My favorite Paints, Papers, Pens, Mark-Making Tools & Art Materials for Art Journaling

I've been art journaling for about a decade and that means a zillion experiments, tests, happy accidents and discoveries about mixing mediums on paper. Whether you're just starting your first journal or delving into your 7th of the year, there are always new things to learn and explore. 

I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of my go-to materials for art journaling. this list is the result of extensive experience in my journals + altered books, and in working with artists in my mixed media workshops

I like to approach this kind of list in logical fashion, so I divided the materials into broad categories: Acrylic Paint, Watercolor & Gouache, Pens for Writing on Acrylics & Collaged Backgrounds, Favorite Pens & Mark-Making Tools, etc.

After all of that, I get into Stamps & Scissors, Paper/Journals for Mixed Media, Paper/Journals for Collage, Paper/Journals for Drawing, Paper/Journals for Watercolor, and finally details about Brushes, and Liquid Adhesive for Collage. Throughout this post, you'll find links to other information at Daisy Yellow. I don't do formal product reviews, but I do have a bunch of "All About ____" type posts that you may find helpful. 


Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is intense & opaque and incredibly versatile for art journalists. The paint dries quickly and can be layered, scraped, scratched & textured too. Although it is water-based, acrylic paint does not rewet once dry. You can use acrylics with a variety of mediums to alter their characteristics. 

When dry, you can add more paint or adhere papers without altering the original layer. I use Golden Heavy Body Acrylics, Fluid Acrylics and High Flow Acrylics. Heavy Body acrylics are thick and opaque; fluid acrylics are more fluid. High Flow acrylics are the most fluid, almost like ink. 

For art journaling it's lovely to have the color you want directly at hand, and you don't need to be able to mix every color in the universe. Acrylics dry quickly on the palette, although you can mist with water to slow that process a bit.

Here's a mixed media art journal page that I created with heavy body acrylic paint and collaged papers in an altered hardback book. 

Artist quality acrylics are more intensely saturated and have a higher pigment load than craft/student acrylics, but they are also more expensive. Craft acrylics are less expensive but also less vibrant/saturated; lightfastness and consistency differ. I would suggest buying the best quality paints that your budget allows, even if that means buying fewer colors. 

You might start with five 1 oz. bottles of Golden fluid acrylic paint. If buying individually, consider: black, titanium white, quinacridone magenta, ultramarine blue & hansa yellow.

If your budget allows, add a green, an orange, a red & dioxazine purple. A splurge? A metallic like stainless steel, iridescent light gold or iridescent copper. 


Watercolor and Gouache Paint

Let's switch gears! Watercolor is transparent or translucent; gouache is more opaque and can be layered. They both dry quickly and can be rewet or further altered after they dry. You can use watercolor and gouache with several different mediums to alter their characteristics.

Watercolor and gouache are peaceful & relaxing. They are water-soluble and can be rewet. Paint abstracts of lush color or embellish inked drawings. I use Winsor & Newton watercolor paint and 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, so there's no need to buy every color! Generally I would suggest starting with a kit of artist quality half-pan watercolor paints. You can gradually expand the colors in your kit with your experience and budget. Details about the watercolor and gouache paints that I use in my journals

 Painting with gouache.

Painting with gouache.


Pens & Tools for Writing on Acrylic & Collage Backgrounds

Here's a question echoed by art journalists and mixed media artists around the globe. How on earth do we write on acrylic paint? After trial & error over many years, I'm happy to share my go-to ideas with you!

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist PensPermanent and quick drying. The M nib & brush nib & Big Brush nibs provide thick lines. Try dark gray, black, navy & sepia for light backgrounds.

An ordinary #2 pencil. I kid you not. 

White gel pen, i.e. Sanford Uni-Ball Gel UM-153 gel pen or Sakura Gelly Roll

Dip pen + india ink. Draw your words with a dip pen nib with opaque india ink, i.e.  Dr. Ph Martin's Bombay White

Sharpie water-based Poster Paint MarkersWork quite well especially on the most challenging uneven, rough surfaces.

Small brush. Hand-letter your words. Try  opaque india ink, i.e.  Dr. Ph Martin's Bombay White or acrylic paint, i.e. Golden high flow acrylics

Alphabet stamps. Also hand-carved stamps & alphabet stencils. 

Tons of details in Getting Words on Acrylics + Mixed Media Art Journal Pages.


Pens & Inks & Mark-Making Tools

Faber-Castell PITT artist pens. Fiber-tipped pens with permanent india ink, dry very quickly and don't tax my hand. You can watercolor on top and they won’t bleed. Get one in black, with a medium or brush nib {or get a set of all nib sizes in black}. For writing words on your journal pages including acrylic painted backgrounds. 

Sakura Gelly Roll pens. Metal-nibbed pens with permanent gel ink. The line is smooth and consistent. Dry quickly. Guide to Sakura Gelly Rolls.

Uniball UM-153. Metal-nibbed black or white pen for lettering on dark backgrounds. The line is smooth and consistent. Dry quickly.

