Journaling Techniques

20 Art Journal Ideas to Try

Keeping an art journal can help capture the essence of experiences and emotions, allowing us to explore and express our inner worlds with depth and creativity. By combining visual imagery, writing, and mixed media techniques, your art journal becomes a transformative space where imagination and self-reflection intertwine. It becomes a visual diary that tells the story of your life, preserving the moments, thoughts, and inspirations that shape your artistic journey.

In this post, we’ll delve into the world of art journaling, offering you ideas, examples, and practical tips to ignite your own art journaling practice. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or just beginning your creative exploration, an art journal is sure to open the door to a universe of self-expression and personal growth.

What is an Art Journal?

An art journal is a personal and creative journal that combines elements of both writing and visual art. Art journaling serves as a space to express yourself, explore your thoughts and emotions, and experiment with various art techniques and materials.

Unlike traditional journals that primarily focus on written entries, an art journal incorporates visual elements such as drawings, paintings, collages, photographs, mixed media, and other forms of artistic expression. An art journal can include a wide range of materials like watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils, markers, pens, magazine cutouts, found objects, even digital art or

10 Art Journaling Tips

Your art journal can serve as a visual diary, capturing your experiences, memories, and personal growth. As you document special moments, challenges, and milestones through your art and writing, here are a few tips for keeping an art journal:

  1. Play with different techniques: Experiment with different art techniques and styles. Try out new approaches, learn from tutorials, or take inspiration from other artists to expand your artistic repertoire.
  2. Gather inspiring materials: Collect a variety of art supplies that inspire you, such as paints, markers, colored pencils, collage materials, and more. Having a diverse range of materials will give you more options to explore in your journal.
  3. Incorporate writing: Combine written reflections, quotes, poems, or stream-of-consciousness writing with your visual art. Writing can add depth and context to your artwork and provide a deeper connection to your thoughts and emotions.
  4. Embrace mistakes: Mistakes are part of the artistic process. Instead of getting discouraged, view them as opportunities for growth and learning. Embrace accidents and turn them into creative solutions.
  5. Explore themes and prompts: Consider using themes or journal prompts to guide your art journaling. This can provide structure and spark new ideas when you’re feeling stuck. You can find prompts online (check out this list of 550+ journal prompts), in books, or create your own.
  6. Consider going digital: Digital journaling opens up opportunities for seamless integration of multimedia elements. Incorporate digital photographs, scanned textures, or typography directly into your digital art journal pages. A journal app like Day One can be a great digital art journal, allowing you to upload files or draw directly inside the app with your Apple pencil or stylus.
  7. Enjoy the process: Remember that art journaling is about self-expression and personal exploration. Enjoy the process of creating without worrying too much about the end result. Embrace the joy and therapeutic benefits of art journaling.

20 Art Journal Ideas to Try

Whether you prefer traditional art supplies like paints, markers, and collage materials or are intrigued by the possibilities of digital art, there’s something for everyone in this collection. From gratitude journaling to self-portraits, mood mandalas to collage dreams, these art journal ideas offer a diverse array of avenues for self-reflection and artistic exploration. Each of these art journaling ideas invites you to delve into your thoughts, emotions, and dreams, encouraging you to translate them into visual form.

1. Gratitude Journal

Create a page expressing gratitude through art and writing. Illustrate things you’re grateful for or make a list of what brings you joy.

  • Take time to reflect on things that bring you joy or you’re grateful for before starting your page.
  • Experiment with different art materials and techniques to visually represent your gratitude.
  • Incorporate hand-lettering or calligraphy to highlight meaningful quotes or phrases related to gratitude.
  • Consider creating a mixed-media page by combining drawings, paintings, and collage elements.

2. Self-Portrait

Draw or paint a self-portrait that captures your emotions, personality, or a particular moment in time.

  • Begin by observing and exploring your emotions or the specific moment you want to capture.
  • Experiment with different art styles and techniques that resonate with your personality or mood.
  • Pay attention to facial expressions, body language, and small details that reflect your unique traits.
  • Play with light and shadow to add depth and create a more realistic or dramatic effect.

