Making Your own Handmade Art Journal

This article was written by Michelle G. Brown

Through my journey into mixed media there have been times where I have been brave and other times when I need to urge myself to put pen, or paint, to paper! I hate the feeling of potentially “ruining” a substrate or “wasting” some material that I have bought.

To help me overcome this creative worry, I have turned to using reasonable priced materials to help minimise the fear of ruining or wasting away. Making my own art journal was a perfect way to help with my creativity – I can always make another art journal if I “ruin” this one! I love the freedom this mindset gives me; it takes away the worry and lets me jump, head first, into creative play.

So today I want to share my technique for creating a handmade art journal with you.

watercolor paper art journal

Handmade Art Journal

Gather materials

  • A3 watercolour sheets – a total of 12
  • Awl
  • Waxed string
  • Fabric or duct tage
  • Masking tape or Dina Wakely Mixed media tape
  • Upholstery needle (optional)

Technique to make Art Journal Signatures

1. Fold A3 pages in half, to A4 size. Crease fold firmly. Separate into 3 signatures with 4 folded pages in each.
Set 2 signatures aside and work on one.

Art Journal singatures

2. Taking one signature, open to middle role and mark locations for binding holes.
Here I centre the ruler on the page, with 2mm out either end then I have marked in the middle at 15cm, the top and bottom holes (at 2cm and 28cm) and then between the other holes (at 8.5cm and 21.5cm)

holes for art journal pamphlet binding

3. Using the awl, stand the signature up to help make sure the holes go through the centre of each page. Gently much awl through each marked spot to make 5 holes. Make sure you push the awl into a cutting mat or appropriate surface.

awl for handmade book binding

Art Journal 5-Hole Pamphlet Binding

Now we are ready for the binding. This is called pamphlet binding and can be done with 3 or 5 holes; I prefer 5 here as the journal is large. to cut your binding string to length, use the signature as a guide, and cut the binding string 3 times the length of the spine.

handmade journal binding string length

1. From the centre of the signature, thread the string through the middle hole, from inside to out. Pull through and leave a tale of about 10cm.

start of binding

2. From the outside thread the string in the next hole down. Pull firm.

art journal binding

3. On the inside thread the spring through the bottom hole.

handmade book pamphlet binding

4. From the outside, thread the string in the next hole up, through the same hole that we have already threaded the string through. This can be a bit tricky. Use the awl to enlarge the hole if needed.

step by step binding

5. On the inside, run the thread up the middle, past the centre hole and into the next hole.

continue binding with waxed string

6. From the outside, thread the string from the second top hole and in through the top hole.

handmade journal

7. Thread the string back through the second top hole from the inside to out.

almost there with binding

8. And finally, thread the string through the middle hole, from outside to in.

final step for handmade  book binding

9. Check the tension of the string. We want it firm but not pulling on the holes.

handmade binding tension

Adjust the string so the ends are even by pulling it through the holes and checking the tension.

even ends for handmade pamphlet binding

10. To finish the binding off, have the two ends either side of the thread and tie off with a reef knot (right over left and left over right)

reef knot to finish binding

11. To tidy up the ends thread one end through the top stitches and the other end through the bottom.
tidy ends of handmade pamphlet binding

12. Cut ends of the binding string if they are too long and poke out past then edge of the page.

cut ends with scissors

13. Now this signature is complete. Repeat with the other two signatures.

3 signature art journal

Binding the Signatures Together

Now that we have three completed signatures, each with 4 sheets of paper, we can now bind the three signatures together into one art journal.

1. Use bulldog clips to hold the three signatures together.
hold signatures together

2. Cut a strip of tape 15mm wide and tread under the string and, pressing the signatures together, stick the ends down onto the covers of the journal. If the binding is tight, use the awl to guide the tape under it.
use awl to help bind signatures

art journal binding signatures

3. Repeat three times so there are 4 pieces of tape holding the signatures together.

tape to joing signatures together

4. Use a ruler and post it notes to mark a line and make it easier to align the tape. This will keep the tape straight on the front cover.

align binding tape to cover

5. Run a piece of tape the full length of the art journal, using the post it notes as a guide. Cut to length.

front cover ot journal binding

6. Place the journal front down and wrap the tape around the spine and onto the back cover, keeping it firm.

tape binding

7. To finish binding the art journal, use the masking tape or Dina Wakely tape to tape the spine between two signatures. This makes the binding firmer and makes it easier to decorate with the spine sealed. Repeat with the second the third signatures as well.

use Dina wakely tape

tape spine between signatures

tape signatures with tape

8. You may also want to tape the centre of each signature to secure the binding string.

final steps for art journal

Your art journal is finished and ready to decorate.

watercolor paper art journal

Happy creating,


Journaling on the Quick


This article is written by Debbie Davis

I like to keep a number of painted backgrounds at the ready in my journal books for when I don’t have a lot of time but am feeling the need to journal.  One of my favorite journals is a vintage ledger binder that I picked up from an antique store.  The ledger pages had never been used.  I sometimes keep a few of the pages handy when I’m working on other projects and use any leftover paint on them to create a background.

