What Kind of Journal is Perfect for You?

Usually when we think of “kinds of journals” we’re talking sewn binding vs. spiral bound vs. hand-made, and that’s fun to talk about, indeed. Over the years, I’ve used and loved all different kinds, and I love seeing the huge variety of sizes and styles. But today we’re going to talk about something that’s even cooler, if that’s possible. I have a yahoo group, theartjournal (you’re welcome to join; go here), that’s about, gee: art journals. And one of the members, Katherine Walker, posted a list last week of kinds of journals: glue books, vision books, smash books, sketchbooks. She had 31 different kinds of journals with explanations and, in some cases, links to sites with more info. There were some that I hadn’t heard of, and I’ve been talking to journal people and reading and writing about journals for decades. Whoa! So I contacted Katherine and asked her if she’d share this information, and she said sure. I asked her to tell us a little about her interest in journals, and here’s what she said:

“I had been thinking about many different kinds of journals and ways of going about making and decorating them. I also like to have a clear plan in my head of these types of things, organizing art ideas into various categories. It made sense to me to come up with a list describing various types of mixed-media books with some basic info about each one. I also thought it would be helpful to a lot of people so I decided to share my ‘findings’ and this list was born. My own journaling practice can be somewhat chaotic and I don’t always make time to sit down and do it, but it is still fun nonetheless when I do. So here is this list to spark your creative selves and give everyone more ideas about what they can do with the many kinds of journals and blank books one may have around the house. Enjoy.”

Types Of Visual Journals & Mixed-Media Books


1.  Standard Art Journal:

A journal to mix/play with words and art, with an emphasis on the art part. Anything goes here, no theme required.


2. Themed Art Journal:

Art journal with a theme or topic such as Animals, Butterflies, Fantasy/Enchanting, etc. This one adheres to this chosen theme instead of including everything.


3. Gluebook:

A cross between art journaling, magazine/collage, found art and recycled art. The idea is to use whatever is available from junk mail, newspapers, and the like to create your art. No techniques or fanciful materials needed, just a glue stick, a blank book or other book, and things to glue down. Pre-planning a spread is not recommended as it takes away the spontaneity of glue booking. Just grab some images and glue down, quickly and without stressing over layout and placement. A “freeing” type of journal where order does not matter and one can be free to express themselves without worrying what to write or how to arrange something. “Just glue and go!” gomakesomething.com


4. Vision Book:

A take on the popular vision board idea or goal collage, however it can be anything inspiring or uplifting in nature. No negative images or negative writing goes here, it’s all positive as it reflects one’s hopes, dreams, goals and aspirations in life and what they strive for and want to attain. It can be spiritual, religious, comforting, inspirational. It can be a Wishes Journal or a Manifesting Picture Book. However you interpret this book idea is fine, just keep in mind the guidelines.


5. Catch-All Book:

A kind of gluebook where anything can go in. Words, jotted notes, vintage items, magazine images, old letters, business cards, greeting cards, diary entries, notes to self, to-do lists, etc. It is chaotic in its structure, with no form or order to it. For those intimidated by ‘orderly’ type journals, this one has no order whatsoever. You can plan ahead pages or just randomly stick stuff in, your choice.


6. Smash Book:

K & Company’s version of the gluebook you can buy in stores for around 10-13 dollars. Some packaged items you can buy to accompany each style, but really anything you want can go here. Includes prompts to jumpstart your creativity and avoid “the blank page syndrome”.


7. Experimental Journal:

To experiment with new media and ideas before putting it in your “traditional” art journal, just depends on one’s preference whether they include a separate journal for this or not. Try out new paints, watercolors, written ideas here. Test out those new oil pastels you bought before using them in your actual journal for a planned spread. In other words, play and experiment without worry about making it look nice or extravagant.


8. Sketchbook:

A drawing-oriented journal where one draws, sketches and perhaps paints things of an original artistic nature. Makes use of pencils, pen, colored pencils, paint, and charcoal pencils as the drawing media.


9.  Zentangle Journal:

Do all your Zentangles in here, instead of or in addition to the tiles normally used to draw them on.  www.zentangle.com


10. Mandala Journal:

Make and construct all kinds of mandalas in this sketchbook with whatever media you like. Paint, watercolor, sketches, pictures, beads, clay, sand and more can be used.


11.  Coloring Pages Portfolio:

Print out coloring pages and color them. When done, sign and date each page, then put each in a plastic sheet to protect them and store in an 8.5 x 11” binder.


