One of the reasons I love art journaling so much is because art journals are truly a safe space for nearly endless kinds of creative exploration and expression! That being the case, you can use so many different types of arts and crafts mediums, you may not have thought of them all, much less tried them. That’s why I’m creating this ultimate list of art journal supplies.
Because art journaling is creative exploring!
Of course, these can be used in your junk journals, sketchbooks, travel journals, bullet journals, diaries and other creative visual journals, too! There are over 160 art journal supplies listed below, so I’m hoping you’ll find something new to try that you’ve never used before!
Watercolor Journals – These watercolor journals not only have paper specifically for watercolor paint, but they also have a band around them that helps keep your pages flat, even after using water-based mediums. These little guys are my favorite for quick and easy art journal spreads.
Mixed Media Journals – These are great if you like to use both wet (like watercolor and other paint) and dry (like pencil or collage) mediums. My personal favorite is this Canson XL Series.
Saddle Stitch Journals – Most of the saddle stitch journals I’ve seen are homemade. You can learn how to make your own right here (free for 2 months.)
Traveler Journals – While not exclusively for travel (though they do travel well!) I love these journals because they are super affordable and usually have fewer pages than a “regular” art journal, which allows you to finish a journal sooner — a very satisfying feeling.
One of a Kind Journals – You can always make your own art journals, but I also have to say that there are so many talented journal makers who offer them for sale on Etsy.
Junk Journals – Junk journals are also one-of-a-kind (and handmade.) They are usually made with a variety of papers, including old and new. Some also contain fabric pages and many other unique ideas. You can make them yourself, or buy one pre-made.
Affordable Journals – If you’re just getting started and not 100% sure how much you’ll love art journaling (and I hope you do!), you can start out with this 2 pack that is super cheap. Or you can even go cheaper and buy this 3 pack that’s made for kids. (By the way, art journaling is a great indoor activity for your kids, too!)
High-end Journals – I took a personal map making class with e bond, and found out she also make these incredible, one-of-a-kind journals. You can also get these handmade leather journals (starting at $25 and going up to nearly $500, as of the time I’m writing this). You can also get personalized handmade journals (not to mention some decadent junk journals!) from PaperGardenBookArt.
Microns – I believe Microns are the best pens for drawing in your art journals for many reasons. They are waterproof, so you can draw something and then paint over it with watercolor. They come in a variety of nib/tip sizes, as well as colors. (Though I personally use the black pens most often.) Plus you can draw on top of other mediums without clogging the tips. Microns rule!
Drawing Pens – Of course, Microns aren’t the only drawing pens on the block. This set of drawing pens stands out because it comes with a variety of nib sizes, and uses archival, pigment-rich ink.
Colored Pens – I have so much fun with colored pens! Like this washable, starter set from Crayola. Or these permanent markers. These dual point pens are great for coloring books, bullet journaling, and, of course, art journaling. I’ve always loved Papermate felt pens (my mom always had them in black, and sometimes even in red! haha!) This colorful 24 pack of Paper Mate Pens would have blown my little kid mind! (Plus, they don’t bleed through paper!)
Paint Pens – I never had much luck with these, until I discovered POSCA Paint Pens! They are on the pricier side for art journal supplies, but they come in a huge variety of colors, sizes, and, if you ask me, are worth the extra cost. But if you want to try more affordable paint pens, this set is a great choice.
White Pens – Oh, white pens! While they have (generally) gotten better over the years, I still feel like so many of them are hit or miss. And I feel like I’ve tried them all! My tried and true, go-to white pen is the Gelly Roll 08 White Pen.
Gelly Pens – Speaking of Gelly Pens! While the white one IS my all time favorite, they have so many other fun colored pens, too! Like this set, named Stardust Meteor, or this set with Seventy Four colors!! (Someone remind me to put that on my Christmas wishlist. 😉)
Brush Pens – Brush pens are fun because they mimic painting with a paint brush, but ultimately make me feel like I’m more in control. This stunning pastel set is a dual tip, brush on one side and chisel on the other. While Tombow is probably my favorite brand of dual tip brush pens, this is a great (and affordable) starter set for students or kids.
