Have you ever tried journaling? 

Some people keep a daily diary, while others turn to their notebook occasionally to get something off their chest. Whatever the case, journaling can be a useful tool for dealing with mental clutter, processing emotions, and maintaining good mental health. 

But what if you don’t enjoy writing? What if the idea of having to put your feelings into words just doesn’t sound like fun? 

Many of us are visual people—we understand the world through images, shapes, and colors, rather than words. If this sounds like you, then visual journaling might be just what you need. 

Read on to find out what visual journaling is, the benefits it provides, and how to get started with keeping a visual journal. 

What is a Visual Journal?

A visual journal is just like a traditional journal, but instead of written entries, it contains drawings, sketches, hand lettering, doodles, or even clippings of photographs and magazine cutouts. It’s a collection of your feelings, thoughts, and ideas in visual form. 

Do you have to be artistic to keep a visual journal? Not at all! Just like a diary, visual journaling is a very personal practice—it’s not meant to be judged, compared, or criticized. Anyone can keep a visual journal—it doesn’t matter if you’re a skilled artist or you haven’t picked up a marker since elementary school.

For a great introduction to visual journaling, check out this class from artist and illustrator Jordan Sondler. Sondler will teach you how to get started with keeping a visual journal, provide a few visual writing prompts, and demonstrate her own journaling practice. 

What’s the Purpose of Keeping a Visual Journal?

People take up visual journaling for many different reasons. The practice is very personal, so each journaler receives exactly what they need. 

Below are just a few of the most commonly experienced benefits of keeping a visual journal:

1. It’s Cathartic

In the same way that talking to a friend about an issue helps us feel better, visual journaling can help release negative emotions, understand a problem, and come up with potential solutions. Letting our minds focus on drawing allows us to slow down our thoughts and witness emotions surfacing in unexpected ways. 

2. It’s a Chance to Practice Vulnerability

Many of us tend to suppress and ignore our emotions for the sake of appearing strong and resilient. Though it can help us feel better in the short term, this mindset can be detrimental in the long run. Taking up visual journaling forces us to practice being vulnerable on a regular basis. 

3. It’s an Opportunity for Self-Reflection

Visual journaling doesn’t just help uncover negative emotions—it also gives us a chance to get to know ourselves better. What do we like? What makes us feel happy? What inspires us? Intentionally seeking the answers to these questions can help create more peace and balance in our lives. 

4. It Helps Develop a Habit of Creativity

Creativity and self-expression are vital components of a happy and fulfilling life. However, most of us don’t dedicate enough time for creative hobbies. Keeping a visual journal helps create this habit. Even sitting down to draw for just 10 minutes a day can make a massive difference in our wellbeing. 

For aspiring artists and professionals, keeping a daily journal and cultivating a habit of creativity is the first step to developing their skills and mastering their craft. 

5. It’s a Source of Inspiration

If you’re a creative person, you’ve probably faced a creative block at one point or another. You’ve felt completely uninspired and unable to come up with any new ideas. Visual journaling can help remedy this—when you use visual writing prompts and express yourself freely, new creative ideas flow more easily, often from a place you never thought to look. 

drawing words
Jordan Sondler creates a visual journal entry with the prompt “What inspires you?” 

6. It’s a Way to Set Intentions

How do you keep track of your plans and goals? If you’re a visual thinker, drawing your intentions may be the best way to manifest them into existence. Try drawing your dream house, city, or job. You can even turn your visual journal pages into a vision board to serve as a reminder of what you’re working towards. 

How to Start a Visual Journal

Now that you have a few visual journal ideas, let’s take a look at how you can get started. This process will look different for everyone, but here are the basic steps.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

You can absolutely journal on loose sheets of paper, but a dedicated notebook will help you develop a visual journaling habit and make the practice feel more intentional. You can use any notebook you have laying around, or invest in something with thicker paper, such as a Strathmore visual journal. 

