“What are the best journals for art journaling?” is one of the most frequently asked questions here at Artjournalist. It’s a question I am asked so often, I finally decided to put together a list of the exact journals I love using – updated with the latest choices available for 2018!
The journals and sketchbooks featured in this list always prove to be my favorites, year after year. Some of them simply continue to get better because they add new journal sizes, shapes, and paper types!
This Journal List Comes From 5 Years of Testing *Almost* Every Possible Art Journal Out There
In making this list of what I consider to be some of the best art journals, I want you to know I personally have tested at least 45 different notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals in the past 5 years. Every single one of these recommendations comes from experience.
Yeah, I’m a crazy notebook addict like that!
These are the journals that have proved to do well in all sorts of situations – from regular everyday use, to long trips and travels.
I took several factors into consideration to ensure a well-rounded assortment of notebooks. I want to make sure these journals can meet the needs and creative dreams of almost anyone who enjoys art journaling – no matter how experienced you may be or what type of art supplies you like to use.
What Factors Did I Consider in Making This List?
Before I go straight into sharing my favorite art journals, I think it is important to understand these details on what is important as an artjournalist what works best for art journaling and what does not. These details all influenced which journals made the cut and which ones did not.
Here’s What Matters the Most to Me When Choosing a Journal:
Size: For myself as well as many artists I know, size is a very important matter. Too small of an art journal, and you might find yourself feeling limited. Too big of an art journal, and you might find it bulky to carry around or travel with easily. I tend to like the “just right” size of somewhere in-between, but I know this can vary between one person to another. For this reason, I’ve noted in each journal description if more than one size is available. Many journals are excellent options simply because they do offer multiple sizes and shapes to work in!
Paper Quality: This is a huge consideration when choosing an art journal. In the past, I have bought journals that have advertised to be able to withstand some light watercolors, only to learn the pages were not suitable for any sort of water or paint. If you don’t mind wrinkled pages or work mostly in collage layers, thin paper may not bother you. For me, high quality paper that is able to withstand the test of watercolors, acrylic paint, and glue without wrinkling is essential.
Binding Method: Spiral bound or sewn binding or something else? It’s a long debated topic amongst people who love to art journal, although most of us love all journals enough that we’ll likely try them all within our lifetime anyways! Spiral bound journals can allow for flexibility, while sewn binding journals can withstand a lot of wear and tear.
Price Point: When I first started art journaling as a teenager, I had a zero dollar budget. I think the benefits of art journaling are so immense, it is something that should be easily accessible to everyone, regardless what their price and budget might be. While I do list a couple of really nice options that are in the higher price ranges, I also made sure to include several that are typically available for under $15.
Personal Experience: Each and every one of these journals are ones I have personally tried and loved. They have stood up to the test of time, and even survived a curious hungry puppy and a couple of art journaling loving cats who live here over the past several years! I also took into consideration some of the opinions of my friends who love art journaling as much as I do, as well as average customer reviews and ratings. This helps me take into consideration factors I might not necessarily think as “must have criteria” but ensures as well rounded viewpoint that is not completely biased.
These are My Top Picks for The Best Art Journals in 2018
#1: Dylusions Art Journals
FEATURES: Multiple Size and Shape Options Available, Heavy duty quality paper, Sewn binding, Pocket folder for ephemera and collage materials, Elastic closure, Heavy duty chipboard cover
BEST FOR: Acrylics, Watercolor, Inks, Markers
It’s no secret I love these journals! I have gone through three of them just this past year! With features that experienced artjournalists have been begging for over the years, these journals have an excellent starting price point and rugged heavy duty paper and construction that is able to withstand a lot of mixed media favorite products, such as paint, water, inks, and markers.
The Dylusions 11.375 x 8.5 journal is my preferred size, but they come in many different size options, shapes, and colors.
#2: Moleskine Artist Plus Sketchbook
FEATURES: 96 pages of 110lb acid free paper, three notebook size options, accordion notebook pocket, elastic closure, hard cover
BEST FOR: Acrylic, Collage, Water based markers, Pens and Ink
Moleskine notebooks and journals have always been a popular choice amongst writers and artists. The Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook is a heavier duty version which offers 110lb acid free paper for working with a variety of different mediums. You really can’t ever go wrong with a Moleskine for anything – even if it doesn’t work as anticipated for whatever type of art you are creating – these journals are perfect for almost anything.
#2: Canson XL Mixed Media Pads
FEATURES: Heavy weight slightly textured paper for acrylics and light watercolor applications, Spiral Binding with Tearable Sheets, Affordable Price Range
BEST FOR: Acrylics, Collage, Travel, Working Journals
TheCanson XL 7 x 10 mixed media notebooks
is one of my favorites for beginner art journalists for a number of reasons. The paper can withstand most mixed media applications, such as acrylic paints and creating works of many different layers.
If you like to use your journal on the go or would like the ability to separate art pages from the notebook, this gives you a lot of options with the spiral binding. Multiple sizes are available, and if you prefer to work in watercolor, you may also wish to check out some of theirWatercolor Paper Pads
as well! When I create my own handsewn journals, I often use Canson paper because it can be used for so many different applications.
Strathmore Mixed Media Journals
Features: Heavy duty cover, 90 lb. 100% cotton paper, Smyth-Sewn binding for pages to lay flat.
Best for: Acrylics, Watercolor, Water-based Markers
This Strathmore Mixed Media 500 series journal features a hardcover and Smyth-sewn binding for pages that will lay flat.
I first used this journal in 2014, and it took me some getting used to, as the 100% cotton paper is something I was not familiar with working with. However, it quickly grew on me, and I was surprised that even cheaper craft paints performed really well with it. The pages also lay flat when you open the journal – which is great when creating 2 page spreads. It does take some breaking in and getting used to due to the sturdy binding style, but it’s also designed to hold up to the test of time!
Want to Make Your Own Journal?
There are a lot of benefits to buying an art journal of course, but making your very own journal can be a lot of fun as well!
It’s not nearly as difficult as it may seem, and if you are on a tight budget, you can likely create it with simple materials you already have at home.
This is a prototype journal I created using some interesting materials. It may not be the prettiest to look at yet (it is “bare bones basic”!) – but that’s the fun part of creating a junk journal! The journal features pages you can reposition and assembly is easy – no sewing required!
This is one of my favorite journals I have made in the past 5 years of learning to bind my own books – so hopefully you will enjoy it!
There are so many choices for the different things you can use as an art journal, and the journal you ultimately decide upon will of course depend on your personal preferences and the types of art mediums you create with.
There are a LOT of different factors to consider when you’re choosing your art journal, and trying to really find the best ones out depends a LOT on what type of art you like to make and what mediums you use!
Everyone will likely have their own preferences, but hopefully this list of my favorite journals for art journaling will give you a lot of great options and ideas.
Whether you are new to the whole art journal world, or whether you are looking for something new to try, my hope is this post will help you navigate the sometimes overwhelming ocean of notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals available out there!
Share Your Thoughts
So many great journals featured in this list of the best art journals – it is only a matter of time and experimenting for you to decide which one you like best!
Do you have a favorite art journal? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear what art journals you consider to be the best of the best in the comments section below!