Skip to main content

Art Journal Background Ideas

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


Let's Talk About Art Journals

So what is an art journal you might ask? Well think about it as a visual diary of your thoughts emotions and feelings. It is a place to record all these things in word and in art.

The first thing to learn in art journaling is that there are no rules ! There is complete freedom to express yourself in whatever way you feel. You can use whatever medium you feel or enjoy. There are no firm ideas of how your journal should be.

The only thing that you need is a book to journal in. It can be a composition book, an old recycled book, a journal that you make yourself, a sketchbook or an actual journal. It is up to you what you use.

Then you will need some supplies that can be found anywhere at very reasonable prices. Things like crayons, watercolors, colored pencils and water colored pencils. You can add on acrylic paints, stencils, markers and any other art supply that you can think of.

If you are using old book, you will need some gesso to cover the pages of print.

It's not complicated to art journal. Just take 15min to 30 minutes at a time. Or journal when you feel that you need a release from things that are going on in your life.

And no, you don't have to be an artist ! Anyone can art journal. With the stress of the world today, art journals are a perfect way to get rid of the stress that builds up in our lives. There is no one too young or too old who cannot create a terrific art journal. You need no art experience.

So, let's get started by creating some background pages in your art journal. Ready to start your new advernture?

What is Art Journaling?

Art Journaling is self discovery through self expression

— Tangie Baxter

Why Should You Art Journal?

Creating a journal is basically the ongoing story of your life. It will tell others all about your your journey. It is a little slice of your life, the times that you lived in and what you thought. It will be a priceless gift to the generations to come.

But more than all of that, it helps you reflect on your own journey. You can visit the years gone by and reflect on where you have been, how far you have come and help you to see where you want to go

  • Art journaling eases the stress of everyday life by releasing our emotions on paper
  • Keeps us motivated to explore new ideas, thoughts, techniques, and creativity
  • We see how we feel through our art. That may lead to an understanding of our thoughts and emotions,
  • It is an outlet for the creative side of our brain. We are free to create without the thought of rules or criticism.

Art Journal Background Basics

Creating Art Journal has become a passion for me. They are expressions and extensions of who and what we are. They express feeling and emotions. And as such they are creative ways to express how we feel at that moment. They are great stress relievers.

You do not need a lot of supplies to get started. Most of the supplies that you need, you probably already have in your stash.

The first thing that you will do to get started is to create a background for your pages.

Here are the supplies that you will need:

A notebook or journal -You can create from any book that you may have

Some gesso paint

Scroll to Continue

Some inks or spray inks

Some oxide inks

Crayons or markers

Watercolor paints

Getting Started With Art Journals

Tools To Use For Art Journal Page Backgrounds

There are a few tools that you can use to create art journal backgrounds. Many of them may be in your home already. Most can be used more than once. All of them will create something different for your art journal pages.

  • Kitchen sponges-You can use these to create a bit of texture in your backgrounds. You can dab the paint on or swipe paint across the page. They are washable. Break up the sponge into small pieces.
  • Makeup brushes-Give you a smoother background. Mostly use them with inks. You can blend inks with them as well. Create a light smooth look. They are good to use with stencils. You can also use them to ink the edges if your pages. Can -be used again after they are washed.
  • Toilet paper rolls -Use them with ink to create distressed circles. When you are done with that color, just cut it off. Keep using the roll till it is gone
  • Bottle caps- Create smaller circles with bottle caps. Different caps produce different results. They can be cleaned and reused.
  • Bubble wrap- Apple paint onto the bubble wrap and apply to the page. So much fun

Doodling On Background Pages

Using fine black ink markers to doodle on your pages gives lots of extra interest

Using fine black ink markers to doodle on your pages gives lots of extra interest

Simplifying The Process

We all start in the same place, looking at that blank page. It should be easy to start the process, but sometimes that first step is not as easy as it looks.

One thing to remember about art journaling is that there are no rules. Whatever tools or materials you feel like using that day, whatever floats your boat is ok.

No one will see or judge your art unless you ask for an opinion. We all start somewhere. As you grow in your art, it is fun to look back and see where you started.

Getting Started On Your Page

  1. Concentrate on the first step only. That step is to create your page background. Once you get this step done, the rest will become easy.
  2. Chose a couple of different tools and media to work with. You could use inks and blending tools, stencils and acrylics, distress crayons, and markers. Limiting yourself to two different materials makes the process easier and more fun.
  3. Just start the process without overthinking it. Let your mind and your hands roam free on the page. Even if you do not have a specific plan, take the first step and lay down some color.
  4. Move to the next step. Allow time for the materials to dry on your page. It is only complete when you feel it is done.

Acrylic Paint Ideas

There are several ideas for your art journal backgrounds that are easy and fun to do. All you need is some common acrylic paints and some brushes

Start with prepared pages that have been painted with gesso and allowed to dry. Now you are ready to create some easy, yet effective background pages, Make sure to have something on your workspace to protect it. A Craft mat, some parchment paper, or even some newspaper will work fine. Also, make sure to place some parchment paper or waxed paper behind the pages that you are working on. That way the paint will not bleed into the other pages.

