Choosing An Art Journal…

To begin art journaling you don’t need a whole lot of supplies, but you do need a journal. Choosing a journal is a personal decision and there are lots of choices out there. Here is a list of the common types of journals I use along with my two cents of opinion! Hopefully, this is helpful, when you decide to begin or continue your first/next art journal.

Bound Journals

This is the most obvious choice for beginners, a bound sketchbook.

Bound Journals
My Pros
Large variety of sizes.
Available at many stores.
Variety of paper weights.
This is a great easy choice for an art journal; they have a wide choice of selections and you’re sure to find one the size and paper weight, you can work with.


My Cons

A feeling of being overwhelmed by white pages and a sense of what do I do or where do I start? (If facing blank pages are a problem. Just start coloring each set of pages with your favorite colors, using paints, crayons, watercolor, etc. )  This can be difficult to open flat. (Moleskines are an option, since they lay flat, have a pocket in the back of the book to hold extra stuff and an attached band that helps keep the book closed. I don’t use moleskines, but that’s just my personal preference.)

Spiral Journals

Another choice is a  journal with a spiral binding.

Spiral Journals

My Pros

The same “pros” as above and it will easily lay flat.  Strathmore has a series of journals, the “Visual Journal” line that are spiral bound art journals; which are my favorite!

My Cons
The same as above and  spiral journals can be difficult to work with when creating two-page spreads, because of the spiraling in the middle of the book.  If that’s a problem and you still like/love these books, I suggest you cut the spiral out, and tape the middle pages together to  your spread and once you’ve completed the journal, you can “re-thread” the book the way you’d like it. This gives the book another way to make it your own.

You can also use:

Loose Pages as a Journal

This journal is simply any type of paper that you might journal on, in a loose unbound form.

My Pros

All the benefits of the above, plus some additional benefits; you probably have loose pages on hand. You can discard pages if you mess up and you can pre-arrange pages. Loose pages are less threatening, since you’re doing them one at a time.

My Cons

Some pages may get displaces, or lost accidentally.  No closure on your journal.

Altered Books

Re-purposing a book as an art journal.

My Pros
Cheap (I buy them from thrift stores or get them for free).
Recycling (the green alternative).
The pages have a background already.
Taking something discarded and making it a work of art.
This is one of my favorite types of art journals, because I’ve transformed it to a work of art.  There are as many choices as there are books!  Children’s books are great to work with they have fewer pages, so they aren’t as overwhelming as a book with lots of pages and some have thick pages that can handle the stuff you may add to it. Larger books, such as atlases or dictionaries, are also great for journals.
My Cons
The pages are not made to create art on (paper quality and thickness may not be appropriate for art making).  They require preparation time (gessoing pages, gluing pages together for thickness).

Hand-bound Journals

A journal that has been bound by hand by you or someone else.

Handmade Journal

My Pros

Control of the paper.
Control of size.
An art form in itself.
Variety of binding techniques.
Supports other artists (if buying from someone).

My Cons

Require some, if not lots of, preparation time (if you are binding your journal).
Learning curve (there is a learning curve with new skills, and your first bound book may not be as strong as you would like).
This is also one of my favorite options, as I like the idea of book-making. This category has so many variations, it is difficult to list all the pros and cons.  It is so rewarding to have your art journal be created by you from the start to finish!

If you’re a pro at art journaling, I hope this gives you incentive to keep going, and if you’re just starting out or restarting, I’ve given you some choices, among many, to get you on the road to transforming your thoughts and ideas through art journaling!

  1. Love reading about your insight. I have all three of what you mentioned and I am still not Positive which one is my favorite :) I think I love them all!

    Comment by JIll — April 11, 2014 @ 9:37 am

  2. Good information, I like the idea of using old books and also coloring in the white pages before beginning.

    Comment by jennifer barrile — April 11, 2014 @ 10:55 am

  3. Indigene, I am a collector of journals too ! I have 4 that I am currently working (playing) in. An altered book, two of the strathmore visual journals and one that I've made myself! I don't have the patience to wait for paint to dry so I keep several going at once. Glad to find you here! I'll be back.

    Comment by tami chacon — April 24, 2014 @ 6:36 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment