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Mixed Media Art Journal Guide

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Art journaling is a way to express your thoughts, emotions and ideas in any way you would like

Art journaling is a way to express your thoughts, emotions and ideas in any way you would like

What Is Mixed Media Art Journaling?

Mixed media art journaling is using different tools and supplies to create original and custom art pages in a journal. You use the tools and supplies that you may have to express your art. But it goes beyond that step. You also use materials that you recycle into your art like envelopes, junk mail, paper, magazines, old pages from books, and a lot more.

Think of an art journal as a visual diary of your life. Each page reflects a thought, emotion, or memory from that moment in your time. It is a way to express yourself and destress the whirls of stress around you.

This is a fantastic project for anyone to try because there are simply no rules. So beginners are unhampered by learning special art rules. It is a good way for families to spend some time together creating art from the heart!

You can create your art journal with a theme. Creating a themed journal can be all about the things you love and make you happy. It can be about your life every day. You can journal about your home or your family. You can journal about your hobbies, or just about anything. You can art journal about your faith. You can journal with quotes that inspire you. Whatever your heart leads you to, you can art journal about.

Types Of Art Journals

Type Of Art JournalDescriptiom

Quote Journal

Uses quotes throughout the journal

Poetry Journal

Uses your own poetry or others with illustrations and drawings.

Black And White Journal

Your pages are pristine and everything is done in a simple black and white design

Drawing Journal

Your journal is a sketch book


Art journal your family or favorite recipies

Furry Friends

Journal about your pets

Mixed media art journal pages have different techniques and products used to create one creative journal page.

Mixed media art journal pages have different techniques and products used to create one creative journal page.

Altered Books

The altered book is an art journal that you create from an old book that you are willing to paint, draw and collage in. All you need is an old book that has reasonably strong paper. This can be a great project for a beginner because you may have a book at home. There are also books available in your local dollar store and thrift store for very reasonable prices.

Things To Look For In Old Books

If you are planning to use some old books to alter into a mixed media art journal, there are a few things to consider:

  • Check the spine of the book. If the spine appears loose or the pages appear thin. it probably will not be a good art journal.
  • Find a book that will lay flat when opened. This will make it easier to work in.
  • Pick a book that has smooth strong pages. That way the pages will not pill when you add wet medium.

One fun thing to do in an altered book is to blackout words to create new statements or stories.

You can also use the covers from old books to create your own art journals'

Let's Start With Mixed Media Tools

You can grab things as you go, but it is easier to have the tools at hand where you can access them easier. If you do other papercrafts, you may have these tools in your craft area.

If you are a beginner to this art form, I suggest that you keep these tools in some kind of box or storage where you can lay your hands on them when you need them or when the creative force hits you.


You will need a selection of different brushes for the different media that you will be applying to your pages. You need some larger brushes to cover larger areas of pages and smaller detailed brushes as well.

You should consider both flat and round brushes. Flat ones work well with acrylics and round ones work well with watercolors.

Just buy a few brushes at a time. I know they sell bags of brushes at a lot of the local craft stores, but it has been my experience that those sets of brushes do not give the same results. Getting 2-4 better brushes, to begin with, will be fine to get started.

Crayons And Markers

You can use any crayons or markers that you may have, Crayons give more texture to a page.

Markers are so much fin to use. There are so many options and price points when it comes to markers, The Crayola markers are a good choice to start with.

Kitchen Sponges

This is one of my favorite tools. You can use them more than once and the price is good on the craft budget. You can use these with acrylic paint and gesso. It can create a lot of texture on your pages.

  • Daub acrylic paint
  • Use a circular motion to create a more blended effect
  • Mix different colors to create a textured effect
  • Distress paper edges with acrylic paint (tip: use only a tiny amount of paint here)


Brayers come in different shapes and sizes, Basically, they are rollers with handles on them. You can use them as is to spread paint or even glue ( make sure to wipe them off right away)

A light touch with the brayer will give you a light bit of color when you want to highlight a texture. A heavier hand-applied to the brayer will give a complete coat of paint.

