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How to Start an Art Journal

Everything you need to tap into your crafty side. Published: November 01, 2019

Sometimes, words just don’t cut it. The central premise of art journaling is that self-expression is hard, and images are often better at communicating our feelings than words. “It’s a way of showing a feeling without articulating it,” says Katie Dalebout, a New York City-based podcast host, writer, and avid art journaler.

Of all the forms that art journaling can take—mixed media, media-specific, or themed by topic—Dalebout’s preferred method is collage. “It’s an imperfect art form,” she says. “You don't have to go to school for it, you don't need very many items or much space, and it can be done anywhere.”

There’s no right or wrong way to broach the practice, but Dalebout advises first-timers to begin with a few essential tools. Keep scrolling for the go-to items in her art journaling kit.

Tote Bag


Why: “I like to use a really big one so I can keep everything in one spot… That way when I clean up at the end of a session it's all contained and doesn't infiltrate the rest of my space.”

Journal

Her Pick: Composition Notebook
Why: “I like a composition notebook because it's portable. One of the first things that I do when I get a new notebook is collage the front cover. That way I always know it's mine, and it makes me happy when I look at it.”

Glue

Her Picks: Mod Podge in Matte and Gloss, Elmer's All Purpose Glue Sticks, and Loctite Super Glue
Why: “I use a plethora of glues. Mod Podge is basically just a clear glue, and it’s really great because you can just paint it over things and they’ll stick down without any residue. I also have on hand your typical elementary school-style Elmer’s glue sticks. And I like to use Super Glue when I'm pasting fabric squares or things that are a little bit heavier.”

Scissors

Her Pick: Singer 4.5” ProSeries Detail Scissors
Why: “These are small and compact and super sharp, which is important because you’re often cutting intricate shapes. You also need something substantial enough to cut through fabric.”

Vintage Magazines and Used Books

Her Picks: Sourced at Brooklyn Junk
Why: “You can use any old magazines or books that you have on hand, but they’re a fun thing to curate. I’m always on the lookout for them. I like to cut out words and make sentences out of them, like you would on a refrigerator.”

Pens

Her Picks: Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Pens and Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens
Why: “I like to have pens that are easy to write with, that I know are going to work. It's so much easier to keep going when the tools you have work properly. I use the thin Sharpies for writing text and the Muji gel pens for accents.”

Decorative Tape

Her Pick: Boao Washi Tape
Why: “It's not super sticky, so I like to use it to test things out that I might want to move around. You can write on it, too. I use it all the time to organize other things outside of art journaling. It’s all over my walls right now.”

Ribbon

Her Pick: Chenkou Craft 1” Satin Ribbons
Why: “Adding texture to your collage makes it interesting. It's not something I do all the time, but it's a cool thing to do as needed.”

Stickers

Her Pick: Sinceroduct Stickers for Kids
Why: “These are just for fun. They’re a throwback to childhood scrapbooking.”

Fabric Scraps

Why: “I upcycle old clothes and fabric, so it’s never something I would spend money on. I think it makes the collage feel more personal, more human.”

Mug

Her Pick: Out of Print Composition Notebook Mug
Why: “I have a dedicated mug for this practice because whenever I invest in something, I'm more likely to show up and do it. This one is super on the nose—it looks like an actual journal—and makes [the experience] more cozy and special.”

Something to Drink

Her Pick: Four Sigmatic Mushroom Hot Cacao with Reishi
Why: “I love drinking something luxurious like a hot chocolate. This one from Four Sigmatic is one of my favorites. It has reishi in it, which is calming and relaxing, and it tastes really wonderful.”

Wireless Earbuds

Her Pick: AirPods
Why: “I never collage in silence. When you’re doing something artistic, it's nice to fill your brain with other art at the same time. Wireless earbuds are key so you can be up and mobile.”

Art Journaling Playlist

“This playlist was made by DJ Swan, aka Sean Moore, the founder of Swans Nest Yoga for my Let It Out 2.0 launch party. It's a curated playlist of songs I've written about and guests of the podcast have recommended.”

For more creative inspiration, check out Dalebout’s book: Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling.

Curated By

Katie Dalebout

Writer and Podcast Host
Frances Thomas profile picture

Frances Thomas

Quiddity Content Editor
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