3. Mood Mandala

Create a mandala and fill it with colors, shapes, and patterns that represent your current mood or emotions.

  • Choose colors, shapes, and patterns that align with your current mood or emotions.
  • Start with a central shape and work outward, gradually adding elements that represent different aspects of your mood.
  • Experiment with different line weights, shading techniques, and textures to add visual interest.
  • Consider incorporating symbols or icons that hold personal meaning or relate to specific emotions.

4. Hopes & Dream Collage

Similar to a vision board, cut out images and words from magazines to create a collage that represents your dreams, aspirations, or future goals.

  • Collect a variety of magazines or printed materials that resonate with your dreams and aspirations.
  • Cut out images, words, or phrases that symbolize your goals or represent the life you envision.
  • Arrange the cutouts on your page, experimenting with different compositions and layering techniques.
  • Enhance your collage with additional drawings or paintings to further personalize the visual representation of your dreams.

5. Mind Map

Draw a mind map to visually explore a specific topic, idea, or project.

  • Start with a central idea or theme and branch out with different subtopics or related concepts.
  • Use colors, symbols, and illustrations to visually connect and differentiate different thoughts or ideas.
  • Incorporate arrows, lines, or other visual elements to show relationships or flow between different concepts.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your mind wander and make unexpected connections as you create your mind map.

6. Emotion Exploration

One powerful journaling technique is journaling about feelings. Dedicate a page to explore and express a specific emotion.

  • Choose an emotion you want to explore and consider how it manifests in your body and mind.
  • Experiment with different color palettes, textures, and mark-making techniques to represent the chosen emotion.
  • Use images, symbols, or metaphors to visually convey the feeling and its impact on you.
  • Allow yourself to express the emotion authentically and let your intuition guide your artistic choices.

7. Favorite Quotes

Write down your favorite quotes or meaningful lyrics, and illustrate them in a way that resonates with their message.

  • Select quotes that hold personal meaning or resonate with your current thoughts and emotions.
  • Experiment with different lettering styles, typography, and layouts to visually emphasize the quotes.
  • Incorporate images or illustrations that complement the message or theme of the quotes.
  • Play with color choices, textures, or background designs to enhance the overall impact of the quote art.

8. Seasonal Delights

Create a page inspired by the current season. Use imagery, colors, and symbols associated with that season to capture its essence.

an example of an art journal sketch
  • Research the colors, symbols, and visual elements associated with the current season.
  • Incorporate these elements into your artwork, using them to evoke the mood and atmosphere of the season.
  • Experiment with different techniques and mediums to capture the essence of the season, whether it’s through painting, drawing, or mixed media.
  • Pay attention to the details and textures that define the season and incorporate them into your art journal page.

9. Mixed Media Collage

Make a collage using old photographs, ticket stubs, or mementos.

  • Gather photographs, ticket stubs, or mementos that hold sentimental value and remind you of special moments.
  • Arrange these items on your page, experimenting with different compositions and layering techniques.
  • Use drawings, paintings, or additional collage elements to complement and enhance the visual storytelling of your memories.
  • Consider adding handwritten annotations or reflections alongside the collaged elements to capture the significance of each memory.

10. Texture Exploration

Experiment with different textures and tactile elements in your art journal. Use materials like fabric, string, dried flowers, or textured papers to add dimension.

  • Try different ways to incorporate textures into your art journal, such as gluing them onto the page or using rubbings.
  • Explore techniques like layering, stitching, or embossing to add depth and dimension to your journal pages.
  • Combine textures with colors and shapes to create visually engaging and tactile art journal entries.

11. Digital Art

Digital art journaling opens up new avenues for self-expression and creative exploration. Consider incorporating various elements into your digital sketching, such as textures, patterns, or backgrounds. You can import textures or create your own using digital brushes or scanned materials.