Try wrapping some twine or some rubber bands around a brayer with paint to get an interesting effect.

Palette Knives

Palette knives are easy to use and can create an unlimited amount of texture and design. They come in metal and plastic. They are reasonable in price and of course, can be used over and over again. They come in different sizes. A larger one and a smaller one will be fine, to begin with.

Palette knives can be used to apply paint, mix paint and create textures in paint and Gesso. You can draw all kinds of lines through your paint and gesso. Take time to experiment with this tool. You will find that you will use it as much as a paintbrush.

When you use a palette knife, the paint will be thick, so you would need to allow extra drying time.

You can also use a palette knife to apply ink to paper, Experiment and have fun playing with this tool.

It is also useful when you are applying embossing paste to a stencil. It will give you an even layer and enable you to save left over products.

You can use it with a gesso and paint. If you do not have one, an old credit card or gift card can also be used.

Your Fingers

One of the most fun and perfect tools is the fingers on your hand. Remember when you were a child and enjoyed finger painting? Well, you can embrace that messy fun again! You can wear gloves if you want to save your manicure.

Pens And Pencils

These are tools that are as important as the brushes for your mixed media. You can journal with them. You can doodle, add marks and designs, and a lot more.

  • Micron Pens are waterproof so they are perfect for your art journaling. They come in different sizes and nibs. They are a must-buy. They last for a long time.
  • Paint Pens come in different varieties of colors and packages. Just make sure that the pens that you choose are waterproof.
  • Drawing pencils- Just have a couple of #2 pencils to draw with
  • Watercolor pencils are a fin way to add some color to your pages

Stencils And Stamps

You can get terrific designs and textures with these tools on all of your pages.

They will help you get backgrounds for your pages with little effort. There is no limit to what you can do with them. Also, you can use stencils with different tools for different effects (kitchen sponges, make-up sponges, brushes, palette knives/credit cards).

If you use a stencil with acrylic paint and an old credit card, you’ll get a raised effect and, of course, texture. There are other media that you can use with stencils, You can use them with gesso, stencil paste, and acrylic paints.

You can use stamps with acrylic paint stamps, but you have to clean the stamps right away.

Of course, if you have stamps, you need stamp pads.

Archival Ink- They come in different colors and are waterproof. Waterproof products are very important when it comes to mixed media pages. Black is the best color to start with. Make sure that the ink you are buying is waterproof.

Distress and Distress Oxide Inks-They are not waterproof, but there are dozens of techniques that you can do with them.


You need two pairs of scissors, if you do not have two pairs, they are easy to come by. I would use these scissors specifically for the paper if you can. One good pair of regular scissors and a pair of detailed scissors, for fussy cutting.

Detailed scissors are used to cut detailed and small areas that you want to cut close to.


  • Glue Stick-They come in different sizes. I recommend that you find a stick that has a color when you apply it. Makes it easier to work with
  • Collage/Decoupage Medium- This is an important addition to your toolbox, You can add all kinds of images, napkins, and more. Sticks and decoupages and paper to your pages. You can use Mod Podge or Ranger Distress Craft Medium. A bottle will go a long way.
  • Tacky Glue is used to add heavier items to your pages. There are a number of different choices, I like Alene's Tacky Glue.
  • Glue Pens- Controllable application where you want just a little glue
  • PVA Glue-a general white glue used for general glue applications

Art Journaling On Fabric-Another Alternative

Create a fabric art journal-why not!

Create a fabric art journal-why not!

Stuff You May Have In Your Home

There are tools that you have in your home that you can repurpose for your mixed media projects. Grab them and add them to your mixed media tools.

