Hello there! I’d bet if you found yourself on this page, you’re interested in art journaling. I am too! I think we’re going to be good friends. Art journaling is one of my favorite forms of art, just because it’s so incredibly versatile! If you’re new to art journaling, or have tried it before but aren’t quite sure what are the best supplies to start with, these are my favorite basic supplies for art journaling!
This post contains affiliate link to items I have purchased with my own money and tested with my own hands.
You can keep in simple with just pens and paper, or create multilayered projects that are incredibly complex. It’s all up to you, and there are no rules. I’m one of those people whose creative brain tends to run away screaming the minute rules are put in place for artwork. Of course there are easier ways to do certain things, and best practices to follow, but the most awesome art is often created when rules are ignored.
Want to know what the very minimum you need for art journaling is? Paper and a pen. Yep. That’s it. Some of the most famous works of art ever were created with just paper and a pen.
Before I get into the list, keep in mind that you absolutely do NOT need these supplies. Pick and choose what you want to work with, and try new supplies as you feel ready for them. Please don’t go out and blow you budget on a bunch of supplies before you even make your first page. In fact, look around your house first. Have an old notebook and some crayons? That’s a good place to start. Have kids art stuff around your house? Crayola watercolors, markers, and colored pencils are actually really high quality, and I’ll often reach for them over some of my more fancy art supplies.
However, if you want to really dive into things and are ready to do some damage at the craft store, here are some of the art journaling supplies that I’ve been using for years and would highly recommend to anyone looking to start art journaling or add to their stack of art goodies. Fair warning though, pens are highly addictive and you may end up having way more than you ever thought possible!
Check out more beginner art journaling posts here!
Basic Supplies for Art Journaling
Before you decide on a notebook for your art journal, ask yourself “what am I going to be doing in this?” If your answer is doodling with pens and pencils, than a standard sketchbook will be just fine. However, if you want to use wet mediums like watercolor paint, acrylic paint, pastels, or layering lots of paper, I highly recommend getting a mixed media notebook. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to find a high quality one. You can get one with sewn in pages if you want to do double page spreads without any separation, or if you prefer spiral notebooks (like I do) you can find one like the Canson Mix Media book I’m currently using.
The biggest thing to pay attention to when choosing is the paper weight. This weight is 138 lbs. I’d recommend getting 130lb or heavier weight paper for doing art journaling with wet media. A heavier (aka thicker) paper can get wet without warping or tearing, I also like working in smaller books, but that’s just personal preference.
2. Colored Pens and Markers
Ahh! My first love, pens. I have used nearly every type of pen and marker on the market, and here are my favorites.
Brush Pens – I love brush pens! Especially dual ended ones. Tombow Dual Brush pens are wonderful, though they are pricey. The Whispers Strokes pens pictured here are very similar, and less expensive though hard to find. I’ve also used and really like the Zebra Mildliner Brush pens.
Markers – Crayola Super Tips. Enough said. Super cheap, but amazing color selection and very good quality, long lasting markers. I’ve had my set for close to 8 years and they’re still going strong.
Felt Tip Pens – Paper Mate Flair. These are beautiful, easy to write with, and don’t bleed through even really thin paper.
Gel Pens – Paper Mate Ink Joy Gel Pens are best on the market for day to day writing, in my opinion. They come in a zillion colors, are easy to find, don’t smudge, and are super comfortable to write with. If you’re looking for a white gel pen (highly recommended for writing on paint or dark surfaces) I love the Sakura Gelly Roll pens. They also make beautiful glitter and neon pens as well. If you love glitter pens, you may also want to try out the Pentel Sparkle Pop pens.
3. Drawing Pens
You’ll definitely need a pencil. Any kind will do, though I love mechanical pencils. If you’re doing detailed sketches in pencil, you may want invest in a set of drawing pencils as well. However, my love is pens. I know. How many more can there be? Well, when it comes to basic drawing pens, just two types are my favorites. Both of these pen types are water resistant, archival, and are basically the best of the best when it comes to drawing pens. The Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen. These come in a variety of sizes and colors, but my very favorite is the Black 199 Brush Pen. For fine lines, I absolutely love the Sakura Micron Pens. Again, these come in a variety of sizes and colors. I recommend getting a set of these with different sizes, because you’ll end up using them a lot.
