Recommended Materials

Recommendations for suitable sketchbooks or journals for Creative Energy Journaling:

hardbound and spiral bound sketchbooks and a portfolio

Some possible journal/sketchbook options, including a portfolio rather than a bound book.

First, I should say that you don’t have to  keep an actual journal.  If you find a journal confining, feel free to use a folder, portfolio, scrapbook, drawer or box to save your work.

Or, feel free to just use these activities as stand-alone activities.

If you do want to use a journal or sketchbook, I recommend a spiral or hardbound journal with paper suitable for mixed media. There is a trade-off between having lovely, large pages and having a book portable enough to carry around. Something in the 9×12 range would be a good place to start, but see what appeals to you as far as size. Some of the ones mentioned below come in some interesting square formats (e.g. 9×9, 12×12), too.


If you choose a hardbound book, look for one that will lay flat (Smyth bound) when open. All of the hardbound ones mentioned here are like that.

Note: Because I’ve been getting a lot of “where to buy” inquiries, I’ve added links to a few of these at Wet Paint’s website.  There are other places you can buy, and I don’t get any sort of kick-back from Wet Paint :), but I do know and trust them enough to recommend them. If you prefer to buy elsewhere, a quick Google search will find all of these.

 Some good ones to try:

Where to Buy:

You can find all of these at my favorite art supply store: Wet Paint  (online at or in person (much more fun!) at 1684 Grand Ave in St. Paul, a couple blocks west of Snelling Ave and Macalester College). Tell them I said hi. 🙂

If you don’t live in the Twin Cities area, you can also search online and find many places where you can order these and have them shipped to you. And, since I always get asked about this: I do not recall seeing anything suitable at Michael’s or Jo-Ann and don’t recommend them for art papers or sketchbooks.


Art Materials for Getting Started

You don’t need to start with a lot of artist-quality art materials (although you certainly can).  Kids’ materials and supplies made for office use and scrapbooking are fine for journaling.

They may not have the same intensity of color or lovely handling as artist-quality materials and the colors may fade over time if exposed to light, but journal pages are not exposed to light for years at a time the way art on your wall would be.

So start simple with your materials. There’s something liberating about working with kid’s art materials, anyway. I’m a working artist will all sorts of pricey artist-grade materials, but I still get jazzed about a new box of crayons!

Tap into that adventurous, free, creative spirit you were in kindergarten, before the schedules, carpools, and to-do lists squashed your creative self into a corner. What better way to coax some creative energy back into your life than to give yourself a little taste of kindergarten again?

Of course, you may choose to buy some lovely artist-quality materials as an affirmation of your decision to value and live a more creative life! Or just because you’re worth it! If something is calling to you, go for it!

Supplies you might want to try:

Some watercolors

A kids’ set (e.g. Crayola) is just fine to start with. You can find these at discount stores (Target, Walmart) as well as hobby and craft stores (Michael’s, JoAnn). Often, art supply stores will have them, too. They are very inexpensive ($1-$5) and portable.

A decent watercolor brush.

The ones in the kids’ sets are usually too small and don’t come to a decent point.  Look for a #10 or #12 round white or gold synthetic watercolor brush. You can usually find these in hobby stores or art supply stores for under $5.

Or, for portability, try a waterbrush. These have a reservoir you can fill with water, so you don’t even need to take a water container along.

Some crayons, colored pencils, markers or gel pens.

Again, feel free to start with kids’ materials or stuff intended for office use or scrapbooking. You can find multicolor sets in discount stores in the school supplies, office supplies or scrapbooking areas.  You don’t need all of them. Choose whichever you enjoy working with.

A permanent black pen.

Some to try: Pigma Micron, Staedtler, ultrafine Sharpie. This is useful when you want to draw something and then brush some watercolor over it without smearing.

Some acrylic paints and/or inks

You probably won’t find these in the school supplies, and they are a bit more expensive than the other materials we’ve talked about so far. But you can buy relatively inexpensive tubes or sets in hobby and craft stores.

This is one place where the artist-quality stuff really is much nicer to work with, though. If you want to economize, consider buying just your favorite color (or an iridescent or metallic color) of good quality paint, instead of a cheap set. Golden is my favorite brand in acrylic paints. I’ve had good luck with pretty much all brands of acrylic ink I’ve tried.  You can also use Golden High-Flow Acrylics as ink.

If you’re trying to get started with minimal expense, or if you expect you’ll mostly be journaling where you don’t want to make a mess, skip these until you run across an activity where you really want to use them.

Pencils, a sharpener, a kneaded eraser, and (maybe) fixative.

The main thing I use pencil for is making my own transfer paper. (See the post about transferring images.  For that, you’ll want either a soft art pencil (4B, 6B or 8B) or a jar of powdered graphite.

For actually drawing or writing in your journal, you might be perfectly happy with a #2 office pencil or a mechanical pencil.  I don’t like the way pencil smears, so I don’t use it much in journaling, except for making some light guidelines occasionally, so any old pencil works for me.

But some people really love the feel of graphite on paper, and really love the soft, silvery look. If that’s you, then consider buying a few art pencils in different hardnesses. A good selection would be a 2H (for light, fine lines), an HB or B, and a 4B (soft enough to get nice darks).

If you work in pencil, a kneaded eraser will help you lift out graphite to lighten areas, and doesn’t leave a whole lot of eraser bits all over your work surface and floor.

Art pencils are often slightly thicker than an office pencil, so you may need to buy a sharpener.

Pencil smears, so you may want to buy fixative to spray on your drawings to keep the graphite from smearing or transferring to adjacent pages. Or, misting the page with water will also help (not quite as much, but no smelly solvents!)