  • Acrylic Blobs-Take two colors of acrylic paint. Paint blobs on your page with the first color, but leave space for the next color. Let the first color dry. Add the second color and let it dry. Overlap a third color to get even more depth.
  • Messy Paint-Take a color of acrylic paint and paint randomly all over the page. Let it dry. Add a second color and let it dry. Add a third color and let the whole thing dry. You can also do something similar by just dripping paint all over your paper. After you put two different colors and allow them to dry. Now add another color. While the third color is wet, wipe random areas with a wet baby wipe. You will get a very vintage look.
  • Finger Paint-I would wear a pair of plastic gloves for this one. Squirt some acrylic paint on your page. Mess with your fingers. If you want a second color, let the first color dry and then add a second
  • Acrylic Squirt-Squirt some acrylic paint on your page. Use two to three colors. Take a roll of paper towels- the ones with patterns in them are perfect for this. And roll the paper towels across the page to left some paint. Allow drying time.
  • Blobs And Squares- Paint blobs or squares randomly on your page. Allow drying time. Leave room for a second color, Now add the same pattern in your second color overlapping the other color and allow to dry. You could add additional colors or some metallic colors for highlights
  • Kiss Technique-Select two to three colors of acrylic paint. Drop the paint onto the page. Flip the book closed carefully. Open the book slowly and allow it to dry. Steps can be repeated until you get the desired results.
  • Sponge It On-You can use acrylic paint, inks, or watercolors with a sponge on your pages. Different sponges will give different effects. Try Cosmetic sponges and cotton balls for different effects. Either dab it on or work it in a circular motion.

More Acrylic Art Journal Ideas

Some Quick Art Journal Background Techniques

Easy Art Journal Backgrounds

Art journals are easier than you think. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing

Art journals are easier than you think. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing

Applying Gesso To Your Pages

Think of gesso as the canvas for your art journal. This is especially important if you are using a recycled book .

Think of gesso as the canvas for your art journal. This is especially important if you are using a recycled book .

Gesso- Your Starting Point For Art Journal Pages

Gesso is like a primer for most of your art journal pages, It comes in white, clear, and black. You can use it to strengthen or "beef Up" your thinner pages. It can also mute a background. Or it can cover up a page or part of a page that you do not like,

Gesso is the one medium that you need in serious amounts for any journaling that you plan to do. Gesso comes in different thicknesses. Gesso adds weight to your thin paper. It allows you to add things that will hold other elements without falling apart.

Multiple manufacturers make it. Some products may be thicker than others, Some have more texture. Try different brands and then stick with the one that you like.

The best place to start is with a medium-thickness gesso. I like the jar gesso. You do not need a lot of products to cover your page.

You will need something to spread the gesso o your pages. You can use a palette knife. I like to use an old credit card or gift card. There are also special tools to spread your product

You want to make sure to spread your product evenly.

Watercolors do not look well over gesso. The colors do not come outright. I would recommend using watercolors on watercolor paper and then adhere the watercolor paper to your journal page.

Gesso can take some time to dry. Before you start your art journal page, you need to have a dry surface. How long it takes to dry depends on how thick you applied it and how thick the product is. You can speed up the drying time by using a craft heat gun. If you decide to use the heat gun remember not to hold it too close to the page. You will also want to move it around the page. That way the page will dry with less chance of damage to the paper.

Tools To Apply Gesso

  • Gesso brush- the gesso brush is made to apply gesso smoothly to your page. It is easy to use and washes with soap and water
  • A sponge-you can use a kitchen sponge or a craft sponge. Using a sponge adds a bit of raised texture
  • A makeup sponge- Because makeup sponges are so soft, you will get a smooth soft look
  • A brayer-rolls the gesso on with just a little texture. The brayer needs to be washed right away so that the gesso does not stick to it permanently. That might spoil it for other uses in your craft room.
  • A palette knife-you can use a palette knife, but the gesso will not go on smoothly. I would not use the knife to lay down my prime coat. But rather to lay strips of gesso over the top of a painted surface to add a distressed look.
  • An old credit or gift card-again applying the gesso with one of these will result in a more textured look
  • Your fingers swirl it around your page. you should get a nice smooth look
  • Baby wipes-creates a very fine thin look to your gesso
  • Use forks, hair combs, anything that will create a pattern.

Try them all and decide what works best for you

Adding Texture With Gesso

Besides just painting it on, you can use gesso for adding texture to your pages. You can run a fork through your gesso to add some texture.

Use gesso with a stencil. It will add instant texture to any design.

