Thursday, 9 May 2013

When is a journal not a journal?

When it's a notebook,reading book,diary or pile of loose paper just waiting to be used 'as' a journal..

I have recently been having discussions about which journals are best for arting..and where to get them.

So here are a few of mine. Not a comprehensive review by any means, just a few quick photos and my thoughts on them.

I have bought lots..LOTS of these journal from Asda, my local supermarket. They are just over £2 each for the A5 size, not that much more for the A4 size. They come in plain paper and also graph paper.

They have an off white paper inside, a hard cover with a faux leather finish, and an elastic band that keeps them closed. The paper really is a decent weight, but I use a lot of heavy wet media and choose to glue 2 pages together for strength. it's not a problem as there are lots of pages. 80 of them.

Here is a journal page I did in my Asda book.

Next up are my moleskines, I bought these..from The Book Depository They measure approx 5inches by 8.25inches. The paper is a creamy colour and is quite thin. I do like the paper but it really is no good for a lot of wet media, however it stands up pretty well to paint when you glue 2 pages together. They are good value as you get 3 in a pack and being smaller than A5 they are a handy size. They come in 4 colours.

here is a page I made in my moleskine..

Now we have Seawhites journals. See your local stockist HERE... these are AMAZING value, the A5 is £1.08 and the A4 is £1.49. The paper is just off white and is 140gsm. It specifically says on the back that is is for extra wet media. I found them so cheap I actually bought one to cut up and make pages for a different book.

Next is a sketchbook, it was from Sainsburys..another uk supermarket, and was around £5. The paper is off white and is a decent weight cartridge paper. it takes wet media just fine. The only drawback is that it is spiral bound...great for opening the book wide but not so great if you want to do a double spread.

This is a page I made in mine, using gesso, water soluble neocolours and prisma pencils

Another journal I bought recently is this one. I wanted one that specifically had very smooth paper inside, as I wanted to use it with my markers. I believe I paid around £2.25 for this one, just in a local stationery shop(WHSmiths). it is not a branded one. It has a plastic cover back and front, but inside the back cover is a piece of sturdy card which gives you something to rest on.

The paper is white and smooth enough for markers.The only drawback with markers is that they do bleed through to the reverse, for this reason after each page is complete I glue it back to back to the next page. if I was using a different medium I probably wouldn't need to do that as these pages are a pretty good weight.

I just loved the look of this next one, it is from PAPERCHASE... I love it because of the size/shape. It is just under 10inches square, and was only £4.50. The paper is so lovely, really smooth ..but is thin. I would say the same as the Moleskine paper. I haven't used this yet, but I know I will definitely have to glue pages together for strength.

Now we have the charity shop book. I  think this was 20p. it is just an old book, approx 8x5inches and hard backed. The paper is really thick and very matte. it takes all kinds of media. 

I love that you can still see the text of the pages through the artwork. 

Lastly I have a load of these old diaries..These were completely free, hard backed and full of interesting pages such as lists and maps. The paper is a really decent heavy weight and I am sure it will make a great journal. 

Of course you can just make a journal...from anything. I have glued sheets of newspaper together and gessoed over them to make journal pages, you can use watercolour paper, corrugated card, acrylic sheets, leaflets,junk mail, anything and everything...

Here are pages of newspaper glued together and covered in gesso...

and here is a page I made on one of them 

Don't feel all your pages have to be the same size..... 

have a look AT post to see how I made it.... 

Starting to art journal DOES NOT mean you have to rush out and buy an expensive book....

I hope that helps you get started. 


  1. This is awesome Darcy - thank you so much for sharing your reviews!

  2. Hey Darcy, I love the unicorn page! Thanks for sharing, pretty amazing how many different kinds of paper there is in the world!

  3. This is just so helpful. Thank you. I really valued your tweets, but it's great to have such a comprehensive review in one place. I started a journal (from W H Smith) after Christmas and glued the pages but I felt a bit unsure about where to go for the next one. This has been brilliant. I am working on the ARC (but not in a conventional journal) and hope to finish soon!

  4. Love this Darcy! Ohhh and I can't believe the doggy page is in a journal - that needs to be on a wall!

  5. Thanks for sharing Darcy, answers a lot of questions. have the red Moleskine Sketchbook, thicker pages but it's expensive. Food for thought.

  6. Fantastic post,showing all the great books. I use the ones from Asda you mentioned and think the paper is a great weight,I like the rubber band around it to hold it together too.
    Must try to get a book with text tho' cos I love that. Your pages are stunning. Debbiex

  7. Thanks for taking the time to do this post Darcy..twitter was getting a bit confusing going back and forth..I must say I love my seawhite...haven't started my moleskine yet but will definitely have a look in asda!!

  8. You are a star!! I will check out the seawhite when I've filled my Dylusion journal (which I love for the strength of the paper, but it is pricey!)

  9. Oh fab blog post, I love the Asda books and the newspaper ones although I haven't done them in like forever!

  10. Fantastic post Darcy...extremely useful, informative and inspiring :D XXX

  11. I love those Asda ones. I tend to find one falls in my basket each time I go in (I'm scared they'll stop selling them!) The A4 size I got one for my 5 year old and she loves it to pieces. She calls it her grown up book. She uses everything in it - glue, watercolours, those paints in the squeezy bottles they use at school, my watercolour crayons, felt tips... You name it! I use one of the smaller ones to stick in ideas, another for sketching. Love 'em. Am definitely going to check out those seawhite ones. What great value! Thanks for the links Darcy :)

  12. A fabulous and useful article especially for new art jounnallers like me. I have the ASDA ones in A4, A5 and A6 and I love them, I do glue the pages together too. Id never heard of the seawhite ones so will need to investigate.

    Like Carmen - Im frightened they stop doing them so have stockpiled a few just in case

    Im bookmarking this article for future reference

  13. I don't draw, I don't journal, but I make collages, so this was quite interesting. I suspect many of these books, like the ASDA, are local to your country, since I've never heard anyone talk about them before. But the idea of using newspapers really intrigued me. And of course, the whole idea of getting back to collage has piqued my interest in something I've not done much of for awhile. Nicely written, and nice of you to take the time to show us a few ways to make a journal.

  14. Great idea to review so many journals in one post.
    I will be bookmarking so that I can pop back and see just what is around when I need my next journal, mind you I have a feeling I have a few tucked away waiting to be used! ;-)

  15. Talk about great minds lol I get my journals from Asda I am waiting for them to get some more stock in of the hard back A4 size but the faux leather A5 at £2 each are my faves at the moment I have 3 on the go. I also have folio diary as well as other I keep and old books I too love the pages coming through. As well as a few moleskins I think it was actually you who led me to the book depositary I use this shop lots now.

    Still I loved the post, it's nice to know I am not the only one who is barmy about Journals lol