3 Steps to Choosing Your First Art Journal

Things to consider when choosing your very first art journal:

There are a few questions I try to answer before going out and picking up a book for my art.  Store bought journals can be expensive.  I just picked up the Jane Davenport large journal for a test drive, and without a coupon, that book was a budget-busting $36.00. (I used a 60% off coupon) At that price, this isn't the kind of book you want to start arting in and then find out you don't like anything about it.  The surface where I express my heart or just lay down layers of rainbow happiness is super important.  If it doesn't "relate" to me, if it doesn't feel right in my hands and under my paint brush, I'm not going to want to use it.  If I feel like I paid too much and then don't like what I paid for, guilt can creep in and get in the way of all my fun self-expression. 

But fear not fellow creativity explorers!  Asking yourself a few simple questions while looking for your perfect book will eliminate the risk of buying the wrong book. 

This is the huge version of this journal and includes burlap and canvas pages. 

What size best fits your style and needs?

If you have ever done any journaling before, this might be an easy question to answer.  You might already own several books with lines of words and emotion.  Not only do you have a favorite size you also have a favorite pen!  But if journaling is completely new to you, you're going to want to think about where you're going to do your arting.  Is your book going to travel with you?  How will you carry it?  What will you carry your supplies in and how do the book and your supplies fit together?  What size feels right in your hands?  Does a large surface feel like just too much space to fill?  Is a smaller surface too small to express what you want to do?  If you aren’t sure, take a risk and just buy something that appeals to you.  Go with your gut!   

       What type and weight of paper do you need?

There are books out there that have paper for sketching, drawing, mixed media and watercolor painting. You can even buy a pad of canvas paper for acrylic painting.  The books also have different bindings. Whenever possible, open the book and touch the paper.  How does it feel in your hands?  Does the book lay flat? Check the weight of the paper.  It will be somewhere in the description.  60lb, 90lb, 140lb, the weight of the paper is important because of how you're going to use it.  Will you just use pens and pencils?  Are you going to want to collage on the page?  Will you be trying to create texture with pastes and layers?  Will you use a lot of water or other wet media to spread your color on the page? I like to use watercolor paper (140lb weight) because it stands up to whatever I throw at it.  It takes a lot of wet to make the page curl – in fact I have never really had that happen.  Mixed Media books are usually 90lb.  They can take the watercolors, but the paper will curl, and sometimes color soaks through to the other side.  However, even thin paper can be built up with some collage, gesso, and matte medium (or mod podge.) 
And old book can become a great altered book or art journal.

  How are you planning to use your art journal?

This is really the most important question. Having an idea of how you want to use your book will help you choose the perfect book.  If you are just starting out and developing your style, discovering what just makes the art flow out of you,  and  just want to try everything – go for the watercolor 140lb weight.  It can take all the creativity you have to offer. 

This book has thin pages, but it lays flat, which makes it great for drawing and writing. 

I hope this helps.  The fact is there are a lot of options for your art journal.  You can even make and bind your own, which is probably easier than you think.  If you are day dreaming of a space where you can spread happy colors on a page, stop dreaming, grab a coupon, and get a journal! 

Happy Arting!



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