Have you been wondering how to start an art journal for beginners? Then you’ve come to the right place!
It’s easy to start an 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 art journaling guide are:
- Step-by-step instructions on starting an art journal.
- A basic art supplies list.
- Free art journal material ideas. (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 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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3 Reasons to start an art journal
In addition to wondering how to start an art journal for beginners, you may be wondering why art journaling is such a great hobby.
1. Stress relief
Art journaling can be a wonderful, relaxing, therapeutic activity. Focusing on art and design frees 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.
2. Manifest your goals
An art journal is also an incredible manifestation tool to help affirm 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 great for kids!
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.
Basic art journaling supplies you need
To start an art journal, you will need some of the following supplies:
- A journal/notebook.
- Matte Medium.
- Upcycled materials. (We’ll talk about ideas in just a moment.)
- Some theme ideas and art journal prompts (included in this article.)
You may already have some of the supplies around the house.
Related: 15 Inspirational Art Journal Pages
How to start an art journal in 4 steps
There are no rules about how to start an art journal for beginners. That’s the beauty of making art, after all! These step-by-step instructions are more for guidance and to help you get started.
You can create a beautiful art journal page without getting too complicated. Try paying more attention to color harmony, overall message/vibe, and proportions.
After gathering art journal supplies and laying them out in my creative space, here is how I like to start an art journal page, very simply:
Step 1- Create a background
There are many types of backgrounds you could create. Here are two easy background ideas:
Start with a painted background. Any color, depending on your theme or page idea. Just paint the whole page. You could leave some white around the edges, or not. You could make that painted background solid, ombre, striped- anything you like! Chose watercolor or acrylic paint and make sure to let it dry.
Instead of a painted background, you could start with a large sheet of paper to cover the page. Maybe some old book pages, or music sheets. Or you could use multiple pieces of torn paper. Create an easy collage.
Step 2- Layer one or more collage elements
Find a collage element to layer over the background. This could be a magazine cut-out, some pretty vintage wallpaper, newspaper, or an old postcard. Then add more collage elements if you like. Maybe a scrap of fabric and some buttons, for example.
Step 3- Layer paint, pen, or marker
Here is where I would add doodles, write a quote, outline around a shape from the collage element, or find another way to add emphasis or decoration with a pen, marker, or more paint. You could add multiple layers at this step if you’d like. Go as simple or detailed as you want.
Step 4- Add your finishing touches
Finally, I would complete my art journal page with some final touches. Maybe a fine-tipped pen for some delicate doodles. Perhaps a light splatter, spray, or some stamping. Whatever feels right to you!
Beautiful art journal pages below by Amanda Leigh @amandaleighplans. I’m dreaming of my next trip to France!
Bonus art journal tip for aesthetics
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- you don’t push your art far enough. Maybe you need to keep going with a page. Either way, you will be happier with your outcome if you know your own tendencies and consider the overall aesthetics and balance of your art journal page.
Gorgeous 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.
Free upcycled material ideas for your art journal
Many common household materials can be upcycled and turned into art tools or materials for free. Take a look around your home for some cool ideas and find what inspires you! Here is a list of items I have repurposed and placed into my art journal using my mod podge matte medium:
- Tissue paper
- Cloth and string
- Cut up old cards such as holiday cards
- Old stamps or stickers
- Cereal boxes and other food packaging
- Magazine images and text clippings
- Newspaper clippings
- Feathers, flower petals, leaves (dried)
- Playing cards & puzzle pieces
- 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
- Old business cards
- Paint sample cards from big box hardware stores
Simple, everyday materials work great. But it’s also fun to keep a little collection of things found at flea markets, thrift stores, and the like.
Gorgeous art journal pages below by Amanda Leigh. As you can see she uses magazine images and stamps, among other art elements. Check out her Instagram page @amandaleighplans. She also has a youtube channel Amanda Leigh Plans.
6 Easy Art Journal Techniques for Beginners
It can be interesting to mix different materials and play with different mediums, (meaning paint, paper, marker, etc) on the same page. This is known as mixed media art. Mixed media is such a fun art journaling idea for beginners and pros alike!
A few art journal techniques for mixed media art that you can use in your art journal include:
- DIY paintbrushes
So to answer the question “how to start an art journal for beginners,” I would say Try using a mixed media approach! Let’s discuss the mixed media techniques listed here in more detail.
