Art Journal Theme Ideas & Inspiration

art-journal-theme-ideasToday I was cutting up magazines and books with wild abandon – one of my very favorite things to do – and I came across so many great words and phrases and photos and more! It’s always inspiring for me 🙂

And while I was sorting through my cut-outs, I started to categorize them by things that went together or related to some type of common theme – and I started making little piles of them all over my bed {what a fun chaotic mess!}

So today, since I can’t possibly make all of these at once, let alone remember all these ideas, I have made a list of them {I’m a list making addict} so… yes, a BIG HUGE INSPIRING LIST of theme ideas you can use for creating art journals, smashbooks, scrapbooks, notebooks, etc. etc. While an art journal doesn’t have to have a theme, it can be a fun little challenge to plan and make a book that surrounds the same subject or topic matter…you’ll find it stretches your creativity in new ways!


Here is the little list of journal theme ideas I made – I hope you enjoy!


Garden Journal

Whether you’re an avid gardener or just like to admire beautiful gardens and flowers and plants, this can be a very beautiful and inspiring art journal/smashbook/notebook to make!

Some ideas for things to put into it:

  • Seed packets/flower planter information & labels from gardening supplies
  • Photograph or magazine cut-outs of gardens & plants and flowers
  • Hand drawn, sketched, doodled, or painted flowers and plants
  • Plant care tips
  • Lists of favorite flowers/plants
  • Use book pages from an encyclopedia or dictionary related to plants & flowers

Note: I say flowers/plants – you could also do this for herb or vegetable gardening also!


A Book of Lists

You could easily fill an entire notebook or journal with lists if you’re the list making type 😉

Some ideas for list ideas can be found on our List Ideas Prompts page if you need inspiration for what kind of lists to make!

In addition to writing or typing out lists, some of the things you could use in this type of notebook:

  • Lists from magazines and books
  • Post-it Notes
  • Paper clips
  • Stickers
  • Staples
  • Arrows
  • Hand drawn doodles and elements
  • Pictures & images of things you’ve listed

Music Art Journal

I love music and must have it on all the time – if I don’t hear music playing I start to hum or sing…lol…it also makes for a great theme for art journals.

Here are some ideas:

  • Musical instrument cut-outs
  • Music quotes
  • Song Lyrics
  • Playlists
  • A page dedicated to a favorite song or two
  • Sheet music for backgrounds or layering
  • Music Lover Prompts

A Book About Books

Do you love to read? Why not incorporate that into an art journal? This is a great opportunity to make and use an altered book for your “art journal canvas” as well!

Some ideas:

  • Excerpts & Quotes from a favorite book
  • Create a page around a type of book you like to make, so for example, maybe a sci-fi page, a romance page, a memoir page, etc.
  • Quotes about reading
  • Use ripped out book pages for backgrounds and layering
  • Illustrate a scene from a favorite story or book you read

Gratitude Journal

There are just so many things to be thankful for each and every day! Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to never take a moment for granted and to keep looking on the bright side of life. I love finding joy in the simple little things – and so by keeping track of these little things it makes for a great journal to look through again and again!


Mandala Journal

I love mandalas in art, and while they are generally symmetrical and nicely patterned, who’s to say you need to follow that rule? Draw a circle, and just let your creativity flow! You can also print out many patterns and designs to decorate and color to glue into your journal if it seems like a daunting task to create your own.


A Tribute to Someone Special

This is a great idea for an art journal you would like to give to a friend or special family member as a gift. Create a journal that is a tribute to them – your favorite things you love about them, memories of times together, quotes and sayings and inside jokes, photographs, fill it with their favorite things…ephemera from times you were out together…so many ideas for things you could put into this type of journal and it really would make a special gift!


