Your Must-Have Art Journaling Supplies
We’re gonna jump into all things art journaling supplies. You may have noticed how obsessed I am with art supplies of every kind, and since I’m just starting to write about art journaling, I want to start with what supplies you might want to nab before you get started.
First off – art journaling has a special place in my heart. When you combine any sort of visual creativity with mental health, in the form of exploring your thoughts and feelings, only good things can result.
Art journaling begins with your sketchbook, or journal. You may want to start with a simple spiral-bound sketchbook. It’s easy to feel intimidated by fancier or more expensive sketchbooks, so a spiral-bound will allow you to feel a little more comfortable jumping in and experimenting.
Once you get some practice with art journaling, you’ll start to reach for the schmancier books. But don’t let me deter you, either. If you have your heart set on a big gorgeous Holbein multimedia book, go for it, my little journaler!
Spiral-bound sketchbook of mixed media or watercolor paper
Strathmore makes some really cool sketchbooks specifically for art journaling, and you can choose from multi-media paper or watercolor paper. Choose your size and art journal away. These are fairly inexpensive and lay flat (spiral bound), so they’ll be easy to experiment in.
There is something about using a hard cover sketchbook that is sophisticated and mysterious. I guess the hard cover makes it feel more important to use. It will obviously hold up better than a soft cover art journal, so if you plan on being rough on your pages, opt for a hard cover.
You can collage or paint the covers if you don’t like the look of them as-is, and the whole art journal is now your work of art.
Any book you want to deconstruct
Here’s where art journaling can get super cool. You don’t have to choose a traditional sketchbook in which to art journal: any book you are ready to tear up, paint or collage all over, put back together, and art journal in is fair game.
You can even create your own art journal with any good paper you want to use. Look up binding ideas and find what looks fun to you!
You may already have these at home, and you may already know exactly what art journaling supplies you want to use, but these are materials I tend to keep around for any mixed-media or sketchbook adventure.
A good old pencil is useful for drawing, writing notes, making measurement lines, etc. Even if I don’t plan to use a pencil, I always have one around, because I end up using it for something I wasn’t expecting.
Colored pencils are super for using on their own or on top of other art journal supplies. They are great layered over marker or watercolor, and you can use them to color in and around writing or ink drawings.
Oil pastels or Neocolor II
I discovered Neocolor II a couple of years ago, and still find them magical. You can use them as soft crayons, much like oil pastels, but they are also activated by water, so WHOOP! There they go acting like watercolor pencils, too.
Ahhh acrylics. You can take art journal pages to the extreme with gessoed and painted pages, or add a few little acrylic paint details here and there. If you are terrified of acrylic paints, or have no idea where to start, check out my intro to acrylic painting guide first.
Note: As far as art journaling goes, I wholeheartedly recommend Liquitex Basics or Blick student grade paints if you are making a bunch of mixed media pages – you really don’t need the professional-grade paints for this, unless you already have them.
Gouache is perfectly suited for use as an art journaling supply. Similar to watercolor, it reactivates with a bit of water after it dries. It is much more opaque than watercolor, so you can get some nice flat-looking colors. It’s a great paint to use in mixed media applications like art journals.
If you are a fan of watercolor, there are so many ways to work this material into your art journaling endeavors. You can use watercolor with other supplies, or even brush it onto a page as a light background.
Pick your brushes according to the paints you will be using: if you are mostly doing washes, grab some very soft brushes, wider and a little bit stiffer brushes for applying gesso, and soft or slightly stiffer for acrylics, based on how you will be using them.
Think about if you will be painting any thin lines or words, light, all-over washes for backgrounds, thick acrylic swipes, etc. If you really aren’t sure what you want to do in your art journal, I would grab:
- 1 round brush size 4
- 1 flat brush size 4
- 1 round brush size 0 or 1
- And maybe another flat size 2
Please note that I am suggesting these sizes based on my own preferences – brushes are always so hard for me suggest, because it really depends on what you want to paint and how you like the feel of your brushes.
I use freezer paper as a palette, but you can also use a big glass slab, a plastic watercolor palette, or palette paper (essentially freezer paper on a pad).
If you want to be doing some collage in your art journal, you’ll also want to grab some glue. Use an Uhu glue stick – they are not expensive, and they are acid-free and nontoxic. Plus, they will stick much better than a cheapie glue stick.
