12+ Ways to Get Words on Art Journal Pages

A ginormous list of ideas for getting words
on the most difficult of art journal pages.

Tips for getting words on art journal pages by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal

We create these deliciously decadent, chaotic, busy, layered pages with paper and paint and all of the goodies and we want to bring it all together with a snappy quote from Ray Bradbury, maybe some David Bowie lyrics or free form poetry!

How on earth do artists get words and thoughts onto the most challenging surfaces and art journal pages? This is a question echoed by art journalists around the globe!

But what if your paper is overflowing with grungy stripes or high contrast flowers or it's just super intensely dark! What to do!?!?

Getting words on art journal pages by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal
Art journal page by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal

How on earth do you write on acrylic art journal backgrounds? 

1) White gel pen*

My go-to tool for getting words on challenging, dark, patterned, textured or otherwise challenging art journal or mixed media pages is to write them with a white gel pen. Here's a video to show you two of my favs. I wrote the Tolstoy quotation with a Sanford Uni-Ball Gel UM-153 gel pen and the Eagles lyrics with a Sakura Gelly Roll. Oh! And here's my Guide to Gelly Rolls, to get a feel for all of the different types. 

Art journal page by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal

2) Alphabet stamps & hand-carved stamps

There is something so magically meditative and methodical about writing your thoughts, words, lyrics, etc. letter-by-letter with alphabet stamps/number stamps. Results are always playful because the letters never quite line up! You can also make your own letters, symbols, icons, motifs, doodles and words by carving the shapes into pencil erasers or linocutting material with an x-acto knife or lino-cutting tools. Here's a stamp carving tutorial.

The Prism Page from the Daisy Yellow  Novel Approach Workshop.  Lettering in Uniball pen.

The Prism Page from the Daisy Yellow Novel Approach Workshop. Lettering in Uniball pen.

3) Dark gel pen & PITT pen*

My top two pens for writing on acrylic paint? The Uniball UM-153, which is a metal-nibbed gel pen and the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens which is a fiber-nibbed marker with permanent india ink.  In the PITT pen range, the M nib & brush nib & big brush nibs all provide thick lines. Consider dark gray, black, navy & sepia for light backgrounds. Lighter colors won't show up on dark backgrounds; they are not opaque. 

4) Neon or Metallic pen*

Sakura Gelly Rolls are quite handy for both dark and light backgrounds. For dark backgrounds {including black gesso and black acrylics}, try neon moonlight, metallic silver and gold. For light backgrounds, try the medium nib, moonlight and darker metallic versions. 

Art journal page by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal

5) Dip pen & India ink

Draw your words with a dip pen nib with india ink, i.e.  Dr. Ph Martin's Bombay White ink or J. Herbin inks. Here's a quick review of Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay inks

Art journal page by Tammy Garcia
Art journal page by Tammy Garcia.

6) Acrylic paint

This is one of the best ways to get words on a page which isn't completely dry. You can paint words onto the background {directly on collage, directly on acrylic paint, etc.} with fluid acrylic paint or Golden High Flow acrylic paint. Use a small brush or a dip pen! Write words with a small brush or dip pen with fluid acrylic paint or

Index card collage by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #mixedmedia

7) White correction tape

Roll out the tape and write directly on the surface of the tape! 

Art journal page by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal

8) Paper & index cards

Write your thoughts or words on loose paper and adhere or staple to your journal page. You can glue a swatch of lined paper or part of an index card as a target for future journaling. 

Art journal page by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal

9) Stencil

Use an alphabet or number stencil with ink, pencil or acrylic paint. 

Art journal page by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal

10) Found Words

Cut words from magazines and glue to your page. 

Art journal page by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal

11) Block-Out Poetry

Start with a page from a magazine or book and basically block-out the stuff that you don't want to read. You can do this with acrylic paint or markers. The inverse, if you will. Of course Austin Kleon is an ace at creating block-out poetry with magic markers. 

Art journal page by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #artjournal

12) Found Poetry

Go on a word treasure hunt for interesting phrases and words. One of the best things about art journaling is the ability to incorporate random words and images and not need to make any sense whatsoever! You can transform the content with a series of phrases that combined make a sort of free verse. Make it flow or make it ridiculous, your call! You certainly *can* utilize the principles of graphic design in your work, or you can play and just go with the flow. 

Art journal page by Tammy Garcia https://daisyyellowart.com #sketchbook #moleskine

13) Washi tape & staples

Attach your grocery lists, your bucket lists, your book store notes, your action items, your checklists to your journal page with washi tape or staples.

14) Paint markers

Sharpie water-based Poster Paint Markers work extremely well even on the most challenging uneven, rough surfaces.

15) Rapidograph technical pen*

Fill your rapidograph with india ink or Golden high flow acrylics and off you go. There's a bit of a learning curve, so do some research before jumping in.

16) An ordinary #2 pencil or charcoal pencil

Sometimes when nothing else works, a pencil does the trick!

*Before you write on your pages with a pen or marker, you'll want to ensure that the page is truly dry.

While a thin layer of acrylic paint dries quickly, paper with layers upon layers {paint & collage} can take hours to days {if not weeks} to dry through and through. Definitely not minutes! When the paint starts to dry, a film forms on the surface, and it seems like it is dry but inside the paint is actually not dry. The moisture gets absorbed into the paper as well. 

The good news is that you can use a brush dipped in acrylic paint or opaque ink to paint words on a background that is dry-to-the-touch, but not dry deep down. If you try to write with a pen/marker on the surface and the paint below is still wet, the pen can get some of that gunk into the tip or it will smush down into the paint below the thin dry surface. The surface that "seems" to be dry. The surface that you see and touch. The surface that destroys your amazing pen!

PS.  I'm not a scientist but I have played + experimented + painted with acrylics for many years and I'll paint on anything, including paper, cardboard, books, index cards, canvas and wood! Here is the precise algebraic formula for drying time!

Ⓓ = 𝓛^3×[1.5÷(2-ℍ)+1/℉+℗(♫÷Ͽ)]
Ⓓ=Drying time
𝓛=Layers of paint
℉= Temperature in Fahrenheit
♫ = Time signature of background music
℗ = Elapsed level of patience
Ͽ = Daylight Savings Time adjustment factor

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