  • Embrace digital tools and software to create artwork directly on a digital canvas or tablet.
  • Experiment with different brushes, layers, and effects to achieve the desired visual impact.
  • Combine traditional art techniques with digital enhancements, such as adding textures or incorporating scanned materials.
  • Save your digital artwork as image files or print them to include physical representations in your art journal.

12. Word Doodles

Write a word or a phrase that resonates with you and then doodle around it, turning the text into an artful design.

  • Select a word or phrase that holds personal meaning or resonates with you.
  • Experiment with different lettering styles and techniques to turn the text into an artful design.
  • Embellish the word doodle with illustrations, patterns, or decorative elements that enhance its visual impact.
  • Consider using colors, gradients, or shading techniques to make the word doodle visually dynamic and engaging.

13. Reflective Writing

Use your art journal as a space for personal daily reflections. Write about your thoughts, experiences, or challenges, and pair them with expressive illustrations.

  • Write freely and let your thoughts flow, expressing yourself authentically.
  • Pair your reflective writing with expressive illustrations or visual elements that enhance or complement the written content.
  • Consider incorporating decorative borders, frames, or hand-lettered headings to structure and enhance the overall presentation.

14. Abstract Expression

Let go of representation and explore abstract art in your journal. Use colors, shapes, lines, and textures to convey emotions or create a sense of movement.

A person experiments with art journaling abstract art
  • Experiment with different mark-making techniques, such as splattering, dripping, or gestural strokes.
  • Allow yourself to explore the spontaneous and intuitive nature of abstract expression, letting your emotions and creative impulses guide your artistic choices.
  • Rather than be confined to a small notebook or journal, create large-scale art, and then take photos for your journal.

15. Nature’s Beauty

Capture the beauty of nature by sketching flowers, trees, landscapes, or any natural elements that inspire you.

A person writes in their art journal
  • Experiment with different artistic techniques and mediums, such as watercolors, colored pencils, or ink.
  • Observe the details and textures in nature and try to replicate them in your artwork.
  • Pay attention to the colors and patterns that define the natural world and incorporate them into your journal pages.

16. Dream Journal

Create a journal entry based on a recent dream you had. Illustrate the dream’s scenes, symbols, or emotions, and write down any details you can recall.

An example of art journaling
  • Document a recent dream you had, focusing on scenes, symbols, or emotions that stood out to you.
  • Use illustrations, colors, and textures to visually represent the dream’s elements.
  • Write down any details you can recall, such as sensations or significant moments within the dream.
  • Consider incorporating handwritten annotations or reflections about the possible meanings or interpretations of the dream.

17. Digital Collage

Create collages digitally using photo-editing software or graphic design tools like Canva, Procreate, or Adobe Photoshop. Combine images, textures, and typography to compose visually striking journal pages. Upload your digital collage files to your Day One journal.

  • Experiment with different layering techniques, blending modes, and effects to create depth and visual interest.
  • Save your digital collage files as image files or print them to include physical representations in your art journal.

18. Travel Journal

Use your art journal as a visual travel journal while traveling. Combine sketches, watercolor paintings, collages, and written reflections to capture your adventures and memories.

  • Experiment with different artistic styles and techniques to convey the unique atmosphere and experiences of each location.
  • Incorporate memorabilia like ticket stubs, maps, or postcards to add a tactile and personalized touch to your travel journal.

19. Photography Journal

Capture moments and experiences through a combination of photo journaling and art journaling.

  • Print your favorite photos and incorporate them into your art journal, adding captions, annotations, or mixed media elements.
  • Experiment with photo editing techniques to enhance the visual impact of your photographs.
  • Combine photography with handwritten reflections or illustrations to create a cohesive and personal narrative in your journal.

20. Poem Reflections

Use your art journal as a space for poetry, exploring meaning or how it relates to your life. Enhance your reflections with complementary artwork or illustrations.

  • Select a poem that resonates with you or holds personal meaning.
  • Write a personal reflection about its message, impact, or how it relates to your life.
  • Enhance your reflection with complementary artwork, illustrations, or decorative elements that visually represent the themes or emotions of the poem.
  • Consider incorporating hand-lettered excerpts or meaningful quotes from the poem to emphasize its significance.