I had just returned from a beach vacation and was starting to think about all that needed to be done at home and work, but what I really wanted to do was journal.  I didn’t do any art or journaling on the trip and was really missing it.  Since I didn’t have much time, I used a previously created background.

Journaling Image

This background was made by randomly scraping pink, yellow and blue/green paints that had been loosely mixed with some white fluid acrylic paint onto the ledger journal page using an old store card.  The colors were so calming and reminded me of the beach.  I then remembered a vintage photo that I had been wanting to use in my journal for a long time.

Journaling Image

I copied and pasted the photo into a Word document and resized it so that it would fit on the journal page.  I printed, cut out and collaged the photo, along with two little beach cabanas that I had cut out of scrapbook paper, onto the page.  I outlined the photo and cabanas with a Stabilo pencil and lightly went over the pencil with a wet brush.

Journaling Image

Next I wrote some words onto the page with the Stabilo pencil.  The black penciled words were standing out more than I wanted so I took a white gel pen and scribbled over the words to tone them down a bit and give them a washed out look.  This page was so quick and easy, yet I still felt that sense of contentment that I usually feel after getting in some artful playtime.


Debbie Davis is a mixed media artist living in Morton, Illinois.   She finds creating art to be a wonderful stress reliever and plays in the paint and other mixed media mediums every chance she gets.

You can find more of Debbie’s art and techniques by visiting her In Art Therapy blog at




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Life is Ours – Mixed Media Art Journal

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This article is written by Terri Sproul

Art journals are a place to let yourself free.  There are no wrong or right way to play in your journals, so just sit down and have fun.  Playing with lots of medium made your experience even more fun, so step out of your box and purchase something new.

Alternative text: video of art journaling by Terri Sproul

Have fun with Details, Color and Texture to complete a fun experience and Art journal page

video of art journaling by Terri Sproul

Product that were used in this Art Journal page are listed below.


Products used in this Art Journal page:

CottonWood Art Journal

Silk Acrylic Glaze from ColourArte:  Guatemalan Green and Autumn Leaf

Stamps:  SinCity Stamps, and Verses Rubber Stamps

Stencil:  Unknown

Golden:  Regular Gel Matte, Light Molding Paste


India Ink

Faber-Castell – Pitt Pens Black

FineLine Applicator

Paint Brushes, Baby Wipes

video of art journaling by Terri Sproul

video of art journaling by Terri Sproul


Terri Sproul is a CHA designer and a Mixed Media Artist with her own line of stamps with SinCity Stamps and own paint line with Sakura Hobby Crafts.  She and her husband have the pleasure of living on Palomar Mountain in San Diego County in California.  She present host a live show about Art Journals on Tuesday night, find all that info at her Facebook group “All things Terri Sproul”

Find more of her video at and her blog:




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Art Journal Jumps

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This article is written by Vicki Ross

What is a Journal Jumpp? A Vicki-ism for a starter journal. A journal I’ve started for you. A jump-start.

All artists have a stash of untouched journals of all sizes…some designed for writing, some for painting, spiral bound, moleskin, etc. Always on the lookout for deals, we get them gifted, and somehow most of them are never touched. Saved for a rainy day.

WELL, that is changing! If I destroy a book, whether an altered old big book, or a new cheap composition book, and it has distressed pages and a color/image theme, you won’t feel so timid about ‘ruining’ it! I already did!

This is an altered composition book. It is based around a datebook I designed a long time ago that featured Ran-DEE’s photos from Giverny. I also included on the cover a painting I did at home after the trip, a pastel. The photo of the painting is mounted on an image of an antique map of France. The spine is a piece of linen canvas, actually has some oil paint from a studio session I did while in France.

mixed media art journal

Supplies for your Art Journal Jump:

  1. Composition book
  2. Mat Medium or Glue Stick
  3. Gesso
  4. Acrylic paint for tinting the gesso
  5. Modeling paste
  6. Gloss Varnish
  7. Washi Tape
  8. Stamps, Stamp pads
  9. Stencils
  10. Various fibers, beads, other found objects

mixed media art journal with these steps

Step 1: Start with a blank composition book ($1.00). They have around 100 pages and a sturdy cardboard cover. Open it to the center and make sure it is stitched, not glued. Glued bindings will not hold up to the stress of our abuse.

mixed media art journal with these steps

mixed media art journal with these steps

Step 2: These have around 100 pages, and you want to remove about 1/3 of them evenly throughout. Tear with straight edge, and glue the facing pages (on either side of the removed pages) together for thicker pages. Group several together to hold up to embellishments, cardboard, collage, etc. Place something heavy on top of book and let dry overnight. I used a mat medium gel, although cheap glue sticks work too.