Lettering Pens – Once again, Tombow brand lettering pens top my list (they really hold up well to a heavy hand like mine, plus the pigment is nice and black.) Plus they come in different colors and lettering packs. Again, if you’re working with students or kids, there are more affordable lettering pen choices, too.
Highlighters – When I think of highlighters, my mind immediately goes to super bright colors, like in this Sharpie highlighter set. But these days highlighters come in all kinds of colors, like this pastel set, and thickness, like these adorable chunky pens.
Watercolor Pens – Watercolor pens are fun because you can (duh!) use them as straight watercolor pens, but you can also add more water to your drawings, to make them even more “watercolor-like”. I originally bought a set similar to this one by Arteza, but I wasn’t happy with the overall quality. About 90% of the brushes were fine, but others had very little pigment and/or the brushes themselves with imperfect. Because of that I’d say they make an okay starter set. Next time I’ll upgrade to this Winsor & Newton watercolor brush set.
Chalk Pens – Of course, you could use typical chalk markers in your art journal and either use a fixative so it doesn’t wipe away with time, or just realize that the ephemeral nature of them is part of the beauty. (This pack of erasable chalk markers comes with white as well as some gorgeous colors!) But you can also find (though less common) permanent chalk markers, too.
Fine Liners – Fine liner pens are nice for when you want to get the tiny details and/or outlines just right. This set of 60 fine liners is a great starter set, though they are water-based and will bleed if you add any wet medium on top. If you like to layer, a set of fine liners with permanent ink is a better choice.
Watercolor – Watercolor paints are probably my favorites. They come in every color imaginable, but also in different types, like pan (this is a nice beginner watercolor set and if you want to upgrade, I love this set), liquid, tubed, pens and even pencils. Watercolors are great because they’re forgiving, easy for beginners, easy to clean, easy on your brushes, archival (check the label to be sure) and (almost always) non-toxic.
Acrylic – Acrylic paint is another favorite of mine. It’s also easy to use, and can be painted over without moving the original layers (unlike watercolor). If you love the look of watercolor but want it to “stick” rather than lift when more wet medium is applied on top, use a (very) watered down acrylic paint instead! Good – Better – Best Acrylic paints.
Gouache – Gouache is kind of like watercolor (lifts when wet medium is applied on top, usually non-toxic, water-based and easy to clean) but it’s more opaque. I personally find it a bit tricky, but the one thing I’ve noticed is that you really get what you pay for when buying gouache. (Also, a little goes a long way, so spending a little more seems reasonable.) Which is why I like Winsor & Newton’s Designer Gouache.
Oil – Oil paints aren’t really ideal for most uses in most cases, but I took a class on oil painting (where we made an oil painting a day in a small spiral bound sketchbook). The paintings were small and the oil paints were thinned down to an almost watercolor-like consistency, so I’d leave the sketchbook open until the next day and the paintings would be dry (or dry enough to close the sketchbook.) If you’re interested in using oils in an art journal, I highly recommend taking that class first: Daily Oil Painting Challenge with Erika Lee Sears.
Acrylic Inks – Speaking of science meeting art, I love mixing acrylic inks with other mediums, to see what happens.
Pastels – Though they feel like more of a drawing medium, oil pastels are considered paints so I’ve included them here. If you like more control over your paint, give pastels a try. (Though you may want to use a spray fixative on top of dry pastels, because they can get “dusty”.)
Gesso – Gesso is not technically a paint — it’s used mostly as an under-surface for pastel and oil paints, since it has a “tooth” to it. But it can be mixed with acrylic paints to add color, and can even be used with stencils to create reliefs (raised images or textures) in your art journal.
Spray Paints – Although spray paints can be fun to add in your art journal, be sure to use them in a well ventilated area, if not outside (that’s where I use mine.)
Tempera Paints – Great for kids because tempera paints are easy to clean, cheap, and non-toxic. Which, if you ask me, makes for great paint for your art journal, too!
Distress Stains – The spray distress stains by Tim Holtz have awesome names like Vintage photo, Antique Linen, Picket Fence, Cracked Pistachio, Abandoned Coral, Carved Pumpkin, Fossilized Amber, Broken China and many more!
Coffee/Tea – Of course, you can make your own stains, and even paint, with strong coffee and/or tea.