12. Wishes Journal:

This is a variation of the Vision Book. Find and cut out pictures that represent personal dreams and wishes and glue them down with accompanying words on the other page. The right side of the layout should have the picture/s, and the left side has the words “I wish for….” or something similar to that, with the words filling up the entire left page. The wishes do not have to be rational or logical, they can be as abstract as “I wish I could be a cloud for a day”, since this is more like a daydreaming/wishful thinking journal, and not one to manifest your goals into reality.  www.self-help-healing-arts-journal.com


13. Manifesting Picture Book:

Unlike the Wishes Journal, this one is specifically to carve out your desires for the future and what you hope to gain or achieve. Make each spread layout similar to the Wishes Journal, with goal on the left page and pictures or sketches to represent the words they are next to on the right page. Look through whenever you need a reminder or boost to pursue your dreams in life. www.self-help-healing-arts-journal.com


14. Scrapbook:

I think we all know what a scrapbook is! You can scrap/record anything you want according to traditional scrapbook layouts or digitally if you want to do so that way. Different kinds of scrapbooks are but not limited to:

A. Pets Scrapbook: To commemorate pets, both family pets and personal pets whether alive or deceased. You can even make a specialized scrapbook with a pet memorial theme for a pet that has passed away.

B. Travel/Vacation Scrapbook: Record your travels to different places and countries here.

C. Spiritual/Faith Scrapbook: Make a memory book of your beliefs whether religious or spiritual. If it gives you deeper meaning than normal, everyday life and celebrates life in a universal way it can fit this category. Or celebrate being of a certain religious path or tradition and how it makes you feel ultimately. Design is up to whoever the scrap booker is and what beliefs they have.

D. All About Me Pages: Basically where one scrapbooks everything about themselves. This one does not strictly have to follow a scrapbook format, it can be anything you want.

E. Family/Kids Scrapbook: The “traditional” type of scrapbook most are familiar with, scrapping memories and photos of all your loved ones.


15. Fan Art Book:

To collect pictures, artwork and writings about a particular media (TV show, movie, book/book series, or fantasy world you are a fan of). Anything part of popular or known media you can make a fan book of to showcase your love and appreciation for whatever you pick. Examples: “Tolkien’s Middle-Earth” Fan Journal or “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” fan book. In other words, a collage book of your favorite media source with writing as you see fit to include.


16. Junk Journal:

Make a journal out of scraps, scrap paper and other throwaway materials to construct into a junk book. Use however you want, art journal, scrapbook, visual diary, etc.


17. Zap Books:

4×6 collage pages that can be swapped through the mail. Use the free-flowing gluebook style or create mixed media layers and embellishments to make each zap page. Can bind them however you wish, but the pages must be the size specified. There can be a theme or it can be random with no theme whatsoever, doesn’t matter.


18. Chunky Books:

Also called “Fat Books”, these books are a collaborative project with a certain theme for each one and the pages consist of chunky or fat elements that make each one bulky or multi-layered in dimension. Each page measures 4×4 inches.


19. Skinny Books:

Mixed-media/collage books that are similar in concept to the Fat Books book swap. They can be done together in a group or one can choose to do a Skinny Book all by themselves and then bind them however they wish. An excerpt from a PDF at CPS: “An elongated, not so distant cousin of our beloved fat books, the Skinny Book presents us with a challenging new twist in a very vertical format. Much like a chunky book, these long wonders can be done collaboratively or ventured into alone. As with every reinvented style of art, the Skinny book presents us with refreshing, new opportunities. Books done collaboratively are an inspiring way to connect with other artists and often produce treasured keepsakes. The rules vary per swap, as does the size. Sometimes the size is 4×8 inches but they can be a 3×6 inch format as well. The host of a swap often sets the rules and the theme and the number of participants (players) typically determines the number of pages. Well embellished copies or all original pages are usually accepted.”



20. Altered Books:

Take any print book or picture book and alter it how you see fit. Paint over, write in, collage, tear out pages, cut sections into pages, fold, rip, alter! Altered books can be made into any of the journals mentioned here. Tip-ins can also be added, which are simply a page or sets of pages added into a book at a later time.


21. Doodle/Lettering/Sticker Book:

Make a book or journal dedicated to learning different lettering styles and calligraphy, doodle random stuff and collect stickers you like. This may be organized into three sections for each category: Make a Part 1: Doodle Section, Part 2:  Lettering Section, Part 3: Sticker Section. Or this can be done with only one or two of these ideas in mind and in whatever order you like.