Drink it Up

Most of us have a favorite beverage -whether it be a cup of coffee or tea, a favorite soda, milkshakes, or even a glass of wine…I know I love coffee enough to easily fill up an entire book all about it! Choose a beverage to use as your main topic, and then create the journal from that. For example, if you make a journal about types of wine, you might write wine reviews, glue in bottle labels, take photos, use magazine cut-outs, print images, etc. You could do this for just about any type of favorite drink! This too I think would make a great gift…especially if you filled it with little pockets and envelopes with things like gift cards or tea bags…


Dream Journal

Do you keep track of your dreams each night? It can be interesting to do, and you can really learn a lot about yourself and the challenges your subconscious is working through. I keep a dream journal of mostly scribblings of dreams, but I also write down what I think they may mean – and of course make it pretty with lots of drawings, doodles, and color!


Creative Business Planning

Are you thinking of starting a business? How fun and exciting! I have found by making a journal specifically for planning out ideas related to a business you can really find out what you need to do and get all those 8 thousand thoughts in your head organized and sorted out.


Food & Recipe Book

So I have stumbled across some very cool vintage cookbooks…and what I hope to do with it eventually is turn it into a food/recipe journal/smashbook. You could do cut-outs and photos of favorite foods, recipe magazine clippings, old recipe cards, vintage printables of food labels or ads, grocery shopping receipts and lists, coupons for products, advertisements of favorite foods, interesting food packaging…You could even split this up into more journal ideas – like one journal for desserts, one for dinners, one for lunches, one for breakfasts, one for cookies…


Positive Affirmations Journal

I love making journals that I enjoy looking at again and again and that lift me up. A positive affirmations journal can be perfect for that – simply fill with your favorite quotes and affirmations!


Home Journal

Do you collect ideas for your house? Maybe you have a DIY project you want to tackle or you’re painting a room or maybe you just like to daydream about all the different types of houses and home decor ideas you’ve seen in magazines and on sites like Pinterest. You could create a home journal with remodeling and redecorating ideas, clippings and cut-outs, samples from home improvement projects, paint chips, color schemes, etc. etc.


Love & Romance Journal

This would make for a great gift for your partner – create a journal full of things you love about them, special memories you’ve shared together, photographs, love quotes and sayings, date night ideas, etc. etc. Don’t forget the hearts! Single? That’s okay, why not a self-love journal?


Found Poetry Book

I love found poetry…it’s fun, it’s pretty, it can be interesting what you create with words! Each page can be it’s own poem…and you can do it with nothing more than an old book and a ball point pen or you can create one with cut-outs and clippings from other books and magazines. If you’re really adventurous – you can even illustrate your poems 🙂


Helpful Advice, Tips & Hints

So while I was clipping through all my magazines today, I found a lot of cool ideas and helpful tips and hints – like cleaning and organization tips, advice for ways to do things, etc. etc. That in itself could fill an entire journal – just clip out the advice or tip or hint from the book and magazine and bind together! Of course, you can add some more fun stuff like drawings, doodles, paint and more. 🙂


Special Event Smashbook

Special events like weddings, big parties, special celebrations can be great inspiration for a book. For example, for a wedding, you could create a smashbook of wedding cards and photographs and little mementos from the day.


Health & Fitness Book

Are you on the path to improving your health and fitness? Why not make an art journal about your journey? You can document goals, your accomplishments and achievements, save recipes and healthy eating tips, etc. etc. Motivational quotes are also a must!


Fairy Tales

Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella here we come! There are so many beautiful fairy tales and fantasy books for children, that you could easily create an entire journal around this theme. Pick one story or make the book about several favorite stories and characters – you’ll be sure to love this book you create!


Beach & Sea Theme

I love the beach! {And this is ironic, because I hate swimming, lol} – but sitting there on the shore, watching the sunrise or sunset – very relaxing and fun. And so making a beach inspired journal definitely seems like a great thing to do – especially in the winter or when you wish you could be on vacation but are stuck at home! You could get stickers, cut out pictures and phrases, draw or sketch or paint scenes, write out favorite beach quotes and sayings and phrases.