Dabbers / Daubers – Your grandma’s Bingo daubers aren’t just for Bingo, anymore! They make for great fun in your art journals, too!
Beginner Quality – If you’re just starting out with art journaling and/or if you’re art journaling with kids, just about any set of beginner quality paint brushes will do. You can also get an assortment set of beginner paint brushes to use with different mediums.
Artist Quality – Of course, you can get an artist quality paint brush set for more money, but they will typically last much longer (as long as you take good care of them), too.
Round Tip – Besides quality, different types of brushes are nice to have on hand. I like round tip paint brushes for watercolor most of all. I love this set from Amagic: its price and quality are in that “just right” area for me. Plus they include several sizes, too!
Flat Tip – Flat tip paint brushes are great for getting straight lines, and filling up a canvas/art journal page quickly.
Chisel Tip – I’ve found that chisel tip paint brushes are perfect for painting flowers and leaves.
Filbert – I love Filbert brushes, possibly most of all. (Though it’s so hard to choose just one favorite!) Especially when I’m making more “abstract” work.
Sponge Brushes – Sponge (or Foam) brushes are cheap, fun, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You know I love to play in my art journal, and sponge brushes really bring up the kid in me! (They’re also good for applying/spreading glue!)
Water Brushes – Water brushes actually hold water inside the handle. They’re great for watercolor in general, but also painting/art journaling when you’re traveling or even at the local coffee shop. There’s no need for a cup of water to rinse your brush!
Drawing/Lead Pencils – Having a nice variety set of pencils for drawing is always nice to have on hand. (Of course, one of the 46 pencils in your junk drawer will do just fine, too. 😉)
Colored Pencils (Oil-based) – Oil-based colored pencils are nice if you want to layer other wet mediums (watercolors, paints, glues) on top of your drawing, without it being affected at all.
Colored Pencils (Water-soluble) – Water-soluble colored pencils are nice for using water to blend your colors in your drawings and creating a shimmering, almost glassy effect. (But if you don’t want them to blend or drip, make sure not to use and water-based mediums on top.)
Watercolor Pencils – These watercolor pencils can be used wet or dry (or a combination of both!) You can add water on top of your drawing, dip the tip into water to create a pigment-rich line, and more.
Charcoal Pencils – Charcoal pencils are great for creating a real sketch-like feel to your drawings. Though the charcoal itself can get dusty and smudge if you don’t seal it with a fixative. They also come in woodless, sticks and vines.
Scribble Sticks – I kind of think of Scribble Sticks as crayons for grown ups. But they’re water soluble, so you can add water on top to create all kinds shading and cool effects.
Glue Sticks – Glue sticks are generally my go to for doing collage in my art journals. I like them because they dry quickly and have little to no clean up. I think these Elmer’s glue sticks are just fine (they’re affordable, acid-free, non-toxic and washable). But when I was in art school all of my professors suggested these UHU Glue Sticks. They’re a bit pricier, but they’re also acid-free, non-toxic, and washable, plus it seems like you can use less of the product and still get a strong hold.
Gel Medium – Using Gel Medium as a glue is another trick I used in art school. Applied with a paint (or foam) brush, you use it on both the bottom and the top on the paper you’re gluing down. It comes in both matte and glossy, so be sure to choose the type you like. I prefer matte gel medium – so it doesn’t look like I’ve added anything on top of my collage/page. But some people like glossy gel medium; it gives it a kind of magazine feel.
Modge Podge – I feel like Modge Podge is the classic craft “glue”. It not only sticks things together, but it also acts as a light sealant for your projects.
Liquid Glue – I feel like just about every house has a bottle of Elmer’s Glue around somewhere! And it works just fine in your art journals. Just be sure to give it plenty of time to dry before closing any pages. If you’re looking for something stronger (when you’re gluing down something heftier than just paper or fabric) you might consider Gorilla Glue or even a super glue.
Spray Mount – Though fairly messy and stinky, spray glue mounting is also an option in your art journal. You can use it to bond paper, cloth, glitter and more.
Photo Corners – Photo corners are great for adding things to your art journals you may want to remove later. (Or just for the visual effect!) This set of photo corners comes in 22 colors, and you can also get them in clear.
