When I was starting out with Art journaling one of the most difficult decisions was trying to decide what to buy. Primarily because I loved every tool and medium and paper I saw but also because a lot of these items were not available in local stores or just way too pricey. Supply being erratic I found myself buying one of what I saw simply because It was unlikely it would be available again. But this also made it all the more important to improvise. So by trial and error (and great expense) I finally got my act together.

To help some of you along and avoid the confusion I experienced here is a list of what I would buy if I was starting out:

1. Journal – Well of course if you want to be an Art journaler you need a journal. You can buy a purpose made journal, use loose paper or make your own hand bound version. See my post about journals here

2. Paints – Choose what you are most comfortable with first. Acrylics dry quick and are easy to work with on most surfaces. Watercolor is very versatile but might need a specific absorbent surface. Then there are a plethora of mixed media and journaling specific paints, inks, sprays, pens, etc. Good quality water soluble pencils are a great investment as they can be used to draw on your page and wash away while building up or you can actually paint an entire picture with them. Again there is a choice for every pocket from student grade cheaper options to artists quality which are more expensive but definitely worth their price.

3.Stencils & masks – choose a few different patterns. Borders, backgrounds, florals, geometric, shapes etc. these are really useful when building layers and to add texture to the page. You will get a lot of use from generic patterns. You can even create your own. Either hand cut with a craft knife or using one those popular die cutting craft machines like a cameo, Sizzix, Cuttlebug, etc.

4. Stamps & Stamp pads/inks – Stamps are great for adding interest to your background, adding motifs, printing text, borders, to name a few, but can be used for a variety of applications in journaling. Stamping inks can be braodly categorised intot 2 categories. permanent (water resistant) and semi-permanent (water soluble). Archival ink is an absolute must have with stamps! My favorite brands are Stazon and Archival ink by Ranger. Distress inks can also be used for stamping as can gesso, Artists big brush pens, paints and almost any fluid wet medium. Like stencils, choose a variety.

5. Tools – My favorites were palette knives, make up applicator foam, credit card or applicator for texture paste, Brayer, water mister/spritzer bottles, distress ink blending foam, brushes in varying sizes, bottle caps, bubble wrap, old crotchet doilies,……use your imagination and you will be able to add to this list in no time.

6. Mediums and Grounds – For starters a good quality liquid gesso, Gel medium (you can decide between matt and glossy or both) and texture paste will get you through plenty of projects.

The above is pretty much all you need to get started but by no means all you will ever have in your stash ….:))) Supplies are an addiction of sorts with art journalers.



The foundation of your art journaling journey is the book you journal in. No matter how good you are with your artistic skills if you don’t have the right material to work in you are bound to get frustrated. In my limited experience I find the first step to choosing a journal is asking yourself what sort of pages you want to create!  do you just intend to doodle and journal with pens, or draw in watercolor, will you use a lot of wet mediums and sprays? The answer to this might not be apparent as your style might develop as you go along or you may just want to experiment will all sorts of styles instead of sticking to one. Once you have a bit of direction there think about things like paper type, paper texture, size and binding.

Heavier watercolor paper is great for mixed media and wet mediums. Anything above 200gsm seems to work although I prefer a 300/400 gsm paper as it tends to warp less than the thinner ones. Water color paper tends to have a ‘tooth’ or texture which you have to be aware will show up in your work. I recently discovered hot pressed water color paper was a bit smoother than the cold pressed version. Standard journals tend to have plain smooth paper. But the paper is usually 100-120gsm at best. You can glue two pages together to create a stronger base.

Size is relative to whether you are intent on making big pages or prefer a pocket sized version. Very large pages can be intimidating initially because you have that much more blank space to fill. Starting with an A4  or A5 size page is usually ideal.

The binding in your journal is important. especially if you work with mixed media and plan to add background papers, embellishments and trimmings. You don’t want your journal to fall apart half way nor become inconvenient to work in as it bulks up. Having it lie flat as you work is another big advantage. So what are your choices?

The most popular choice seems to be Moleskine. Most artist I have seen using this book glue their pages together for strength and usually gesso their pages to prime them for wet mediums. Most often they will tape up the binding center to prevent seepage of wet mediums. If you are just a pen and dry color type of journaler you might get away with not needing to do all that.

Another popular book is the Dylusions creative journal. Comes with two choices of paper in one book and takes ink sprays and very wet mediums really well. Read more about it here.

My current Journal is a Zequenz classic 360*. It does require the glueing of pages and gesso like moleskine. However the beauty of this book is the binding which does not need the center tape and actual can open almost 360* as its name suggests. Which means it will probably create less tension at the binding as it mouth starting gaping. When I am half way through the journal I will most likely need to figure out how to support the underside as it will get imbalanced due to the thickness of the side I have already worked on. Will cross that bridge when I get there but its something to think about as we add background papers and layers of paint and mediums in addition to embellishments on our pages.

Others I have heard of include Cottonwood, Strathmore, Canson, Bee Deluxe. Will update these lists as I hear of more over time. Here is a really extensive video on types of Art Journals by Barb Owen

You can also use loose sheets of paper for your journaling. You then have a choice of a variety of paper types to suit your needs. I would recommend sticking to a particular size so it looks neat and uniform when filed together. You can even mount these onto matting board or a background. Some artists use an A4 paper and then cut it into 2 before pasting it onto a book.

Another alternative is re-purposing an old/unused book. My first art journal was a spiral bound book I found in my moms magazine rack. It was a freebie to jot down notes at an Architecture conference. The pages were thick like cartridge paper and although they were ads and printed material in the book there were a fair number of unlined blank pages too.

Other interesting substrates include cereal boxes, corrugated carton panels, feed bags and the field is wide open for you to come up with more ideas of your own.

Happy Journaling!