10 Handmade Art Journals You’ll Want to Make
Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
Handmade art journals inspire me. They offer so much creative control and choice. You can determine the shape, size, and density of your art journal, and whether, and how, it is bound. You may use traditional bookbinding methods, or recycle materials such as old books or your own art. I hope this post will inspire you to try a number of these techniques. Let’s start by looking at one of my favorite handmade journals.
“Waiting” is a book I made many years ago, when I was waiting for someone who never really took the place in my life I was hoping for. (Does that sound familiar?) I love this book because with the combination of magazine cut outs, my own photos, special papers, and a few words, I really feel it captures my longing, misplaced hope, and disappointment. Handmade books and art journals are an amazing way to express your feelings.
For the base of the pages, I cut rectangles from a cardboard shipping box. I then layered a variety of tissue papers, handmade papers, and a thin sheet of bark “paper” I found at the art store. It has an incredible smell, giving the book another sensory dimension. Its texture is rough and yet smooth, and I love how the images and the bark play so well together, both in theme and color.
The other element that is special about this book is that I left it unbound. It’s a great metaphor for what happened (and didn’t) in the relationship. I like that the beautiful ribbon is what holds all the pages together.
Handmade Journal Tutorials
1. Unbound Handmade Journal: An unbound journal, like the one pictured above, is unique. You can tie it with a ribbon or string, house it in a box, a shell, or any container. You can see beautiful examples of books contained in Altoids tins, seashells, and buttons (yes!) on my Pinterest board, Hand Made Books.
2. Booklet: For a simple paper bound book, here’s a nice little infographic on binding a booklet.
3. Lunch Bag Journal: Lunch bags and grocery bags are inexpensive (or free) and make a fun foundation for handmade journals. My lunch bag tutorial appears at the very bottom of the Art Tutorials page. The House that Lars Built, a fun, artsy DIY blog has a 5 – minute tutorial on making a journal from computer paper and paper grocery bags.
Judy Wise, a talented paper artist, takes the paper bag journal a step further by wetting and drying her pages, you’ll see the gorgeous transformation. You could do this too! What would you do with yours?
4. Coffee Sleeve Journal: Coffee sleeves are another wonderful candidate for repurposing cardboard. Check out this post I did on making mini-art journals with coffee sleeves and a single sheet of computer paper.
5. Index Card Journal: Another fun and very easy way to make a journal is using index cards. I show you how in this tutorial.
6. Accordion Journals: Accordion journals are a relatively simple form of handmade journal that you can make as complex as you wish. You can incorporate holes for a tunnel journal, or drop down doors, or pockets – the possibilities are endless! I teach how to make accordion journals and these gorgeous little paintings in my class, Fluid Art. Click here to learn more.
7. Bind It All Journal: Alisa Burke never fails to instruct and inspire me. She has a wonderful post on making your own handmade journals with no sewing, using a gizmo called a “Bind-it-all.”
8. Custom, Hand Sewn Book with Signatures: To make a traditional, hard-bound book, James Darrow’s detailed and user- friendly tutorial on bookbinding is a must.
9. Hand Sewn Free Form Book: Watch this super inspiring video about New Zealand book artist, Liz Constable – you will LOVE her creations. I got tons of ideas about techniques to try in my journal making.
10. Journal Quilt: For folks who like fabric, thread, and sewing, you will want to soak in these “journal quilts” from The Dyers Hand. You’ll be moved by the art, but even more so when you read how these gorgeous pieces helped her heal from the death of her husband.
11. Junk Journal: “Junk journals” are a great way to use bits of old art pieces, beautiful papers, and magazine photo collages. This is a new handmade art journal, and I’m super excited about it because it brings together several pieces that never found a home. For this one, I used my sewing machine to stitch disparate bits of collage, paper, pretty cloth, and old drawings into “pages,” which I then sewed to the back cover of my book.
[bctt tweet=”How can paper, cloth, string, and images make such magic in an art journal?”]
I am rather obsessed with beautiful paper and fabric. Are you? I love when they are so high quality that it’s hard to tell which it is. For example, the gorgeous red paper featured on this journal cover looks almost like leather to me. I think I had coated it with gel medium to harden it years ago when I first worked with the image. Paper Source Sale” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>The Paper Source* or my local art store are where I usually indulge in handmade and high quality printed papers. Do you have a paper addiction?
