Tutorial: Mixed-Media Planner Pages

Studio Saturday is on a short break. Please enjoy this blog post, portions of which were previously published on our sister site,  ArtistsNetwork! ~ Jeannine

Planners are taking the mixed-media world by storm, and artists are creating all types of unique pages to suit their styles and busy schedules. Planners are not just a way to keep your life in order—they also function as art journals, since you can incorporate any media and techniques you like. Today I’m going to show you ideas for arting up planner pages, inspired by Dawn DeVries Sokol’s article “Creative Days Ahead” in the January/February 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Her take on creating a one-of-a-kind planner is a perfect project to kick off the New Year!

For this project you can work in an existing blank journal or sketchbook, or make your own. Below are the materials you’ll need. With the exception of a few basic supplies, feel free to use what you have on hand—this planner is all about playing and having fun, and the pages will ultimately reflect your style and artwork, so use what you love.

• Acrylic paint, a variety. I used heavy-body tube and fluid acrylics in a range of colors, including fluorescents.

• Spray inks (optional)

• Collage materials, such as book text, maps, ledger pages, and magazine cut-outs

• Matte gel medium

• Gesso, white

• Expired gift, credit, or hotel card, or a Catalyst Wedge

• Paintbrushes, a variety

• Large binder clip (optional)

• Washi tape (optional)

• Stabilo Woody Crayons, or Stabilo All pencil, in black and other colors if desired

• Water-soluble artist crayons (optional)

• Rubber stamps (optional)

• Stencils (optional)

• Inkpads (Use permanent ink if you want to add color to the stamped images.)

• Stickers (optional)

• Permanent  artist pens for journaling, a variety

Open your planner to the two-page spread you want to start with, and spread some paint  in select areas. I worked on two spreads at a time using different colors and techniques, and I’ll show you the processes for both. You can spread the paint with an old gift card, your fingers, or a brush—the idea is to not overthink it. I had the most fun and got the best results by applying paint with my fingers.

I had specific color palettes in mind when I worked on both spreads, and used paints in those tones. But since the paint will be mostly covered by gesso in the next step, and we’ll be adding more color later, you can experiment and see the effects different colors offer.

Add some ephemera, adhering the pieces with gel medium. I used torn and cut book and map pages and sheet music. Here’s the first planner spread, where I incorporated fluorescent orange and magenta paint:

First layer of mixed-media planner page
For the first layer of the two-page spread, paint was spread on the page, and ephemera was adhered.

Here’s the first layer of the second spread, which incorporates blue and green tones and collage scraps cut into circles. I also used spray inks on the pages in addition to acrylic paint:

Planner background with acrylic paint and spray inks
For this planner spread, I used a combination of acrylic paint and spray inks.

Quick tip: Place a sheet of scrap paper underneath both pages of the spread you’re working on to protect the pages and covers underneath. Dawn also has a great tip: Laying a large binder clip on a page allows you to work on subsequent pages while the previous ones dry.

When the paints and inks dried, I spread a layer of white gesso over the pages, again using the gift card.

Muting planner background with gesso
The first layer of gesso covered the paint and collage, but I wanted to mute the colors even more.

The colors were still pretty vibrant, so I spread on a second coat of gesso, letting the first dry before applying it. This would allow me to write and draw on top of the collage material without competing with it.

Second coat of gesso on a planner spread
A second coat of gesso gave this planner spread perfect coverage.

On the second spread, I used only one coat of gesso because I loved the look of the dot pattern from the spray.

Planner page background with one layer of gesso
One coat of gesso was perfect for this spread, which still reveals much of the colors and patterns underneath.

Quick tip: Gesso comes in a variety of thicknesses and opacities; try different ones to see what works best. You can also use watercolor ground in white or clear, if that’s your preferred medium to work in.

When the gesso was dry I drew light pencil lines to mark off the days of the week. In her article, Dawn said that she needs less room for weekends, so she makes those days smaller. Think about how you’d like your week to be laid out. I like a Monday-through-Sunday view, but you may prefer a Sunday-through-Saturday grid.

Dividing up the week on a planner page
You can divide the week up any way you like in your planner, and change it for each week.
Planner week configuration
I created another configuration for the second spread.

Next, divide the areas using a variety of materials: washi tape, rubber stamps, hand-drawn doodles, postage stamps, stickers, and strips of paper. Decorating planner pages is a great way for me to justify my washi tape addiction, so I love using it. I also split up the spaces with stamped images and collage papers, which I adhered with gel medium. By the way, if you’ve never used washi tape before, be warned that it’s a slippery slope. In a good way.

Add the month at the top of each spread, and add the dates and days to the boxes. Get creative with the numbers—cut some from magazines, stamp them, hand write them, cut up an old tape measure—when you start looking, you’ll see that numbers are everywhere.

Washi tape divides the days on this planner spread.
Washi tape is a great way to divide the planner pages into days; create numbers in a variety of ways.
Planner grid devised with washi tape and stamps
Here, washi tape was used along with stamps and a strip of book text to create the grid.

Quick tip: Writing the months and days on your planner pages is a great way to practice your hand lettering.

Now it’s time to start building layers of color and depth. I love how Dawn creates dimension with shadows, which also add deep color values and drama to her pages. She recommends using Stabilo Woody crayons or a Stabilo All pencil; those are excellent, as are water-soluble artist crayons. I used a combination of all three, lightly drawing black lines around images and along the edges of the washi tape, then going over the lines with a wet paintbrush or water brush. I snuck a little extra color in on the pages with stencils, water-soluble crayons, and watered-down acrylic paint.

Creating shadows to add depth to a planner page
What a difference a little depth and shadow make!
Adding shadows to planner pages with pencils
More shadows add deeper color values on the pages.

After that, I continued to add more color and pattern with the crayons, paint, stencils, and stamps and ink, plus extra ephemera, a few sketches, and some writing, rub-ons, and photos. The pages feel very organic to me. While each spread has its own look, the book as a whole feels cohesive.

Here is one finished spread:

And here’s the other:

Mixed-media planner spread in shades of blue
The collage I added on the first layer became jumping-off points for doodles and sketches.

Try raiding your art journals, sketchbooks, and scraps for odd pieces to use in your planner; sometimes I’ll like one element of a page and hate the rest, so I’ll cut out the part I like and add it to something else. The planner spread above was the perfect place for a hand-carved flower stamp from a previous project (on the bottom of the 25th).

Here’s one more spread:

Mixed-media planner spread using collage and paint
You don’t have to have a color palette in mind for a planner spread; any color combinations work!

While working in the planner, I realized that if I didn’t have a super exciting week, I could use the spaces to add extra sketches, doodles, paintings, and collage. I think what I love most about the way Dawn builds the spreads is the element of surprise. Those collage bits that you added in the first layer not only create a great under layer, they also become great jumping-off points for drawings and doodles.

I hope you have fun using your planner and exploring techniques! I love having this book to remember my adventures, and as a record of my mixed-media art for the year.

Don’t miss this fun tutorial for creating a colorful art journal background using just acrylic paint and a palette knife that you incorporate in your planner pages!

If you’re looking for even more ways to fill your new planner, check out these books, videos, and magazines—they’re filled with tons of ideas that you can use on your pages!

January/February 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine
Get all the instructions for making your own mixed-media planner in the January/February 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.
Inspiration Art Journals video with Joanne Sharpe
Learn how to create whimsical hand lettering and make colorful journals in this Inspirational Art Journals video with Joanne Sharpe.
Mixed Media Techniques for Art Journaling
In Mixed Media Techniques in Art Journaling, you’ll discover how to incorporate easy and eye-catching techniques in your planner.

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Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog

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