Starting an Art Journal – Tips, Supplies, and How to Use it!

Journals aren’t only for writers. Journals can help creatives of all types clear their minds and plan their latest projects. Writers may prefer traditional lined journals to help them jot down story ideas, crafters may have bullet journals to track their latest projects, and artists rely on art journals to sketch and blueprint their subsequent works.

What is an Art Journal?

An art journal is a journal specifically designed with an artist’s needs in mind. Typically, an art journal will have unlined paper that’s a heavier weight, which can handle multiple media types, including watercolor and acrylic paints.

Artists can either buy an art journal or make their own. A junk journal lends itself to art journaling because it’s made from recycled paper or ephemera, which can be integrated into the art journal to form collage art. Alternatively, thick recycled paper like card stock can make an excellent base for mixed-media art. Making a journal offers artists an additional creative outlet as well.

However, store-bought art journals also work. If you don’t want to create your own journal, you can buy a standard art journal at any craft store.

What Can I Use My Art Journal For?

The great thing about an art journal is you can use it for nearly anything. Use it to hold sketches, design your next painting, or jot down ideas for your next project. Use it to record your creative process.

The important thing about art journaling is that you use your journal in a way that makes sense to you. Personalize the journal with your favorite colors and bring it with you when you might have some downtime. You never know when inspiration will strike!

Handmade Leather Journals


Art Journal Ideas

Here are some fabulous art journal ideas to help you get started. You can integrate all of these ideas into the same journal or maintain a separate notebook for different forms of artistic expression. The only rule is to use your art journal in a way that inspires you!


Many people use their art journals as simple sketchbooks. Take it to the park to draw the birds, bring it to the coffee shop to sketch your imaginary monsters, or take it on the bus to illustrate the sights of the city around you—sketch portraits of your friends and family. Use the margins for doodling.

Drawing is a wonderful way to engage your creativity, and you will never run out of things to draw.

Supply List

If you’re a serious crafter, you may see things that inspire your next project while you’re out and about. Use your journal to record the supplies you might need to create something spectacular. Maybe you saw the perfect fabric design, a new color for crocheting, or a unique medium you want to explore.

Record these ideas in your journal so you can return to them when you’re out shopping for supplies for your next project.

Idea Holder

In addition to a supply list, you may want to use your journal to record ideas for your next project, whether it be a story, craft, or painting.

You never know when inspiration will strike, so having a portable art journal allows you to record those ideas wherever you are so you don’t lose your spark of creativity.

On-the-Go Easel

The best use of an art journal is as a portable easel. Paint in it!

Grab your portable watercolor kit or easy acrylics and a brush always to have an easy-to-use easel that will help you paint ideas as you see them. Using an art journal to quickly Plein air paint while you’re out will give you a perfect frame of reference for crafting your masterpiece when you return to the studio.

Project Design

An art journal is an excellent tool for designing your future artistic creations. Use it to sketch out aspect ratios, dimensions, and rough drafts of paintings.

Designing projects is a big part of an artist’s work. Although many may want to use a more sophisticated tool like a drawing tablet to map out project ideas, an art journal is a far cheaper way to get the ideas out on paper before fine-tuning the details back in the art studio.


Art journals make unique make-shift scrapbooks. An art journal-scrap book combo is a beautiful way to record your memories while adding your artistic flair. Glue event tickets into your journal and sketch an image of the concert next to it. Trace your favorite photos into the journal. Tape a picture onto one page and try to mark it on the other. Create a visual journey of your life.

The only limit to how you can use your art journal for scrapbooking is your imagination.

Creative Writing

Many people forget that writing is an art. There is nothing wrong with using your art journal for creative writing.

Use it to write poetry, sketch out your storyboard, or record ideas you have for your next novel. Mix it up with character sketches, outlines, and short stories.

Educational Tool

If you are a student of art, whether casually or pursuing a fine art degree, you may want to use your art journal as an educational tool. Take your journal to an art museum and study the works of your favorite painter. Try to recreate their masterpieces.

Explore local art galleries and record what you notice about contemporary art. How are artists using color theory, layering, and texture to create their works?

Students of art history may want to explore the types of artworks created in a given time period and may wish to cross-reference these works with political movements of the time. You can fill your art journal pages with artistic history from around the world.

Whatever You Want

There is no limit to how to use your journal. Use it to design your next sculpture as a diary, practice calligraphy, or create mixed media works. Fill your journal pages with imagery from your travels. Use it to combine some of these ideas. The sky is the limit!

How Do I Start My Art Journal?

Now that you have a ton of ideas for using your art journal, it’s time to put them into practice and start journaling. The best way to start is to take your journal with you and write or draw whenever inspiration strikes.

Don’t worry about crafting the perfect story or sketching the ideal image. Your art journal should inspire you and help you achieve your goals as an artist.

Best Art Journal Supplies

Depending on how you will use your journal, you may need various supplies for art journaling. Some common things you may consider are:

  • Paint brushes
  • Oil pastels
  • Mediums
  • Stencils
  • Acrylic paint
  • Watercolors
  • Glitter
  • Stamps
  • Colored Pencils and pens
  • Sketching pencils
  • Stickers
  • Charcoal
  • Graphite
  • Ink

This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, nor do you need to get everything on it. Wander through your local craft store’s arts and scrapbooking section for inspiration.


Best Art Journals

If you don’t want to make your own art journal, you can easily buy one that will work. Moleskine is a highly regarded journal company that creates ideal art journals. Their typical art journals are suitable for sketching with graphite or charcoal but may not be ideal for drawing and painting with watercolor paints or acrylics.


Strathmore makes a wide variety of art journals for different uses. The mixed media journal will hold Watercolor, gouache, acrylic, graphite, pen & ink, colored pencil, marker, pastel, and collage, making it one of the most versatile art journals you can buy. Strathmore also makes watercolor journals and sketchbooks.


These journals may not work well with oil paints, but you might get around that by covering the pages with a layer of gesso and letting it dry before applying the oil.

Grab Your Art Journal!

Are you inspired to start your next art project? An art journal is a perfect tool to help you get started. Grab yours and make art!