I also really like those cute little crafting glue dots for how easy they are to use. I know glue sticks are pretty straightforward, but sometimes You just want that nice, neat little perfect dot of glue because you are high-maintenance and don’t feel like even coming into contact with any extra glue. 🙃
Three cheers for really good cutting utensils! You will use these for any collage, book-page-cutting, or art journal making you do.
I love Olfa cutters: 1. Because they are bright yellow, and 2. Because they are fantastic little cutting utensils. You’ll use a craft knife for cutting out shapes, cutting pages, maybe even cutting little bits of whatever else you are adding to your art journal…
Small paper scissors
These are a must-have if you are cutting paper. Big, bulky scissors just won’t cut it (see what I did there?) when you are collaging in your art journal, and you will get frustrated. Small scissors will let you cut in detail, and if you don’t use them to cut lots of other random items in your home, they will stay sharp for a while.
I cannot believe I did not own a paper cutter until 2 years ago, and I have used that thing a million times since I bought it. You technically do not need one of these – a ruler and X-acto knife will work just fine – but put it on your wish list of you tend to cut lots of paper.
Many of these extra supplies will just serve to take your art journaling further. Meaning, you will be able to experiment with new techniques and get really cool results for your pages. Refer to my basic acrylic techniques post if you are just getting started with acrylics.
Decorative papers, tissue paper, Kraft paper, wax paper, vellum, handmade Asian papers, etc. There are an endless number of cool papers you can add into your art journal papers.
Dyes or inks
Now is the time if you want to experiment with dyes or inks – you’ll have lots of pages to add them to. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with all of these supplies for your art journal, just stick to the paints I listed above.
Gesso is for coating existing book pages you want to cover over to give you a clean white, fresh surface. It’s also for beefing up flimsy pages for painting with acrylics on. You don’t need gesso if you are just using watercolors or gouache, so consider it only if you will be using acrylic paints with your art journals.
Acrylic gel medium
I love gel mediums. More so than glue sticks, but I also already have a bunch of mediums, and use them in painting and collage.
I wouldn’t necessarily run out and buy a bunch of mediums unless you really want to experiment with acrylic paints as an art journal supply. If you do want to try one, start with a satin gel medium, and you can use it for gluing pieces onto the pages of your art journal, mixing with acrylic paints to extend them, and as a finished layer over the top of your art journal pages to protect and seal them.
If you have stamps or printing plates going already, use them in your art journal pages. You can also use all sorts of random objects you find around your house as stamps. (Try vegetable stamps)
Stencils or other items with holes make fabulous additions to art journal pages – you can paint them with acrylic paints or watercolors (the watercolors will probably be a little more runny), but have fun experimenting.
Who doesn’t love gel pens? I mean, they are only the greatest thing ever invented, and are a super-perfect addition to your art journaling supplies to use as writing and doodling utensils. I do all of my journaling with gel pens!
Ultra fine Sharpies
These can be very useful if you want to do some drawing over your colorful pages, or you can write quotes, phrases, or even just journal with them.
Brayers are my favorite way to lay down a whole lotta acrylic paint onto a page to prepare it for the next layer of whatever. The paint dries so nice and quickly if you brayer it (bray it?) on, and it looks like when you paint a big wall with a paint roller. I love that look.
Gelli Print Plates
Oh, wait, gelli plate printing might actually be might favorite way to quickly lay down a whole lotta acrylic paint onto a page! As far as art journal supplies go, I think gelli plates might be a must-have, but I don’t want to pile ALL of the art supplies into the must-have category if you are just starting out buying your art journaling materials. You’re welcome.
Does this help? Do you already have half the art journaling supplies I’ve mentioned here? Then go on, git – journal your heart out.
Art Journaling Supply List
Here are some of the supplies I love and recommend. Remember: you do not need all of these at once to get started art journaling! Add on as you see fit and want to branch out with your supplies. As per usual, these link to Blick as I’ve found they usually beat out even Amazon on prices. 🥳
- hard Cover
- old book
- Drawing Supplies
- Painting supplies
- Extra supplies
- dyes or inks
- acrylic gel medium
- stamps (Amazon link)
- gel pens (Amazon link)
- ultra fine Sharpies
- gelli print plates