Tips for Keeping an Illustrated Journal
An art journal is where you combine some writing with illustrations, painted backgrounds, magazine collages or other art. The writing can be a day-to-day diary, a scrapbook for your travels or life, favourite quotes, poems, to-do lists or life goals, or absolutely anything else you'd like to keep a record of!
This page provides lots of inspiration, ideas, prompts and techniques to help you broaden the range of techniques you use for embellishing the journal pages, and to keep you going through the motivational and creative barriers.
Art journaling is a great creative outlet and a fun hobby, and I hope that this page inspires you to give it a go, or experiment more with your existing journal!
Sketchbook Project Entries
Photo and journals by LKG Photography.
If you want to enter your own journals into the 'Sketchbook Project' this year or next, check out this link.
Journaling Materials & Art Supplies
There is such an amazing array of art materials available to buy, and experimenting with new media is very inspiring - and also lots of fun of course! The more different types you try, the quicker you'll find what your favorites are.
Art journaling is a fantastic hobby for people who enjoy being artistic, and when you finish a journal it is so satisfying to look through the beautiful and varied pages you've created. I especially love journals that incorporate a wide range of media and texture experiments because these journals are literally bursting at the seams and are so fun to look through!
You can use a huge number of different materials in your journal, and you can really let your creativity run free without judgement. The most popular materials are pens (markers, felt tips, micron pens etc) and paints (acrylic, watercolor, oil etc), although I've seen everything from salt to tea bags being used!
More materials you can use include: magazine pages, recycled book pages, ephemera, crayons, pencils, photos, pastels, newspaper, inks, different kinds of paper (tissue, crepe, parchment etc), leaves, and thin fabrics like muslin and cheesecloth.
I find experimenting with art techniques to be the most fun part of this hobby. Images and patterns can be printed onto paper with rubber stamps, with methods like potato or lino printing, with textured materials like bubble wrap, or with stencils. You can make your own stencils or buy them, and they are extremely popular for adding patterns to backgrounds. People also like to embed memories into the pages by sticking in maps, notes, tickets, receipts and other paper souvenirs.
Further techniques you can use include embroidery and collage. Building up multiple layers of paints, papers and other media give a luxurious feel to the journal pages.
Art journals can simply be a notebook and a pencil, or you can make use of several different techniques on one page. It's completely up to you; nobody is going to see the journals unless you want them to ...so just go for it!
If you are planning to use paints on your pages you will need a journal filled with thick paper so that the paper won't warp and tear under the liquid paint. You can use thin paper with some paints though as long as you add a base layer of gesso (see below for info). Pick a journal filled with thick watercolor paper if you are going to be working with this medium.
And remember...every page does not need to be a masterpiece. Just relax and enjoy!
Art Journaling Videos
Mixed Media Art
A popular product for journalers is Gesso, which is a primer used as a base for (usually) oil and acrylic paints. It's ideal for using on pages which aren't thick enough to carry paints very well, and it's also great when working with layers.
Gesso can be added on top of a layer in order to fade it before writing or adding more layers on top. I especially like gesso on top of book pages because it fades the printed text to make a lovely background effect.
Art Journal Background Techniques
Journal Prompts & Ideas
To Get Your Imagination Going
- Choose a quote, poem or song lyric and write why you like it, or just embellish it appropriately.
- Draw or paint a rainbow and come up with an alternative to 'Richard Of York Gains Battle In Vain', using things you like; such as Redcurrants, Opals, Yetis etc.
- Write down some facts you have researched about your favourite artist, and then either recreate one of their works of art, but in your own style, or draw a household object in the artist's style.
- Do you have anything lucky? Create a design using illustrations of your personal lucky things - whether it's a number, object, underwear etc and say why you believe it's lucky.
- Draw an aerial view of your old schools or homes, and write any memories down next to the rooms they occurred in.
- If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?