Pastel Fixative – This fixative is made not just for pastels, but also pencil, charcoal, watercolor and mixed media.
Fixative – This workable fixative seals drawings (pencil, charcoal, and chalk) helps prevent smudging and wrinkling, and you can add drawings, paint, etc. on top of it, too.
Glitter Glue – Glitter glue doesn’t just come in pens, and this set has 24 colors!
Galaxy Glue – How fun is this galaxy glue?
I know that tape is technically an adhesive, too. But there are so many types and varieties, I thought it needed its own category.
Painters tape – Painters tape is great to have on hand, if you want to cover certain parts of your art journal (or keep part of a page white), but then you can remove it and keep working without damaging your work underneath or paper. (Just be sure everything is dry on your page before putting the tape down, or removing it.) I like this painters tape made for sensitive surfaces.
Adhesive Runner – These are a great alternative to glue sticks, as they have basically zero clean up, and will securely keep collage (or other) pieces in place. That said, piece for piece, these tape runners are probably more expensive than glue and you won’t get a seal that is as even. Some art journalers like the looser look, though, and use it to create a certain aesthetic, so it might be worth it to at least give it a try.
Washi Tape – My favorite on this list, washi tape is serious fun! It comes in every color and/or pattern you can possibly imagine, and can be used in your art journals in so many ways!
Chalkboard Tape – Chalkboard tape is just what it sounds like: black tape that acts like a chalkboard. It comes in rolls, different shaped stickers, label-like stickers and more. I’ve used light-colored Gelli Roll Pens successfully, but these Liquid Chalk Markers were made for the job.
Masking Tape – We always had masking tape in the house when I was growing up, so it’s kind of nostalgic for me, and helps give my art journals a kind of vintage feel… not that I’m *that* old! 😂 But masking tape also comes in a rainbow of colors for a more modern and fresh feel, too!
Clear Tape – Almost everyone has clear tape in their house, and it can be used in all kinds of creative ways in your art journal.
Packing Tape (for image transfers) – If you’ve never tried image transfers before, this image transfer class on CreativeBug is a great introduction. But essentially you can put tape over an image (from a magazine, etc., or a photocopy — not inkjet prints, though). And then soak the packing tape in warm water and then rub the paper off the tape. It creates an ethereal, dreamy sort of image.
Opaque Stickers – I like opaque stickers because of the fact that you can kind of see through them, but not entirely. They add a real sense of layering to your art journals.
Themed Stickers – You can find packs of stickers about just any theme you can think of: holidays, cats, flowers, Autumn, colors, and on and on. If you’re creating a themed art journal, themed stickers can help you achieve what you’re going for!
Puffy Stickers – Talk about nostalgia! Puffy stickers were my favorite when I was a little girl, and they still make me smile today.
Letter Stickers – I like letter stickers for times when I want to “write” something out, but don’t want to use my own hand lettering.
Blank Stickers – Let your imagination guide you when you use blank stickers: they come in white, “kraft” paper, and all kinds of colors. Plus different shapes.
Scissors – While any pair of scissors will do when you’re first getting started, there are two types I suggest adding to your collection as you art journal more and more. One is a “non-stick” pair of scissors so you can cut through things like tape, papers that have been glued together, etc. The other is a small pair of scissors for cutting tiny details, aka fussy cutting.
Erasers – You may think all erasers are the same, and I may have agreed until I tried these sand and rubber erasers from Tombow. They erase both pencil and pen, and can even help lift some small paint “mistakes”.
Palette (paper, plastic, ceramic) – So many things can be used as palettes: like paper or plastic plates, plates from thrift stores, etc. And even if you’re buying a palette, they come in all kinds of varieties. You can buy palette paper pads, inexpensive plastic palettes, and you could even spend a little extra and get a gorgeous, handmade ceramic palette.
Craft Knife – If you want to get really detailed with collage, or create your own art journals, you’ll want a craft knife on hand. (Just be careful!)
Paper cutter/trimmer – Having a paper cutter is great for cutting super straight lines, and they’re surprisingly inexpensive!
Binder Clips – I like to use binder clips to hold my journals open flat while I work in them, and when photographing my art journals pages for Instagram. These rose gold binder clips sure are cute!
