Skip to main content

Junk Journal Tips And Ideas

Paper crafting has been my passion since I was a child. I love sharing paper projects, ideas, and products. Get more from your paper.

Junk journals are creative spaces that anyone can create using left over materials

Junk journals are creative spaces that anyone can create using left over materials

What Is A Junk Journal

There is not really one straight answer for exactly what a junk journal is. The answer may depend on whom you ask. Like art journals, junk journals mean different things to different people. They do all have two thing in common. They made made with found and recycled materials.

The dictionary defines it a different way, "Junk Journal: A book which is often made through found and recycled materials to be used as a way to collect and record memories, thoughts, ideas, and inspiration"

There are no real rules how to make a junk journal. It is totally all about you and your art. The nice thing about junk journals is that you do not have to have any special skills at all. Anyone can create a junk journal that will be special and appreciated.

Terms to Know

Signatures are groups of pages that are folded over and bound in a book. A junk journal can have one signature or multiples.

Ephemera are things that are meant to last only a short time (tickets, programs, tags ect) They are something that you would cherish or be memorabilia. They can also be things like an image that you are drawn to.

Soft Cover Journals

These are junk journals that are made with things like paper bag covers, envelopes, file folder covers or card stock covers.

Hard Cover Junk Journals

This type of junk journal has a hard cover. It could be a recycled book, a book with a chipboard cover, a wood cover or a heavy cardboard cover.

Unbound Junk Journals

These junk journals have a cover and a back cover. The journal pages are in between. The whole thing is tied together with ribbon , string or material

What Kinds Of Materials Are Junk Journals Made Of?

The purpose of junk journals is to take materials that we would throw away and repurpose them into a journal.

Vintage Books

Often junk journals are made from old books. These books can be found in used bookstores, thrift stores, rummage sales, and library sales. You use the old book as a base and then create something special.

Softcover Junk Journals

This is often heavy cardboard covered with fabric. The fabric can be a piece that you may have in your stash.

Scroll to Continue

You can use a piece of an old quilt or a padded placemat.

Cardstock And Paper

You can mix all kinds of cardstock and paper to create a junk journal. Usually the cardstock or paper is a heavier type of paper and a smaller variety of cardstock/

Ways To Use Junk Journals

There are lots of different ways to use junk journals.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • The story of your pet's life-You can keep all the information about your dog or cat in a journal. Keep information about your pets in one location. Vaccination and license information. Pictures of your animals every year. Travels with your pet and more.
  • A guest book for a wedding or anniversary celebration. Have all the guests write their thoughts and sign the page.
  • Gratitude journals are very popular. Every day, you write one thing that you may be grateful for.
  • A pain journal is a very good idea for anyone with chronic pain. Every day, you write your pain level, what medications you took, and what activities you did. Keeping this journal will help change your attitude for your pain, And you will have information to discuss with your doctors.
  • Travel journals are a great way to record your trips and travels.
  • Baby journals are a fun way to record your thoughts during your pregnancy, how you feel when you delivered your baby, and feeling while your baby was growing.
  • Recipe books are a great place to record family and special recipes that you have used. You can tell the story about your recipes and when and how you used them.
  • The everyday journal is a record of your thoughts, feelings, and the things that happen in your daily life,
  • A junk journal planner is a way to keep your day organized. You can create a to-do list and daily tasks.
  • Hobbies and your interests can be reflected in a junk journal. Gardening, stamps, woodworking, and more can all be captured in your junk journal.
  • A gift journal can be made for someone special. in your life. Think about holidays, birthdays, weddings and more.
  • Art journals are where you learn and grow in your papercraft abilities

Junk Journal Stashes


Things To Save For Your Junk Journals

As we said in the beginning, anything goes in a junk journal. Here are a few things you can save to use for your now and future products

  • Cardboard- to use for the fronts and backs of your journals. I especially love thr Amazon boxes. Cut them down for easier storage
  • Wrapping Paper-recycle old wrapping paper.
  • Tissue Paper-tissue paper is a perfect addition to your pages
  • Greeting Cards- Images, poems and sayings
  • Used Dryer Sheets-I glue them on to pages to add dimension
  • Catalogs- Any catalog you get will have lots of pictures that you can use in your junk journals. I love the holiday times when catalogs come. After the holidays I take time to sort through the images and get creative
  • Junk mail-ads, envelopes and even correspondence may have lots of things you can use in your junk journals.
  • Magazines- Great sources of words and images that can be used
  • Cookbooks-I love going through old cookbooks for images and recipes that I can use
  • Teabag packages-Individual tea bags often come in little packages. Those packages are perfect for small pockets
  • Ribbon-There are so many ways to use bits of ribbon on your pages
  • Material-Yes, you can add fabric to your pages
  • Tea Bags-Lovely colored bits of aged paper after you use them
  • Cardboard Boxes- Tea boxes, cereal boxes, anything that is made out of cardboard can be made into a journal
  • Bits Of Printed And Cardstock- Never throw away any paper from a project. They can be all recycled into your junk journal.