- How do you imagine Aliens to look? Would they be friendly? What is their mode of transport?
- If you had the ability to do anything and go anywhere for 24 hours, what would you do and where would you visit? (instant travel is allowed)
- Picture your favourite location or your dream destination and draw it. Mix different places together if you can't choose - how about the Eiffel Tower on a Thai beach?! Describe what's so great about it.
- What is your favourite word? Write down all words that rhyme with it (even made up ones!), or words associated with it. Try to cover the page.
- What is your favourite book? Who are your favourite characters and why? How do you imagine them to look?
- Do you wish you'd said sorry to anyone in your life? Regret something you did to someone else? Write your apologies down, then paint over them.
- Think of someone dead who you wish you'd met, or wish you'd asked/told them something in particular. Write a letter to them.
- If you could pass on one tip, quote or piece of advice on to your children (or future children), what would it be?
- What would your favourite 3 course meal consist of?
- Can you remember 3 specific moments of your life that stand out in your memory? What are they? Are they happy or sad?
- Do you have a talent or party trick? What is it and how did you learn it?
- Write down your bucket list. For more writing ideas click here for a list.
- What would you like to be remembered for?
- If you could throw a dinner party for any 10 people (living or dead), who would you invite? What would be the seating plan and why?
- Document a week in your life. Include photos, drawings, words, and/or paper momentoes like tickets, food packaging etc. Do this once every year or two to see how your week has changed.
- If you could go back in time, what era would you go back to and why? What is the general fashion and style of that time? What do you see?
- Design a dress for Lady Gaga to wear for an award ceremony...but it must be made entirely from food!
- If you've just had a baby, or you have a young child, why not document their life and adventures in your art journal?
- Write and illustrate 10 random facts about yourself - do you like a weird food combo? What was your favourite toy as a kid? Do you have a natural talent or party trick? What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
- What are your favourite possessions, present and past? Perhaps an heirloom or something which you made yourself? Or it could be your favourite childhood toy, or your first grown-up dress?
- Write about your favourite Christmas present(s) - when did you receive it, how was it wrapped, and why was it the best?
Using Teabags for Texture
Try and stick different household items in your journal for texture - including bubble wrap, clingfilm, aluminium foil, yarn, threads, leaves off your house plants, scrunched up paper, fabric/swatches, old clothes, film tape/negatives, photos, candle wax etc.
Art Inspiration & Visual Examples
- Google Images
Useful to browse lots of examples.
- Flickr Journal Groups
Search through the groups for lots of images.
- One Artist Journal
A range of journal photos.
- Journal Girl
One of the best blogs about art journaling.
- An Artist's Blog
With lots of journal pages on show.
- Mixed Media Artist
Loads of tutorials and inspiration.
- Comfortable Shoes Studio
Home to many fantastic video tutorials.
- Danny Gregory
My favourite journal illustrator.
- Daisy Yellow Art
A collection of techniques and tutorials, with inspiring photos.
- A Man Who Crafts
Fantastic blog with lots of photos of journal work.
- 11 Journal Spreads
I especially like the circular journal example.
- Inspiration Wednesdays
I think the beautiful pages on this blog might be my favorites :)
Watercolour Pencil Shavings
More Background Techniques
Painted Travel Journal
Creative Background How-Tos
- Upcycled Art
Using old book pages.
- Colourful Pastel Backgrounds
Using water soluble oil pastel crayons.
- Marbled Paper
Using shaving cream.
- Video Tutorials
Lots and lots of videos on art journaling.
- Journal Cover
Pretty cover using paints and glue on letters.
- Techniques Galore!
Many how-to's for fun and unusual techniques.
- Soul Journaling Series
Step-by-step journal pages.
- Recycled Stamps
Flower and oval shapes made using toilet rolls.
- Tie-Dye Tissue Paper
I think this would make a wonderful background or stand-alone art.
How to make ink splotch patterns.