Travel Journal

Speaking of going to the beach, what about other travels and vacations? Save things like maps and other ephemera for art journaling into a book about your travels and memories! Don’t forget photographs or sketches also!


Holiday Journal

The winter months are full of holiday cheeriness. See my list of Holiday Art Journal Prompts for some ideas on what to make your pages about! You could save so much stuff, from wrapping paper scraps to tags to greeting cards for making your pages with.


Color Theme Book

Pick a color, any color. Or maybe two or three colors…or maybe an entire rainbow assortment of colors! A book of colors is a great way to keep color swatches and palettes together. So many ideas for this one – for example you could cut out textured colored pages from magazines or objects of a certain color or make pages in a Polyvore style surrounding a certain color palette or scheme.


Faces Journal

Practice drawing and painting faces in an art journal dedicated to people! You can also collage in different faces or use paper dolls, etc. etc.


Pets/Animals Journal

I have so many books and magazines about cats and dogs…I keep saying I am going to do something with all of this! Making your own art journal or book around a special pet can become a great keepsake.

I also LOVE the idea of making and creating your own wild animals – like what do you get when you mix and match a giraffe with a poodle? Or what if the elephant had zebra stripes and a crocodile had polka dots? Or you could dress them up in clothes..oh the possibilities!!!


Fashion & Beauty Style

So, after spending hours cutting up beauty and fashion magazines…I find I have a lot of tips for things like eye shadow and hair and makeup and what to wear when you have nothing to wear…

One idea is to create a fashion sketch book – design your own dresses and outfits. You could do this with mixed media – paint, art collage, the whole bit – or you could just sketch with colored pencils.

You also could cut up clothes to create different outfits and mix and match from various books or magazines on fashion and style, or you could clip out all those helpful tips to make your own book…

Or maybe, if you’re not into all that stuff, you could cut out all those fashion models and draw hats and mustaches on them…I don’t know…either way it could be a great theme!


Oh my goodness, this article is over 2000 words long…you must be tired of reading?? Perhaps just a little? LOL…I hope you found a LOT of ideas and inspiration here, and I can’t wait to make some of these! I will also be adding some prompt ideas for each of these themes in the next few weeks for even more awesome ways to use these themes in your journals!

Do you have a favorite from this list? Which one can’t you wait to make? Tell me in the comments below! And of course, if you have any ideas for ones not on this list…you know I want to hear all about that also!!!

Comments 19

  1. This is a great list! I usually only have a single journal, but I like the idea of multiple journals. How about a “Little Things” journal where you record all the little moments that make you smile throughout the day. I write these in whatever notebook I have with me and I love to reread them.

  2. Love your theme ideas. Thanks. While I was reading yours it occurred to me that Pinterest boards could also be journal themes! I have gazillion boards and lots of them would make great journal themes. Also check out the boards of others. Millions of ideas. Thanks forgetting me started. I love making handmade journals and now I have ideas for filling them.

  3. i started my first art journal in April after a trip to DC. I wanted to chronicle the trip, but it has become way much more than that!

    Thank you for the great ideas. I know they will be very helpful.

  4. Profile photo of KarenLane

    I cut up all sorts of things and file them in junk mail envelopes…I need a bigger filing area! I started doing this 50 years ago to make personalized Christmas cards for my family using all sorts of fun stuff (did I invent “scrapbooking” or what? lol) – I still make those but also use the “stuff” on atc’s, in journals that I trade on swap-bot, and wherever else I can find to play with “stuff”… in my bathroom I have 2 collages of cats (I don’t even like cats, for pets, but the magazines have a lot of really neat photos of cats in them, so… )… acrylic gel and Mod Podge, as well as archival glue sticks, and I can paste for hours!!

  5. Profile photo of Karise Lane

    As an avid reader, I often lose track of what I’ve read. At my once-a-month bookclub, I can’t remember all the books, let alone comment on them. I love your book about books! It will help me to process before I start gobbling up the next book with wild abandon. Thanks for this great idea!

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