Art journaling is a fantastic way to embrace your creativity. Get lost in a sketch while riding a bus, or use the pages to Plein air paint the serene scene at your local park. The uses for art journals are endless.
However, we all need a little inspiration to kickstart our creativity from time to time. If you’re ready to start your art journal adventure but need a little guidance to get you going, you’ve come to the right place!
Here are loads of art journal ideas to help you get started. Use these templates and forms as inspiration to create your unique art journal!
46 Fantastical Ideas for Your Art Journal
Art Journal Theme Ideas
First, let’s start with an overall theme. Your art journal can be whatever you want it to be. Some artists and journalers enjoy the aesthetics of having a specific journal theme.
If that describes you, here are some ideas to help you brainstorm the perfect motif for your journal.
Make your art journal a shrine to all the positive things in your life. Decorate it with pictures of family and friends, sketch pets and serene spring scenes, and use bright watercolors to put yourself in a great mood whenever you open it.
Expressing thankfulness and gratitude is key to a life of contentment. Use your art journal to record all the things you are thankful for. Start by writing down three things you are grateful for each morning, and then spend your day filling the pages with collages, sketches, and imagery reminding you of those things.
Positivity, mindfulness, and gratitude all go hand in hand. You could dedicate your journal to all three, or you focus it on just one. The choice is yours!
If you’re a serious artist, you might want to focus your art journal on fine art. Complete master studies, jot down notes about your favorite pieces and use the pages to sketch out your own masterpieces.
Friends & Family
What better way to celebrate the loved ones in your life than to dedicate your art journal to them? Fill your pages with collages, sketches, and scraps of your time together. You can make a junk journal/art journal/scrapbook combo!
A slightly different art journal idea limits the actual art you do but focuses on art education instead. Bring your journal to museums, galleries, and art festivals. Record the names, dates, and styles of your favorite works, using your journal as a tool to help you understand essential topics in art history.
Dreams & Inspiration
My favorite use for an art journal is as a shrine to my dreams. I love drawing and painting imagery that reminds me of my dreams and life goals. Make collages that inspire you, draw pictures of where you see yourself in five years and keep track of your biggest goals.
If you want to drill deeper into your dreams, turn your art journal into a massive vision board. Focus on one or two of your biggest goals, and surround your art journal with imagery inspiring you to achieve them.
One of the primary reasons people journal is to discover themselves. You can combine visual art with the written word with an art journal to enhance this journey. If you aren’t sure where to start, use journal writing prompts for inspiration. You can answer the questions with words and images.
Embrace your psychic side with a twist. Give yourself a card reading every day, and dedicate your art journal to these daily readings. Create imagery surrounding how the card made you feel or your hopes and dreams regarding the reading. Look back on your art journal to see if you can find common themes.
Art journal themes don’t have to relate to you personally. Sometimes it’s all about aesthetics. One aesthetically pleasing art journal idea is to create a new journal each season. Use the imagery and feelings of the various seasons as inspiration for your artwork. Spend springtime drawing about regrowth and renewal, use your fall journal to celebrate harvesting and reaping, and focus your winter journal on cozy fires and the holidays of the season.
Every artist needs to understand the complex relationships different colors have with each other. Use your art journal to expand your knowledge of color theory by choosing complimentary colors as themes and creating works on the pages that express and highlight those colors.
Doodles & Daydreams
Sometimes the best use of an art journal is as a tomb dedicated to free expression. Let your hand guide you in mindless doodles while watching television or sketch images of your latest daydreams. You can use oils, acrylics, and watercolor to create fantastic works of abstract expressionism within your journal pages.
Poetry, Lyrics, & Verse
Are there works of song or poem that inspire you? Maybe you have favorite movie quotes or song lyrics. Celebrate these verses with your art journal! Write the marvelous words in your diary and use them as inspiration for your masterpieces.
