Art journaling: A beginner’s guide

An abstract art collage featuring chattering teeth and various shapes and squiggles.

Art journaling is a creative form of self-expression that combines elements of writing, drawing and mixed media art.

The unique introspective practice allows you to explore your thoughts, feelings and experiences in a visual and tangible way.

Whether you’re a seasoned artist or a beginner, art journaling can be a powerful tool for self-discovery and creative expression.

So, let’s dive in and explore the world of art journaling — from what an art journal is to how to choose one and what you can do within its pages.

What is an art journal?

An art journal is a visual diary — a place to gather your thoughts and express yourself.

There are no complex rules on what you should and shouldn’t include in an art journal, as it’s entirely up to you.

You can purchase a journal to use as an art journal, repurpose an old book, or make one yourself by binding pages together.

Whichever journal type you choose, you’ll be personalising its pages soon enough.

Why use an art journal?

You may be wondering why people enjoy art journaling.

Using an art journal delivers plenty of benefits — hence its increasing appeal to many people.


Taking time for yourself to engage in a creative activity can be a form of self-care that boosts your mood and enhances your overall well-being.


By exploring your thoughts and emotions through art and writing, you can better understand yourself and your experiences.

Stress relief

Art journaling can be a calming and meditative practice that helps to reduce stress and anxiety.

Learn new skills

Through exploration and experimentation, people who keep an art journal develop their art skills, learn new techniques, and hone their individual style.

Enjoy a safe space

The pressure is off when art journaling as it’s a safe space to explore your thoughts, feelings, and artistic flair.

There’s no right or wrong way to art journal, so embrace imperfections and let your creativity flow and flourish.

An Asian woman sat on a sofa, thinking about what to write or create in her art journal.

Using an art journal can be fun and therapeutic

How to choose an art journal

When selecting a journal to use as an art journal, consider its size, paper, and binding.


There are several points to consider regarding the size of your art journal.

Firstly, what book size best suits the type of art you expect to create? Will a smaller book suffice, or do you need an A4 journal to fit everything in?

Think about when you’ll be using your journal, too — will you be at home, or does your journal need to be small enough to be carried around? Remember that the larger the journal, the heavier it will be.

If you’re new to art journaling, we’d recommend an A5 journal, as it’s not too intimidating for beginners.


Your paper choice depends on the art you’ll be creating.

An art journal with standard pages will be fine if you primarily draw with pens and pencils.

However, if you plan on using wet media (paints and inks), you’ll need thicker pages, or your journal will get ruined.

Suppose you already have a journal with thin pages but wish to use wet media. In that case, there are methods for making the paper sturdier.

Consider glueing two pages together or preparing the pages you plan to use with a coat of gesso primer.


Your art journal’s binding is down to personal preference.

Some art journal users prefer a stitched journal because it’s more robust and enables them to create art across a two-page spread.

Others enjoy the benefits of a spiral-bound journal — each page is separate and can be removed and worked on individually.

Supplies for art journaling

Once you’ve chosen a journal, you’ll want to stock up on art supplies, so you have everything you need to hand.

Useful art supplies for art journaling include:

How to start an art journal

Once you’ve bought your supplies, you’re ready to get started with art journaling.

A blank page can be incredibly daunting, but using your journal will become second nature once you start.

What to write in an art journal

What you write in your art journal is entirely up to you.

Some people use their journal as a diary and illustrate it accordingly, while others might focus on one keyword and use that to create a whole page of art.

It doesn’t matter if you use your art journal daily or once a month — as long as you use it how and when it benefits you.

Art journal prompts

As with all diaries and journals, it can occasionally be challenging to think of what to write or create in an art journal.

Look for inspiration in the world around you. If you’re still struggling, having some art journal ideas to refer to is helpful.

We’ve gathered 30 art journal prompts to spark your imagination and creativity.

  1. Botanical
  2. Finger painting
  3. Contrast
  4. Something you love
  5. A photograph
  6. Something spooky
  7. Lunch
  8. Your current view
  9. Vertical lines
  10. Shadows
  11. The seasons
  12. Symmetry
  13. Culture or heritage
  14. Patterns
  15. Stencils
  16. Black and white
  17. A recipe
  18. One colour
  19. A portrait
  20. Weather
  21. Stamping
  22. Dots
  23. A landscape
  24. One letter of the alphabet
  25. Stars
  26. The 1980s
  27. Wallpaper
  28. Water
  29. Vintage
  30. Chalks

Final thoughts

Art journaling is a powerful and rewarding practice that can enhance creativity, self-reflection, and well-being.

Following our tips, you can create a personalised and meaningful art journal reflecting your unique perspective and experiences.

Enjoy your journaling.


If you’re craving creativity, we also wrote a blog post on making unique stationery in just one hour, so head there next to take a look.

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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