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Art Journaling 102: Materials

All about materials that you can use in your art journals, with thoughts on the materials I like best!

This is a companion post to Art Journaling 101.


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!

For Mixed Media Work {Acrylics, Collage}:

  1. Strathmore Visual Journal. 
  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/euro. 
  5. Buy loose watercolor or mixed media paper and bind your own journal.
  6. 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.

For Writing/Drawing with Ink:

  1. Moleskine Classic Notebook. The unlined and unlined versions have thin, smooth, slightly off-white paper. I love them for doodles, sketches, drawings, lists + note taking. My to-do list resides in this journal. These pages are too thin for paint applications.
  2. Moleskine Sketchbook. Thick cream colored paper {like a manilla folder} is great for drawing. Watercolor does not work well on these pages, although the pages will take gouache and acrylics.
  3. Bee Paper Super Deluxe Sketch Pad. Nice wirebound journal for doodling, drawing and writing.
  4. 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 wirebound or buy in huge sheets and cut to desired size. Standard weight for watercolor paper, 140 lb/300 gsm paper.
  2. Moleskine Watercolor Notebook. Contains 135 lb/200-gsm paper that can be painted on both sides.
  3. Bee Paper Super Deluxe Sketch Pad or Watercolor Journal aka Aquabee journals. The paper is 93 lb/150 gsm that is the same on both sides. Thinner than the Strathmore or Moleskine papers but takes marker, light watercolor washes or ink & watercolor just fine.
  4. Fabriano Artistico Watercolor paper. Yummy but expensive 140 lb/300 gsm paper.

Art Materials

Acrylics. On my art journal pages, I use Golden Fluid Acrylics, Heavy Body Acrylics and High Flow Acrylics. Artist quality acrylics have a higher pigment load. Keep in mind that you can mix paints to get a variety of colors, so no need to buy every color. You can make acrylics more transparent by mixing them with Golden Fluid Matte Medium or water. Fluid matte medium is like clear fluid acrylic paint so it keeps the consistency of the fluid acrylics but thins them to make them more transparent. Note: Craft acrylics are less expensive but also less vibrant/saturated because they have a lower pigment load. The lightfastness and consistency also differ. 

Watercolor & Gouache. I use Winsor & Newton watercolor paints as well as several brands of gouache paints. As with acrylics, artist quality watercolors have a higher pigment load. You can mix paints to get a variety of colors, so no need to buy every color. Details about the watercolor and gouache paints that I use in my journals.

Markers. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens are permanent and dry quickly. Be sure that your page is dry before writing on it. It could take a few days to a week for a page to dry fully depending on how many layers of paint, the temperature and humidity in your work environment etc. Here are my favorite pens & markers for drawing, doodling & more.

Stamps. You can carve your own stamps from erasers using an x-acto knife or linocutting tools. Other 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. Golden fluid matte medium and Mod Podge both work just fine for attaching paper to your art journal pages. Staples and washi tape work well too. Some art journalists use UHU glue sticks.

Brushes. Buy basic, cheap brushes for adhesives and gesso because they will be trashed. I buy average quality brushes for acrylic painting and good quality brushes for watercolor. If they are too junky they will shed hair and not hold water well. Try various brands, styles and sizes, until you find an assortment you like. I like flats and rounds. For art journaling, almost any decent brush will do.

Scissors. Fiskars Softouch Scissors. Having had hand + elbow surgery, I cannot use scissors for more than a few minutes at a time. These are the only type of scissors I 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}. Neocolor I are NOT water soluble. Neocolor II are water soluble. More information in All About Neocolor IIs.

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

Parchment Paper. 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. Remove the parchment and check on the pages from time to time. More in Unsticking Art Journal Pages.

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.

Gesso {optional}. Get a small container of Liquitex Basics Acrylic Gesso and just play and see what it does and what it feels like, whether you like writing on it. Gesso is a primer. If you are using watercolor paper or other heavy paper, coating with gesso is not necessary. If you have thin paper {i.e. working in an old hardback book} a base coat of gesso can be used to strengthen your paper. White gesso can be used to layer and lighten your collages or mixed with acrylic colors to get a matte pastel look. You can create art journal pages without gesso, but you might enjoy using it to add layers to your work. There's also black gesso!

An index to all of my art materials reviews, lists, etc. 

Favorite Pens for Writing, Sketching, Doodling & Drawing
Color Quandary: Buying Art Materials
Art Materials to Take on Vacation
All About Sakura Gelly Rolls
All About Caran D'Ache Neocolor IIs.
Using Masking Fluid in Your Journal


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