Materials For Junk Journal Covers

Junk journal covers can be made from almost anything that you can imagine. You are only limited by the materials you have on hand and your imagination

Your junk journal cover can be made from a number of materials. Here are just a few suggestions:

  1. With a strong craft knife, remove book pages , leaving the spine and cover from the book
  2. Recycled cardboard from a box of cereal or other cardboard from your kitchen
  3. Cardboard mailing boxes
  4. File folders
  5. Brown mailing envelopes
  6. Paper bags
  7. Manilla folders
  8. Magazines
  9. Chipboard
  10. Gift boxes

How To Make A Junk Journal Cover

Step 2-Creating Signatures

Signatures are the pages in your junk journal. They can be anything and everything that you can imagine.

You can have one signature or a lot of them. It is up to you and your resources. No matter how many you have, they will have to be bound.

You can use heavy copy paper, patterned paper, envelopes, doilies, magazine pages -any paper that you have that is pleasing to you.

The bulk part of your pages is paper pages cut to fit within your cover. They should all be cut to size using a paper trimmer if possible. I like to make my pages 1/2 inch smaller than the cover,

You are folding the pages and papers in half. Rub the fold of each piece with a bone folder to get a good crease.

Now place them in order. You can then bind them with stitches, a rubber band, or some staples.

Make all your signatures and bond them within your book.

You can decide if you want to embellish them before they are bound or afterwards. It is a personal choice.

Altering the Paper In Your Signatures

Before you get started putting your paper together, you may want to consider altering your paper.

There are many ways to alter paper. The most popular way to get started is to tea stain or coffee stain the paper. This can be done with paper, tags and other ephemera. You want to make a cup of coffee or tea and either soak or paint the liquid on the paper. The stronger the beverage is, the darker the paper will be.

You can also use inks like distress and oxide inks blended together to create a custom background on your tags and pages.

Create a edge to your paper by rubbing an ink pad along the edges. It will give edges a vintage look.

Use a corner rounder punch to soften the edges of your paper.

Step 3-Binding Your Journal

There are many ways to bind your signatures within your journal. These are the more popular types

Sewn Book Binding

In this type of binding, you are actually sewing the pages into the cover of the journal. There are lots of different methods to do this.

The 3-5 hole pamphlet stitch is one of the most popular.

Binder Rings

This is one of the easiest methods, especially for beginners. All you need is a good strong hole punch and several binder rings. You can get these rings in a office supply store or on places like Amazon. You punch the holes in the paper and insert the rings.

Rubber Band Technique

This technique is easier than sewing. You create folded pages and then they are attached to the cover of the book by placing the rubber band over sections of pages ( called signatures)


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.

Altered Books

Used books make the perfect way to create journals without mess or fuss. You get a book or notebook. In the case of a used book, all you need to do is to cut some pages out. Then you may need to add some gesso to cover the print copy.


Staple your cover and pages to make a simple junk journal

Step Two-Gather The Materials That You Need

If you are using a premade junk journal or a book that you are altering, then you will be gathering the papers and ephemera to decorate your pages or to alter the pages as you see fit

If you are creating a journal, your supply list will be different.


This is the heart of your journal. You can use heavy copy paper, card stock, old magazines, scrapbook paper pads (perfect to create themed journals)

Paper Trimmer

This is an important tool that is going to save you a lot of time and give the best results over scissors. Your pages will be cut evenly. The trimmer has a built in ruler, so that makes it all the easier. If you can, get a trimmer that can cut multiple pages (and chipboard if possible). Pick up an extra replacement blade or two so that you always have the next blade on hand.

Sewing Needle, Thread and an Awl

You more than likely have a sewing needle around your craft space. The thread that you need to use for your bookbinding should be a strong waxed thread. You will also need an awl. If you are going to purchase one, I recommend a bookbinding awl. But if you have an awl in your home workshop, that will do nicely.


