6 Art Journal Tips: How to Keep Your Pages Flat

It never fails: I finish painting a page for my handmade journal, stand back to admire it, and as it starts to dry I watch helplessly as the edges start to curl. Curses!

art journal  tips for flat pages
Despite using chalk ink, water, watercolor paint, and more
on this art journal page, Pam Carriker was able to flatten it the old-fashioned way: by pressing it with heavy books.

Well, instead of cursing, I’ve learned there are a few tricks to getting flat-out perfect pages. Here are art journal tips that will straighten you out.

1. Use less water. The wetter the page, the more likely it will curl. So be careful not to over-saturate your page.

2. Use heavier paper. Heavy watercolor paper holds up to water better than the flimsy sort (see tip #1, above) and the weight also helps keep the paper flat.

3. Paint the other side. In most cases when journaling, you’re going to work on both sides of the paper. When you paint the reverse side of the page, things should even out.

4. Reach for the gesso. To make sure your pages stay flat from the get-go, paint both sides of the paper with a thin coat of gesso. According to art journaling expert Pam Carriker, this will give the page a heavier feel (see tip #2, above) and it will accept the media differently. But if you truly want flat pages, this step will help.

5. Tape before painting. If you hold the edges of the paper down on your worktop with artist tape or painter’s tape and leave it in place until the page dries, it will lie flat. This works best if you are painting loose pages.

6. Use gravity. If all else fails (or you just forgot to plan ahead), after your page dries place a couple of heavy books on top of it or the entire journal (if you’re not working on loose pages) and let it sit overnight. In the morning, your pages will be nice and flat.

Many of these art journal tips come from Pam Carriker’s new book, Creating Art at the Speed of Life: 30 Days of Mixed-Media Exploration. It’s full of step-by-step art journaling techniques, art journal prompts, and advice from Pam and other well-known mixed-media artists, starting with how to make your own handmade journal for your experiments. It’s the perfect book for anyone from beginning art journalers to more experienced artists who want to record and evaluate their work.

P.S. What’s your favorite method of flattening painted pages? Or do you just let them curl?


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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