- Lino Printing
Cut out simple patterns on lino to use for journal backgrounds.
- Dyed Paper Towels
Dye paper for an interesting coloured background.
- Recycled Magazine Pages
Use Gesso and paint to make really artistic backgrounds.
Record What's Close At Hand
Illustrated Travel Journal
More Prompts To Inspire Your Page Designs
- Cut out photos (particularly people) from newspapers or magazines and doodle on them. Or cut the image in half, stick one half in your journal and then draw the missing half yourself.
- Write out your favourite quote by using letters you have cut out of a magazine - in the style of a ransom note.
- Pick your favourite colour and create a page spread with this theme - try and find paper and magazine cuttings in the chosen colour, and other things around your home that you can stick in; such as fabric scraps, gift tags, wrapping paper, tickets, old credit cards, stickers, balloons, letters, envelopes, stamps etc.
- Before you start painting or drawing on a page, cover it with scraps of white and cream papers - as many different types as possible such as lined, graph, tracing, watercolour, mulberry, embossed etc.
- Try painting with coffee.
- Print a pattern in paint using only naturally occurring items as the stamps e.g. leaves, grass, flowers, bark, potatoes etc.
- Draw something simple like a glass cup using just charcoal and your finger to create the light and shadow.
- Incorporate written words and sentences into a painting - like in this Black Bear painting (complete with a tutorial.)
- Why not try a mini journals? Smaller books are perfect for beginners because they're much less daunting to fill.
- Cut-out and sew a fantastic self-portrait.
- Try and create moulded tissue paper art using rubber stamps or other moulds.
Illustrate Your Recipes
Sticking photographs in your journal are great for adding a personal touch, but you can also create art with your photos - for instance by 'painting with light' as shown in the photo above.
More Journal Background Ideas & Painting Techniques
- A Color Study
Easy to do and will create a colorful variety of watercolor pages.
- Bubble Paper Art
Fun to do with paint and straws.
- Masking Tape Magic
Clever way to include text blocks within your art.
- Gesso Bubbles & Texture
2 videos showing interesting background-making processes.
- 5 Methods to Get Rid of Blank Pages
Using spray, drip and stencil techniques.
- Watercolor Coffee Filters
Easy way to make a background of blended colors.
- Vegetable Dyed Paper
How to use beautiful natural colors.
- Gesso Wash & Borders
How to build up a layered collaged page.
Collage Journal Pages
Art Journaling Books
Art journaling books are excellent and inspiring resources where you can find unique ideas, expert tips and tutorials all in one place.
Art Journal Lettering
Do You Have a Journal?
Please Comment on my Lens!
Deborah Minter from U.S, California on December 31, 2017:
Creative ideas for a journal!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 20, 2015:
Wellington, this was an awesome hub with excellent art journaling ideas that's so full of inspiration and creative thoughts. Voted up!
mrsmarried1ce on June 30, 2014:
Thankyou for this idea, I think I am going to get busy...
Anna from chichester on April 22, 2014:
This is amazing! I love the watercolour pencil shavings - beautiful! This has given me so many ideas! Bookmarked!
Rose Jones on February 06, 2014:
I haven't journaled for such a long time. You have inspired me. Pinned to my new "journal" board.
evawrites1 on January 15, 2014:
Beautiful examples, I never thought about the teabags thing before.
visit2goa on October 29, 2013:
i have many collages in my journal that's why i know how important is to engage in this activity is..
DiddydelDesigns on September 09, 2013:
very creative love your ideas thinking of having a go.
John Dyhouse from UK on June 29, 2013:
Found this again, this time I have bookmarked it. So many great ideas - thanks
dudokdudok on May 31, 2013:
Gorgeous lens. Great work and a lot of wonderful ideas.
Kim from Yonkers, NY on April 23, 2013:
Great lens! added to my How to use a journal lens
anonymous on March 20, 2013:
Lots of good ideas.
