5 Art Journals That Will Make Your Heart and Hands Happy

woman art journaling at a table

Want to come into my studio and thumb through my journals? Get a sneak peek to pull back the pages to see which one you like?

Journals are like little friends, each one having its own personality. Some big and showy. Others are petite and accommodating. Getting a new one makes us creatives like little kids again.

Oh, the possibilities! Check out all those new pages! And, of course, whatever should we do with that first blank page? We mustn’t touch it; instead, we must save it and savor it, waiting for the perfect moment of inspiration to fill that beloved first page. Am I right? There’s nothing like cracking open a new fresh journal.

So, today, I’m very excited to share five types of art journals with you and why they’re my favorites.

Art Journals with text

Why Are Art Journals so Good For You?

Enthusiastically holding your art and life stories, your journals would never shy away from a good brain dump. Whatever you’re ready to lay on them, they are ready to take it in. Whether it be your favorite color pallet to lots of words, they’re here for all of it. Art journals are so good for us to unwind, unload, and follow our curiosity.

Art journals stacked on table

Art Journals Can Reflect Who You Are

Don’t you love to know what everyone’s favorite type of art journal is? I know I do. It’s almost like being let in on a juicy secret. I would love to line up every artist I love and take a peek at their journals. There’s something about working in a book, all those pages bound together, endless possibilities housed in those pages. You open the cover to discover colorful stories, heartfelt words, nonsensical characters, repetitive marks, and personal mementos. The type of art journal you choose reflects who you are, how it fits in your hand, and how the spine lays flat or tight, each characteristic personalized to you. It brings up some essential life questions (wink, wink) such as…

  • Do you like the long and thin landscape style, or does perfectly square fit your preference?
  • What about ink? Can it bleed through or would that drive you crazy?
  • Can the pages be whimsical and wrinkle up, or must they be stately and flat?

Yes, indeed, the most important of life’s questions. Haha! What type of art journal will you choose?

Mixed Media art journals layout

Discover Your Favorite Type of Art Journal

Here’s the deal with journals. You’ve gotta try them on.

Like dresses or pants, it’s not one size fits all. That’s why seeing what works for other people is so fun. So you can visualize what you might be missing out on or what you might want to step into and try on. Even if you already have an arsenal of journals you love at the ready, a new journal hold so much possibility.

Don’t you want to dive in, run your hands over those pages (bumpy or smooth? thin or thick? weathered or crisp?), pull out your art supply of choice, and get to work, exploring and getting to know this new journal friend.

So today, for the first time, I’m excited to share my very favorite type of art journal with you here.

Now listen, I’m picky. I bet you are too. Journals are SO personal. So take these ideas, try them on, and see what suits your fancy.

And then let me know in the comments what’s your favorite journal. We’d all love to know (so check the comments at the end to see what everyone has suggested and tell me yours too).

Alrighty, let’s dive into my favorite journals on the planet (thus far).

1. Hobonichi Techno

Hobonichi Techo journals on table

Two words. Those pages. Gahhhh. So decidedly NOT good for art journaling, and that’s EXACTLY why I love ’em. They put up a fight and object to your layers and washes, inks, and paints. Their crinkly nature shows right through, buckling this way and that, not daring to be tamed. That’s okay because I love the imperfection of it all.

It’s like art journaling for all five senses, including the sound of those whispy pages.

Strangely enough, as daintily objecting as they like to be, they can hold up to just about anything you throw at it.

It can take everything from wet media (think paint or watercolor) to pen and ink.

Plus, the pages are airy thin, meaning you can get away with tons of them in one book so that you can express your heart out.

Remember, tons of pages = tons of opportunity to learn and explore.

Hobonichi Techo journal with art journaling
Hobonichi techo mixed media art journal

Important to Note

It’s got the date on every page, so decide if you like that or not. I originally bought it hoping I’d “make art every day.” Yeah…no. That’s just not me. How can you do almost anything EVERY single day except brush your teeth? Lol. It’s also split into two small books to cover the whole year, which is unique. They are a perfectly adorable pair that can be split up to take and use anywhere.

2. Handbook Field Watercolor Journal

Hand book field watercolor art journal
art journals spiral bound mixed media
art journal with acrylic paint and ephemera

Handbook Field Watercolor Journal-This is like the sister to the Handbook Global Art Travelogue Watercolor Journal down below. Not as formal, more easily tote-able, throw in your bag and off you go type of thing. It’s got the spiral spine going on as opposed to the bound spine, and the cover is just plain ol’ cardboard which is fine by me. I like to fill up my journals, nice and chunky, spilling over with paint and ribbons, doodads, and bobbles, and this one holds up just fine. The square shape makes it a favorite. I bought it one day at some random dark and dusty art supply shop and didn’t think much of it. But it quickly became one that a grab all the time.

