How to Start an Art Journal For Beginners

How to Start an Art Journal For Beginners Using Mixed Media

Have you been wondering how to start an art journal using mixed media? Then you’ve come to the right place!

It’s easy to start your own art journal, even for beginners. All you need are a few basic supplies, easy art techniques, and a sprinkle of creative inspiration.

Included in this beginners art journaling guide are:

  • Step-by-step instructions on starting an art journal.
  • A basic art supplies list including various art mediums.
  • Mixed media art journal ideas using different materials. (Upcycling!)
  • Easy art journal techniques.
  • 20 Fun art journal prompts.
  • Whimsical art journal theme ideas.
  • And more creative inspiration!

To make getting started easy, you will also find step-by-step art journal instructions to guide you and plenty of beautiful mixed-media art journal examples for inspiration! 

Find out why art journaling is so much fun, easy for beginner artists, and an endlessly creative hobby!

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How to start an art journal

What is a Mixed Media Art Journal?

A mixed media art journal is a creative type of art journal involving different art mediums. Art mediums may include paints, markers, fabric scraps, paper scraps, and more.

Using different mixed media is, in my opinion, the best thing about art journaling! Of course, you can create an art journal page using only one or two mediums, and that’s cool, too!

Why Start an Art Journal?

In addition to wondering about mixed media, you may be wondering why art journaling is such a popular hobby.

1. Stress relief

Art journaling can be a wonderful, relaxing, therapeutic activity. Focusing on art and design is a great way to free your brain from typical repetitive thoughts and everyday stressors, allowing you to flow into a peaceful and creative mental space. When you work (play!) in your art journal, you lose yourself in color, pattern, texture, proportion, and self-expression. 

Related 15 Creative Art Journal Pages for Inspiration

2. Visualize your goals and dreams

An art journal is also an incredible tool to help reach your goals by making them visual. You’ve likely heard of creating a vision board to help with manifesting your dreams. An art journal works the same way. You can include inspirational images, places you’d like to travel to, pictures of your dream home, artfully penned wish lists, and more! Think of it like a visual diary.

3. Get creative & have fun!

Art journaling is a fun, inexpensive, easy hobby to work on to relieve boredom. It’s also one of the best creative projects I can think of!

When your art journal is finished, you have a beautiful, personal memento that represents your dreams, aspirations, and aesthetics. You can look back on your journal years later to see how you’ve grown. 

Gorgeous and creative art journal below by Maria Zaidi. Check out her Instagram page @mariazaidii and she also has a YouTube channel

start an art journal for beginners

How to Start an Art Journal Using Mixed Media

Getting started with mixed-media art journaling couldn’t be easier.

Before you start, gather your art journal supplies. (We will talk more about supplies in a moment.) Lay them out in your creative space, and follow these easy steps to start a really cool mixed-media art journal page:

Step 1- Create a background

Make a background first for the page you’re working on. There are many types of backgrounds you could create. Here are two easy background ideas:

Painted background

A painted background is an easy way to begin. Use any color of paint, depending on your theme or page idea. Just paint the whole thing so it’s no longer a blank page. You could leave some white around the edges, or not. You could make that painted background solid, ombre, polka-dotted, or striped- anything you like! Choose watercolor or acrylic paint and make sure to let it dry.

Paper background

Instead of a painted background, you could start with a large sheet of paper to cover the page. Maybe some old book pages, wrapping paper, or music sheets. Place the paper background in any direction that pleases you.

Step 2- Add mixed media elements

Find a mixed media element to layer over the background. This could be a magazine cut-out, some pretty vintage wallpaper, washi tape, newspaper, or an old postcard. Or you could use multiple pieces of torn paper, such as pieces of a brown paper bag. This will create an easy collage effect. After that, add more mixed media elements if you like. Maybe a scrap of fabric and some buttons, for example. Have fun with the creative process!

Step 3- Layer paint, pen, or marker

Next, add doodles, write a quote, outline around a shape you like, or find another way to add emphasis or decoration. Using a pen, marker, or more paint is yet another element of mixed media that you are adding. Be as simple or detailed as you want and don’t be afraid to mix different mediums.