At the very least, you will need glue to create your cover. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to glues. You need a glue that has a strong bond, but gives you a little time to make corrections if need be. Elmer's craft bond is one of the better ones.

Lots of folks like to use glue sticks in their journals. They are certainly reasonably priced, but the question remains is will they last over the long haul? You can be the judge on what is best for you.

Bonus Supplies For Your Junk Journal

Craft Inks

Not necessary, but sure make your journals a lot more fun. You can of course stamp with them, but you can also blend and color with them. You can also create backgrounds

Washi Tape

Washi tape has so many uses in your junk journal. It can be used as a decorative edge on a page, or an top or bottom border. It can be used to decorate a pocket or a tag. It can affix things to a page where you may want to see both sides.

You Cover Materials

You need to decide what your cover materials will be and the measurements for it so you can decide the measurements of your signatures (the pages inside of your journal. Your cover can be made of chipboard, wood, heavy cardboard, recycled cardboard, or corregated card board.

No Sew Junk Journal

More Junk Journal Binding Ideas

Beginners Junk Journal

Step Three-Prepping Your Junk Journal

How you prep your journal depends on what type of journal you are using.

Start with the paper. How heavy id your paper? Do you plan to add a lot of weight to your pages?

Where you will want to start prepping is to think about adding gesso as a foundation for your journal. It will help when you add other products on top to keep the pages from ripping. And if you are using a book for your journal, the gesso will cover any unwanted print.

Gesso can also be used to cover over any techniques where you have used materials like paper, paper towels, dyer sheets, ect.

Gesso comes in white which was always the option for most. However, there are a lot more options when it comes to gesso. You can also get gesso in black, clear and colored options. Having more options makes the process more fun.

You will want to use a good medium thick gesso to make your pages strong.

Altered Book Journals

There are additional preps needed if you are using an old book as your journal. You will need to remove some pages to hold the extra bulk of the things that are going to be added.

Use a good craft knife close to the inside of the page. Carefully slice the page off without cutting too close to the binding. You will want to remove at least half of the pages in the book.

A good rule of thumb is to remove 50 % of the pages from the book.

More DIY Junk Journals

  • How to Make a Junk Journal
    Use an old book to make a junk journal. Then, fill it up with vintage ephemera, pictures and momentos. Here's how.

Step 4-Embellishing Your Pages

Now is the time where you really get to do all the fun stuff in your junk journal.

If you have created several signatures to add to your journal, you may decide to embellish the pages before you add them to your binding. I prefer to embellish my pages after I get my journal put together. Now if you have bought a journal, you are already ahead of the game.

The first thing to consider is decorating your journal page. Do you want to do a technique like a stamp blending? Or do you want to cut some paper and adhere it to your paper?

Then you will want to consider things like pockets, tags, and tuck-ins.

You will also want to consider what images you would like to use.

Get Out Your Stamps!

This is the time to look through your stamps and find some pretty things to add to your journal. You can use words, sentiments, and things like butterflies and images. There are hundreds of ways to add things to your pages.

Check Out The Dies In Your Collection!

I love to use dies on my pages. If you have dies that come in different sizes you can layer them in very interesting ways. Look through your stash and figure out what you can use.

Remember, you do not have to do it all in one session. Walk away periodically and refresh yourself. Rome wasn't built in a day, and your junk journal does not have to be either.

Most importantly, layout your design on your page before you start gluing. Make sure you like how it looks and make any adjustments. Then make it permanent!

Create A Pocket

Similar to the tuck technique, a pocket can be added on any page, or it can be a page on it's own. A pocket can be added by gluing a paper on three sides to the page. You can also sew the pocket in as well.

You will want to use heavy cardstock for your pockets. That way they will hold up to the weight of the things inside.

Triangle Corner Pockets

With one sheet of 12" by12" piece of cardstock, you can create 4 triangle pockets out of one page. Cut across the page diagonally. The cut across diagonally again. You should have 4 triangles that you can turn into 4 corner. Decorate the triangles before you adhere them into the page. Remember, to line them up on your page. To get a clean edge, fold over the bottom and side, use the tab to secure the pocke to your page. Only glue on three sides so that you have an opening.

Floating Pocket

The floating packet is the easiest of all. Just use a coin envelope or any envelope of your choice. All you do is to attach the pocket anywhere on your page with a paperclip, a binder clip It is a moveable pocket that you can decorate and attach it filled with ephemera anywhere on your page.

