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Art Journaling 101: Getting Started

A few weeks ago, my Mom found my old high school art portfolio and brought it to me. Wow, that brought back some memories! There were drawings in there that I had completely forgotten about. There was also an 11″ x 14″ sketchbook with very little in it. “Hmmm… maybe I should start drawing again,” I thought. Then I put the portfolio in my office and quickly forgot about it.

Until one day, I was pinning things on Pinterest and found this:

Well, that doesn’t have anything to do with art journaling at all, does it? Except that, with the Internet, one thing always leads to another. After clicking on the above pin, I found myself on this Craftster.org forum page, and in one of the comments, someone linked to this 4-part fabric journal tutorial by Teesha Moore:

Fabric Journals with Teesha Moore, Part 1 of 4
Fabric Journals with Teesha Moore, Part 2 of 4
Fabric Journals with Teesha Moore, Part 3 of 4
Fabric Journals with Teesha Moore, Part 4 of 4

I’m going to be making some of these journals in the future, so I’ll write more about that later. If you like textile art, definitely check out the series above. However, that’s not what this post is about. You see, after watching the fabric journal tutorials, I decided to see what else Teesha has to offer. That’s when I found her art journaling tutorials. I’m going to embed the whole series below so you can watch them in order without the hassle of locating each one on YouTube. I recommend watching all of them before you start, but if you don’t have a lot of time right now, it might be a good idea to bookmark this post and come back later. There are 13 videos and each one is around 5-10 minutes long, so it will take a while to get through them.

Materials and Supplies for Your Art Journal

(Note: This section contains affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking these links, I may receive a small commission, but you still pay the same price.)

So what do you need to start an art journal? At the very least, you need some paper, something to write with, and some old magazines for collage. I attempted to write down all of the materials Teesha uses as I watched the videos, and I’ll share links to those products here. I’ll also provide you with some less expensive alternatives since I know that the materials she uses are out of reach for a lot of people. If you can’t afford to spend much money on supplies, I recommend starting with good quality watercolor paper. Regular paper will warp badly when used for painting with watercolors. Here are the supplies Teesha recommends, along with my alternate suggestions:

Watercolor Paper

Teesha uses Fabriano watercolor paper in the 22″ x 30″ size to make her journals. I think the price is pretty reasonable, but if you’d like to shop around, here are some more watercolor paper options.


The Daniel Smith watercolors Teesha uses run around $13-16 for a single tube. She also mentions Golden fluid acrylics, which are much cheaper. You can get a set of eight colors for a little more than the cost of one of the Daniel Smith watercolors. If you’re not ready to invest in the more expensive watercolors, you can get an inexpensive watercolor set to start with and upgrade if you decide you enjoy the hobby. Try to avoid the cheapest sets that are made for children. Some of those are really awful.

Paint Brushes and Adhesive

You need a large watercolor paint brush, one that is big enough to allow you to cover large areas quickly. I like the large, blue-handled brushes in this craft and hobby paint brush set. I think I picked that up at JoAnn’s or Michaels a long time ago.

The glue Teesha uses is Tombow Mono permanent adhesive.

PanPastels and Sofft Tools

It’s cheaper to buy the three colors of PanPastels she recommends separately rather than buying a kit. The three colors she uses most are black, brown, and deep red. If you want to see what other colors and kits are available, click here.

Here is the Sofft knife she used to apply the PanPastels. It comes with five covers. You can find more Sofft tools here.

Markers and Crayons

Teesha recommends Sharpie poster paint markers. I’m using Painters brand paint pens that I picked up at Walmart. Those work fine too. The Copic markers are very expensive. They are on my wish list for now. The Pitt artist pens seem reasonably priced though, and so do the Caran D’ache crayons.

My First Art Journal Page

I have kept a sketchbook before, but not an actual art journal. I am still doing my pages in a sketchbook because that’s what I have on hand, but I’m trying to do them in an art journal style. Here is my first page shortly after I started it, with just paint, a border, and a bit of lettering:

Art Journal_August 2014 Cover_Border and Text

I think I should have waited until later on the lettering, and I kind of overdid the crayon around the letters. I just used the kids’ crayons since I don’t have any of those fancy markers and pastels yet. So far, I just have two paint pens, a basic watercolor set, the kids’ crayons, and a ton of old magazines to work with. I have ordered some fine and ultra-fine Sharpies. They’ll be here on Wednesday. I can’t wait!

I plan on doing a page like this with the month and year at the beginning of each month so it’s easy to tell when I did the pages when I come back later. Here is the completed August cover page:

August 2014 Art Journal Cover with Text

My favorite details are the eyes on the pear and the leaf. They were cut from a photo of tuba players I found in Popular Photography magazine. If you look closely, you can see the tuba player’s face and hat in the pear’s beak (Yes, I know that pears don’t really have beaks!).

Do you keep an art journal? What tools and techniques do you like best?

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