Art Journaling 101: Basic Supplies

The beginning of the year is a wonderful time to start new things and learn new techniques.  If you are thinking of starting to art journal, I’ve put together the first in a new series Art Journaling 101.  It’s a list of basic supplies for art journaling.

Art Journaling 101: Basic Supplies to get you started creating.

The Fabulous thing about art journaling is that there are no rules on what’s right or appropriate, just create what’s in your heart.  I use my time in art journaling for trying out new techniques or products, and also for letting feelings out on the page if I’m struggling with something emotionally.

*This post has Amazon affiliate links, but all opinions are mine.  I have used and recommend all of these products.

So what do I need to get started?

Great question!  This list is extensive because I wanted to give you some options.  Buying all of these products can be very costly, but getting the essentials and building from there is how I did it.  Golden products are the higher end brand, followed by Liquitex in the medium range and DecoArt being a more affordable brand but still very good quality.

Journal – this is an obvious one, you need something to work on and you have some choices here on size and thickness.

  • Dylsusions Creative Journal – From Ranger and designed by Diane Reaveley, it’s the journal that I most use.  It comes in 2 sizes, 8.5″ x 11.375″ and a handy 5″ x 8″ size.  I love the thickness of the pages, they can really hold a lot of layers and moistures.  It comes with a plain cover, so I definitely couldn’t leave it just like that.  Here is the tutorial on how I upgraded the cover.

  • Moleskine Art Plus Journal – This handy size 5″ x 8″ journal has an elastic band for closing, 111 lb paper that is acid free and is perfect for traveling.
  • Old book – If you don’t want to purchase a journal at this time, use what you have.  I have converted several old books to use as art journals.  Simply by gluing the pages together will give you a stronger surface to work on.  I have a tutorial on how to do that here.

Gesso – This medium prepares your page or surface for the paint that you’ll be adding.  Your colors will look brighter and gives the page “teeth” for the paint to hold on to.

  • Liquitex Basics Gesso is an appropriate one to start off with.  It’s very affordable and goes on smoothly.

  • There are different consistencies also, so thicker ones will create more texture on your page.

Gel Medium or Matte Medium – This is used mainly as a glue or a sealer.  It’s white in the jar, but dries transparent.

  • It is available in a gloss form, but I prefer the matte look to my pages.


Modeling paste – This is a thick medium that dries opaque white and is used mainly with stencils to add details and texture.  You can mix it with paint to give it color, but many manufacturers make it in metallics and black.  When using modeling paste with stencils, make sure and clean off the stencil soon after so the paste doesn’t harden onto the stencil.

Ephemera – This can be new or old tissue or papers.  They add details and dimensions to your page.  You can adhere them with the gel medium.

  • I love to use old book pages, vintage music sheets and also vintage sewing pattern tissue.  All of these can be easily found at thrift stores for a minimal cost.


Stencils – I am a stencil lover!  I use them in just about every creation I make.  They are a magical way of adding dimension and layers to your page.  They can be used with modeling paste to add texture or with paint.  I even use markers on certain stencils.   Now, it’s easy to go crazy in buying stencils because there are so many to choose from, but I would recommend in starting off with one that has an alphabet pattern, one with numbers, a script one and a larger one that has multiple patterns on it.

  • The Crafter’s Workshop has an immense selection of stencils.  Here are some that I love and recommend.


Paint – So many options to adding color to your page!  But, don’t feel overwhelmed, I’ll break down our choices here.

  • Distress Paints by Tim Holtz have a wonderful consistency to them and can be made more fluid by simply mixing with water.


  • Spray Inks are a quick way to add a splash of color and can be used by themselves or with a stencil to add a pattern.
  • Faber- Castell Gelatos are luscious acid-free pigment sticks that can be used directly onto your surface or mixed with modeling paste or gel medium.

Stamps are part of that step in your art journaling that can add that extra detail to your page.  As with stencils, there are so many options ( wood mounted, rubber mounted, clear stamps).  I started off by purchasing a set of stamps that have a variety of patterns.

Ink Pads are the partner to stamps.  I love the crispness that Ranger Archival Ink gives and it lasts forever.  They also come in a variety of colors.  Imagine Crafts Staz-On Ink is also a great alternative.

Markers and Pens can add that finishing touch of shading and outlining.  Faber-Castell has a great selection of both of these.

  • The big brush pen when used on a surface that is non-porous or has been brushed with gel medium, you can create a line and then rub with finger for shading.  The pitt pens are great for writing out words or outlining.


  • The Fude Ball Pen is a favorite of mine and it writes on many different surfaces.
  • The Uniball Signo pen in white is probably the best white pen out there.  It can be a little touchy when in use, but the key to getting a smooth line is applying a light and slow glide.


Miscellaneous tools are the items that will help you bring it all together.

  • Brushes – Artist Loft Brushes are a standard brush to start off with and upgrade from there.
  • Palette knives are essential for evenly spreading modeling paste or even gesso.  I have a variation of plastic and metal ones.
  • Craft mat will save your table from getting stained and can also be used as a palette for mixing pastes and paints.
  • Heat Gun will help you speed up the drying process, especially when it comes to modeling paste.
  • Baby wipes are not for babies when it comes to art journaling.  These essential wipes can be used for wiping away paint, texture, blending and keeping your hands clean too.


There you have it…Yes, I know it’s a big list, but remember to start off with a few things and add from there.  Instead of buying large sets, buy single items and try them out.  If you love them, then invest in the sets.  Buy the best quality items you can afford right now and upgrade when you’re ready.

Are there some items that you already have and absolutely love?


explore art journal page


Please follow and like us:

8 thoughts on “Art Journaling 101: Basic Supplies

  1. Laurie says:

    Happy New Year Carmen! Enjoyed your post. I have not used some of the items that you have mentioned, but many of the others are staples for me. Thank you so much for coming over and sharing with us at Brag About It!

  2. Ruth Mealey says:

    Dear Carmen –
    I’m so excited to be able to follow you in this new class. I have taken some classes and watched many videos (Shonna Bucaroff, Monica Martin, Carla Bange, Terri Sproul) … Can’t wait to get started with you!

  3. JeanetteJones says:

    This was the best list of journaling supplies. Good for the novice. Clear and concise. I am excited to get started in art journaling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.