Glassine Bag Pocket

You can find these glassine bags in your local craft store or online. You can glue them on your page as is or decorate them. They are pretty either way. You can add a paper, lace or punched edge to your glassine envelopes, You can collage them at will. It's up to you.

Side Or Bottom Pocket

Probably the most common pockets in most junk journals. You can glue them directly on the page or create tabs to make the pocket stand farther from the page. They can be either partial pockets or full page page pockets.

The full page side pocket should have a notch on the top. That makes it easy to get whatever you are storing in it out.

Fold Over Pocket

Another option to create a pocket is the fold over pocket. You simply fold over the paper of a page and glue it to the page behind it, It could be a diagonal or side pocket. Decorate it as you wish. Makes a fast easy pocket.

Double Junk Journal Pocket

Fold a rectangular paper doily in half. Then you fold it in half over the original fold. Glue it down top and bottom. That will give you a double pocket.

Journal Pocket

Take a piece of rectangular paper and fold it over to make a triangle. Cut the triangle off the paper. Glue one side of the paper onto the page on three sides only so that the open side of the triangle is facing you. Now you have a pocket and a journal piece.

Ripped Pockets

You can create layered pockets on your junk journal pages by ripping papers and gluing them onto the page.

You can create layered pockets on your junk journal pages by ripping papers and gluing them onto the page.

Beautiful pockets are easy to make

Beautiful pockets are easy to make

Create A Tuck Spot

Create a little spot where you can add more embellishments

Create a little spot where you can add more embellishments

Create A Tuck Spot

A tuck spot is a place on your journal where you can tuck something behind something else, usually a tag, journal card or a piece of emphemera.

  • It can be a pocket, but it is a lot more than that. It can be a piece of cardstock anywhere on your page.
  • It can be a doily where you have a space to tuck something into.
  • It can be a triangle of paper where you add something with a paper clip
  • It can be a journal card glued on two sides of the corner on a page.

Tuck Spot Ideas

More Tuck Spot Ideas

Junk Journal Tags


Creating Tags For Your Journal

There are dozens of ways to create your junk journal tags. Tags can be used in junk journal tuck ins, under a belly band, in a pocket or on it's own. You can use tags from printables, tags from a paper pad or make them yourself.

Make sure to use a good weight of paper, especially if you are creating printable tags or print and cut tags. You can use solid color cardstock or patterned paper cardstock.

Start with a tag base. You can make tag bases on your electronic cutting machine. This speeds up the process. You can cut multiple tags at once. You can also create different sized tags as well.

You can also purchase tags at your local office supply store or online.

You can also use die cuts on a manual or electronic die cut machine. Investing in a nested set . That gives you different sizes of tags to chose from.

How you decorate your tags is up to you. There are dozens of ways to decoate your junk journal tags.

Tags are a creative addition to any journal. You can use them in so many different ways.

  • They can be hung on any part of your pages
  • They can be tucked in a pocket

Tags are easy to make. You can cut the base on your electronic cutting machine, This is a great way to make several tags at once. You can cut them with die cuts in a manual or an electronic cutting machine. Or you can cut them by hand ( cut a template from a tag you may have )

Tag Tips

  1. Use a good quality card stock to make your tags so they hold up under use
  2. Start with a solid color and add some washi tape. You can cover the tag with washi tape, or use the washi tape as a border
  3. Glue some old pieces of book pages on your tag. You may want to add some Mod Podge over it so that the paper pages do not rip. Add an image, a sticker or a word on top.
  4. Stamp an image on the tag and color it with markers or colored pencils
  5. Emboss a tag
  6. Use an embossing folder to add design to a tag
  7. Create a blended ink background with distress inks or oxide distress inks
  8. Add gesso on top of the tag and allow to dry. Color the top with watercolors.
  9. Use a map to cover your tag
  10. Round the corners of your junk journal tags for a different look
  11. Fold over a piece of paper. Cut the edges off the top to create a journal shape, Now you have a tag that you can journal in too.
Belly bands are a decorative add on to any junk journal page. They can be placed vertical or horizontal.

Belly bands are a decorative add on to any junk journal page. They can be placed vertical or horizontal.

Belly Band Page

A Belly band page is a place where you can add a but of color to a dull page. It is a wide strip of paper glued either horizontally or vertically. You can create several of these ahead of time to have on hand.

You will want to use a sturdy cardstock for your belly band so that it holds the material into the page.