Step 4- Add your finishing touches

Finally, complete your art journal page in a fun way with some finishing touches. Maybe a fine-tipped pen for some delicate doodles. Perhaps a light splatter, spray, or some stamping. Toss a little glitter on it and seal it with a kiss. Do whatever you want!

What you’ve created in your art journal by following these steps is a mixed media art journal page!

Beautiful art journal pages below by Amanda Leigh @amandaleighplans. I’m dreaming of my next trip to France looking at this pretty mixed-media art journal page.

start an art journal

Best Art Journaling Supplies for Mixed Media Pages

To start your mixed media art journal, you will need some art supplies. Here is a list of some of the best products for mixed media art journaling that I recommend, but choose what works for you depending on your buget and what you already have at home.

First, you need a mixed-media-capable journal. It needs to have at least slightly thicker pages than a composition notebook. If the journal says “watercolor” or “mixed media” on the front, that’s what you need.

Colorful pens. I really like using watercolor pens, and King brand products are very nice.

Markers are fun to use in your art journal. I really enjoy paint markers.

Colored pencils are always good to have on hand for art journaling.

Oil pastel is a fun medium to use for art journaling.

Watercolor paint is nice to use. You can also use acrylic paint.

Nice brushes are needed for painting many details. You can also make your own brushes for certain mixed media art effects, which we will talk about in a moment

Modge Podge works like glue but dries invisibly.

You will also need some mixed media materials such as paper scraps and fabric. (We’ll talk about more upcycling ideas for mixed media in just a moment.)

And theme ideas and art journal prompts (included in this article.)

The good thing is that you may already have some of these art journal supplies around the house.

Related: 15 Inspirational Art Journal Pages

Gorgeous mixed media art journal pages below by Katie Licht. Check out her Instagram page @Katie Licht. She also has many other resources such as an Etsy shop and YouTube videos.

start an art journal

Mixed Media Materials to Use in Your Art Journal

Many common household materials can be upcycled and used as mixed media material in your art journal. Often, you have these materials in your garage, basement, or recycle box. Or, you can find them for free!

Take a look around your home for some creative ideas and find what inspires you! It’s truly a matter of personal preference. Here is a list of mixed media items I have repurposed and placed into my art journal using Mod Podge matte medium:

  • Tissue paper
  • Cloth and string
  • Doilies
  • Cut up old cards such as holiday cards
  • Old stamps or stickers
  • Cereal boxes and other food packaging
  • Photos
  • Magazine images and text clippings
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Printed song lyrics or your favorite quotes
  • Glitter
  • Feathers, flower petals, leaves (dried)
  • Playing cards & puzzle pieces
  • Colorful cellophane
  • Vintage papers collected from thrift shops, yard sales, and junk or antique stores
  • Paper wrapping material from kids’ toys
  • Pretty cardboard tea boxes
  • Beauty product boxes
  • Giftwrap
  • Old textbooks
  • Old business cards
  • Paint sample cards in different colors from big box hardware stores

Simple, everyday materials work great for mixed media art. It’s also a fun hobby to keep a little collection of things found at flea markets, thrift stores, and the like. Then just pull out your little box of treasures when you want to create mixed-media art in your journal!

Related: 15 Art-History Inspired Art Journal Prompts {With Free PDF Printable!}

Gorgeous mixed media art journal pages below by Amanda Leigh. As you can see she uses lace, magazine images, and stamps, among other art elements. Check out her Instagram page @amandaleighplans. She also has a YouTube channel Amanda Leigh Plans.

Mixed media art journal
Journal prompts book ad.
Now on Amazon, check out The Ultimate Book of Journal Prompts!

6 Easy Mixed Media Art Journal Techniques for Beginners

A few art journal techniques for mixed media art that you can use in your art journal include:

  • Stamping
  • Spraying
  • Splattering
  • Layering
  • DIY paintbrushes
  • Stenciling

A super fun art technique can get the creative juices going. Let’s discuss these techniques in more detail!

1. Stamping

You can turn just about any household item into a stamp, provided it can be washed easily or you don’t care about ruining it. Ideas include:

  • Quilted paper towels
  • Bubble wrap
  • Leaves
  • Coins
  • String
  • Fruit or veggie slices
  • Bottle caps
  • Jar lids
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Kids toys
  • Garage tools
  • Cookie cutters
  • Plastic silverware
  • DIY styrofoam stamps

2. Spraying

Spray a fine mist of water from a spray bottle to purposefully cause paint to drip or run. Or use spray paint made specifically for art purposes. Spayed paint is always a cool mixed media technique. The most important thing is not to spray the cat by accident, LOL!

