What are the “RIGHT” art journal supplies?

Self Portrait - Who am I right now?

Recently I witnessed a conversation on Twitter where an “experienced” art journaler was talking about what supplies were good for art journaling, and clearly there were people relatively new to art journaling who were asking about supplies and making notes (that was my impression).  The experienced art journaler completely rebutted the use of a few supplies in art journaling.  Supplies that I have actually used on some of my pages.  And nothing blew up or exploded through the use of those supplies.  I didn’t necessarily like the effects of all the supplies, and some I won’t use again, but it unsettled me a little to think that there were now people out there who were never going to use certain art supplies in their art journals because someone “in the know” told them not to.  Because the point for me of an art journal is that…


There are no rules.

Mane Girl

You can use whatever you want to, and I think you should.  Because what someone else likes you may not like, even if they have been art journaling for 20 years.  Art journaling and what it means for everyone is different.  And there are no wrong ways or right ways, and unless you experiment with whatever takes your fancy, how do you know whether you will like something or not?

When I first began art journaling, what I did, was quite different on every single page, as I worked my way through different styles and different techniques.  It was not until the end of the book where anything approaching what I regard as “my style” comes through on to the pages.

Even then, what is “my style” changes, and morphs over time, I go back to things and then move away again.  Pretty much the only constant is that I love paint.  LOVE paint.  I also love covering writing up and drawing and sketching and mess, and texture and oil pastels and intuitive mark making and expressive painting and drawing with my non-dominant hand and writing with a bamboo skewer and gesso (be still my beating heart).  For right at the moment.  In six months I may like other things entirely.

Air Spread 3

BUT I could not give you the list of what I like without the playing and experimenting in my journal.  I for instance am not a fan of spray inks, I just don’t love them, but I have used them (albeit homemade ones, and I do want to try a bought one to see if it makes any difference), however I really like spray paint.  I prefer a bamboo skewer to my brush pens at the moment.  I don’t like mod podge, though I know some people rave about it, and so my daughter who has a gluing addiction, uses it instead.

The only reason I even keep it with my stuff, is that it makes it more precious to her if she is using my stuff, and not hers.  Because I am manipulative like that clearly (having realised how awful that sentence makes me sound)! :)

But getting back on track from that little detour, I just really think you don’t know really what you like and don’t like without giving it a go.  I thought I would love spray inks.  I like inks, and I like spray paint, so match made in heaven…but not so much.  And I tend to use gesso on most pages, so had no bleed through problem, they just don’t turn me on (but my daughter thinks they are the greatest thing I have ever made, and again, they stay with my art supplies so she uses them and doesn’t borrow other things).

Cult of stuff Ephemera Adventure

So this is a very long winded post to say that there are no right or wrong art journaling supplies.  You may want to worry about the archival nature of products, and if that is important to you then take that into consideration.  I figure if my daughter can glean who her mother was, and they may pass some wisdom down to her when I am gone, then that is enough archiving for me.

And having friends who lost nearly everything in a fire last year, you never know what is around the corner, and that event has made me more conscious of worrying about keeping everything and not using anything up.

Embracing my Shadow

So use your supplies, and play and experiment, and if people tell you what not to use, rather than just what they don’t like then I would make an effort to use that for myself and see if I like it.  Don’t take other people’s words for gospel.

And while I am on this little soapbox I also want to say that just because a product says it can be used for one thing, or a tool, that does not mean it is the only thing for which a product can be used.  I was recently involved in another conversation where a tool was suggested for another use other than what was originally intended, and was a little taken aback to have someone say in black and white terms that that was not what the product was to be used for and it wouldn’t work.  EXPERIMENT on our pages.  Have happy and unhappy accidents and play.  Your style is found in those experiments.  And it is a journal, you can close the journal and not show anyone, or call it a layer and bring out the gesso.  Art journaling should not be kept in a small neat box, there is room for everything.

Celebrating Joy


12 thoughts on “What are the “RIGHT” art journal supplies?

  1. OMG, it makes me so sad to think that anyone would determine what someone else uses in his/her art journal. I once watched a YouTube video of a man drawing Bette Davis with a mascara wand (to the tune of “Bette Davis Eyes”). I wondered if that worked, and tried several kind of mascara in my art journal. (it works). Experimentation is the soul of creativity.

  2. Hear! Hear!!! I get so disheartened to see people “not” using stuff because so and so says you should do it this or that way…Play!!! Art journals are for PLAY! ..and educators are always telling us children learn through play, so why won’t grown ups? I have had so much fun working in art journals this year. I was a bit anal about art, perfect representation and styles, but now…I love arting!!! :D XXX

  3. Do you know what? For years I have tried to art journal. years. Couldn’t do it because my head was in that place of comparing it to all these experienced journallers… same reason I stopped scrapbooking. I just wasn’t comfortable doing what everyone else was doing and my journalling felt false. Cheesy.

    It’s only this year, when I started dotting down bits about my pregnancy and, in all honesty, it started as a way to practise my drawing and I noticed this journal was evolving… all of a sudden I realised I’m doing it! But MY way. I’m loving it and like you say, using different mediums, styles, textures each time just to practise. I think the whole point of a journal is NOT to be like everyone else, to spill your guts whithin the pages or even just to use it as a glorified sketchbook with feelings. I hate when I see conversations like that you witnessed or similar spiels within art & craft books. Love this post! If I wasn’t feeling like a beached whale I’d get the pompoms out and do some cheerleading star jumps :D

  4. I could not agree more with this post. Art Journaling isn’t about the materials you use, it’s about creativity and letting it all dance around the page. It’s about letting raw feelings out and expressing them. It’s about sticking your tongue out at whatever rules someone makes up, and do whatever you like doing. As long as you can somehow make it fit in the book you use or the loose leafs you later bind together, you can use it.

  5. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant post. Thank you, for speaking the truth. I mean, it’s one thing to say “Well, when I tried Product A, these are the results I got, but you may get something different”, than to just outright say “You can’t”. Those are two words that do not belong in the art journaling world, “You can’t”, because the whole point is, “You CAN!!!”. Thank you for reminding us of this.

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