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
- Fruit or veggie slices
- Bottle caps
- Jar lids
- Toilet paper rolls
- Kids toys
- Garage tools
- Cookie cutters
- Plastic silverware
- DIY styrofoam stamps
Spray a fine mist of water from a spray bottle to purposefully cause paint to drip or run. Or spray paint itself.
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 background or depict a starry night sky.
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 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”
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! And it really makes a difference in how the paint looks depending on the brush used.
You can create your own stencils out of household materials using your imagination. Try using styrofoam, cardboard, or construction paper. Or use some pre-made stencils.
Beautiful art journal below by Lisa Goddard. I like her use of stencils here. Check out her Instagram page @lisagoddardart. She also has a website for art journal tutorials and courses. Perfect for beginners or experienced artists alike! lisagoddardart.wordpress.com
Art journal design
Once you have your supplies, it’s time to play!
There are different directions you could choose to take when creating or designing your art journal. Different concepts, if you will.
- 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 different themes. For example; trees, fairies, and magic.
- Or you could have no overall theme, and simply make each page its own unique design.
Remember that no matter how you plan out or don’t plan out your creation, know there is no right or wrong to start an art journal. You can make each page as simple or complex in design as you desire.
Don’t overthink the process when you start an art journal. Express yourself freely. And don’t be afraid to make design decisions even if you feel like a beginner. Just go for it!
Art journal theme ideas
- Nature- Ocean, tropical, forest, flowers, trees, animals, crystals.
- City- Architecture, maps, restaurants, people, attractions, landmarks.
- Love- Ideal partner, family, children, friends, pets, self-love, work that you love.
- Travel- Destinations, bucket lists, hotels, fabulous beaches, sightseeing, cuisine.
- Health- Food, well-being, fitness, mental health, personal goals.
- Fashion- Hair, shoes, makeup, bags, nails.
- Food- Recipe development, inspiring chefs, beautiful food photos, food drawings, inspiring meal ideas.
- Goals- Work, relationship, travel, financial, mental, emotional, physical, spiritual.
- People- Inspiring people, celebrities, favorite artists, writers, and spiritual leaders.
- Religious- Your religious beliefs, prayers, ideas, values, and more.
- Animal- Your spirit animal, pets, or your favorite creatures on earth.
- Pick a color palette for each page.
- Pick an emotion for each page.
- A song for each page.
- Pick a time period for each page.
- Choose an inspirational quote for each page.
- Pick a texture for each page.
- Something mysterious that fascinates you for each page.
- Pick a flower or tree for each page.
- A mystical character for each page.
Gorgeous 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.
20 Creative art journal prompts
- Write a haiku or other poetry.
- Write a letter to your younger self.
- Or future self.
- Write a letter to a loved one or to someone no longer with you.
- List your favorite _____. (foods, flowers, places, movies, etc.)
- List your goals.
- Positive affirmations for yourself.
- Create a page that represents your ideal future life.
- Books to read.
- Movies to watch.
- List some self-care activities.
- List your favorite words.
- Journal what you’re grateful for.
- Journal some life lessons learned.
- Color palettes you love.
- Funny jokes or random thoughts.
- Draw a cartoon.
- Practice hand lettering some special quotes.
- Paint a landscape.
All of these art journal prompts can be a starting point for your art journal pages. Simply paint, draw, glue, sketch, and collage to complete or reflect each prompt.
Good art supplies for beginners:
1. This artist’s sketchbook is a top Amazon seller and a great price. The 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 the best thing ever! They 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. What you are seeing is markers + watercolors in one. A great value and super FUN to play with!
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 value.
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. It’s an art supply must-have and waaay above regular glue. Water-based, non-toxic, and easy to clean.
The importance of having an artist’s mindset
An artist’s mindset is truly crucial for artists and creators. That means affirming with yourself I am an artist.
Even if you haven’t created much art in the past, 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. 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.
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 art 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 own 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.
Concluding thoughts on starting an art journal:
I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to start an art journal for beginners. The possibilities for what to include in your art journal are truly endless.
What do you plan on putting in your art journal? What themes, art journal prompts, color palettes, quotes, or design elements inspire you?
I personally haven’t worked on mine in a while but I’m going to get back into art journaling soon now that my kids are in school. Thank goodness for art!
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
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