SianaL on March 11, 2013:
I've been journaling since I was 9 and never realized how much stuff you can do! Love these ideas especially the collages.
PinkstonePictures from Miami Beach, FL on March 06, 2013:
Really want to try this, it looks so creative
funkyn on February 25, 2013:
Thanks for this amazing lens. I believe art journals to be works of art themselves. My local gallery recently had an exhibition featuring many beautiful journals. They were all so different and each told a story of the inner workings and musings of the artist's mind. It was a fascinating exhibiition.
adobson7002 on February 13, 2013:
I love your lens! Just reading your list of prompts has my mind spinning with all types of ideas! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!
TheCandle LM on January 27, 2013:
Loved this. My husband is an Art Teacher, and he's been making Art Journals for years. Every once in awhile, I take a look at them, and they are truly beautiful. Thanks!
anonymous on January 14, 2013:
very inspiring! thanks for making such lens :)
Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer from Hedgesville, WV on December 01, 2012:
I love your work, I'm an artist so finding out some good tips here. Off to try the teabags!
anonymous on November 17, 2012:
Awesome Lense - I love the pictures !!!
BlueAngel973 on November 01, 2012:
Super fantastic, I am just starting my art journal and your lens was a great find for resources.
Blonde Blythe from U.S.A. on October 31, 2012:
Fun lens! Love your ideas!
margarida-lp-7 on October 26, 2012:
Your tips are really great! I think I'm going to use some of them in my inspiration journal.
anonymous on October 12, 2012:
Love the "Illustrate Your Recipes"... thanks for sharing. I would never have thought of all the ideas you have shared in this lens.And it's so colorful!
John Dyhouse from UK on September 26, 2012:
A fabulous collection of tips and ideas to enable anybody to keep an art journal. I am so inspired that I will be returning many times I am sure - blessed
anonymous on September 05, 2012:
Wow! What a great collection, thanks so much! I have already spotted a ton of things I want to try and I haven't even gotten halfway down yet!
Tea Pixie on September 04, 2012:
I love art. In any form. I always drag around a sketchbook, watercolours, and calligraphy pens. Sometimes my shoulder hurts because I have way too many art supplies in my bag. Oh well! It is the energy of life for me.
RadaFrancis LM on July 04, 2012:
very interesting, thanks for sharing all of this awesome info.
anonymous on July 03, 2012:
Thank you so much for fabulous ideas to also do with my kids!
anonymous on June 14, 2012:
Thanks for all the great ideas! I'm drinking coffee, but am now looking at it as paint. Who knew?! (grin)
Hawaiitom on June 11, 2012:
Really nice lens...got a lot of ideas from it..Thanks!
Millionairemomma on May 23, 2012:
I absolutely love the photos you used. Anything to our creative juices flowing is good.
gressaaudrina on April 06, 2012:
Nice idea..love it..!
Kim from Yonkers, NY on March 30, 2012:
I'm adding this to my favorite lenses lens (& will later probably add to my Epicbalad of poetry lens)
anonymous on March 25, 2012:
Wow, nice ideas.
anonymous on March 01, 2012:
this post is wonderful! you have compiled quite the collection. i'm sure it took you a lot of hard work to put it together. i truly appreciate it. what does it say about me when i own 3 of the 5 art journaling books suggested? ;)
anonymous on February 28, 2012:
Thanks for your lens. My journals used to be much more colorful, using various colored ink pens and once in a while doing little doodles and drawings as I wrote. It's been a long time since I have even hand written in a journal since I do most of my writing these days in blogs. Thanks for the inspiration to maybe pick up the colored pens and actually hand write my journals again.
caketech on February 18, 2012:
I love these ideas! I don't have an art journal yet, but I am inspired to start making one now! Thanks for sharing. :)
Risteard O'Marcahain from Wales on February 15, 2012:
cinback on January 24, 2012:
This was just what I was looking for as a beginner. So much helpful information. I'll be back. Thank you.
whitneywpanetta1 on January 21, 2012:
Thank for all of the information! I am an avid journaler as well and I love to see other people active in it! I recently started a blog about it at www.lookbetweenthelines.com!