  • Try embossing some solid color cardstock. Then if you like you can distress it with an ink in a color that is pleasing.
  • Want to use printed paper? I suggest gluing it or use double sided tape it to a sturdy piece of cardstock.
  • Use washi tape to cover your belly band.
  • Use a decorative paper napkin over any strip of card stock. You can use Mod Podge to adhere it
  • Sew a decorative stick around the edge of your belly band
  • Use fabric or ribbon to create a belly band

Create Journal Envelopes

You can create a journal envelope with a few simple folds.

You can create a journal envelope with a few simple folds.

Create Journal Envelopes

You can create a little journal envelopes in just a few simple steps. These envelopes can be used as tuck ins, in pockets and just adhered on their own. You can make them is any size that you want. They are a great way to use scrap paper.

You can journal inside of them , add pictures or memorabilia. They can be used in any journal or on a scrapbook page !


  • Rectangle of single sided paper-Printed or colored-any size
  • PVA glue
  • Bonefolder
  • Die cuts
  • Embellishments
  1. Cut your paper into a rectangular shape. You can do this on an electronic cutter or cut them manually.
  2. At the top of the paper, bring the to edges in to create a point like an arrow point.
  3. Crease the points with your bone folder
  4. Fold the point over the paper to create the flap of your envelope,
  5. Crease the fold with your bonefolder
  6. Bring the bottom of your paper up and fold to create the base of your envelope.
  7. Again crease the paper with your bonefolder.
  8. Add the die cut where the flap comes down. Only glue it on half way, so that you can tuck your flap into it. Allow the die cut to dry. If you find that the flap will not fit into it, trim the flap.
  9. Glue the inside flaps of your envelopes to the paper.
  10. Have fun embellishing your mini envelopes

Beginners Ideas For Junk Journal Covers

Step 5 -Decorating Your Cover

Junk Journal covers are pieces of art work in and of themselves. They may give a hint of what is inside. Every junk journal cover is different and as unique as it's creator.

Usually, the front cover is the most decorated, but remember, that you need to do the back cover of your journal too. This is important if you are considering using fabric to cover your journal.

No matter if you are using an old book, a bought journal or some cardboard or chipboard covers, the process for decorating your covers are pretty much the same.

If you are using an old book, you may want to consider covering the book cover with a couple of coats of gesso before you start. That way your cover will be smooth. That will make it easier to apply other papers or techniques.

Some people like to create their covers first or before the binding. Other folks like to do the binding and then create the covers, Do whatever is comfortable to you.

Printables are the easiest way to create and make a junk journal cover. You can print these on your home printer. You can decoupage these images directly on the cover.

Fabric is also popular to add to the covers of your junk journal. They are easy to do and require no sewing. They are basically glued onto your cover.

How To Decorate A Junk Journal Cover

Using Printables On Your Journal Pages

You can find an extraordinary amount of beautiful free printables for your junk journals. These images can be printed on your home computer. While they are free, there is a cost in the ink that you will use to print them.

You might want to consider keeping some sources in your favorites or book mark list on your computer as you find them.

So, how do you find these freebies? Just type in any browser that you use," free junk journal freebies" . You will find a lot to chose from.

Freebies For Your Junk Journal

Create Your Own Mini Journal

Mini journals are so much fin to create. They can be used on their own or used within a larger journal to make drawings or to journal. Once you get the hang of creating this idea, you can size it to any size you want. You could sew the binding on with a machine or by hand, but I prefer the no sew method, using staples.


  • Heavy scrapbook paper-either single or double sided
  • Sketch paper, heavy copy paper or 80lb cardstock in white
  • A ruler
  • A bonefolder
  • A stapler
  1. Cut all of your papers to 51/2 by 7 inches
  2. Fold all the papers in half and crease with the bonefolder
  3. Staple in the center page of the book
  4. Decorate as you wish

More ideas

Want to get really creative? Add tiny pockets and ephemera to your pages

Final Thoughts On Junk Journals

These are just the basics of junk journaling. We wanted to give you some ideas on how to get started. Look for more on junk journals as we go deeper into each topic. Our hope is that you consider creating a junk journal for yourself. It can be an ongoing project as you create and express your inner self. And take pride that you are recycling all that paper into something special ! Happy Crafting !

© 2020 Linda F Correa

We would love to hear your thoughts on junk journals!

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on November 09, 2020:

Thank you so much. I enjoy sharing my love of paper crafting

Lakshmi from Chennai on November 09, 2020:

wow, worth reading the article, it has great stuff!

Related Articles