Creative Journaling Toolkit – Basic Journaling Techniques: Adding imagery and details

There are so many different ways you can add imagery and other little details to your journal. If you like to draw or doodle, then that might be something you want to explore with your journal entries. Zentangle can be a relaxing way to add interesting patterns to your pages. I’ve seen gorgeous travel journals that combine sketches of the sights and entries about the traveler’s adventures.

The main thing is to find a way that is easy enough for you to do without it feeling intimidating (that is, you don’t need to be able to draw!) or overwhelming, and that allows you to express yourself.

Here are a few of my favourite simple ways to add imagery and details to my journal pages.

Washi Tape

When I was first introduced to washi tape I wasn’t really convinced. I couldn’t really think of many uses for it. But then I got a few of my own beautiful rolls and started playing in my journal, and before long I was hooked.

Now, whenever a package arrives in the mail my fiance rolls his eyes, knowing full well that it’s likely to be more washi tape (or books, I have a problem with those too!).

There are a lot of fun things you can do with washi tape to add colour and visual interest to your pages. Here are a few of my faves.

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Use washi tape to divide your journal page – between entries, before writing a quote etc.
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Another example of using tape to divide a page.
washi tape headings
Use tape to create different sections on a page, similar to dividing a page. You can even stamp or write headings on it.
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Use washi tape to make a border around a page, quote, or something of interest.
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Use washi tape to tape an extra ‘page’ into your journal – put the tape down one side on both front and back of the extra page to add a little flap. Make these different sizes for interest – use them to add in extra info, ephemera, ticket stubs, photos, journaling cards, or just to create a little flap to hide some journaling.
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Use washi tape to tape a picture straight onto the page and add visual interest/decoration.
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Use simply as a border along one edge of a page, and use the colours to create a colour palette for that page.
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Another example of using them along the page edge and creating a colour palette for the page. Plus the images on the tape add visual interest.
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Another example of a colour palette for the spread – in this case, pink, orange and yellow.
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Use tape with imagery on it that ties into the theme of what you are expressing.
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Use tape to tie different elements or colours together in a spread.
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Use tape to draw attention to a particular part of a page.


Stamps are a really easy way to add simple imagery and symbols to your journal pages.

Certain stamps can be used repeatedly to create a motif or symbol in your journal. For example, I love the compass image because for me it represents exploration and discovery (in both a literal and figurative sense), so I have several of these and use them throughout all my journals. It creates a visual motif and a continuity that underpins my current work. You might like to use a bird, butterfly, feather, cloud, arrow, house, anchor – whatever calls to you.

Here are my compass stamps and some examples of how I’ve used them throughout my journals:

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Compass stamps, including rubber, hand-carved and clear for use with an acrylic block.
Some of the ways I’ve used compass stamps in my journals.

I love the travel theme so much that I’ve incorporated other elements too, like washi tape, collage (maps) and words relating to the metaphor of a journey. I’ve also incorporated other travel themed stamps:

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You can also use the imagery from stamps to illustrate/symbolise what it is you’re journaling about:

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The feather is a spiritual symbol for me so it tied in nicely with this ‘soulful’ page.
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The meditating Buddha is a symbol of digging deeper – by going within and seeing what arises.
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Another Buddha symbol that ties to the idea of letting go (also, another example of a theme/motif in my journals – Buddhas).
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Repeated bird stamp – ties to the idea of releasing something, freedom etc.

You can also repeat simple abstract shapes to create patterns, like this:

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A repeated stamp to create a pattern (hand-carved).
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Another hand-carved stamp repeated to create a patterned border up the side of the page.


I love to add images from magazines and books to my pages. Usually what I do is flick through a magazine until an image catches my eye, then add it. It doesn’t have to logically tie into the page – I just trust my intuition to find me what I need.

Often the image will be a good starting point for a spread, leading me to explore a certain theme and work with a certain colour palette. For this reason, I like to choose an image and let it guide the page, rather than create a page and then try to find an image that ‘fits’.

Here are a few examples:

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The shape of this image was really interesting. I loved the colours and silhouettes. Working from this image, it guided me to explore the topic on the page. Also note the repeated stamp pattern down the sides.
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This page combines spiritual ideas through the collage, such as awakening and the lotus flower which is a common symbol in Buddhism.
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I don’t know why this image of the girl spoke to me but it did. I liked the caption I added underneath and it tied nicely into what I was exploring – the things that inspire me.
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In this example the image does serve to illustrate what I’m expressing – how tired I was!
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I don’t know why this image caught my eye, but it seems to somehow visually embody the concepts I’m exploring here – for me at least.

These are just some of the ways you can add imagery to your journal. Explore what interests you and have fun!