ArtProMotivate on January 02, 2012:
Amazing job on the lense!
curious0927 on January 02, 2012:
Thanks for sharing this! It's awesome!
Todayhaspower LM on December 06, 2011:
Wow, you are very talented. Great lens!
CreativeExpress on October 13, 2011:
Another wonder-filled lens!
dwnovacek on October 06, 2011:
Incredible lens. I'm sure I'll be spending many more happy hours reviewing everything you've presented. Angel Blessed!
Serenity30 on September 25, 2011:
Wonderfully informative lens. I have always wanted to start an art journal..
John Dyhouse from UK on September 21, 2011:
wonderful lens, I keep reading stuff on journaling and as a mixed media artist I keep telling myself that I am going to start keeping a journal. But I never find time or can't think of what to do so procrastination takes control. I am so inspired and helped by this lens, thanks - it might be the one that finally gets me to start.
Close2Art LM on August 06, 2011:
awesome awesome awesome...RWJR
Sunfish LM on July 29, 2011:
Wonderful lens. I am bookmarking it so I can come back and read more -there is so much here to explore. Thank you.
RocklawnArts on July 19, 2011:
Makes me want to start a proper art journal! :)
M_Leigh_Hood on July 19, 2011:
Great job! Beautiful, creative and well-presented. Makes me want to start an art journal personally.
sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on July 04, 2011:
~blessed by a squid angel~
serenity4me lm on June 30, 2011:
Loved it. I thought the picture of the watercolor pencil shavings was really pretty. I enjoyed all the prompts and ideas as well.
ellagis on June 15, 2011:
very inspiring lens! I enjoyed it a lot!!!
wizardgold lm on May 18, 2011:
I used to champion this idea when I was an art teacher many moons ago.
Mandy from Montana on May 09, 2011:
I never thought of keeping an art journal, but I may just try it out. I have kept a regular journal for so long. I can just doodle and draw when I can't think of what to write.
Dustbunnyodoom on April 22, 2011:
Fantastic resources, thanks for sharing!!!
Kaafscorner on March 29, 2011:
Lovely lens - never thought of the concept of having an art journal.
catbehaviors on March 22, 2011:
@catbehaviors: I forgot to tell you, if those are your drawings, you are very talented!
catbehaviors on March 20, 2011:
Sadly, I'm going to have to get a new journal. My old one is full. I never thought of calling it an art journal, I do write, but also draw in it to illustrate some things. Congrats on receiving the honor of purple star on this lens, it deserves it. :)
OriginArtz LM on March 20, 2011:
SPLENDID! You're my inspiration! I hope i can make informative lens like this
JennySui on March 15, 2011:
Wonderful Lens! Keep writing.
Carolan Ross from St. Louis, MO on March 01, 2011:
I was inspired to drag out my art journals during this visit, thanks for that. I think my journals are in some ways a form of meditation, and we all need that maybe especially at times when we feel we have the least time for it, when stressed out to the max over multi-tasking way too many projects at once. Yet to do this is an investment in focus and the peace of mind needed to accomplish great things. Delightfully creative and inspiring
WHPFord on February 24, 2011:
This makes me want to update my sketchbook.
Recession Proof2 on February 21, 2011:
Great ideas, thanks.
Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on February 06, 2011:
Great lens! Lensrolled.
AnneVis on February 04, 2011:
Awesome and inspiring lens!
Carolan Ross from St. Louis, MO on February 03, 2011:
I've only recently begun art journaling and and enjoy it SO much. Such great ideas and examples here, really enjoyed visiting this creativity..
bjslapidary on February 01, 2011:
Love your lens. You have such great info here.