Adding Texture With Gesso

Gesso Resist

Gesso Primer

2 colors in the same color tines- one dark and one lighter

Paint Brush

Art Journal

  1. Randomly apply gesso primer wherever you want on 2 adjoining pages
  2. Allow drying time
  3. Paint two colors over the whole page randomly
  4. Make sure to mix colors so that they blend well.
  5. Allow drying time
  6. Remove paint on the page with a baby wipe to show exposed gesso white color
  7. Keep wiping until gesso is exposed

Gesso Texture Background

Gesso primer paint

Bubble wrap

Texture tools (use anything that will create texture on your page)

  1. Apply thick coat of gesso to the two adjoining pages in your art journal
  2. While the paint is wet, texture the paint with bubble wrap or other texture tools
  3. Allow to dry
  4. Use a paint wash over the gesso and the texture will come up
  5. Allow to dry

More Ideas For Adding Texture With Gesso

Paints And Color Media

There is a huge selection of media for you to try. beyond just acrylic paint. Water soluable crayons. watercolor pencils, oil pastels, spray inks, distress inks and so much more.

If you are using paints, I suggest using a good quality acrylic paint like Liquitex Basics, Golden Brand, Studio 51, or Handmade Modern (found in Target). Stay away from cheaper brands like Apple Barrel Or Folk Art. They tend to clump and dry up quickly. Their texture can also be a bit plastic.

Gelatos tend to be a bit expensive, but they do last a long time. They work like water color crayons, but have a wider applicator.

Watercolors are another option. They are easy to carry when you are out and about..If you have a water brush you can create your art just about anywhere.

AS far as markers are concerned, that is one of those things that you need to play around with to see what works best for you.Start experimenting and see which ones you like the best.

Kiss Technique

So easy to do with acrylic paints. Just a few colors and you create a one of a kind page

So easy to do with acrylic paints. Just a few colors and you create a one of a kind page

Easy Block By Block Technique

The block by block technique is perfect for anyone who has limited time for art journaling, Learn more

The block by block technique is perfect for anyone who has limited time for art journaling, Learn more

Block By Block

Creating Blocks on your art journal page is so easy that everyone from child to adult can create pages in minutes.


Art journal

  • Acrylic brushes
  • Acrylic paints
  • Pencil or markers
  • Ruler
  1. Prepare your pages by giving them 1 -2 coats of white gesso. Allow the gesso to dry between coats.
  2. With a pencil or marker and a ruler, draw some blocks on your pages. Make them as large or as small as you would like
  3. With your brush, fill in your blocks with paint
  4. Allow paint to dry

Technique Tips

  • Always put some parchment or waxed paper behind the pages so that paint does not get on other pages
  • Use tomes within the same color or go crazy with what ever colors you are feeling.
  • Have fun exploring colors and shapes !

Easy Abstract Ideas For Art Journaling Pages

Paint what you feel. It can be just random bits of paints, streaks, blobs, dots or whatever comes to mind at that moment

Paint what you feel. It can be just random bits of paints, streaks, blobs, dots or whatever comes to mind at that moment

Splattered Inks

A fun option for your background. Just spray away ! You might consider spraying these in a box to they do not get anywhere else..

A fun option for your background. Just spray away ! You might consider spraying these in a box to they do not get anywhere else..

Watercolor Ideas For Art Journal Pages

When you use watercolors on your art journal pages, you have to prep the page first with one to two coats of white gesso. Otherwise, the watercolors will deteriorate the paper. Make sure that the gesso is dry before you use watercolors.

  1. Watercolor Rainbow-Slightly dampen the page with water. Take a brush with color and run it across the paper. Go side to side or top to bottom.
  2. Watercolor Blooms-
    Wet a paintbrush then grab some color from your watercolor set with the brush. Apply to the page. Wash your brush. Then with the wet brush, pick up a second color Allow the second color to touch the first color while it is still wet. Continue the process until the entire page is colored, Allow to dry. You can do something similar with watercolor pencils.
    Watercolor Tip-Sprinkle some salt over the wet watercolors. When the page is dry, just brush the salt off. Different salts will produce different results

Have Fun With Watercolors

Have fun and experiment with watercolors

Have fun and experiment with watercolors

Art Journaling With Stencils

More Stencil Ideas For Art Journal Pages

Book Page Art Journal Background

Old book pages glued to an art journal page, then add some color with paints

Old book pages glued to an art journal page, then add some color with paints

Paper Collage

Using bits of patterned paper. old magazines, junk mail, and anything you have around means that you can create a page or layout that is only limited by your imagination.


  • Art Journal
  • Old book pages, magazine pages, patterned paper or junk mail
  • White glue, Mod Podge or other decoupage medium

You can add patterned paper with regular cardstock in any pattern that you like. You can use tissue paper, patterned paper, toilet tissue, paper towels. bit of old magazines or books. With a bit of glue and your paper, you can create a masterpiece.

Glue some old book pages to cover two adjoining art journal pages

Using A Brayer

Similar to the finger painting technique, another way to apply paint is with a brayer. Think of a brayer like a paint roller. You simply place some paint on your page and roll it any where that you would like. What colors and where you roll it to is up to you. Remember, There are no rules in art journaling

Use a bit of white on a brayer to soften any harsh colors.

Use black to create a crackle look and add domension

Use black to create a crackle look and add domension

Table Salt Technique

It is not new, but the table salt technique will give your pages a fresh new look. It s so simple, yet it creates a magical background.

If your paper is not watercolor paper, you will need to do a prep with a product called Absorbant Ground. You could also try using Gesso as a prep.