You might have heard that keeping a journal is a great way to record your thoughts and understand your emotions. Typical journaling involves only writing—but for those who are more visually inclined, an art journal is a great alternative.
What is an art journal?
An art journal is a visual diary; it combines elements of writing, drawing, painting, collage, and even printmaking to express yourself. This includes your everyday life, as well as your bigger hopes, dreams, and fears. A single page will often fuse words and illustrations to offer a look at what's going on inside your head.
The focus on self-expression is where an art journal differs from a sketchbook. In a sketchbook, it can have elements of art journaling, particularly when it comes to drawing or painting. But a sketchbook doesn't have to include imagery that corresponds to your inner thoughts.
Why keep an art journal?
If you are someone who journals, you already understand the benefits of getting your thoughts on paper. Doing so offers a way to de-stress and to sort through complicated emotions. As a result, you gain self-awareness and feel empowered.
Above all, art journaling is a way to practice self care. It encourages you to take a little time for yourself—even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day. When you look back at what you’ve written, drawn, or stamped, you can gain valuable insight into the challenges in your life.
The point of art journaling is not to make every page a masterpiece. You’re simply supposed to enjoy the act of creating something without worrying about who is going to see it—or if it even looks good. Remember, it’s just for you!
How to Start an Art Journal
Art journaling is completely customizable depending on your skills and interests. Many people choose to use mixed media and adorn their pages with drawing and painting materials. The most important thing when beginning your art journal, however, is selecting the right book.
There are many considerations when it comes to picking your journal. Size is one. If you enjoy making large drawings, for instance, then a bigger book might be best. Art journals look great when you fill the page, so whatever the size you choose, make sure it complements the way you like to work. Another characteristic to think about is the type of pages that are in the book. Since it’s a good chance you’ll be using mixed media, select a journal whose paper can handle both drawing and painting—and lots of it.
These supplies are a great for art journaling:
- Watercolor paints or watercolor pencils
- Acrylic paint
- Colored pencils
- A variety of pens, from fine-tipped to thick brushes
- White ink
- Glue sticks (for collage)
- Old magazines, newspaper, or other interesting papers
Try these 10 art journal ideas!
Creating an art journal is all about you, but sometimes you need some help to get started.
- Introduce yourself! Draw or paint a self portrait.
- Draw some of the items you bought recently.
- Create a map of you favorite place, real or imagined.
- Draw a favorite childhood memory.
- Go for a nature walk and collect flowers or leaves. Write about your walk and why you gathered these items.
- Paste old photos and doodle on top of them using marker.
- Fill a page with geometric shapes.
- Illustrate what’s in your bag.
- Draw your favorite pet.
- Hand letter an inspiring quote or personal mantra.
Looking for more? Pinterest is also full of great art journal prompts.
Take your art journal techniques further with online art classes.
Introduction to Art Journaling, CreativeLive: If you’re looking for a crash course in art journaling, Andrea Chebeleu will educate you on the basics on composition and design elements.
Simply Stunning Art Journals, Craftsy: Once you understand the building blocks of art journaling, instructor Vicky Papaioannou will show you how to create highly textured backgrounds for your words and images to shine.