Art supplies you need to start art journaling—really

I have been collecting art supplies for years, now. I can’t go into an art supplies store without picking up something—and I go crazy at flea markets looking for found papers and objects. Not to mention my own mailbox and recycling bin. Overall, I’m happy with my growing collection and I love to add to it—thoughtfully.  Playing with art supplies is part of the addiction fun of the art-making journey.

When you first start art journaling, though, it’s hard to know the difference between what you need—and what you really don’t. Generally, people think they need far more art supplies than they actually do, especially when they're first starting out. So I thought I would put together a beginner's list of supplies.

You will see that I rarely recommend specific products or quality grades. I just list the basic whats that I think every art journaler would need. Beginning and experienced art journalers will have different preferences, and you'll learn more about which products and brands are right for you later. As a rule of thumb I'd recommend that you start with less expensive supplies and then trade up as you gain experience and knowledge.

Beginner's Art Supply List

While the art supply store is bursting with supplies, you need just a few items from each of the following categories:

  • An Art Journal
  • Tools for your art journaling toolbox
  • Color mediums
  • Two other essential mediums
  • Adhesives
  • Mark-making implements
  • Papers

You also need (and deserve):

  • A dedicated space to keep your art supplies in one place. This can be a tub or tray by your couch or dining room table—or, ideally, some shelves and your own art table.

And here is your shopping list

Don't forget to "shop" in your own home, first!

An Art Journal

You have A LOT of options for what kind of art journal to use, and your choices will come down to personal preference.  Later, you may want different kinds of paper and larger or smaller pages, but this journal will hold up under water-based materials and the size is a great place to start experimenting:

→ Art journal made for mixed media, not too small or too large to start, somewhere in the 6X8 — 8X10 range.

Essential Tools for your art journaling toolbox

Every art journaler needs basic art making tools. You’ll find that you probably have most if not all of the tools on this list in your home already. Gather and keep them in your art journaling space:

→ Scissors → Ruler – metal if possible → Old credit hard/hotel key card/gift cards → A few inexpensive paint brushes, various kinds → Plastic palette (recycle plastic lids work great) → Water jar (recycled container) → Old towel → Hairdryer → Pencil sharpener → Paper towel roll → Baby wipes


Color comes in so many options! You’ll probably add to this category the fastest, especially as you learn which colors and color mediums (watercolor? acrylic? oil? pastel?) make you swoon. Color does that. But again, I strongly suggest that beginners start with the following inexpensive (lesser quality) options. You’ll know when you want and need better quality items—and it’s always good to have these basics on hand, even when you upgrade:

→ Craft acrylic paints in several shades of all six colors on the color wheel plus black and white.

→ Crayons

→ Basic set of watercolors (not super cheap, children’s watercolor, but not the expensive stuff, either, to start).

Two essential mediums

You'll probably hear a lot about these paint-enhancing mediums as you start art journaling. The first acts like a primer, which is often necessary to protect your page or add layers, and the second extends your paint to dry more slowly or thin out the color, kind of like what water would do, but it doesn't have the drawbacks of water. Warning – they are not inexpensive, but, these mediums are essential:

→ White Gesso (Golden or Liquitex recommended)

→ Soft Gel (Golden or Liquitex recommended)


To stick stuff down into your art journal, of course! I would recommend choosing one liquidy glue like adhesive and a glue stick (like) adhesive:

→ Matte Medium or Modpodge or white glue.

→ Gluestick or Adhesive tape with dispenser

Mark-making tools:

First, pens, pencils and markers. There are so many writing instruments on the market, and it’s an education in itself to know how they all perform. But to begin, make sure you have on hand the following:

→ Waterproof black pen(s)

→ White pen(s)

→ Colored pens and/or pencils and/or markers (start with a few, only).

Second, mark-makers. Art journalers often end up loving stamps and/or stencils—and there are so many on the market. However, for the beginning art journaler, don't buy any yet! There's so much fun to be had in making marks with objects you find around the house. Think the ends of pencil erasers or bottle tops or sponges or leftover plastic packaging from all kinds of products...there is no limit of possibilities right in your own home!

→ Recycled/Re-used mark-making tools


Different kinds of papers are essential to collaging in your art journal. Believe me, you’ll grow this collection, but begin with:

→ Old magazines

→ Tissue papers (recycled gift packages)

→ Old book(s) with lots of aged text pages

→ Found papers – start looking around and gather what appeals to you, from packaging, the mail, gift wrap, and of course any pretty papers you might own such as scrapbooking papers.


And that, my friends, is the complete Beginner's Art Supply List. Undoubtedly, you will quickly start adding to your collection as you experiment, learn and grow. But if you want to start art journaling, this is where to start.

Happy Arting!