piece of cardstock with double sided tape on three sides adhered to the page

Pocket can be as simple or as fancy as you want them. The simplest pocket is just a piece of cardstock with double sided tape on three sides adhered to the page

You can find all kinds of embellishments and ephemera all over the internet. And remember, there are no rules when it comes to junk journals. So find the images you love and print them to use in your journal.

Use your favorite browser and type in free images for ( your subject matter) Find the images that you like and print them.

Create Embellishments With Paperclips

There are so many ways to use common paperclips in your junk journals

There are so many ways to use common paperclips in your junk journals

Using Paper Clips In Your Junk Journal

You can create artful and easy embellishments using basic paperclips. Colored paper clips are fun to use too!

Your paperclips pieces can be made with fabric, paper, Cardboard, lace, buttons and just about anything you may have in your stash.

Create a simple embellishment by attaching a charm to your paperclip.

Start with a simple form. The form can be a circle, square, rectangle, heart or any other form that appeals to you. I like to create multiple forms with my paper scraps on my electronic cutting machine (my Cricut).

You can of course cut forms with your scissors or craft knife.

You can paint the pieces or use inks to alter the color of the base.

Then start layering other elements on your design/

Simple and easy to do and so creative. What will you make with paperclips for your junk journal?

Final Thoughts On Junk Journal Basics

Creating junk journals is an artistic expression that creates an outlet for your creative side. There are no rules to constrict your expression of free art. You can work on your projects whenever and however you please.

It is a fluid and ongoing art project. By that, we mean that you can start and add elements whenever your creative side demands an outlet.

There is not a lot of financial investment. With a used book or some paper, you can create a junk journal. Use some old magazines, images from the internet, odds and ends from you stash, ink and stencils. Any or all of these things will help you create a lovely junk journal

© 2022 Linda F Correa

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