3. Canson XL Series Mixed Media 7 by 10 inch

Canson Mixed media spiral art journal
paper collage art journal page
Check out this spread from my class Enough HERE!
many mixed. media botanical art journals
art journal with starfish drawing

Alisa Burke turned me on to this one. She’s always on for budget art making which has it’s place in an art practice.

Tons of pages, plus a cheap price point, equal lots of free unbridled expression and fun. See a theme here? I’m all about freedom and explorations. This formula is the scaffolding that supports getting to that place of letting loose. And that leads to all kinds of good things related to creativity.

Although close to your standard rectangular notebook journal, it’s slightly off in size, just enough to feel like it’s somewhere between a square shape and a rectangle, which I like.

Oh, and the most glorious part, I LOVE THE SPINE! Yes, I do. That spiral spine gives it room to breathe. You can add so much stuff in there! Collage to your heart’s content, and it can just expand and expand, so you don’t have to hold back. It’s like a little piece of hardware right in the middle of your spread. I love that dimension of that formed wire insert. It feels like jewelry for my journal.

4. Stalogy 018 Editors Series 365 Days Notebook

stology 365 days notebook
art journal sketch of beach and palm tree
watercolor flower in art journal

This little beauty is the perfect handheld. Just big enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Like its namesake, it’s got 365 pages, one for each day of the year. The numbered print is so faint you almost can’t see it, which is just fine by me. It’s got the same crinkly wispy pages that talk to you as you go, like the Hobonichi, but at a fraction of the price. This one stays tucked in my travel kit and comes with me to the beach or whenever I need a tote-able art system.  

5. Handbook Global Art Travelogue Watercolor Journals

Handbook Global watercolor journals
art journals painting collage
art journals mixed media with brushes and stamps
Check out this spread from my class Soulful Sketchbook HERE!

Can we just talk about the cover for a minute? Run our hand over it? Look at it for a sec? Oh, you perfectly neutral greige linen, how I love thee. I want my couch to be made out of you so I can take a nap on you. I don’t even want to open it because I can’t get past the cover. Dramatic? Yes. But it also makes my eyes twinkle when I see it. The pages are, well, they’re okay. Not the best. Not the worst. But I LOVE the color of them. It’s the perfect shade of white. Not too bluish white, and not in the cream camp, but the perfect shade of warm white, just a tint, just a hairline over into the warm area. It’s simply a beautiful white without being stark white. Apparently, the color of white is essential here.

Which of the Five Art Journals Will You Choose?

So, now you’ve got five new art journal friends to get to know on this list. Some are handheld, loaded with pages that get nice and crispy, and some go rogue away from the standard rectangular size, ready to let you explore. Which will you try? Let me know in the comments. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Pin For Later

stack of art journals with text

If you’d like to learn more about how to set up your mixed media art travel kit using one of your new journal friends, grab your guide HERE!

Take care,


18 thoughts on “5 Art Journals That Will Make Your Heart and Hands Happy

  1. Joan says:

    I just started my day with my coffee and the dawning of daylight outside my kitchen window and gazing into the backyard woods…..I opened my Mac and there YOU were….what a wonderful way to begin my day, looking at ALL your Art Journal Possibilities !!!! I cannot wait to WAKE UP πŸ™‚ and read it AGAIN and think about another new journal for myself…..thank you Shay, this was wonderful !!! Joan

  2. Vicki Miller says:

    You got me with the comment about EVERY day. The social media world can make you feel a failure if you don’t make art and post every day and that is so not the real world. I love a square journal too and you know if the one I have isn’t square, I cut the spiral where I want it and trim the pages to a square – and the little bits of paper are great to create collage paper when you have a tiny bit of paint left

  3. Marilee McKelvey says:

    Love seeing the journals you work in, specially since I really like your art, yet don’t use the same journals. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? I’m very fond of the Dylusions journals, 9″x12″ is a fav, but all sizes are fun for me. I really like the weight of the paper, and the pages lay flat. Not a fan of spiral bound journals and I’ve finally come to accept that it’s ok not to like what so many others do! Thanks, Shay for your walk through. Makes me want to jump up and start working on a spread!

  4. Kathryn Annis says:

    Shay – this post was a gift today ! I love your “tone” – not too formal, realistic (yeah – everyday is not going to happen lol), and beautiful art! I always end up with a water color journal – since water color is my heart medium, I have to have paper that will take it reasonably well. I’ve used (and am using!) various sizes and bindings of Strathmore and am enjoying the 7 by 10 inch Canson water color journal right now – I liked what you said about that size – a little wonky but fun! These aren’t the most expensive or best water color papers, but they’re decent and stand up well to collage, acrylic, etc too. I loved what you said about the spiral spine being “jewelry for your journal” – I like the way a spiral lays flat, but have struggled with that binding in the middle of a 2 page spread – thinking of it as jewelry is something I’ll remember! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  5. Shay Kent says:

    Hi Joan! Gosh, you painted such a pretty picture of the beginning of your day. I could picture myself right there with you. It sounds just lovely. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Isn’t it so fun to get a glance into something that causes you to get inspired to be creative? I just love that. It’s my favorite. All the best!