Pip Gerard on January 24, 2011:
A girl after my own heart! Have lensrolled this beauty to my new lense showing my journal pages. Will be watching more of these videos - thanks
Philippians468 on January 09, 2011:
this is making me itch to start journaling..keep up the awesome work pal!
noobeegin on January 01, 2011:
A new favorite lens. I have a book about me that I write in, doodle in, add mixed media to, but I don't get to it as often as I want. Mixed media art is one of my new art loves. This year, I plan to use more mixed media techniques in my personal art.
John Norman Stewart from Cottonwood, CA on December 23, 2010:
Very thorough lens. I have lots of sketchbooks, but haven't really journalized....might have to give it a try.....:)
Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on December 11, 2010:
I love journaling it is a great way to look back from time to time through the years and see the many things you have forgotten.
Mona from Iowa on November 28, 2010:
Nicely done. Am lensrolling to my journal lenses. :)
bbudoyono lm on October 18, 2010:
EpicFarms on October 02, 2010:
What a great idea! I have a bound 8.5x11 book that I was "scribbling" my artistic ideas in, but I never thought about making an actual journal. Thanks for the inspiration (lensrolled you to my Jen's Gallery lens :o)
anonymous on October 01, 2010:
Great lens :) I enjoyed reading it! I wanted to start a journal for a long time. Need to do it soon :) It will be a lot of fun.
LotusMalas on September 27, 2010:
This really inspires me to do something creative today!
wyrm11268 on September 26, 2010:
Now I want to start a journal! Thanks for all the interesting info here.
KarenTBTEN on September 20, 2010:
I got a little artsy journal when I first came to Seattle, to put artifacts in -- and didn't do anything with it seemed a bit of an intimidating task. Sometimes things just don't look as envisioned. Thanks for the journaling tips.
Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on September 19, 2010:
What an inspiration your lens is. Even I might be able to do an art journal that would please me. You've got great suggestions and ideas and lovely illustrations. Blessed by an Angel.
Joan4 on September 18, 2010:
What fun! I am not artistic at all, but I do love to add pictures to my journaling efforts. Lensrolling to How to Set Goals with Pictures, which is a little different slant on the same thought. I enjoyed all this fabulous art!
unstucktheory on September 17, 2010:
Wow! Your lens is just bursting with colour and inspiration. Must go and drag out my Moleskine and watercolours now ;-) Great lens, Liked & Lensrolled.
ShamanicShift on September 15, 2010:
Thank-you for the helpful healing art ideas and beautiful examples to inspire!
Indigo Janson from UK on September 11, 2010:
Love this explosion of creativity that I discovered via Kim's review! This is very inspiring and a great way for people to explore their artistic side.
anonymous on September 10, 2010:
The Art Journal is such a lovely idea. If I were an artist, I would have one. Squid Angel Blessed.
wellingtonboot (author) from U.K. on September 10, 2010:
That's brilliant! Thanks for the comments :-)
anonymous on September 10, 2010:
What an inspiring lens! Although I cannot see myself doing this, I have a soon-to-be 8-year-old granddaughter who has the heart of an artist and not much opportunity to exercise her innate abilities. You have inspired me to make a "kit" for her for Christmas that will include a couple of journals, paints, etc. that she can use to get started making her own journals. Her mother does scrapbooking (fanatically) so she should have plenty of additional materials. I can't wait to see what she comes up with. Thanks so much for that inspiration!
kimmanleyort on September 10, 2010:
I love this page! It was so inspiring to me that I wrote a review of it on Squidoo Lens Reviews. You can see it here - http://blog.growwear.com/get-creative-with-an-art-...
Stop by and pick up a badge for your lens if you'd like.
Delia on July 11, 2010:
Hello from a Squidoo Greeter! what an inspiring lens! I for one don't have time to make an elaborate journal, I just write and draw things that inspire me and keep this in an art sketch book for referencing. a ~"Squid Angel Blessing"~