You can follow me on Pinterest for even more handmade art journal inspiration.
My Favorite Store Bought Journal Right Now
Of course if you are feeling more inspired by the idea of making the art than making the journals, you can buy a journal at your local art and craft store or online art store. My current favorite journal is this one from
I love the tan pages – everything automatically feels more rich and “artsy” on them.
What are you in love with creatively right now? What are your favorite ways of putting handmade journals together? Have I missed any wonderful handmade art journal techniques that should be featured? Be sure to let me know in the comments.
*Links with an with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you choose to click and purchase something, I will receive a small commission, while you pay the same price. Please know that I only link things that I really love. Thank you for your support!
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thank you so much for sharing this!!!! Lots to learn and I have subscribed 🙂
Welcome to Mindful Art Studio! I’m tickled to have you here. It’s always wonderful to have new folks join our homey little group. I really enjoyed perusing your site and seeing all the wonderful journal pages you are working on. I can’t wait to see what you come up with based on these tutorials. I also noticed that you like making stamps? You are invited to join me tomorrow for a lunchtime stamp making workshop. You can RSVP here, and whether you are available at 12 pm EST time tomorrow or not, you can view the link in the future. Make Your Own Beautiful Stamps
Super inspiring! I love junk journals so much! I even have a post showing how I did mine on the blog!!!
Junk journals are tons of fun – so glad you enjoyed the post! Cheers! Amy
Thanks for all the links to so many more inspiring artists! Your post has just the right balance of words, pictures and references!
HI Lauren: Thanks so much for being here and I’m thrilled you find these artists inspiring too.
I volunteer once a month at an assisted living facility. I teach arts and crafts. I have been looking for something to give them to do when I’m not there. This will be an opportunity for them to continue their creativity.
I will supply all the materials, give them the project to complete in their journal by our next meeting. At that time they can share. Building relationships with others and helping them to express themselves in different ways. Thank you so much! Sharon
How lovely that you are sharing creativity with others. It’s a beautiful way to connect, indeed.
What a wonderful service you are providing to these senior citizens!
Thanks for sharing all these ideas and the links. Looking after an idea to bind my botanical pages, I discovered “Secret Belgian bookbinding”. Easy to make and the result is fabulous.
Hope you ‘ll be happy to read this.
Hey Nel! Ooh that sounds amazing I’ll have to check it out! Xo Amy
Hi Amy! This is a great list of journal binding ideas – definitely will have to explore a couple of these today!
Have you seen what I call the “elusive perfect no-sew journal binding” tutorial?
I have a video of how I make them here:
It’s super easy and fun to make – you can use it with old scrap papers to make a junk journal, or you can of course use watercolor paper or blank cardstock.
Sort of like a Midori style notebook, but you can customize it anyway you like! It’s a great journal to make with a group of friends or at a workshop also.
It always amazes me how many different ways there are to make a journal! Thank you for writing this post sharing some new ideas and new artists to explore today!
This is wonderful Chelle! Thanks so much for sharing it here, another great option! XO Amy
I am always in awe of people who can put their thoughts, and more to the point, their feelings on paper. I am very shy about what I put out for someone to see and read. I wonder how I can get past that.
I totally understand being uncomfortable about revealing too much in a journal. What if someone found it now or after I’m gone? So I write a bit cryptically or I cover it with paint. It’s super helpful to be so confident no one will see it. I find I say what I really really mean, even if it feels like something I “shouldn’t” say or feel.
I hope that helps in some way.
Hi, was #11 supposed to have a link?
Thanks for the great post !
Yay, I’m so happy this speaks to you! No, the junk journal, I provided my own example in the pics. There are some great resources out there if you search though.
All the best,
For the junk journal, how do you stick the “junk” together?
Thanks for this post!
HI Claire – I love using gel medium from liquitex or YES paste for that. Both found at most art stores. XO Happy Playing!
I so love your art. It is a true inspiration. The techniques are simple and practical. I love the idea on wetting the paper bag. I also like the idea of not binding the pages. That can bring the book to a whole new level. I have to try that neat trick. Thank you so much for the info. Be blessed.
Aw, Carolyn, I’m so pleased that these techniques speak to you! I share lots of similar inspiration every week if you’d like to join in to our Slow Drawing Sessions