Finding a way to regularly express your emotions can work wonders for your mental health. One great way to do so is by journaling. Simply transferring your thoughts and feelings from your mind to a piece of paper can be an incredibly powerful release. And while writing your thoughts down is a fantastic form of self care, have you ever considered an art journal?

You may be wondering, “What is an art journal?” And, well, the answer is pretty straightforward. 

“It’s just a mashup of art and journaling,” says Nikki Jouppe, artist and teacher of Intro to Art Journaling. “Some people’s journals will be more art-related, and some people will end up keeping this more as a [traditional] journal with art sprinkled in. There’s no wrong way to do this. If you’re doing it at all, you’re doing it right.”

So, without further ado, here’s how to make an art journal.

How to Start an Art Journal: 3 Quick and Easy Steps

1. Get a Notebook

Here’s some fun news when it comes to creating an art journal: There are no rules! However, it’ll be quite hard to keep one if you don’t have a notebook of some kind.

If you’re new at dabbling in art, try starting out with a mixed media notebook, as they tend to have paper that can handle both wet and dry mediums, such as pens, markers, and paints. This way, you can experiment and discover what tools you like using best. Canson, Stillman & Barn, Strathmore, and Arteza are all great brands that provide a wide range of mixed media journals.

Instead of purchasing one, you could even try building your own art journal—some people even use old books! If you want to use recycled materials to put one together, Jouppe teaches a class that shows you how to make an art journal step by step

2. Put Together Your Art Tool Box

Skillshare instructor Monica Stadalski shows her art journal supplies.
Skillshare instructor Monica Stadalski shows her art journal supplies.

Pull together a collection of art supplies that you plan to use most often. “These are the workhorses,” says Karen Gaunt, teacher of 20 Minute Art Journaling. “These are the things that stay the same, that you use the most whenever you sit down to do some quick art journaling.”

Everybody’s art supply tool box will look different. Remember: There really are no rules—what you use to create journal art is entirely up to you. Choose a few of the art media from the list below, see what you like, and (if you’d like) build your collection over time. 

  • Chalk
  • Charcoal
  • Colored pencils
  • Crayons
  • Glue
  • Paintbrushes
  • Pastels (oil, chalk)
  • Pens and pencils
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paints (acrylic, watercolor, gouache, tempera)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Spray fixatives (to seal your work)
  • Stickers

If you’re thinking you may want to go the “minimalism art journal” route, just stick with your notebook and a pencil. That’s perfectly fine. Because again—this is your journal art! 

3. Get Started!

So, you have all the supplies, but now you’re not exactly sure how to start an art journal. Lest you end up staring at a blank page for hours, here are some art journal prompts to get your creative juices flowing:

  • A favorite memory from your childhood
  • A word that inspires you 
  • Activities on your bucket list
  • A superpower you’d love to have
  • A full page of doodles
  • Your current thoughts and feelings
  • Goals for the upcoming week, month, or year
  • Objects and activities that bring you joy
  • Your favorite poem
  • Something that scares you
  • The current weather
  • The meal you’d eat every day if you could
  • The next place you’d like to travel to
  • Things that are all green (or red, blue, orange, you name it!)
  • What you did today or over the weekend
  • What you think a certain feeling looks like
  • Your favorite animals, books, foods, or anything else

Remember—these are art journal prompts, not directives, and they’re open to your unique interpretation. Perhaps you choose, “Your favorite books.” That could mean practicing calligraphy and writing them out in a list, or it could mean drawing all the spines of the books in a stack. Or perhaps it inspires you to draw a scene from one of them. Ultimately, it’s all up to you, and every choice is the right one. 

Want to Turn a Used Book Into a Journal?

How to Start an Altered Book Art Journal.

The Difference Between an Art Journal and a Sketchbook

Though there’s certainly some overlap, an art journal and a sketchbook are not the same. Each has its own distinct purpose. The point of an art journal is to express yourself, whereas you would use a sketchbook to hone a certain skill or draw samples for a larger art project. (For example, a muralist might use a sketchbook to plan out what a mural will look like before she throws paint on the wall.)

In short: an art journal addresses thoughts and emotions and sketchbooks tackle skills and planning.

8 Beautiful Art Journal Ideas You Can Use as Inspiration

1. Nature and a Typed Quote

Skillshare instructor Karen Gaunt shares one of her art journal spreads.
Skillshare instructor Karen Gaunt shares one of her art journal spreads.

2. A Morning Ritual

An art journal example shared by Skillshare instructor Nikki Jouppe.
An art journal example shared by Skillshare instructor Nikki Jouppe.

3. What Happened During a Road Trip

Skillshare instructor Nikki Jouppe shows one way you can do an art journal.
Skillshare instructor Nikki Jouppe shows one way you can do an art journal.

4. An Aesthetically Pleasing Written Journal Entry 

Skillshare instructor Amanda Rach Lee shows the way that she usually creates journal art.
Skillshare instructor Amanda Rach Lee shows the way that she usually creates journal art.

5. A Page of Colorful Circles

An art journal example by Skillshare instructor Monica Stadalski.
An art journal example by Skillshare instructor Monica Stadalski.

6. Nature, Memories, and Some Paint Splatter

Skillshare instructor Su Tashan shows off her art journal.
Skillshare instructor Su Tashan shows off her art journal.

7. A Painted Background with Inspirational Messages

Skillshare instructor Ashley Coxwell shares a monochromatic lettering art journal example.
Skillshare instructor Ashley Coxwell shares a monochromatic lettering art journal example.

8. Pencil Drawings of a List of Objects

The author of this post, Abby Wolfe, shares a page from her art journal.
The author of this post, Abby Wolfe, shares a page from her art journal.

Need More Inspiration for Your Art Journal?

Everyday Magic – Inspired Art Journaling for Everyone.