Step 3: I mixed up gesso with an acrylic color that closely matched the inside pages of the datebook, and with a 2″ sponge brush, painted every page. The lines show through some because it dries translucent. It dries fairly quickly, and I hurried it along with a heat gun. Place waxed paper between each page and repeat! Heavy weight again, overnight.

Step 4: It is best to wait until the pages are completely dry! No dampness at all. Of course, I couldn’t wait to continue. I folded some pages  at the corners and glued together to make pockets. If any of your pages are stuck, gently pull them apart. If a mark or tear occurs, cover it up or tear it out!

mixed media art journal with these steps

mixed media art journal with these steps

mixed media art journal with these steps

Step 5: I distressed the edges of every page using a Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pad, Walnut. Anything will work, just keep it rough.

Step 6: If any pages looked weak (in the binding area) after all the gesso and glue, I took a piece of deli paper, wash tape, or print masking tape (Scotch brand) and glued in the crease. MAKE SURE TO USE WAXED PAPER EVERY TIME YOU CLOSE A PAGE.

Step 7: Decorate! I used laser images printed from the original book, and decorated them with scraps of tape or printed deli paper. Deli paper prints cut in strips does great for edge trim.

mixed media art journal with these steps

mixed media art journal with these steps

mixed media art journal with these steps

Step 8: I added “tip-ins” as you can see in the image above. Assorted pieces of acetate and note papers, ragged edges and odd sizes. These are glued or taped into the spine.

mixed media art journal with these steps

mixed media art journal with these steps

Step 9: I used a stencil pattern cut out of light card stock with my Cricut Explore, and modeling paste.  (image 1 below) Let it set up a few minutes, then remove the stencil. After it dries, rub over it with an ink pad to bring up the texture. Image two on the left page is an envelope made from one of the photos. Image three below shows a dried baby wipe I had used the day before as a clean-up. The colors were random, but same used throughout. Some pages torn from a French Dictionary added some text and visual interest.

mixed media art journal with these steps

mixed media art journal with these steps

mixed media art journal with these steps

Step 10: Glue die-cut paper scraps to some edges. As long as you stay in the theme colors (mostly), stamp, write, distress to your heart’s content.

I left at least half the pages empty for someone else to fill.

Step 11: Covers. I left these ‘til last so I didn’t have to worry about keeping them clean. First, I took some threads double the length of the book. I tied assorted beads to one end, about 5″. Make sure knots are tight…can add some glue for additional hold.

Leaving about a 3″ tail at the bottom, I glue this to the OUTSIDE of the spine. This makes a bookmark, so make sure the length extends so the beads fall outside the book at the bottom after wrapping through book.

I found a partial piece of painted linen canvas that I started an underpainting while in France. Not important, but I know where it came from 🙂 it was in the color palette of greens and oranges. Cut 2.5″ wide and extending 3″ beyond each end. Glue generously, wrap around spine and weight to dry overnight. DON’T peek. It has to cure.

In the meantime, I prepared a digital collage with antique map of France and one of my paintings from Giverny. This was laser printed, cut in half, and glued to each cover. I had 3/4″ overhang. Fold in the excess to the inside, and glue.

I cut the linen where it would fold inside the cover, but clear the pages, folded it in and glued, leaving the center piece of linen free.

For the inside covers, I use laser prints of two watercolors painted on location in Giverney…one of mine, and one of Ran-DEEs.

mixed media art journal with these steps

mixed media art journal with these steps

As I keep going, I see a few places that need to be touched up. Stamps, stencils, or pieces of paper will cover any objectionable marks.

I tied a few beads to the bottom strings of the bookmark, and trimmed the linen at each end about 1/2″ from the book. I figured this added a bit of protection.

A final coat of acrylic varnish (Liquitex Gloss Medium & Varnish) and this puppy is ready for someone else to finish!

Let me know what you think!

All images © V.N.Ross


Vicki Ross is focused on sharing her journey to art and how life events can shape us through creativity. Vicki has always been involved deeply in the creative arts, from professional soft crafts publications (knitting/crochet/needlework) to French Hand-sewing, stenciling to macramé, oil painting to encaustics. Whatever your leaning, she believes in the healing power of creating.

You can see more of Vicki’s work at VickiRossArt or via blog posts at Axully – Solid. Useful. Beautiful




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