A Colorful Art Journal Background Technique

A funny thing happened on my way to creating an art journal background—I lost my fear of the blank page. I have mixed-media artist Nathalie Kalbach to thank for that; she has such phenomenal ideas for adding color, texture, and pattern to paper and canvas in her set of four Acrylic Painting Workshop videos that I’ll never lack for ideas. In fact, I used one of her techniques for an art journal spread, and the results were amazing.

After watching the video Colorful Backgrounds, I decided to focus on her method that uses just palette knives and a few colors of paint to create a vibrant base for whatever you want to add on top. I’ve used a palette knife before, but not just a palette knife to create an art journal background. I was intrigued, wondering how different this would be from using a brush, or even a gift card, to spread paint around.

In Nathalie Kalbach’s video Acrylic Painting Workshop: Colorful Backgrounds, you’ll learn a ton of techniques that can be used for art journal backgrounds, canvases, and more.

It didn’t take long to convince me of the versatility of palette knives. I used a spread in a smallish (5 ½” x 9″) journal, and chose two shades of green Golden Fluid Acrylics: Green Gold and Phthalo Green (Blue Shade), plus black and white. Nathalie makes the case that with just two colors and black and white you can make an incredible array of hues; add white for a tint, gray for a tone, and black for a shade of a color. When you start working with the combinations, the variety that results is pretty stunning. I started with the two green shades, spreading each with a long plastic palette knife over the pages. The boldness of the colors came through, and I loved the abstract look of the shapes.

A great start to an art journal background begins with a few swipes of paint with a palette knife.

I kept going, building on this art journal background with mixtures of each of the greens with black, white, and gray to get beautiful values and shades and that were distinct, yet harmonious.

Working with analogous hues and mixing them with black and white provides a gateway to a world of color.

Using another palette knife (metal, short, with a rounded tip) produced different patterns. Among the cool techniques Nathalie shows is using a palette knife to create texture on the paper, including pressing the knife into the wet paint and lifting it to form shapes with little wavy lines. This detail shows the cool designs made with the metal knife.

Can a palette knife be as versatile as a paintbrush for creating an art journal background? Try Nathalie’s techniques and find out!

The great thing about working with monochromatic or analogous hues to create an art journal background is that it’s easy to create pops of color with a complementary shade. Nathalie talks about this this in her video, and uses various parts of a palette knife to make marks with a complementary shade of paint. I added lines of neon pink on both pages with the edge of the plastic palette knife.

Neon pink pops even more when it’s set against complementary colors.

What a foundation! I chose three of Nathalie’s rubber stamps from her Stroll Through the Hood (Set 1) collection for RubberMoon Art Stamps, thinking the style of the stamps would marry well with the energy of the art journal background. I stamped the designs in black paint on the pages, emphasized the sketched lines with a black paint marker, and added some white paint pen make the images pop more.

Any number of mixed-media techniques can be used over a painted art journal background, such as stamping, stenciling, collage, and more.

I thought the spread needed one more element, so I cut some circles out of book text, brushed them with a little watered-down paint, and adhered them to both pages.

art journal background
Collage adds more visual texture to the page.

This is only one of many ideas Nathalie shares in her videos—imagine what you could create with all of her great techniques, like adding collage, stenciling, stamping, and working with mediums. I have a feeling that facing the blank page will never be a problem.

Nathalie shares more tricks up her sleeve in her two Art Lessons! See how her methods for working with spray paint inspired these art journal pages. 

Discover ways to add paint and stain to raw canvas to create modern abstract art in the video Acrylic Painting Workshop: Raw Canvas Staining with Nathalie Kalbach.
Add tantalizing texture to canvases with the techniques in Acrylic Painting Workshop: Creating Canvas Textures with Nathalie Kalbach. Incorporate found objects and mediums and turn plain canvases into textural masterpieces.
Not sure which acrylic medium to reach for? Let Nathalie Kalbach guide you through a world of mediums in the video Acrylic Painting Workshop: Mediums Demystified.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques

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