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.
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