  1. Toothbrush-we all have extra ones or ones that need to be replaced. You can use these to splatter paint or spray paint on paper.
  2. Toilet Paper Rolls- You can use these to create circles on your pages, then cut off the end that you used and keep using till you are done. You can also use them wrapped with twine to create a design and you roll them covered with ink or acrylic paint.
  3. Straws- Use these to create small circles on your pages. You can also blow ink or paint around your pages to create different patterns
  4. Bubble Wrap-Put some paint on it and stamp it away. It is so much fun to see what happens with it.
  5. Baby Wipes- A must gave for any mixed media artist. You can use them to clen up your tools, You can also spread paint with them. If you have done the paint thing, let them dry and decoupage them onto a page to add extra texture
  6. Used Softener Sheets- I love to add color to these and then decoupage them onto a page for extra texture
  7. Paper Towels-Paper towels are another piece of paper that I like to add to pages, especially the ones that are white and have texture in them. You can also roll them into a ball to wrinkle them and then decoupage them onto your page.
  8. Magazines- There are all kinds of useful images in magazines. You can also cut out words to use on your pages
  9. Aluminum Foil- want an industrial look to age page. Use aluminum foil for a background page.

Paper For Your Mixed Media

As you start doing Art journal pages, you will need to consider the type of paper that you want to use. You need to use the right paper with a weight that will hold the extra things that you plan to add on. Paper is graded by weight, So so the higher the number, the heavier the weight of the paper.

You can create your own art journal. There are simple techniques to create your own, The advantage to this is that you will get the paper in your journal that you need. This is creative and will be a project in itself, so it will take you more time. But you will get a custom art journal of your own making.

You can buy a premade art journal. This is probably the easiest for beginners to try. Look for a journal that is well made and has the paper for the media that you plan to use, You may find them in cardstock ( make sure it is 90-110lb ) Watercolor paper tends to be a little heavier. And mixed media paper which is my personal favorite. Just make sure to carefully read and understand what you are getting so that you are not disappointed.

  • Cardstock will have more weight than copy paper but will be thinner than watercolor paper. You want to stick with heavier paper. Nothing less than 90 lbs.
  • Mixed Media Paper can be had as paper that you can bind yourself or as an art journal. Works well with all media
  • Water Color Paper comes in a variety of textures. Hot Pressed Water Color Paper has a smooth surface. and an even texture. The paint will dry quickly on this paper. Cold Pressed is rougher than Hot Pressed paper. (it is a great paper for beginners). Rough is very rough and not for fine details.
  • Standard Notebooks can be used just to sketch with some art journaling pages. You can use colored pencils, sketch pencils, crayons, and oil pastels.

I would shy away from things like copy paper, printer paper, or notebook pages, They will rip and bleed. Even with gesso added to them, they will not be strong enough for mixed media.

You can try gluing pages together to strengthen them, but you will get frustrated with the wrinkles and uneven texture that will result.

Start With A Good Art Journal

Mixed Media Paints

Paints are a staple when it comes to mixed media. Again, since there are no rules, you can use any paint that you may have. You can literally use any paint. Here are the most common ones used:

  1. Acrylic Paint- These are vibrant and come in so many colors. They are a thicker paint. They are used most often in backgrounds.
  2. Watercolor Paints-These is more see-through (translucent) than acrylic paint.
  3. Gouache Paints- These are a thicker version of watercolor paint.
  4. Gesso-One thing that you should have in your stash. It comes in white, transparent, and black. It comes in different thicknesses. Medium would be fine for most pages. It gives strength to any page and gives a good base for other media. Think of it like primer paint.

More Paint Technique Ideas

Get Some Inspiration

A collection of art journal pages to inspire you.

A collection of art journal pages to inspire you.

More Mixed Media Products

There are other mixed media products that can be used in your art journal composition. Many of these can be added as your journey into an art journal progresses.


These are like watercolor paints but in a crayon form. They come in a variety of colors and are available online and in some craft stores. They are really very soft and you can mix them with your fingers. You can also use them with water. They are a little pricey, but well worth the cost.

Distress Crayons

These are also water-reactive and come in all the colors of the distress line by Ranger, They are more affordable than the Gelatos. I really like their color range and how they work on paper.

Oil Pastels

Oil pastels are highly pigmented and work like chalks so they blend extremely well.

