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What You Need to Start Creating an Art Journal

A list of useful supplies for art journaling.


There's oodles of creative fun to be had painting an art journal, which is art-making, diary-keeping, and journaling all in one. The starting point is having a stash of supplies organized and easily available so you never have to interrupt your creative flow because of a lack of something. Then some appealing paper or journal to work in, and a nice pen.

1. Gather Your Usual Painting Supplies

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All your existing art supplies -- paints and brushes, crayons, pencils, paper, canvas, etc. -- can be used for art journaling or creating altered pages. You don't need anything special, other than perhaps some decent glue. Though starting an art journal can be an excuse to treat yourself to a new color such as a metallic, some handmade paper, or a beautiful pen!

2. Sort Some Glue

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If you're concerned about the longevity of what you're creating, use archival glue and tape, which will last and not "eat" the paper over time. Otherwise, any glue will do. Most white, paper glues should be just fine.

If you're using with acrylic paint, this also works as a glue, as does many acrylic mediums (especially those that dry clear rather than white).

3. Grab a Handful of Marker Pens

Fabric painting with fabric marker pens
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
Marker pens make it easy to add lettering. Ones with permanent ink rather than water-soluble can be painted over without them smudging (though leave them a few minutes to dry to be sure). Pens with brush-shaped tips are very versatile as you can get a fine line and a broad, sweeping stroke.

4. Collate Your Collage Elements

An art journal or altered book is a great place to use those "little treasures", "special somethings", handmade papers, and photos you've collected. Decorate a page, or use an element as the jumpstart for a page's design.

5. Prepare Your Printer with Digital Art Paper

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Photos, copies of your paintings, lettering ... anything you create on your computer works better if it's not printed on boring, ordinary computer paper.

6. Decide What Format You're Going to Use

A Moleskine is great for an art journal
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An art journal can take any shape or form you wish. Maybe loose pages kept together in a nice folder, or punched to file in a ring binder? A hardback blank book or a softback? A large-scale sketchbook or a pocket Moleskine? Lots of books so you can do lots of covers, or one with numerous pages?

Best Painting Sketchbooks

7. Get Painting in a Blank Canvas Book

Blank canvas book
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
A ready-made blank canvas book means you can get straight onto the creative, fun bit of painting up your pages! Canvas pages also lend themselves to sewing on elements, such as button and fabric. The pages are soft and floppy, and will bend over texture and added items.
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8. Get Painting in a Blank Board Books

Blank books for art journaling and altered pages
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
A ready-made blank blank book means you can get straight onto the creative, fun bit of painting up your pages! The stiff, firm pages won't buckle when painted, but if you create lots of texture the book won't fold up flat. If you find this annoys you, add a ribbon or elastic band to the cover to keep the pages closed, or a button with a piece of string to wrap around it.
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9. Don't Obsess About What You Put in Your Art Journal (or Don't)

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
Always remember, it's your art journal, you can do whatever you like with it, and you never have to show anyone if you don't wish to. There's no right or wrong way of doing it. The balance of words to images depends on how you feel at that moment. How much or how little you do, whether you do it every day or every other day, that's your choice.

If you've bought a bound journal and find the thought of starting at the first blank page too intimidating, start in the middle. Resist tearing out and destroying any page you think doesn't work immediately; leave it for reworking on a rainy day. If you worry you haven't the time to finish a page, just do part. Life has ups and downs, so why shouldn't your journal reflect this?

10. Get Inspiration from Other Artists

Art book review
Photo ©2011 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.
If you can't decide where to start or what style of journal to create or have got yourself stuck in a creative block, then an inspirational book such as Cathy Johnson's Artist's Journal Workshop is definitely worth a look. It's full of ideas and examples, tips and suggestions.
Related Video
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How to Prime a Canvas

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