Stencil, Gesso: Art Journaling Play!

A guest art journaling tutorial by Journal Spilling author, Diana Trout

Time to break out the stencil for this layered art journaling technique. Stencils are so popular right now and are widely available both on-line and at your local craft store. If you don’t have an “official” stencil, make your own using an old file folder and X-Acto blade.

When time is short, it is great to work in your journal in stages.

art journal

Diana Trout

Here’s what you’ll need for this technique.


Your Journal
* a large simple stencil works best for this technique
Gesso (or regular craft paint)
Stencil brush
Watercolor, watersoluble crayons, watersoluble pencils and/or colored markers
paint brushes, water and a rag

Since this journal page idea has a lot of dry times, it works perfectly for me to get a layer down, let it dry, then come back for another layer. You can always use a heat gun if you want to get this done in one sitting.

Gesso and Stencil Layer

art journaling

Gesso Layer
Diana Trout

Open to a new page or spread in your journal and lay the stencil down.

Use the gesso in the lid of your jar, dip in your brush. You may want to bounce your loaded brush onto waste paper (or another part of your journal); you want a fairly dry brush. Then bounce away on your stencil, refilling your brush as needed

Dry time: check your emails, it won’t take long for this layer to dry.

Color Layer #1 (you know there has to be more than one color layer).

art journal technique

Watercolor Layer
Diana Trout

When the gesso’d stencil layer is completely dry, use a big wet brush and spill color all over the page. Since the watercolor/gesso layer is pretty fragile, you can easily wipe away any paint that you don’t want. You can use a damp brush to re-wet the color and a rag to wipe.

art journaling techniques

Wipe-Out Layer
Diana Trout

Dry time: write a blog post, this layer takes a bit longer to dry.

Color Layer #2. Write, Draw, Doodle

art journaling techniques

Color Layer
Diana Trout

You can use any kind of water-based media for this layer. I used Aquamarkers but plain old Crayolas or Pitt markers would work just as well. Do your writing or doodling. I wrote in Spilling fashion.

Art journaling techniques

Writing Layer
Diana Trout

Since this layer is also water-soluble, you can again wipe away over the stenciled areas, leaving a peek-a-boo effect.

On the Clouds page, I took it a bit further with more markers and Inktense Pencils to add some shadowy areas. How about some collage on top or more gesso? You could gesso over an area of your page and add doodles, more writing or collage.

art journaling technique

Clouds- close-up
Diana Trout

Make this artwork yours by doing whatever comes to your mind. Try to work quickly and keep one step ahead your critic. Remember this: your journal is for you. “Messing” something up usually leads to creative problem solving and more interesting work. Go with your instincts always!

For some quick watercolor techniques using Crayola watercolors, see my video: Juicy Watercolor

For more on watercolor, you can go to my free online class Watercolor Primer.

About Diana Trout: “I like art – making it, teaching it and writing about it.” Visit her blog here.





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