Spray Inks

There are some acrylic ink sprays that work very well as backgrounds for your art journals. There are a variety of different spray inks, so find the colors and lines that work well for you.

Glitter And Glitter Glues

They are so much fun to add just about anywhere. You can get them just about in any color you can imagine.

Crackle Paste

Adds a crackle effect when used on a page. Lovely when the paint is added over it. Comes in a jar and will last for a long time.

Modeling Paste

Adds smooth dimension to a stencil. Comes in white and metallics. Perfect for letters and numbers when you want them to stand out You can allow them to dry in the air, If you chose to use a heat gun to quickly dry them you may get bubbles. That is an effect that you may like.

A tutorial on mixed media art journal pages

A tutorial on mixed media art journal pages

Keeping Your Journal Pages Flat

As you work on your pages and add more bulk to your journal, you will find there will be a bit of a challenge to keep pages flat to make it easier to work on them. Here are our favorite tips to help you get the most out of your pages:

  1. Use less water. The more water or wet media you add, the more likely the pages will curl.
  2. Use heavier paper. The heavier paper will more likely hold the weight of your mixed media than the lighter paper.
  3. Paint the other side. That will balance the weight of the paper
  4. Paint both sides with gesso. It works the same as paint to balance the weight of the paper.
  5. Use painter's tape. artist tape or washi tape to hold down the pages. That way you will be able to work easier.

Art Journal Backgrounds

For most pages, your art journal pages, start with a background. There are quite a few ways to create a background in your journal.

  1. Washi tape- you can cover an entire page with strips of plain or patterned wasi tape. Add a quote and you have a page done!
  2. Paper-Cut a piece of colored or patterned paper to fit your journal. Glue it in or decoupage it onto a base page.
  3. Paint-Just uses some paint to create a background. Use one color or a mix of colors. Make sure to gesso the page before you add paint to the page before your paint. Have fun and swirl the paint with your fingers.

Mixed Media Technique Ideas

Using Stencils In Your Art Journal

Using stencils can be a creative and enjoyable experience in your art journal. Stencils provide design for your page without having to draw a line.


There are two different ways to look at stencils. There are stencils and there are masks. With an actual stencil, you fill in the openings of the stencil with media. You can buy or use the stencils that you have. You can also make your own stencils.


Masks are what is cut out of the stencil. When you use a mask, you lay the mask on top of the page, then color or add media all around the mask. The mask leaves a white space where it was placed. Natural masks can also be used. Think about leaves and flowers.

Letters And Numbers

They can either be on one sheet or as individual letters and numbers

Natural Stencils

There are plenty of things all around you that you can use to create a stencil. Doilies are popular stencils. Produce bags and bubble wrap are also very popular.

There are s many options when it comes to using stencils in your mixed media art journal.

There are so many options when it comes to using stencils in your mixed media journal. You can do an entire stenciled page or a partial page stencil. You can stencil over other media.

You can use paint, embossing paste, modeling paste, inks, watercolor pens, alcohol markers, and more.

Stencil Tips

  • If you use acrylic paints with stencils, add paint slowly. Adding too much paint all at once can cause the paint to bleed through the stencil.
  • If you are using markers, paints, or inks, stencil with a light color as the base. Then stencil in a darker color over that.

Background Stencil Sets

Art Journal Page Ideas

Page IdeaPage Idea Tips


If you have a favorite photo, incorporate the picture and add some journaling

Doodling Page

Just use some doodles to create a page. There are many ideas on how to doodle in your favorite browser

Landscape Drawing

Use stamps or freehand drawing to create a landscape


Draw some plants and flowers. Or use dried flowers, pictures of flowers or leaves that you have collected.

Write All Over It

Just use a black pen or colored pens to write all over the page. Write in circles, vertical or any way that makes you happy

Finding Freebies For Your Art Journals

There are a host of freebies online that you can print on your home printer to add to your journals. Most of these images are able to be sized,

You can collage them or use them as a centerpiece for a page that you create mixed media around them.