When it comes to drawing materials—pencils, markers, crayons, or paint— choose whatever you enjoy working with most (but don’t be afraid to switch it up every now and then). Keep in mind that visual journaling is more about getting your thoughts onto paper, rather than making it look beautiful, so choose something that is easy to use and doesn’t take too much time. Sondler recommends the Tombow dual-brush pens—they draw like a marker, dry quickly, and allow you to cover large areas in a short amount of time. 

Regardless of what materials you choose, it’s always a good idea to have a simple black marker on hand for lettering, outlining, and adding simple embellishments. 

drawing words
Jordan Sondler uses the Tombow dual-brush pens for her visual journal entry.

Step 2: Pick a Prompt

Visual journaling from a prompt isn’t always necessary—sometimes it’s clear what we need to get off our chests. However, if you really want journaling to become a regular practice, you’ll likely face days when you’re not quite sure where to start. 

That’s where prompts come in. They give a clear framework for your journaling and help your mind go to places you wouldn’t have ever thought to explore. 

Consider jotting down a few prompts at the front or the back of your journal so you can refer to them any time you’re looking for visual journal ideas. Here are some prompts that Sondler recommends: 

  • Something that inspires you
  • Something you hate
  • Something you want
  • Something you fear
  • Something on your mind at the moment
drawn words
Jordan Sondler begins her visual journal entry with the prompt “What You Hate”.

Get Started With Your Own Visual Journal

Visual Journaling: Drawing Your Feelings

Step 3: Set Parameters

It may seem counterintuitive, but setting rules and restrictions for your visual journal entry will actually help you get more out of your journaling session.

When decisions like which colors to use and how big your drawing should be are made right at the start, the mind can focus all of its attention on the creative work. In other words, the less guesswork you have to do, the better. 

Before you start, choose three to four colors that you’re drawn to in the moment. As Sondler says, “If you draw things you hate in colors you love, it’s easier to let them go”. 

When it comes to the size of your drawing, consider adding a frame or using a templated layout, such as a grid with four quadrants. 

Jordan Sondler uses a four-quadrant layout to journal on the prompt “What I Want.” 

Step 4: Draw and Reflect

Here’s where the fun begins! 

There are really no guidelines for this step—simply begin creating and see where your mind takes you. 

You can start with a few words or phrases that come to mind, then embellish them with colors and doodles. Or you can start with an illustration and add a few words to finish off your entry. 

The key here is to avoid planning your drawing in advance. Remember that your entry doesn’t have to be perfect—your journal is for you and no one else. Plus, mistakes can often turn into delightful surprises, so embrace them and go with the flow. 

As you’re journaling, think about what your drawings have in common. Is there a theme or a certain atmosphere in your entries? Reflecting on this is exactly what will help uncover what’s truly on your mind. 

i fear being misunderstood art
Embrace mistakes—your visual journal entries don’t have to be perfect! 

Example Art Journals

Looking for inspiration to start creating your own visual journal? Check out these brilliant examples:

1. Ivana Jelinić

In her visual journal, Skillshare student Ivana Jelinić used a drawing of mountains and two different types of hand lettering to convey a motivational message. 

you will overcome art
Skillshare student Ivana Jelinić’s motivational visual journal entry. 

2. Megan Sing

Skillshare student Megan Sing used a combination of hand lettering, drawing, and pasting image cutouts to share a beautiful quote. 

art journal
Skillshare student Megan sing’s visual journal entry.

3. @nightowl_scribbler

Journaler @nightowl_scribbler shares her creations on Instagram. For this visual journal entry, she used a collage of colorful paper and calligraphy to create a motivational spread. 

art journal spread
Source: Instagram
Journaler @nightowl_scribbler shares her visual journal spread on Instagram. 

4. @leacayoungart

Here’s a visual journal entry from artist @leacayoungart, who shares her work on Instagram. She created a beautiful watercolor painting to accompany a supportive quote and stitched it onto a page in her journal. 

art journal page
Source: Instagram
Artist @leacayoungart shares her visual journal entry on Instagram. 

So there you have it! Experience the benefits to your wellbeing and creativity by starting your own visual journal. 

Ready to Get Started? 

Visual Journaling: Drawing Your Feelings