How to Use the Day One App as an Art Journal

The free Day One app is a great way to keep an art journal, allowing you to seamlessly combine visual imagery and written reflections to capture and preserve your life’s moments and stories. In this section, we’ll walk you through essential instructions and tips on how to maximize the potential of Day One as your art journaling companion. From adding photos and writing reflections to organizing your entries, we will explore the various features and tools that Day One offers to elevate your art journaling experience.

1. Download the free Day One journal app.

With the Day One app, you’ll be able to easily add photos, videos, audio, and text to your journal. Plus, all your photos and files will be protected with end-to-end encryption.

2. Create a journal for your art journal.

Once you’ve downloaded Day One, you can customize the name and description of your journal.

Day One Premium allows you to create separate journals for different topics, so consider creating a dedicated journal for your art.

  1. Open your Day One app and open the side menu.
  2. Tap the “+ New Journal” option and create your new art journal.

2. Take a photo of your artwork.

Using your smartphone or digital camera, take a photo of your artwork to add to your journal.

3. Add a photo of your artwork to your journal entry.

  1. Look for the photo icon within the entry editor. It’s usually represented by a camera or picture symbol.
  2. Tap the photo icon and select an image from your phone’s camera roll or gallery. Day One will prompt you to choose the photo you want to add to your journal entry.
A screenshot of how to get started with photo journaling

Day One Premium allows you to add unlimited photos and videos to your journal.

3. Write something about your artwork in your journal.

Complement your photo with thoughtful reflections to capture the essence of the moment. Here’s how:

  1. Within the entry editor, find a suitable place to incorporate your written reflections.
  2. Add a few sentences or paragraphs that describe the photo, evoke emotions, or delve into the significance of the art you created.

4. Explore the different journal views in Day One.

For example, Day One’s Media View is a great way to immerse yourself in your journaling journey.

  1. Locate the toolbar at the bottom of the screen and select the Media View icon, typically represented by a grid or gallery symbol.
  2. Once in the Media View, you’ll find a collection of thumbnails representing your photos and videos. Scroll through the grid to explore your visual content.
  3. Tap on any thumbnail to open the journal entry with the photo and view it in more detail.

6. Turn your art journal … into a book!

Enjoy the satisfaction of holding your art journal in your hands as a beautiful paperback or hardcover book, capturing your memories and visual storytelling in a tangible form. Day One offers a convenient book printing feature:

  1. Once you’ve completed a section of your art journal, whether it’s for a year, a month, or a specific occasion, navigate to the Settings menu.
  2. Look for the book printing option that allows you to turn your photo journal into a physical book.
  3. Follow the instructions to customize and design your book, selecting the desired time-frame, photos, and text.
  4. Preview the book and make any necessary adjustments before finalizing your order.

Wrapping Up: Using Art Journaling to Preserve Your Unique Story

We hope this collection of 20 art journal ideas has ignited your creativity and inspired you to embark on a fulfilling art journaling adventure. Whether you choose to explore gratitude, self-reflection, or abstract expression, each idea serves as a gateway to a world of storytelling and self-expression. So grab your art supplies, unleash your creativity, and dive into the transformative journey of art journaling. Let your artwork and words intertwine to create a captivating visual narrative that reflects the beauty, depth, and unique essence of your life’s journey. Happy art journaling!

Download the Day One Journal App

The Day One journaling app makes it easy to build and maintain a daily journaling habit. Daily journaling reminders, daily writing prompts, and journal streaks are designed to help keep you motivated and consistently journaling.

About the Author

Kristen Webb Wright is the author of three books on journaling. With a passion for writing and self-reflection, Kristen uses her experience with journaling to help others discover the benefits of documenting their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In her role at Day One, she helps to promote the power of journaling so people from all walks of life can experience the transformative power of journaling.

Journal from here, there, everywhere.

Download the Day One journal app for free on iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

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