Water-Soluble crayons and pencils. Caran d'Ache Neocolor II wax crayons. For edging, doodling & more. Guide to Caran D'Ache Neocolors

Dr. Ph. Martin's India Inks. Pigment-based inks in vivid colors. Use with a tiny brush or dip pen. Here's my Guide to Dr. Ph. Martin's India Inks.


Stamps & Scissors

Hand-carved eraser stamps. Carve your own unique stamps from erasers or linocutting materials. There's a stamp-carving tutorial hereRubber stamps. Alphabet stamps.

Found objects. Use as stamps with acrylics or stamping ink. Medicine cups, cookie cutters, clay-carving tools, twigs, leaves & feathers.

Scissors. The ONLY scissors I use are Fiskars Softouch Scissors. They do not tax my hand, and that's a huge deal because I've had hand and elbow surgery. The scissors are extremely sharp, with a precise tip. 


Papers & Journals for Mixed Media


Select paper greater than about 180gsm. You can start on loose sheets of watercolor paper or heavy card stock. Loose paper allows you the freedom to play without committing to any particular journal. You can bind it together later using book-binding techniques or simply store in a large flat archival box. You can also make your own journal from any paper in the universe. 

Strathmore Visual Journal with Watercolor paper.

Hardback book from the discount bin. Reinforce pages by gluing pairs of pages together. 

Loose watercolor paper or mixed media paper in huge sheets and bind your own journal.

Moleskine SketchbookThick cream colored paper {specifically, the one with the paper that is like a manilla folder} is great for drawing and can handle collage.


Paper & Journals for Collage


Whether you call it the substrate or surface. paper is the base for your work! It's where the action happens and selecting paper is an important aspect of creative work. You can art journal on many different surfaces; know that the mediums you utilize will work differently depending on the paper itself.  

You can work on loose paper or in a bound journal. The options are endless, so my suggestion is to pick somewhere and simply start. It doesn't have to be perfect. As you refine your techniques and with experience, you will gravitate towards specific types of paper, paints & brushes.

Generally you want to match the type & thickness of the paper with the medium and materials that you plan to use.

For this reason, the paper section is categorized by what you plan to DO with the paper.  Each medium interacts with each paper in a different way. So if you are frustrated with the particular combination you've selected, try a different type of paper. Or try a different brush. 

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. I think this paper is the perfect balance of price to quality so it's my top pick.

Strathmore Visual Journal with Watercolor paper.

Hardback book from the discount bin, for a few dollars/euros. 

Loose watercolor paper or mixed media paper in huge sheets and bind your own journal.

Moleskine Classic Notebook. The unlined and unlined versions have thin, smooth, slightly off-white paper. Too thin for paint applications.

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.


Paper & Journals for Writing & Drawing


A standard writing journal will be sufficient, but if you plan to adhere collage elements and use acrylic paint, the thin paper of a typical {even if beautiful} journal from the bookstore won't hold up to acrylics and other wet media.

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.

Bee Paper Super Deluxe Sketch Pad aka Aquabee journals. The paper is 93 lb/150 gsm. Excellent journals for pencil, ink or markers with a bit of watercolor/gouache/ink. You can use a bit of watercolor or gouache to enhance your drawings as well, but not for full pages of wet media.

Rhodia Web Notebook. Lovely drawing journals. Various versions including dotted grid, grid, lined. Classic orange cover.

Use loose or bound 300gsm cold-pressed watercolor paper.

Art journaling

Paper & Journals for Watercolor


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. I think this paper is the perfect balance of price to quality so it's my top pick.

Moleskine Watercolor journal. Contains 135 lb/200 gsm paper. I love the 5x8" version and have filled a stack of these over the years! I've found inconsistency in paper quality in the larger versions so I don't use these for watercolor/gouache work any longer. Excellent journals for pencil, ink or markers with a bit of watercolor/gouache/ink.

Fabriano Artistico Acquarello Watercolor paper. Yummy but expensive! 140 lb/300 gsm paper.

 Brushes for acrylics.

Brushes for acrylics.


You'll want to use a brush created for your desired medium, rather than a generic "mixed media" or anything goes sort of brush. Spending $10-$20 per brush gives you a significant benefit in terms of quality of experience and results.

For acrylic paint. Acrylics are hard on brushes, so a brush may only last a few months. While it's fun to have a variety of brushes, the two sizes that I think are most useful are a short-handled round or flat synthetic hair brush in size #2 or smaller for lettering and a short-handled round or flat synthetic hair brushes size #10 round or flat for everything else. 

For watercolor or gouache. A good watercolor brush can last for years. Two great sizes are a short-handled round synthetic hair brush in size #8 or #10, perhaps a smaller brush for details if you wish. A large flat is useful for large areas. 

Liquid Adhesive for Collage

To adhere collage materials to art journal pages, I use Golden fluid matte medium or Golden Soft Gel and an old junky brush. With the brush, you paint the adhesive on the reverse of the paper you want to collage, then press to the background. Fluid matte medium can also be used to thin {make more translucent} acrylic paint. 

Updated January 2017. If you purchase via the Amazon links I receive a tiny percent of the sale and you help support the free resources at Daisy Yellow. Thank you!