Paper Fasteners / Brads – It’s fun to use brads to create moving pieces in an art journal or altered book.
Texture Scrapers – While you can buy texture scrapers, you can also make your own!
Bone Folder – A multi-use tool, bone folders are great for creasing paper, folding paper, smoothing collages, scoring paper, creasing paper, bookbinding, book making, and so much more! I’d call them a “must have” tool, because they do so much. But you can also use an old credit or gift card in their place in a pinch!
Paper Punches – Paper punches are so fun! You can use them to punch holes right in the pages of your art journal and/or altered book. But you can also use them to cut one or several of the same shape to arrange in your art journal (or to make mini-buntings, and more!) You can buy small paper punches in sets, or larger paper punches with all kinds of shapes, like leaves, circles, hearts and even continuous edgers!
Heat Gun / Hot Air Gun – Heat / hot air guns are perfect for those times when you want your paint or glue to dry faster. (Of course, you can always use your blow drier in a pinch!)
Palette Knives – If you use any kind of paint besides watercolor in your art journal, palette knives are great for mixing paint colors, and even applying thicker layers of paint. They come in metal and plastic.
Metal (Cork-Backed) Ruler – I recommend an 18″ metal, cork-baked ruler in particular because a) having a ruler on hand is nice for measuring and creating straight lines, and b) if you use the ruler with an Exacto Knife to cut straight lines, the knife won’t cut the ruler, and the cork-backing will help keep the ruler from slipping (and you possibly cutting yourself). And c) 18″ is better than 12″ because the extra length also makes it easier to cut shorter pieces of paper.
Craft Mat – I use my cutting mat as my craft mat, too, so I’m sure you can imagine it’s got some paint and ink on it. But you can get XL Craft mats, craft mats in different colors, etc., and make clean up easier than ever before.
Spray Bottles – Spray bottles have multiple uses in art journaling: keeping paints wet, wetting your paper, making paint “drip” down your page, etc.
Stencils – There are so many cool, modern stencils to help you create fun art journal pages. But don’t forget to get creative! You can use doilies or mesh veggie bags as stencils, or even create your own with a cereal box and craft knife!
Scrap Paper – Scrap paper is great to have around, especially to use under projects to make clean up easy. There’s no need to buy it: I use junk mail: catalogs, mailers, etc. I just make sure the paper is slightly glossy, that way I don’t pick up any unwanted ink in my projects and any water or fluids are less likely to seep through.
Printables – If you ever need a specific type of image in a pinch, printables are the way to go! (And because they’re copies, you’re also not cutting up old books (which some people are opposed to.)
Used/old Gift Wrap and/or Greeting Cards – If I get a card with an image (or images) that I like or gift wrapped in pretty paper, I save them to use in my art journals!
Paper packs – I love paper packs because you can get a huge variety of prints and patterns in one purchase. Like this set with modern florals and patterns, or this set with vintage French papers.
Old books – If you’re not opposed to cutting old books (I’m not — especially if they have some damage and/or were headed to the recycle bin anyway) they can be a gold mine of images and text that you can collage into your art journals. (Or course, you can also make them into altered books!) You can look at your own shelves, but I find books at yard sales and estate sales for $.25-$1 that are filled with cool images for my journals.
Pockets – You can buy pre-made pockets for your art journal, but you can also use envelopes or make your own pockets, too!
Tags – Same as pockets, you can either buy pre-made tags or make your own tags with card stock or similar, thicker paper. If you don’t want to risk cutting your own shapes, this paper punch will cut them in three different sizes for you.
Decorative Paper Rolls – These kind of look like washi tape, only they’re just paper rolls. I like to use them as decorative accents in my art journals.
Coffee Filters – If you already have some coffee filters around the house, why not play with them a bit? See how they accept watercolor or other paints. Or dry out your used filters and rip and glue them as part of a collage. New filters are sometimes semi-transparent when glued over other things in your art journal.
Colorful/pretty Napkins – Napkins come in so many beautiful colors and patterns these days, and they can create a translucent effect if you’re able to pull apart the plys. I always check the Target Dollar Spot for napkins to use in my art journals (and on my table, since I usually only use 1 napkin per pack!)