  1. Pixaby-From their site: “Pixabay is a vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright-free images and videos. All contents are released under Creative Commons CC0, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist – even for commercial purposes.
  2. Wikimedia Commons-Lots of graphics that you can use
  3. Open Clip Art-Lots of clip art and media pictures for your use.
  4. Reusable Art-Lots of things you can use very nicely organized
  5. Sweetly Scrapped-Amazing treasury of vintage photos and illustrations

Remember, these pictures and images and meant for personal use to give as a gift. If you create an art journal to sell, you will have to check for professional use of image copyright fees and licenses.

Free Images And Printables For Your Art Journal

  • Smithsonian Institution | Flickr
    Explore Smithsonian Institution's 3,486 photos on Flickr!
  • Old Book Illustrations
    Old Book Illustrations offers a wide range of public domain, royalty-free images scanned from old books. Searchable galleries include animals, plants, techniques, artists names, books titles, and much more...
  • Flickr: The Commons
    Flickr is almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world. Show off your favorite photos and videos to the world, securely and privately show content to your friends and family, or blog the photos and videos you
  • https://unsplash.com/
    Beautiful, free images and photos that you can download and use for any project. Better than any royalty free or stock photos.

Create Images With Tracing Paper

You can create your own images with tracing paper. Find images of birds, bees, flowers, or whatever interests you. Trace over the image with white paper and color the images yourself. Or make silhouettes out of black paper.

A pad of tracing paper will last for a long time. All you need is a pencil, some tracing paper, and paper.

You can create dozens of images from one picture. Give it a try

Use An Electronic Cutting Machine For Your Art Journal

If you have an electronic cutting machine, you have a wealth of resources for your art journal. Here are just a few ideas to help you use this resource:

  1. Create words and phrases with text. Use the text feature to create words and phrases for your art journal. Use different fonts to theme your pages
  2. Black and white images. Print and cut back and white images that you can then color and use in your art journal
  3. Themed images. Are you making a specific themed page? Search for images that relate to your theme
  4. Create layered images. Within many programs, there are layered images that will be lovely on your pages

So Where Does A Beginner Start?

We have given you a lot of information on what will work on your art journal. And from someone who has never dabbled in this kind of art, it sure looks like you need a lot of stuff to get started. But that is not the case at all.

To start your art journal adventure, there are just a few basic things that you need until you have a few extra tools.

Michaels craft store carries some basic watercolor sets and other basic sets that are very reasonably priced. I still have and use my first basic watercolor sets. Take time to look in the art section of any local craft store.

  • Look around your craft materials to see what you have. You may have more than you think.
  • Some decoupage glue would be handy to have
  • Some brushes and some acrylic paint would be a good start
  • Look around your home for the tools we have mentioned.
  • Start collecting envelopes, bits of paper, and another thing you could add.
  • Have family members save catalogs and magazines for you
  • Check out your thrift store. You can often find a treasure trove of things
  • Find a specific place and storage for your art journal supplies.

The Art Journal Process

Your Background Layer

Remember, we said anything goes when it comes to your art journaling. So you decide what your background layer should be.

You could use any paint you feel in any color that calls to you. YOu can just paint one color, mix colors, use watercolors, or just use gesso. t is up to you. Whatever media you use, allow time for drying.

You can use paper or decoupage layers as well. Use any paper that you have and glue away.

Add More Layers

Add layers with stamps, stencils, cut images, embellishments, or anything that you would like. You can keep it simple or make it as intricate as you want. You can use multiple tools and techniques to keep it simple.

Or Just Draw

Draw if you would like. You do not have to have special training. Just doodle or draw what you feel at the time.

Embellishments For Your Art Journal Pages

As we have said all the way along, there are no specific rules to make your art journal pages. So when it comes to embellishing your pages, just about anything goes.

