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Our Favorite Mixed Media Art Journals Reviewed:
Finding a good mixed media art journal is not as easy as it may seem.
There are plenty of quality sketch books and watercolor notebooks on the market, but if you want to create mixed media art then you are going to need something more substantial.
You want to find an art journal with these qualities:
- Lays Flat: It is best if your art journal can lay flat on its own. Otherwise you will have to constantly weigh down one side of the journal. If you are working on two pages at a time, this is impossible to do without getting paint on your paperweight – or without drying each new layer individually with a heat gun.
- Thick Pages: Regular typing paper or even watercolor paper will not hold up under the weight of heavy media. The pages will warp when you put too much ink or paint on them. And you can also get peels, or “little fuzzies” if you try to use a strong ink or eraser. For these reasons, you need to find a paper with a weight of at least 90lb. However, the thicker the paper, the more expensive the price. When we compiled this list, we focused on the journals that offer the most bang for the buck. If you are new to mixed media, the notebooks on this list are a great way to get started with art journaling. They are beloved by both amateurs and professionals.
- Smooth Texture: Okay, rough texture can also work. But we like smooth. We find it is easier to get consistent results with.
Keep reading for our list of the best mixed media notebooks and journals. We tested these journals personally and summed up our opinions on which ones are best for different media types.
What is a mixed media journal?
A mixed media art journal is a notebook specifically designed for painting with heavy media, gesso, and inks. Many people also like to tape or glue in pictures or images cut from magazines. Instead of a traditional diary or bullet journal, an art journal is primarily focused on expression through images and short sentences. You do not have to be an “artist” to have an art journal. In truth, one of the best ways to become an “artist” is to practice daily in an art journal.
While a lot of crafters and artists like to paint with watercolor, this review is specifically for journals that can withstand a lot of abuse. We picked ones that can handle a variety of different media. Though you can certainly watercolor in these books, they probably will not produce the results you want if you are primarily a watercolor artist.
Now, on to the best mixed media journals!
Strathmore Visual Journal Review:
Best For: Light acrylics, watercolor, India ink, colored pencils, charcoal
Bad For: Alcohol Ink, really heavy acrylics
We love the Strathmore Visual Journal with 90lb/190 gsm mixed media paper. Unlike some of the other mixed media notebooks on the market, this journal has a smooth vellum finish. Many of the other mixed media paper we reviewed could not handle both wet and dry media. Either the paper was too thin and we couldn’t use watercolor or acrylic paint, or the paper was too textured, meaning it was impossible to get even coverage with graphite or colored pencils. The Strathmore Visual Journal can handle any kind of spray, stain, paint, India ink, pen, marker, texture, etc. Plus, the covers are thick! You can easily work in it without a table or work surface underneath.
One Caveat: Although the paper in the Strathmore journal can handle any type of medium, it does tend to curl up if you use too much paint without letting it dry in between layers. But we still think it is the best all around mixed media journal because it is so versatile. You don’t have to switch notebooks if you want to work with a different medium, instead you just need to turn the page.
However, if you like to use a lot of heavy paint or gesso, you will need an art journal with thicker paper. The Dylusions journal below is a great alternative.
Copics Users: Your alcohol ink makers will bleed through the pages of this art journal, but you can always just put a piece of scratch paper underneath. However, we didn’t like the way the markers blended on our test pages.
This journal comes in several sizes, from pocket size to a full 9 x 12 inches.
Dylusions Dyan Reaveley’s Creative Journal Review:
In this Dylusions journalby Dyan Reaveley, you get a ton of super thick pages at a great price. You can throw a lot of heavy, wet media on a single page and still get fantastic results. The art journal also includes two different weights of paper, so you don’t have to use up your super thick pages on colored pencils or pen sketches. Plus, it includes a storage pocket and an elastic band to bind it all together. And while we like that you can decorate the cover, most of us decided to keep ours plain because the neutral color is so nice. It is also available in varying sizes.
Our Only Complaints: It is difficult to tear out the pages in this mixed media art journal, so it is not a great option for people who want to scan their projects into a computer. Also, any kind of sharpie or alcohol ink will bleed through. It is also possible for watercolor and fluid acrylics to blend through spine and seep out on other pages – so you might want to use a piece of masking or to prevent that.
Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Album Review:
Best For: acrylic paint, watercolor, collage
Bad For: Alcohol inks, colored pencils
Don’t let the name of this Moleskine journal confuse you, it is definitely for more than just watercolor. It’s 135 lb paper holds up really well against paint, glue, and other heavy-duty applications. In general, we are huge fans of Moleskine because they make top notch products. However, they can be pretty pricey. In this case though, we think the price is on par with other quality mixed media journals.
This Moleskine art journal also has a landscape orientation, which is different but fun. You can either use the journal in this way or rotate it back to portrait.
The Moleskine is also the most professional looking mixed media journal we reviewed. If you are traveling with this notebook, you will be taken seriously as an artist.
As we said in our Dyan Reavely Dylusions journal review, whenever an art journal is bound together in this way, there is the risk of bleed-through around the spine. For some reason, this journal had that problem less than the Dylusions journal, but it is still an issue to think about. It won’t happen with thick paints, but it can happen with thinner ones like watercolor or ink.
Canson XL Mix Media Pad Review:
Best For: Heavy media, collage, crafters on a budget
Bad For: Watercolor, oil pastels, colored pencils
We like a lot about this mixed media art journal. First, it lays completely flat and has spiral binding. You can easily create a picture on the go, then tear it out and scan it when you get home. We also like that it is very affordable – in fact, it is the least expensive option on this list, so it is great for beginners.
The Canson Mixed Media Pad can withstand a lot of paint, ink, and glue. It is 98lb/160gsm so you can do a lot with it, even watercolor.
But it has a strong background texture that shows through when you paint with watercolor. We didn’t really mind that so much, especially considering the price. But if you want to create watercolor art to show to others, this is not the paper for you.
Take a look at what we mean:
That same background texture also makes it hard to get full coverage with chalk or pencils. To make the best use of this paper, you need a medium that will flow into those crevices on its own.
Overall, the Canson Pad is a great deal for the price, especially if you are just starting out.