A common misconception about art journaling is that you need a ton of supplies to get started. You don’t—you can use whatever you have on hand. But trying new art journaling supplies is a reason for getting up in the morning, so I thought I’d tell you about a few special materials that will add tons of interest to your pages and drive up the fun meter. If you’re new to art journaling, go ahead and give them a spin! These mediums and embellishments are affordable, easy to use, and they’ll make you fall in love and have a deep, lasting relationship with art journaling.
1. Gouache: Let’s say it together: gwash. This paint lives between the borders of watercolor and acrylic paint, shares some features with both, but is its own color medium. Gouache is more opaque than watercolor, but it can be re-wet, unlike acrylics. It has a matte finish, unlike acrylics, so it won’t make your journal pages stick together. Like acrylics, you can layer light colors over dark. Bottom line: You gotta try them. These vibrant paints offer a unique look, and they’re absolutely the perfect match for art journaling.
I’m somewhat new to the gouache game, but I found the learning curve short and the results fantastic. To test out a new set of Holbein Artists’ Gouache tube paints I used a sheet of vintage ledger paper for a substrate. I brushed on a slightly watered-down layer of Turquoise blue, leaving a rough border.
When that was dry (didn’t take long), vase shapes were penciled in, then colored with more gouache. The pencil lines erased easily, and I drew in some funky flowers and plants with a Sakura Pigma Micron pen, and added dots with a white Uni Posca marker (more on that item later). Then I brushed on some Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache in Gold, and boy, did that add some shimmer. I added the page to my journal, adhering it to a spread covered with black gesso and embellished with gouache flowers. Gouache? It’s a keeper. I can’t wait to try it for faces, flowers, and patterns.
2. Colored gesso: White and clear gesso are staples for many mixed-media artists who use it as a ground for paint, a textural and design element, and a medium for transfers. But gesso comes in more than black and white—you’ll also find it in metallic gold and silver, plus pretty much every color of the rainbow. Try one new shade and see how it works as a background layer, for creating dimension with stencils, for stamping, and for carving into and creating texture.
3. A white pen: You’d be surprised how essential a great white pen can be to a collection of art journaling supplies. There is no better way to add highlights quickly to a page, whether for mark making, lettering, or drawing on dark surfaces. White pens come in various forms: markers, paint pens, gel pens, and pigment pens. Artists have their favorites; experiment with a couple to see how they work on a variety of surfaces and how they react with other mediums.
Danielle Donaldson is partial to the white Uni Posca Extra Fine Marker, and uses it often in her artwork to add dots and lines. The white really does pop, and doesn’t fade when dry.
4. Hand-carved stamps: Carving stamps is easy, satisfying, and thrifty. From one sheet of carving material you can make loads of stamps that will last for years, and no one else will have them. I carved this flower using a layering technique, and you can read more about it in this blog post.
Use carved stamps for backgrounds, focal images, creating text, making marks, and repeat patterning. You can also make stamps from craft foam and other materials, each offering a different look. Even the simplest designs look amazing, so don’t miss out on one of the most useful art journaling supplies.
5. Artist crayons: These are not the crayons you grew up using. Artist crayons are water-soluble pigment sticks that are incredibly versatile: Draw with them, blend them with your fingers or a wet paintbrush, and use them with stencils and gel plates. Find them in an array of colors and styles, such as Caran d’Ache Neocolor II crayons, Dina Wakley Media Scribble Sticks (Ranger), and Tim Holtz Distress Crayons (also Ranger). I started an art journal page by mixing unbleached titanium, Payne’s Gray, and white on a page and letting it dry. The pages in this journal were made of heavyweight watercolor paper.
I then used Distress Crayons and Neocolor II crayons to add color to the background, add random shapes, and create some flowers. I blended the colors with my fingers, adding a little water here and there for a smoother look. With white acrylic paint and a stencil, I added some abstract marks to the page.
Using a dip pen and permanent black ink I outlined the flowers and created stems and leaves, did some mark making, and added splatters. I rubbed Distress Crayons on the rim of a paint tube lid and printed it, which offered a great effect. A little collage, more splatters, and the page was done! Artist crayons are great for taking on the road—just make sure they’re away from heat and sunlight.
6. Masking fluid: Artists have used this medium for decades, but since it’s not that glamorous, it’s often overlooked. Masking fluid (also called frisket) can produce incredible layered results, and comes as a liquid that can be brushed on, or in pens that can be used for drawing and writing. After the fluid dries it acts as a resist for anything put over it, so additional layers of paint won’t stick.
Below, Rae Missigman used masking fluid to build up layers, which were revealed when the dried fluid was rubbed off. It’s a knockout effect.
7. Specialty paints: The paint world for artists and crafters is exploding right now, thanks to advanced technology. Paint offers more than just color. Color shift paints have a two-tone effect, revealing different hues in different angles and light; glitter paints feature suspended glitter particles that have tons of shine; and marbling paints offer true marbled effects with very little fuss. All of these can be used on art journal pages, and half the fun is experimenting to see what can be done with these color mediums.
8. Washi tape: This little roll of creative joy has been around for many years, but there are still some holdouts among you, and you know who you are. Washi tape is lightweight, usually translucent, low-tack decorative tape that comes in lots of designs, various widths, and has a zillion applications. Use it to border a page, make a grid, frame something, make banners, create tabs, build patterns and backgrounds, and lots more. Warning: You may find this material highly addictive—in a good way.
9. Dip pen and ink: You don’t have be a master calligrapher to use a dip pen in your art journals—you don’t have to know calligraphy at all. When used with ink, dip pens can be used to create the most beautiful lines—graceful and elegant, funky and organic, or timeless and classic. Write with them, draw with them, and see how the organic nature of the lines is completely different from what an artist pen or marker provides. Nib holders, nibs, and ink are pretty inexpensive, and one bottle of ink will last a long time. Permanent inks are waterproof and great for using with watercolor, but non-waterproof inks also have their charm, as lines can be blurred and faded with just the light touch of a wet paintbrush.
10. Transfer foil: Even if you’re not big into the bling, hear me out—transfer foils add a gorgeous touch of luxe shimmer that takes an art journal page from good to ohmygoshthat’samazing. Chances are you won’t add foil to every page or layout, there will be times when your artwork needs something, and this will fit the bill.
Transfer foil is a super-thin layer of metallic or pearlized foil that’s attached to a thin plastic transfer sheet. Brush some adhesive on the page (there are specific glues for this, or you can use acrylic medium, glue pens, and even a glue stick), burnish the foil, wait until the adhesive dries, then pull off the foil sheet. Insert audible gasps. One sheet goes a long way, and you can find transfer foils in every shade, plus color blends. Use it on a final background layer, to highlight a focal image, or to draw attention to a quote. You’ll wonder how you lived without it for this long!
If art journaling is your jam, or you’d like it to be, get the May/June 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, which has great projects and techniques for fantastic art journal pages. This lookbook preview shows you what’s inside!