I’m certainly not an art journal expert.
And, of course, personal preferences often vary.
That being said, I thought I’d share with you my top ten essential items for art journaling.
I LOVE my art journal.
I never would have imagined myself doing anything at all with art.
If someone as unartistic as me can have fun with an art journal, ANYONE CAN!
OK, here goes ….
My Ten Essentials For Art Journaling
1. Journal. This can be an old book you re-purpose, or any one of a number of mixed media journals. I like this one because the paper is super high quality, but you can use any book you like.
2. Gesso. (Pronounced Jess-oh) You don’t have to buy professional artist-quality gesso. Some people don’t use gesso at all, but I can’t imagine NOT using it. It’s like primer for your pages and to me, it’s an absolute essential. I use Liquitex Basics Gesso.
3. Matte Medium – I prefer Liquitex Professional Matte Medium. (No, I’m not getting payed to sponsor Liquitex!) Matte Medium is used in a LOT of ways including priming a page, glazing, decoupage, sealing a finished page, and even transferring images. (I mainly use it as a primer, as glue, and to seal over some of my pages.)
4. Paint brushes. These vary depending on what you plan to do. I use cheap, disposable foam brushes and/or old used up gift cards for applying gesso and matte medium. Actually, I use cheap brushes for ANY painting I do. I’m not an artist. I don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive brushes I would most likely ruin. I have (and love!) a Pentel waterbrush for use with my watercolor paints. I paint a lot with acrylics so I picked up an inexpensive “value pack” of brushes.
5. Paint. Yes, you can have an art journal and never paint in it. An art journal can be whatever you want it to be. For me, however, paint is a return to childhood. It doesn’t matter if I finger paint, paint a simple object, and/or play around with an abstract. It’s just … fun! You can pick up “craft paints” on sale for 40-50 cents fairly frequently. (Here’s a link to a full set, but you can pick up individual colors as you need them!) If you’re an experienced painter you probably will want a higher quality paint. Again, I’m not an artist. I’m just using my journal as a place to play and explore. For now, cheap paints are great. I don’t feel guilty about wasting money when I botch up a page. I like that freedom. I also use some nice watercolor paints. I LOVE them! You can try whatever makes you happy!
6. Pens. Everyone likes different pens. Use whatever you like. I use a set of Sakura Micron Pens I’ve had for years. They’re still one of my favorites … no smearing, waterproof, archival quality, blah, blah, blah! I’ve also found, without question, the Uni-Ball Signo Broad Point White Gel Pen is the best “white” for writing on paint. (Sharpie makes a water-based white paint pen that works great, also, if you’re okay with using a paint pen.) I’ve found a Fude pen works best when I want to write with black on acrylic paint.
If you love gel pens, I think the original Sakura Gelly Rolls are the best. (Again, you can pick them up individually if you want – you certainly don’t have to buy a full set unless you WANT to!) I enjoy adding doodling and accents with gel pens.
There are all sorts of specialty pens you can delve into if you decide you love to art journal. I’ve fallen in love with Montana Acrylic Paint Markers. They’re expensive, but they’re refillable. I use them for “drawing” faces and people. (Apparently, they’re also the favorite pen of graffiti artists.)
I’m even more in love with my Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers. They’re my absolute favorite art tool and they can be bought individually. I loved my first few so much I bought the full set. (And then waited for months for the set to arrive – they were out of stock EVERYWHERE!) I’ll probably do a whole separate post on them. Love, love, love! These are basically a way to “watercolor” with ink instead of paint. I keep finding more and more uses for them. Maybe they aren’t for everyone, but I LOVE them! I even use them on my calendar and in my planner. Unfortunately, these pens are not refillable but you can replace your most-used pens when necessary by buying them individually.
7. Pencils. An old fashioned, or mechanical, pencil always comes in handy for sketching out your ideas. I’ve always been a big fan of colored pencils also. I find I use them often in my journal. I have a full set of Prismacolor Colored Pencils and I love how easily they blend. (You have to treat them carefully though – they break easily if dropped or abused in shipping.) Faber-Castell Polychromos are excellent too. I don’t have a full set of the Polychromos, but I buy them individually when I have the opportunity. Little by little, I’ll add on to my collection.
8. Stencils. I’ve come to love stencils. I primarily use them for adding layers/depth to backgrounds. For this reason, I don’t have many stencils of “things” or “scenes.” I do have several of geometric shapes and other “good” backgrounds. (Bubbles, circles, diamonds, arrows, squares, “bricks,” vintage lettering, etc.) I’ve also been making layers using stencils with my Gelli Plate. The monoprints from the Gelli Plate then become backgrounds themselves for art journal pages, borders, collages, etc. If I had more time I would make my own stencils. It isn’t hard to do. But, I never have enough hours in the day as it is. Maybe I’ll make my own stencils – someday.
9. Ink. Until a couple months ago I never gave a passing thought to ink. There are so many beautiful inks available for art play. Some of them are reactive to water and some are permanent. The colors, textures, and effects are very different than what you achieve with paints. I haven’t delved too deep into the ink world yet. I’ve primarily played with Dylusions Inks (such beautiful colors!) and Dy-Na-Flow Inks. Inks are fun. You can spray them. You can dab them. You can drop them on paper with eye droppers. You can put them in water brushes and draw/paint with them.
10. Ephemera. Those fair tickets? Or vacation brochures? Your old postcard from Aunty Jane? The junk mail you always toss? They can be incorporated into your pages in all sorts of creative ways. You can even use homework and/or report cards as ephemera. The ideas for this category are endless!
There are all sorts of other things you can also use. Pastels, chalk, fabric, photographs, etc., etc.
But, I hope I gave you a good idea of what I find to be the most essential items to get started. If you’re new to art journaling, allow yourself to start slow and don’t worry about “mistakes.”
The whole purpose is to have fun!