22. Photo Art Journal:

If you take lots of photos with your camera and like art journaling, why not make an art journal of all your photos. Kind of scrapbook-ish, but follows more art journal methods of creating.


23. Soul Journaling Journal:

Based off the 22 mixed-media and written prompts created by Sarah Whitmire on her blog and website at www.souljournaling.com .  Soul Journaling journals are kind of a guided-type art journaling.


24. Extreme Visual Journal:

An introspective and therapeutic style of art journaling to explore one’s inner self and daily drama in life created by Juliana Coles as a safe place to understand and define all the good and bad parts of your life story. It is to be a private journal where one can express anything they need to. No sugar coating of one’s issues, let it all out on the pages: the good, the bad, the ugly, the not so bad parts of your personal journey.  Websites: http://www.meandpete.com , http://www.extremejournalism.ning.com .


25. Fabric Art Journal:

If you like to sew, make a journal (pages and all) completely out of scraps of fabric and cloth! Embellishments and decorations are meant to be sewed on, embroidered, that sort of thing. Or you can just glue fabric to some cardboard or other material and make it your own unique style of fabric journal. Felt can also be used.


26. Index Card Journal:

Simply put, a journal made out of index cards. The index cards are the pages in which normal art journal guidelines follow. To bind the cards together, hole-punch them and bind using binder rings. Decorate and embellish however you like.


27. Circle Journal:

A traveling round robin journal where participants each make their own book or journal with their own chosen theme to guide their book. Each participant decorates the front and back covers, and usually includes some sort of sign-in page along with an introduction page/pages. Then each journal is passed along to the next person on the list where they  contribute their interpretation of whatever topic of the specific book they have at the time. When each person finishes their designated number of pages/spreads, they sign and date the layout so the owner knows whose artwork is whose. The books circle around to each person in the group so everyone has a chance to add something to each one. It continues like this until all journals are complete and everyone gets their books back. Depending on the number of participants, the round robin can last for a few months or longer. A year or more is not unusual if there are many people doing this. If you want a shorter time period, start off with no more than 5-6 people.


28. Mini Tag Book:

This can be done by one person or many. The pages (tags) are usually no larger than 3×5 inches and can be decorated any way you prefer with whatever theme you choose. Minimum number of pages is six plus the front and back covers. Bind with ribbon or binder ring.


29. Pocket Book:

Measures at least 4×4. Must include 6+pages as well as the front and back covers. You can include tags and other small trinkets in the pockets if desired.


30.  Deco Book:

This is a mixed-media book that travels between friends and pen pals around the world, with each person contributing their own flavor/style to complete a page. When each person is done with their respected page and the book is filled with everyone’s artwork, it is considered finished and returned to the original artist who initially sent the book out. An excerpt from gomakesomething.com website: “A deco is a variation of a friendship book. They are all about making something beautiful- the booklet is the emphasis, and finding new friends comes from finding booklets that are made in a style which appeals to you. They can be mini-altered books, using many of the same techniques and materials along with bookbinding, collage, calligraphy, etc. Decos travel the world, going from one decorator to another. Each decorator or signer adds their work to a single blank page of the deco, and then passes it along to the next person. In traditional deco swapping, there is no set list of people to whom a deco will be passed,  so you never know who will work in your book or when it will be completed and arrive back home.”


31. Friendship Book:

From GoMakeSomething.com site:

“Friendship books, at their most basic, are small booklets that are mailed from pen pal to pen pal. Usually you see little 3×5 pieces of paper stapled together at the corner, with the front sheet decorated with stickers and a bunch of writing that will tell you who made the book, who it’s for, what the maker is into, if they’re looking for new pen pals, etc. A lot of this is done in code (NPW=new pals wanted). The emphasis is on learning about new people and finding new pen pals, and not necessarily on making something beautiful.”



You can use anything to make/construct a journal out of. Binders with plastic protector sheets, photo albums, blank books, composition books, spiral-bound notebooks, bound decorative journals, moleskin journals, CD cases, cardboard, brown paper bags, the sky’s the limit here. Be creative.


Thanks so much, Katherine, for this comprehensive list!


Let us know if you’ve tried some of these, if you have favorites, if you have inspiring sites to share–we’d love to hear!


Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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One Response to What Kind of Journal is Perfect for You?

  1. Seth says:

    31+ Who knew? What a great post. Thanks Rice and Katherine.