Pop Culture Favorites
One of the best art journal ideas is to dedicate it to your favorite show or genre. I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and have an art journal devoted to all things slaying, where I sketch stakes, vampires, characters, and monsters from the show. I even write down some ideas for creative fan fiction! You can do the same – use your journal to draw beloved characters from some of your pop culture favorites.
Plants or Animals
Plants and animals make lovely images for sketches and decorations. Sketch vines around your art journal pages as decoration, or use your journal to capture drawings or photographs of interesting plants and animals you see while out and about.
Are you obsessed with a particular era? Perhaps you love the aesthetics of the 80s or long for the bell bottoms and long straight hair of the 70s. Make your art journal theme a shrine to it! Create collages of modern looks that remind you of the era’s style, or celebrate the popular art movements of the period by recreating them.
If you lust for adventure, consider combining your art and travel journals. Use photographs of your experiences and magazine clips of places on your travel bucket list as inspiration for creating impressive works of art within your pages.
Art Journal Ideas for Your Pages
The themes themselves may have offered you terrific inspiration for your art journal pages, but why stop there?
Here are tons of epic ideas you can use to fill the blank pages of your art journal, whether you’ve embraced a theme or decided to make your art journal eclectic.
Art isn’t limited to the visual arts. Writing, poetry, songs, and verse are all art forms. Use your art journal to express all sides of your creativity by dedicating a handful of pages to original poems.
Write a Story
Poetry can be taxing, but creative writing can take many forms. Leave room in your art journal for the fictional world. Make up short stories, or let your art journal be a brainstorming tool for a longer work. You can also use your journal to jot down your writing ideas whenever inspiration strikes and expand them into a bigger story later.
Illustrate Your Story
Combine sketches with your original story to create a storyboard. You may also want to use oil paints, crayons, charcoal pastels, or watercolors to make specific scenes in your novel come to life!
Make a Comic Strip
Comics are specific types of stories told with primarily graphic panels. Use your journal to create your own superheroes and comic strips.
Every post on art journal ideas offers sketching as a way to fill your book. Although it’s the obvious answer, that doesn’t make it any less valid. Sketching can be relaxing and help new artists develop their skills.
Play with Watercolor
Watercolor is much more complicated than it seems, making an art journal the perfect place to practice. Ensure you have the correct paper in your journal before starting. Watercolor paper is heavier and resists warping. Most art journals on the market aren’t designed to hold watercolors, so make sure you buy the right one or make your own.
Express Your Moods
Throughout the ages, artists have used their works to express their moods and ideas. You can do the same by choosing daily themes and colors that match how you feel inside. Use brilliant color and abstract expressionism to highlight your innermost feelings.
Pro tip: Record the feeling when you’re done, so when you look back through your journal, you can associate the different works with unique feelings and track any potential patterns.
Complete a Master Study
Those who want to create art as a career may benefit from filling some art journal pages with master studies. Go to your local art museum and sketch the works that inspire you. Try to recreate the works’ form, function, and texture with oil paints or pastels. Learning how the masters do it will help you become a better artist.
Make a Collage
In the mood for cutting and pasting? Fill one of your art journal pages with a collage! Grab an old magazine and a handy pair of scissors and clip what inspires you! Alternatively, use scrapbook materials to create a collage of memories. You could also gain the best of both worlds and do both when the inspiration strikes.
Many people fill their art journals with decorative words and inspirational phrases. Write the word “Happy” in big, bold letters, then paint or draw what happiness means to you. Use the letters as maps for symbols and inspiration.
Calligraphy is a subset of word art where the design is in the letters themselves. It’s fun to create the perfect artistic “J” or create a whimsical signature.
Art Journal Ideas From Pinterest
Ready for some visual examples? These expressive pages may incorporate some of the art journal ideas discussed above but offer specific examples of how others used art, language, mood, and more to express themselves in an art journal.
This design took the word “Be” and turned it into a positive affirmation for every day.
Use your art journal to write yourself inspirational messages and decorate them in a way that’s meaningful to you.
