So you want to start art journaling but don’t know how. First of all: you should just start with whatever you having lying around. Waiting until you have the perfect setup and the perfect supplies is just a form of procrastination. 🙂
That said, I understand you might want some guidance in the art supplies store. Here are my 10 most-used supplies. Obviously this is based on my preferences and working style but many people use these so I don’t think I’m steering you wrong in using this as a starting point. 🙂 In no particular order:
For art journaling you will want a journal with heavier paper. Most journals or notebooks intended for writing are filled with lighter paper that will often bleed through, buckle, or just fall apart when covered in paint, glue, etc. Many stores have sketchbooks or journals specifically designated as “mixed media” which are good options. I would say 90lb paper is the absolute minimum but I prefer to use water color paper which is usually around 140lb. I make my own journals and fill them with heavier water color paper.
Pencils! Great for sketchin’! Just good to have around! I would just get a basic pencil pack with a range of pencil hardness so you can see what you like. Although I usually use pencils under the paint (e.g., planning out the page), they will also make marks more easily on top of dried paint than pens. Pens, as you will discover, tend to gum up. There are certainly pens out there that work on top of paint but I don’t know what those are (at this time. TBD :)).
I get the cheap craft paints. No particular brand, just whatever colors look good to me. I have experimented with more expensive acrylics but honestly the cheapies work really well for me.¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Your basic ol’ glue sticks are great for putting down collage elements. I also love Aleene’s Tacky Glue which is robust enough for most collage elements (including things like fabric or plastic); I also use it for bookmaking.
Gesso is used to prime surfaces for painting. You usually see it in white but it comes in black as well (I’ve even seen some clear ones). This comes in handy for prepping surfaces that may not be great for painting—for example, if you are journaling in a printed book (there is a lot of overlap between the art journal and altered book communities, as you can imagine), gesso can reinforce the page a bit. It’s also a good way to cover mistakes or entire previous spreads that you just don’t care for.
I usually just get the 101 brush variety pack (that I’m pretty sure is intended for children?). I will say that cheap brushes tend to fray more quickly and you will end up with random hairs sticking out that will ruin your lines. If you find a style/size of brush you really like, it could be worth it to upgrade to a more expensive version that will stay nicer longer. But, for basic journaling, I think basic brushes are fine.
I also really like those lil’ foam brushes just for getting color (or glue) down.
I have a little spray bottle filled with water that I use to thin paints after they have been applied to the page—this helps me create layered and blending effects. It also helps me wipe away a mistake if I get to it fast enough. 😉
This is a printmaking tool but I just love this thing. It’s a quick way to get color on the page and comes in handy for other random things, like if you gluing something down or trying to stamp something and need to apply consistent pressure.
Gel Medium (Matte)
Gel medium is kind of adhesive-y, but also is intended to mix with paint? In trying to write this I realized I don’t actually know what gel medium really is, only how I use it. So I internet-ed it:
Gel Medium is essentially a binder without pigment. Without getting too technical, it was initially an acrylic substance used to build texture in paintings by mixing with acrylic paint. It increases the paint’s transparency and dries clear without diminishing its consistency or adhesive properties. It is intermixable with all types of acrylic paints. It is lightfast, water-based, flexible, and permanent.The Graphics Fairy
There are 1001 kinds of gel medium; I prefer the kind that dries matte. I tend to use it to build layers and I like the sort of dreamy layering effect the matte gel has.
These are just nice to have around for applying thin layers of glue, paint, etc. Obviously can also be used for mixing paint colors.