If you’re going to be doing any sort of layering or adding paper scraps, memorabilia, or pretty much gluing anything down… you’re going to need adhesives! First up I wanted to quickly mention that if you’re going to use chalk, pastels, or anything that can easily be rubbed or brushed off, you’re going to have to have a way to set it in place. I love the Krylon Workable Fixatif for this. One can will last you forever, and it’s great to spray on top of a chalk background or oil pastels to keep them from rubbing off onto other pages.
My favorite adhesive is probably a good dot roller. I recommend the Tombow Dot Roller and the Scotch Dot Roller. These are great for basic paper layering and adhering lightweight things to paper. If you’re going to be painting over the paper you’re adhering though, or doing collage, I recommend using gloss or matte gel medium or Mod Podge. Even though its more expensive, I do prefer gel medium to Mod Podge as Mod Podge often leaves a tacky finish that has to be sealed. Also, don’t forget washi tape and stickers! They are an awesome way to add some decoration to your pages or adhere small things to your pages. I don’t have any at the moment, but dimensional adhesive dots are also wonderful if you’re looking to have something raised slightly off the background.
The number one paint I would recommend having on hand is gesso. Gesso is a thin white acrylic paint that is very pigmented. It’s original use was to prime canvasses for painting, and it’s amazing to prime pages in your notebook if you’re going to be using acrylic paint on them. For other paints, I love using acrylic craft paints. You can also use standard artists acrylics, but craft paints are less expensive and stick better to a variety of surfaces. You’ll also want to have a small variety of paint brushes to work with.
Let’s talk watercolor! One of my newer mediums I’ve been working with, watercolor is amazing for art journaling. I have the Sakura Koi Watercolor Travel Set, which is a good mid-range set with basic colors. However, don’t feel like you need a set like this. Crayola watercolors (yep, the one you’ve been using since kindergarten) is a great set to start with! I would recommend, no matter what set you end up going with, to get a water brush. Its a paintbrush with a water reservoir as a handle, and it makes painting with watercolors so much easier! I won’t do watercolor without one now. You can find these in sets or individually at craft stores and online.
Note: don’t use gesso on the paper if you’re going to be doing watercolor! Watercolor needs to be able to soak into the paper.
6. Pencils and Pastels
I know, we’re still not done. I told you I have a thing for art supplies!! For colored pencils I recommend using either basic Crayola colored pencils, or if you want something a bit fancier, Prismacolor Premier pencils. Both types are easy to draw and color with, and blend well. You may have seen “artist crayons” in your craft store. Please don’t waste your money on these. Get yourself a small set of student quality oil pastels instead. They’re the exact same thing, and they will live forever. I’ve had this set of oil pastels for close to 10 years and they still work great. Also, if you like soft colors and backgrounds, get a kit of chalk pastels. This huge set was $5, and they’re great for all kind of things.
This is one long post! I just had to have a miscellaneous section though, because I would be very sad if I didn’t have some of these things around to art journal with. Paper towels for blending and wiping up messes. I also use these for adding texture or removing excess paint or water. Baby wipes for wiping off paint brushes, dirty hands, or tools. Cosmetic wedges, the super cheap makeup sponges I never use on my face but use all the time in art. These are great for blending and using as DIY texture stamps.
I also like having a disposable palette paper pad. These are sheets of coated paper you use as a paint palette. I prefer these to a standard paint palette as it makes clean up easier, and it gives me plenty of space to blend colors. Scissors and a straight edge or ruler should be self explanatory. Also, you can use a craft knife and glass cutting mat if you pan on doing a lot of collage. Last but not least, I like having a few geometric stencils around. These are great for backgrounds or adding texture with different mediums.
I hope this list of my favorite basics was helpful for you! I could go on for hours about different art journaling supplies, their many uses, and other alternatives. And I’ll be introducing other supplies in future posts as we create all kinds of art journaling designs.