There are numerous ways to express gratitude, but why not use the growth imagery of a tree?
Use your art journal to visualize a mind map. I love this example because it’s literal words inside a human head.
This design used the imagery of colors in jars to signify emotions that are bottled up.
All the Feelings:
Sometimes our emotions aren’t bottled up, but they swirl around us, pulling us this way and that, making it impossible for us to focus or even understand what we’re feeling. This simple art journal page embraces chaos.
Trick yourself into a certain mood by creating a word map with words and phrases associated with that mood. This art journal idea uses Happy thoughts and sunny colors, buts it’s okay to embrace unpleasant attitudes as well.
Things that Make Me:
Use a bullet journal as your art journal! This example uses mainly color and words to get in a happy mood.
Using Color to Prove a Point:
I love this art journal page idea because it’s inspirational and uses bold colors to help you focus on the right things. As a bonus – you can sign up for the blogger’s email list and get a free printable version of this page that you can paste directly into your art journal!
Print & Art
This spectacular art journal idea combines printed words with colorful art. Cut pages from a newspaper or old book. Use the words themselves as inspiration for your drawings or as a pattern to compliment your own work.
Embrace the Creative Process
I love these art journal pages. They burst with color and chaos, showcasing that your art journal can be whatever you want it to be.
Whatever you Want
Your art journal doesn’t need to follow a motif. Fill the pages with random art, photos, drawings, and images.
Cover Ideas for Your Art Journal
Although you can’t judge a book by its cover, the best art journals are decorated with imagery reminding us of why we create art. Here are some ideas designed to inspire you to create a gorgeous and unique art journal cover. It might be easier to incorporate these ideas into a handmade journal, but with a bit of creativity, you can add flair to your store-bought Strathmore too!
You can also expand upon any of these and use them for your entire theme. The best part of an art journal is that you can do whatever you want with it!
Under the Sea
One of the best art journal covers I’ve ever seen had a beach/seashore theme. It mainly was sand colored, but the center featured a color drawing of a mermaid, and the edges were covered with seashells meticulously collected and glued all around it.
Another nature-based option is a forest-themed cover. Make a fairy the centerpiece, and surround her with green. Add texture to your color with twigs and moss.
Use great works of modern art as a guide to make your cover a masterpiece of self-expression. Will you follow Rothko and focus on geometrically inspired bold color patterns, or embrace Pollack’s mess of chaos?
If your art journal is mainly dedicated to family, friends, or collage, use that same theme for your color. Find the best pictures, scraps, and ephemera to make a mixed-media collage for your cover.
Art journaling can be a journey of self-discovery. Incorporate inspirational imagery into your art journal cover design that will motivate you during this epic adventure.
Ideas for Decorating your Art Journal
Although you may fill the pages with sketches, artwork, and poetry, you may want to decorate the margins with doodles, stamps, stickers, or other items to add extra flair and creativity to your art journal. Grab these art supplies and enhance your art journal with fun extras!
Want to add your favorite imagery to your art journal but aren’t the best at drawing? Grab some stencils and sketch the designs around your art journal as you see fit.
Another fun way to add flair to your art journal pages is with stamps. You can purchase various small stamps with fun designs like hearts, stars, and even butterflies. Add decoration to your journal by stamping your favorite images in the margins.
You must consider the pages if you want to use wet media like watercolors or oil paints to decorate your art journal. Wet media bleeds and warps paper that isn’t designed to hold it. If you are creating your own art journal, be sure to use the right paper that can hold mixed media and watercolor. You may be able to purchase an art journal designed for these media as well.
Another option is to prepare paper with gesso. This will help it hold oils better and prevent bleeding. Cover the entire page, and let the gesso dry before applying oil. Gesso doesn’t work as well with watercolors; you must have the correct paper to hold that media.
Use These Art Journal Ideas to Create an Epic Journal!
Your art journal can be whatever you want it to be. Use the ideas in this post as inspiration to create your perfect journal!
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.