  6. Shay Kent says:

    Hi Vicki! Oh my, isn’t it so true about the “every day” part? I just think not everything has to be about eternal improvement and production. I’m so with you on that. Especially creativity. It can be there when WE need it. We don’t have to serve IT if that makes sense. That’s so cool you cut your journals to become a square! I never would’ve thought of that! What a great idea. I’m going to see if there is anywhere I can do something like that in my journals.

  7. Shay Kent says:

    Hi Marilee! Thank you for sharing your favorite journal here. It’s fun to work in that large size. I haven’t done that for a while but you’ve inspired me to pull it back out and try again. You can capture so much looseness in a large journal. And, even if we prefer different things in a journal, it’s still so fun to learn what other people like and why. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Shay Kent says:

    Hi Kathryn, I’m so glad you posted here! I hear you about the spiral in the middle. Depending on the application or what you are hoping to accomplish, it can be distracting. I wonder if it overtakes the delicate nature of watercolors? Do you think? My stuff is so chunky and layered that it becomes part of the design somehow. It’s so fun to learn about other artists’ different styles and preferences. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Diane Katz says:

    Canson XL Series Mixed Media 7 by 10 inch, is my favorite. I like how heavy the pages are and they can handle it all. I don’t mind the spiral. I also love making my own..

  10. Barbara Ankrum says:

    Hi, Shay: Such a day brightener to read your post. πŸ™‚ I’ve come to accept that I like watercolor paper in my journals for any type of art–mixed media, watercolor, collage, etc. It’s not so much the brand of journal, just that the paper is watercolor weight. I really enjoy sewing my own art journals as well. Thanks for such a fun post and sharing your wonderful journals and art.

  11. Lina says:

    This was such an enjoyable article, Shay. You write the way you teach – so warm and friendly! I love to get a peek into other artists’ journals as well. I’ve got to confess that I make my own journals instead of buying them. Mine are sort of wonky, not at all like those beautifully-bound hand crafted ones that show up online. But I love my journals! I generally make them in 6″x9″ and 7.5″x11″ sizes, although sometimes for fun I make tiny ones as well. I mostly do mixed media, so I usually fill them with Canson paper, 98lb paper for the smaller journals and heavier watercolor paper (140lb) in the 7.5″x11″ ones. I enjoy being able to customize the number of pages, the type of paper, the journal size, the cover, everything. For me that’s half the fun, but I know it’s not for everyone. Thanks for sharing your journals — I love your style of art!

  12. Cyndi says:

    Thank you Shay for sharing your journal favs. Yeah, me too – I’m reallllllyy picky when it comes to the type of paper in art journals. When I’m in a shop, I’ll go through and fiddle with the paper in the journals for ages before deciding, yep, that’s the one!! Lol!! Staff are probably thinking, ‘Oh, oh, here’s that crazy art lady again’, lol!! but it makes my heart sing when I find the right one. I like the Seawhite Of Brighton travel journal, square, 250gsm I think – great for watercolour, good size to travel with, perfect for testing and just playing. My other is a large handmade one that I bought on Etsy from the USA – it’s huge and I can really let go on that one with all sorts of multimedia, acrylic, or watercolour – 300gsm, so really tough. But always keen to try new type of art journals so thank you so much for the post – going to see if I can purchase some of your ones to test out! Oh, oh, crazy art lady coming back!!! lol!!

  13. Shay Kent says:

    Hi Barbara! Thank you so much. I feel really inspired to try making my own. Seems like several people here love to do that. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Shay Kent says:

    Hi Lina! Thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate it. Gosh, you make your journals sound so good! lol. I totally want to make my own now too. I bet I’d love it as well. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Shay Kent says:

    Hi Cyndi! Thank you so much for sharing here. I hear you about fiddling with the paper, really giving it that once over to make sure you like it. I think, if I remember right, I’ve been looking for a Seawhite of Brighton spiral journal forever! Another artist I follow uses one, and I’m convinced that if I just get that journal, my art will be as pretty and cool as hers. Haha! It’s just the journal I’m missing. πŸ˜‰ I’ll keep hunting like a crazy art lady.😍

  16. Diane Cooper says:

    Shay, I really enjoyed reading about your favorite art journals. I really love using art journals in my practice. I am art art journal junkie. LOL. It is hard to pick a favorite one. The one I use most is the sturdy Canson XL 7×10. It is my practice journal where I try out different techniques. I also make my own from time to time.

  17. Christi says:

    I have been experimenting with making my own journals. However, the Stalogy 018 Editors Series 365 Days Notebook caught my eye. It is on my Amazon wish list and I will be trying it soon. Thank you for sharing.

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