Tissue Paper – I love layering tissue paper to create beauty and texture in my art journals. It is a little sensitive, so I just try not to be precious with it.
Kraft Paper – Sometimes I’ll use Kraft paper in my journal just as is, sometimes I’ll use a piece for a few weeks as my “scrap paper” or as my work surface… you might be surprised how cool it looks! Or you can draw or paint on the kraft paper and glue it into your art journal, too!
Butcher Paper – Just like craft paper before it, Butcher Paper can be used in all kinds of ways, it’s just white instead of brown.
The following are simply ephemera you might find or collect as you live life, that can be used in fun ways in your art journals:
- Train Schedules
- Paper Menus from Restaurants You Love
- Old Magazines
- The Inside of Security Envelopes (there are some super cool patterns in there!)
- Pretty Envelopes
- Speaking of envelopes, the “windows” in envelopes can be re-used in your art journals
- Old Letters (yours or those you find in thrift stores, yard sales, etc.)
- Sheet Music
- Tea Tags
- Plane Tickets
- Old Journals (yours or vintage journals from thrift shops)
- Vintage Sewing Patterns
- Old Stamps
- Old Playing Cards
- Pretty Packaging/Labels
- Foreign Packaging/Labels
- Netting from Fruit/Veggie Bags
- Old Wallpaper
- Matchbook Covers
- Foil from Butter or Sardines (I run mine through the dishwasher first!😊)
- Ticket Stubs – concerts, movies, plays, games, events, etc.
- Old or new Maps
- Vintage Game pieces, parts, instructions, boxes, etc.
- Paint Chips (pick them up at your local paint store or Lowes, Home Depot, etc.)
- Travel Guides
- Cruise Tickets
- Old Postcards
- Graph Paper
- Vintage Ledger Paper
- Fortune Cookie Fortunes
Stamps – Stamps are a great way to bring drawings and words to your art journals — especially if you’re not confident in those areas. I like buying stamps in sets, as you seem to get more for your money that way.
Stamp Pads – These days you can get stamp pads in all kinds of colors. I just like to make sure the stamp pads I buy are permanent/waterproof, so I can add pen or watercolor on top of the stamp’s illustration if I want to.
The creativity of art journals never ceases to amaze me. These are just some of the truly unique things I’ve seen people use in art journals:
As you can see, art journaling can mean a LOT of supplies! At some point you’ll need to organize it all. 😉 Something to note: if you’re buying storage for something in particular — especially when buying online — be sure to measure what you want to store (like paper, for instance) and be sure the storage solution will actually fit your needs.
Baskets – I like baskets for the items I use most often. They fit nicely into my desk cubbies, and that way they’re easily accessible.
Bins – Lidded, stackable, clear bins are great for things I don’t use quite as often, but want to be able to easily see and access when I need them.
Plastic Zippered Sleeves – I cut things out of old magazines, etc., and store them based on color and/or subject in clear, zippered plastic sleeves.
Binders – I use large 3 ring binders to store the zippered sleeves mentioned above. I like to buy large white binders — they usually have a clear plastic pocket on the front, and I like to slip my own art inside, to make them my own!
Boxes – I like to use lidded, decorative boxes for the things I can’t tuck into a closet.
Books – Some of my favorite art journal books are:
- The Painted Art Journal: 24 Projects for Creating Your Visual Narrative
- Creative Journaling: A Guide to Over 100 Techniques and Ideas for Amazing Dot Grid, Junk, Mixed Media, and Travel Pages
- The Collage Workbook: How to Get Started and Stay Inspired
CreativeBug Classes –
- 30 Day Art Journal Challenge on CreativeBug
- Learn how to make a DIY Traveler’s Journal
- While not exactly an art journal class, the techniques taught in this 30 Day Altered Book Challenge can be used in an art journal just as easily as a book
My Classes –
- Coming Soon!
Well, that’s it (if I can call 160+ art journal supplies that! haha!) But if you think of anything I missed, please tell me in the comments below!
I’d love to see what you’re making, too. If you share your work on Instagram, use hashtag #joyfulartjournaling and/or tag me @joyfulartjournaling so I can come check it out!