3. Splattering

Splatter your paint a la Jackson Pollock, the famous artist who dripped and splattered paint to create his masterpieces. Splattering is an effective way to create an easy mixed media background or depict a starry night sky. It’s also one of the easiest art journal ideas for beginners.

4. Layering

You can layer in so many ways. Don’t be afraid to glue down an image or some fabric, then use acrylic paint over it. You can get such interesting textures this way. You can also layer pen or marker over watercolor paint. Or draw something in pen and then define it with a marker.

Just keep in mind how the materials themselves function, (for example, you wouldn’t layer watercolor over acrylic because watercolor is much thinner.) You can really go to town layering!

5. Unusual DIY “paintbrushes”

No paintbrush? No problem! Apply paint with a rag, an old expired credit card, your fingers, or natural materials such as twigs. You could turn so many objects into paintbrushes! The brush you use makes quite a difference in how the paint looks when applied.

6. Stenciling

You can create your own stencils out of household materials using your imagination. Try using styrofoam, cardboard, or construction paper. Or, go ahead and use some pre-made stencils.

Beautiful art journal with stenciling below by Lisa Goddard. I like her mixed media effects. Check out her Instagram page @lisagoddardart. She also has a website for art journal tutorials and courses. Perfect for beginners or experienced artists alike!

Mixed media art journal

 Planning Art Journal Themes and Design

There are different ways to plan and create a mixed-media art journal. I feel like some of the best art journals have a plan or message in place, but not always.

  • You could create an overarching theme for your entire journal, such as designing your journal themed around travel or say, the 1960s. (More theme ideas in a moment.)
  • You could split your journal into sections for multiple themes. For example; a rainbow art journal with the first page red, then orange, then yellow, etc.
  • Or you could have no overall theme, and simply make each page a unique design.

Remember that no matter how you plan out or don’t plan out your creation, there is no right or wrong to start an art journal. There are no rules. You can make each page as simple or complex in design as you desire.

Related: What Causes Art Block and How to Overcome it Permanently

20 Art journal theme ideas 

  1. Nature- Ocean, tropical, forest, flowers, trees, animals, crystals.
  2. City- Architecture, maps, restaurants, people, attractions, landmarks.
  3. Love- Ideal partner, family, children, friends, pets, self-love, work that you love.
  4. Travel- Destinations, bucket lists, hotels, fabulous beaches, sightseeing, cuisine.
  5. Health- Food, well-being, fitness, mental health, personal goals.
  6. Fashion- Hair, shoes, makeup, bags, nails.
  7. Food- Recipe development, inspiring chefs, beautiful food photos, food drawings, inspiring meal ideas.
  8. Goals- Work, relationship, travel, financial, mental, emotional, physical, spiritual.
  9. People- Inspiring people, celebrities, favorite artists, writers, and spiritual leaders.
  10. Religious- Your religious beliefs, prayers, ideas, values, and more.
  11. Animal- Your spirit animal, pets, or your favorite creatures on earth.
  12. Pick a color palette for each page.
  13. Pick an emotion for each page.
  14. A song for each page.
  15. Pick a time period for each page.
  16. Choose an inspirational quote for each page.
  17. Pick a texture for each page.
  18. Something mysterious that fascinates you for each page.
  19. Pick a flower or tree for each page.
  20. A mystical character for each page.

Gorgeous mixed media art journal pages by Pippi. I like the floral watercolor painting, the warm colors, and the women here. Check out her Instagram page @pippikrumeluss. She also has a great YouTube tutorial on a travel art journal she created.

Art journal mixed media

20 Creative Art Journal Prompts

Here are some art journaling prompts if you need ideas to get you started. Many of these prompts would make good theme ideas, too.

