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Which art journal ideas for creatives are best?

An art journal is an excellent way to keep up your inspiration and creativity levels, even when not working on a larger or more defined project. This kind of journal can take on any form you want — you might sketch notable events or objects from your day, make notes about something that’s inspired you, work on techniques or paint small pictures. 

While this level of freedom is great, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed, with no idea where to start. Being given some art journal ideas can help creatives consolidate ideas and provide a starting point for further exploration.

Create a self-portrait

A self-portrait is a great way to “introduce” yourself if you’ve just started your art journal. You can create anything — from a hyper-realistic painting to an anime-style drawing to a mixed-media collage — to represent yourself. Not everyone likes to make self-portraits, but it’s a great way to look inside and think about how you view yourself, whether in a literal or figurative way. 

Combine drawing and writing

Unlike a conventional journal, an art journal doesn’t need to contain words, but some people like to use words in their art journaling. You can find many ways of doing this, such as creating journal entries about your day and illustrating them, exploring past events, writing about your feelings or internal experiences, or even writing poems or short pieces of prose with drawings to go with them. 

Think about your favorite place

Use a favorite place as a jumping-off point for an entry into your art journal. It could be a favorite city that you’ve visited, your childhood home, your favorite street or a more general favorite type of place, such as the beach or the forest. You can take this prompt in a literal way and draw or paint your favorite place, or you might think about how your favorite place makes you feel and create a piece based on this. You could also choose to combine a short piece of writing about your favorite place with some visual art.

Diarize your day

If you want to take a more literal approach to journaling in your art journal, you can use it to draw things or people you encounter during your day. Take it out and about with you and make quick sketches of people who you see on your morning commute, what you ate for lunch, your colleagues or interesting plants, animals or buildings. If you’re into comic book art or graphic novels, you might choose to make a comic strip diary of your day in your art journal.

Try single-line drawing

Sometimes giving yourself strict parameters can increase creativity. Try dedicating a page in your art journal to single-line drawings — that is, drawings that you create without ever taking your pen or pencil off the page. You can choose to make a random shape, or try to depict a person or object with just a single line. It’s also a great technique for anyone with minimal art supplies, because all you need is your pad and a simple pencil or pen

Do a speed sketch

Forcing yourself to sketch quickly can make you think about what’s important about your subject: which details are completely necessary to make it clear what you’re drawing, and which can be left out. Concentrating on making your art as technically perfect as possible can sometimes stifle your creativity because you’ll focus on making pieces of art that you know you can excel at and won’t take risks. A speed sketch, on the other hand, isn’t expected to be perfect, freeing you up to explore. 

Make a collage

Don’t feel like putting pen to paper or getting your paints out? Try a collage. All you need is a pair of scissors, a glue stick and a magazine or something else you can cut up. A collage can act as inspiration for a painting or drawing, or it can be a complete work of art in its own right. 

Use poems, lyrics or quotes

If you’re looking for inspiration, delve into the world of poetry or lyrics. Write down a line or two of a song lyric or poem that you love and create art to go with it, whether a literal take on the words or a conceptual piece. Quotes can also work if there aren’t any poems or lyrics you want to explore.

Try different mediums

An art journal is a great place to experiment with using different artistic media that you might not be completely comfortable with yet. If you usually use acrylic paints, for instance, you could try using watercolors in your art journal. For more information on this particular medium, take a look at the full guide to watercolor paint sets at BestReviews. 

What you need to buy for an art journal

Bachmore Premium Mixed Media Pad

Bachmore Premium Mixed Media Pad

If you want to start an art journal, you’ll need a pad to draw, paint or write in. This mixed media pad is perfect because it’s heavy enough for wet media, such as watercolors, but also performs brilliantly for simple sketching and note-taking. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Artist Pencils

Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Artist Pencils

If sketching is your forte, this collection of artist pencils is ideal for drawing in your art journal. As well as standard graphite pencils, it includes a standard charcoal pencil, white charcoal pencil, sepia pencil and Pierre Noire pencil. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are great for art journals because they’re easy to work with and don’t bleed through the page, even if you work on a pad without heavy paper. These soft-core colored pencils have excellent coverage and they blend and shade beautifully.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Arteza Watercolor Paint Set

Arteza Watercolor Paint Set

These mid-range watercolors are great for use in art journals if you want to save your most expensive paints for bigger pieces. You get 36 shades in this set, along with a palette for mixing and a water brush pen.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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