  • Fabric scraps- create things like curtains, chairs, or just swatches
  • Paper scraps-Save bits from embossed paper too
  • Ribbon scraps can be used to make bows or add decor to a page.
  • Buttons- make polka dots or decorations with them
  • Lace trims-buy new or repurpose from other clothing, You can often find some at your local thrift store
  • Doilies-these are often found online or at your local dollar or thrift store
  • Teabag paper-open the teabag carefully and empty it. Brush away any tea. You can stamp or just apply it to your pages.
  • Flowers-dried, silk, or paper can be added to any design
  • Postcards-buy a card from your trips
  • Notebook pages-reuse lined pages, columnar pages, or old stationery
  • Old maps-check out your local thrift store
  • Wrapping paper-save the scraps from any occasion paper
  • Envelopes-any envelopes from mail or cards
  • Old stamps-old postage stamps are colorful additions
  • Scrapbook paper plain and patterned-you can cut them as shapes to include on pages. The parts of patterned paper can be used too.
  • Stickers- buy them or make them
  • Pipe Cleaners- create shapes and designs
  • Beads can be used as sprinkles and a banner across a page
  • Craft foam can be cut into shapes like food
  • Nail polish- use it like paint. Fun over a foot or hand drawing
  • Sequins and gems are another way to add some bling to your page
  • Washi Tape-they comes in solids, patterns, and glitter. Use them for borders , shapes, and more
  • Food Wrappers-make a page of your favorite foods
  • Sticky notes add lots of fun
  • Old photos or photo bits add a lot of interest
  • Cotton balls and swabs as clouds and dresses or as sheep
  • Music adds something special to a themed page

Free Classes And Workshops For Art Journals

Creating List Pages

When you are stuck on ideas for your art journal pages, create a list! Use pens and markers to create a list with colorful; letters and designs. Make a bucket list, a list of the names of your family. A list of your favorite places to travel to, a list of your favorite foods or colors. Have fun and create your own creative and colorful list

Other List Art Journal Page Ideas

  • Things that you have done that you did not think you could
  • Favorite books
  • Favorite songs
  • Favorite movies
  • Favorite foods
  • Elements of your perfect day
  • Long term and short term goals
  • Favorite seasonal activities
  • People you admire
  • Three things you cannot do without
  • Holiday traditions
  • Favorite toys as a child
  • Favorite school memories
  • Things that made you feel good this week
  • World events of the week
  • Favorite birthday memories

These are all called prompts. When your creative juices are a little dry, type art journal prompts in your favorite browser. You will find a teasure trove of ideas to get you back on track.

Create A Patchwork Page

This adorable patchwork page is just little squares of designs and tachnoques

This adorable patchwork page is just little squares of designs and tachnoques

This art journal cover uses paint and chipboard pieces. You cover can be whatever you imagine.

This art journal cover uses paint and chipboard pieces. You cover can be whatever you imagine.

Decorating Your Journal Cover

There are many ways to decorate your art journal covers. Like with your pages, you want to provide a base for the cover of your journal.

  1. If you are using an altered book, decide if you want to paint it over or leave it as is. If you decide to paint it over, make sure to apply gesso to the cover before you apply the paint.
  2. Layer a piece of cardstock on your book cover. Then die cut a pattern in a very similar color and adhere it on top to create a tone-on-tone design.
  3. Use die-cut vellum in any color you would like on top of patterned or plain scrapbook paper to create your cover.

Other than that you can pretty much do anything you want to do. You can add chipboard pieces. You can also use fabric. You are only limited by your imagination.

Art Journal Cover

Some Final Thoughts On Art Journal Guide

The point of the art journal is to have fun with the process and to enjoy your tools and media. So, have fun and experiment. Try different combinations of materials and tools that will help you express your thoughts and feelings.

The great thing about art journaling is if you do not like how something turned out, you can always change it. Or if worse come to worse, you have learned something in the process. There is no one judging you. It is your art, your way.

Try to keep things together in one location or know where they are so you can start expressing yourself the minute the creative juices start flowing.

Do not overthink the process. Use your tools and media, Don't save them for later. Dig in and go for it. Use what you have and enjoy yourself!

© 2021 Linda F Correa

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