  1. Write a haiku or other poetry.
  2. Write a letter to your younger self.
  3. Or future self.
  4. Write a letter to a loved one or to someone no longer with you.
  5. List your favorite _____. (foods, flowers, places, movies, etc.)
  6. List your goals.
  7. Positive affirmations for yourself.
  8. Create a page that represents your ideal future life.
  9. Books to read.
  10. Movies to watch.
  11. List some self-care activities.
  12. List your favorite words.
  13. Journal what you’re grateful for.
  14. Journal some life lessons learned.
  15. Color palettes you love.
  16. Funny jokes or random thoughts.
  17. Draw a cartoon.
  18. Self-portraiture.
  19. Practice hand lettering some special quotes.
  20. Paint a landscape.

Create your page’s background, then start adding your mixed media elements! Paint, draw, glue, sketch, or collage to reflect each prompt.

Journal prompts book ad.
Beautiful art journal pages by Pippi  @pippikrumeluss. A great mix of art materials, and I love the simple yet bold color palette.
Start an art journal

Overworking vs Underworking Your Pages

Here’s a question for you to consider- would you rather ruin an art journal page by “overworking it” or play it safe and “underwork it?” Think about this as you go.

There is a fine line where things either look incomplete or can start looking too busy and then you feel like you messed it all up. The latter happens to me all the time. I always go a bit too far. So I have to remind myself not to get too carried away.

Maybe you’re the opposite- maybe you don’t push your art far enough. If so, keep going with a page. Either way, you will be happier with your outcome if you know your own tendencies. When you consider the overall aesthetics and balance of each page you will create art you love.

Good Art Supplies for Beginners:ir?t=dreamdashjour 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B0039UMRMW

1. A good artist’s sketchbook is a must. Thicker paper is perfect for mixed media, meaning you can use watercolor, pen, acrylic, and more on its strong and sturdy pages.

2. Good brush pens are a necessity! These ones can be used as a marker OR as watercolor paint when you add water. They have an amazing feel on paper and deliver great line accuracy. 

3. Fine-tipped pens A great set can be awesome to work with. 

4. Acrylic paint set Get one that comes with brushes for a great 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B0009ILH8C

5. Matte medium by Mod Podge. An all-in-one glue, sealer, and finish with a clear matte finish. Invisible when dry. This awesome stuff is what you use to paste papers or magazine clippings with no messy yucky-looking glue spots. 

The Importance of Having an Artist’s Mindset

An artist’s mindset is truly crucial for all artists and creators. That means affirming with yourself I am an artist.

Even if you’ve never created mixed media art, or you’re rusty, or you feel like a total beginner, know that you are an artist nonetheless. Non-artists don’t usually feel the need to make art or do a creative activity. They don’t get art block. They usually lack the how to make an art journal type of curiosity.

So, go ahead and claim your artist identity! It can really increase your confidence as an artist. Affirmations are a powerful tool.

Additionally, make sure to practice non-judgment of your work. Though you may be inspired by what you see other people doing, know that your art journal does not have to be perfect. It’s ok to mess up. Mistakes help you learn and grow. Messy and imperfect = beautiful and real.

Your art journal is for you to explore your creativity and experiment with different art materials and new techniques. So get into the groove, maybe put some music on, and get started with some art journaling ideas.

Give yourself props for exploring your creativity and starting an art journal as a beginner! Your creativity can be one of your greatest joys if you give it some space and love to flourish within you.

Colorful and gorgeous art journal pages by Maria Zaidi @marudles.

Mixed media art journal pages

More gorgeous mixed media art journal pages below By Anouk. Find her on Instagram @creanouk. She has additional resources here too.

Mixed media art journal pages

Concluding Thoughts on Starting an Art Journal:

I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to start an art journal for beginners using mixed media. The possibilities for what to include in your art journal and the different things you could create are truly endless.

What do you plan on putting in your art journal? What themes, mixed media supplies, techniques, art journal prompts, color palettes, quotes, or design elements inspire you?

I haven’t worked on my art journal in a while but I’m going to get back into it soon now that my kids are in school. Thank goodness for art!

I had fun writing about art journaling for beginners and sharing some awesome examples with you today. Let me know what you think in the comments below, and do check out all of the artists featured in this article on social media!

You may also like:

15 Inspirational Art Journal Pages

10 Causes of Art Block and How to Stop it Permanently

50 Gratitude Journal Prompts With Free PDF Printable Worksheet

30 Free Art Printables -Black & White Plus Color {Cute and Modern!}

5 Ways to Unblock Your Mind and Shake Up Your Energy.

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