Art Journaling 102: Materials

Paper & Journals

Loose paper vs. Bound Journal. You can work on loose paper and bind it together later using book-binding techniques {fun to learn} or simply store in a large box. I started art journaling and doodling in a Strathmore wire-bound pad. Loose paper is a wonderful way to start because you can play without committing to any particular journal. If you adore the idea of working in a journal, there are a lot of great bound journals available. A standard writing journal will have thin paper which will NOT hold up to mixed media work or even wet media like watercolor or acrylics. So you'll want paper made for art. Or go the other direction and use an old book and prepare the surface for your art!

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More spots to explore:

Favorite Pens for Writing, Sketching, Doodling & Drawing
Getting Words on Acrylics and Highly Layered Art Journal Pages
Art Materials to Take on Vacation
All About Sakura Gelly Rolls
All About Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Wax Crayons

THIS IS A COMPANION TO ART JOURNALING 101.

For Simple Collages Using Tape, Staples or Glue Stick:

  1. Strathmore Visual Journal with drawing paper.
  2. Strathmore 300 or 400 Series Watercolor Paper.
  3. Strathmore Visual Journal with Watecolor paper.
  4. Hardback book from the discount bin, for a few dollars/euros. 
  5. Buy loose watercolor paper or mixed media paper and bind your own journal.
  6. Moleskine Classic Notebook. The unlined and unlined versions have thin, smooth, slightly off-white paper. Too thin for paint applications.
  7. Moleskine Sketchbook. Thick cream colored paper {like a manilla folder} is great for drawing and can handle light collage or stapled collage. Watercolor does not work well on these pages, although it will take gouache or acrylics. If you are planning to do gouache/watercolor or ink & gouache/watercolor, I'd recommend the Moleskine Watercolor journal or any journal with watercolor paper.
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For Mixed Media Work {Acrylics, Collage}:

  1. Strathmore Visual Journal with drawing paper. 
  2. Strathmore Visual Journal with Watercolor paper.
  3. Hardback book from the discount bin, for a few dollars/euros. 
  4. Buy loose watercolor paper or mixed media paper and bind your own journal.
  5. Moleskine Sketchbook. Thick cream colored paper {specifically, the one with the paper that is like a manilla folder} is great for drawing and can handle light collage. If you are planning to do light work with gouache/watercolor or ink plus a touch of gouache/watercolor, try the Moleskine Watercolor journal or a journal with watercolor paper.
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For Writing/Drawing with Ink:

  1. Moleskine Classic Notebook. The unlined and unlined versions have thin, smooth, slightly off-white paper. Good for doodles, sketches, drawings, lists + note taking. My to-do list resides in this journal. Too thin for paint applications.
  2. Bee Paper Super Deluxe Sketch Pad. Nice wire bound journal for doodling, drawing and writing.
  3. Rhodia Web Notebook. Lovely drawing journals. Various versions including dotted grid, grid, lined. Classic orange cover.

For Watercolor or Ink + Watercolor:

  1. Strathmore 300 or 400 Series Watercolor Paper. Great paper, good value. You can get wire bound or buy in huge sheets and cut to desired size. Standard weight for watercolor paper, 140 lb/300 gsm paper.
  2. Moleskine Watercolor journal. Contains 135 lb/200-gsm paper. Note: This is decent watercolor paper, but quality is declining; better for drawing or ink with touches of watercolor/gouache.
  3. Bee Paper Super Deluxe Sketch Pad or Watercolor Journal aka Aquabee journals. The paper is 93 lb/150 gsm. This is OK watercolor paper, but better for drawing or ink with a bit of watercolor/gouache.
  4. Fabriano Artistico Acquarello Watercolor paper. Yummy but expensive! 140 lb/300 gsm paper.

Art Materials

Acrylics. On my art journal pages, I use Golden Heavy Body AcrylicsFluid Acrylics and High Flow Acrylics. Heavy Body acrylics are very thick and opaque. Fluid acrylics are more fluid... and High Flow are the most fluid. All are intensely saturated.

Artist quality acrylics are more intense and consistent and have a higher pigment load. Keep in mind that you can mix paints to get a variety of colors, no need to buy every color. You can make acrylics more transparent by mixing them with fluid matte medium, which keeps the consistency of the paint.

Craft acrylics are less expensive but also less vibrant/saturated; lightfastness and consistency also differ. Learn about painting with acrylics as well as mixed media work with acrylics and collage in my mixed media art journaling workshops

Watercolor & Gouache. I use Winsor & Newton watercolor paint as well as several brands of gouache. Artist quality watercolor & gouache paints have a higher pigment load and are more intense. You can mix paints to get a variety of colors, no need to buy every color. Details about the watercolor and gouache paints that I use in my journals. Learn about painting with watercolor & gouache in my workshops!

Markers & Pens. 

➸ Wow. So much to say about pens! See: favorite pens & markers for drawing, doodling and getting words on acrylics and highly layered art journal pages

Stamps. You can carve your own stamps from erasers using an x-acto knife or lino-cutting tools. There's a tutorial here. "Found" stamps include things you find around the house like lids, medicine cups, cookie cutters, old brushes and play-doh tools. Just dip them in acrylic paint or gesso and make marks! But once you use them in your art, keep them with your art supplies.

Adhesive. Fluid matte medium can be used to attach paper to your pages.

Brushes. Buy basic, cheap brushes {or even better, your old, worn-out brushes} for adhesives because they will be trashed. For painting, buy decent quality but not junky brushes because they will shed hair and not hold water well. Try various brands, styles and sizes, until you find an assortment you like. Try flats and rounds. For mixed media art journaling, almost any decent brush will do.

Scissors. Having had hand + elbow surgery, the ONLY scissors I use are Fiskars Softouch Scissors. They have a helping hinge that makes them easier to use. Extremely sharp, with a precise tip. Work with paper, glossy magazines, photos, fabric, detail paper cutting. I've got a larger version near the sewing machine for paper/fabric, and another with my art journal gear. 

Neocolors. I love, love, love Caran d'Ache Neocolor II wax crayons. They can be blended with fingers, drawn and dissolved with a brush or used to paint like watercolors {by touching a wet brush to the crayon and painting with the brush}. 

Old gift/credit cards. Great for pushing paint around a page, making borders, "stamping" lines, scratching off layers, painting a layer of gesso, etc. 

Parchment Paper. Details in Un-Sticking Art Journal Pages. In the baking section of the grocery store near aluminum foil and wax paper. After a page has dried a bit, place a sheet of parchment paper in between your pages and put a bunch of hardback books. The parchment keeps the pages from sticking together and the weights help your pages dry flat. If working within a bound journal or hardback book, keep parchment between the pages, close the book and put a bunch of books on top. Pages with lots of layers might take a week or more to fully dry.

A surface to mix paints. For acrylics, save those plastic lids from yogurt/iced cream and pitch after you are finished painting for the day. For watercolor/gouache, you can get inexpensive plastic watercolor palettes for mixing paints. Learn how to mix paints too! One of my favorite books about mixing color is the Color Mixing Bible.

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