Monday, October 20, 2014

Favourite Supplies for Art Journaling

I've been keeping some form of art journal for nearly six years now, and a sketchbook for over five years.  I've tried quite a few different supplies over that time: some worked, some didn't, and some I loved but didn't actually use very often.  But I keep going back to the same few basics again and again.  Whether I call it an art journal, visual journal, or sketchbook, these are my essential supplies.
Left to right: Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen, Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencils, Pentel Aquash waterbrush, Uni-ball Signo Broad white gel pen, paper scraps, UHU Stic glue stick, scissors.

  • A fine black permanent felt-tip pen - This is by far the most important item on this list.  I use this for sketching, writing, doodling, or adding details to a collage.  And because it's permanent, I can use watercolours over it.  My favourite pen in this category is the fine Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen (which is also light-fast and acid-free, and relatively comfortable to hold), but many other good options are available, such as the Sakura Pigma Micron or even the Sharpie Pen.
  • Watercolour pencils - I used to use acrylic paints a lot in my art journals, but now I've mostly moved away from them and use watercolours more often.  Watercolour pencils are my favourite way to use watercolours; they're such an easy and convenient way to add a bit colour to a sketchbook page.  Although I'm still very much an amateur, this post describes how I use my watercolour pencils.  (And based on how much I've worn down the pencils, the three colours pictured here - dark green, light green, and light blue - are the colours I use most often.)
  • Waterbrush - This is the perfect complement to watercolour pencils, as it eliminates the need to carry water.  It's also very easy to use.  My waterbrush is the Pentel Aquash, but it's getting a bit worn out so I think I'll give a different brand a try next time.
  • Paper scraps - This year's collage-a-week project has taught me that I still really love collage.  This is a good thing, because my collection of paper scraps is extensive and includes magazine cut-outs, old greeting cards, wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, origami paper, graph paper, old maps, and anything else I can find.  I love all papers, and I love combining them together to create something new.
  • Scissors - Essential for cutting and trimming above-mentioned paper scraps.  My scissors are not any particular brand, but I've owned them for just about forever.  In addition to scissors, I also love my paper trimmer (similar to this one); if I need to cut a lot of papers to size this is much faster and easier than scissors.  I've used my trimmer for years and I haven't needed to replace the blade yet.
  • Glue stick - Another collage essential.  My favourite glue stick is the UHU Stic, which I can find just about anywhere.  It goes on smoothly and is acid-free - just be sure to apply a nice thick layer to ensure that your paper will stick (focus on the edges and corners), and have a piece of scrap paper covering your workspace so your desk doesn't end up all gluey.  If you're gluing heavier-weight papers or painting over your glued-down papers, you probably need a stronger glue, but UHU works for me most of the time.  (And I find it rather amusing that this is the very same glue I used way back in kindergarten!)
  • White gel pen - For doodling and writing over dark backgrounds, and adding white highlights to watercolour sketches.  The best white gel pen I have found is the Uni-ball Signo Broad (or UM-153), which writes smoothly with a thick, opaque white line.  (Although, as I found out the hard way, it will dry up if you don't use it often enough.)

I love how most of my favourite supplies are very basic, inexpensive, and easy to find.  And all of them can fit easily into a pen case to form a simple travel art kit.  As I said in my post on my favourite supplies for writing, the tools you use ultimately don't matter.  What matters is the art you create with them.

If you keep an art journal or sketchbook, what are your favourite supplies?


  1. I love this post! I am starting an art journal because I feel much more centered if I spend a bit of time each day drawing something. Being brand new at this, it's great to see what tools other people use. :)
    Any tips for someone just starting out and not sure if she can keep it up every day?


    1. Thanks for the comment, Jenny! If you're starting out, I'd suggest to start small. Pick a time of the day and use that time to work in your journal for a few minutes. Don't worry about completing an entire page or anything like that. It's the practice that's important here. As the habit becomes established, you can increase the time.

      But that said, you don't need to work in your journal every day. It's totally okay to miss a day, a week, or even a month. I'm a very erratic journal-keeper (my current journal has lasted for years!) and I'm happy with that.

  2. Most of your essentials are in my basic kit, too! When you shop for your next waterbrush, try a Kuretake (also branded as Niji). I find it a lot easier to control the water flow than the Pentel.


    1. Thanks for that recommendation, Tina. I'll be adding a Kuretake waterbrush to my next JetPens order.


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