Creative Journaling Toolkit – Journaling Supplies: Tools to add colour

One of the essential things for me that differentiates creative journaling from regular journal writing is including a visual element. Including colour in my journal brings in the visual aspect. Below are some simple art supplies and tools that can help you bring colour into your journal.

The Paints

Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is opaque and usually comes in vivid colours. Once it’s dry, it can’t be rewet. It’s good for layering in your journal, and making backgrounds.

You could spend a small fortune on acrylic paints – the Golden brand of paints is gorgeous – but it’s not really necessary to buy the fancy stuff to use in your journal. You can use cheap craft paints if you like.

My favourite cheap-ish brands are Pébéo Studio acrylics (these are a high viscosity paint that are lovely and smooth to use) and Jo Sonja’s matte fluid acrylic (so beautiful to use, smooth and a gorgeous satin finish without being chalky). I would use really cheap craft paints but they are actually quite hard to come by in New Zealand.

The techniques I’ll be showing you will work with any kind of acrylic paint.

image4 (1)

Watercolour and Gouache

You can get watercolours in tubes or pans. The pans come already dried, and you just add a bit of colour to activate and use the pigment. If you get them in tubes, you can make your own palette to use.

Again, you could spend a lot of money here. I just adore the gorgeous Daniel Smith range of watercolour paints but with each tiny tube costing about $40 NZD, I haven’t yet splurged. Maybe when I want to treat myself!

I use a cheap brand from a local craft store, and they are still great quality with reasonably vivid colours. I prefer to use tubes and make my own palette because I like being able to top-up colours as I use them, rather than using up a pan.

If you love watercolour and want to use it a lot then it could be worth investing, otherwise just grab some cheap ones to play with.

Gouache is an interesting and versatile kind of paint. It acts a lot like watercolour in that it can be rewet when it dries out, and can be watered down to be quite transparent. But it can also be layered and if you get it thick enough, it’s quite opaque – more like acrylic paint.

I like the versatility of gouache, and I also find the colours a lot more vivid than watercolour – I think it has a lot more pigment.

I think you can get gouache in pans, but mostly it comes in small tubes like watercolour. I put mine in a palette and let it dry. I recommend adding a little gum arabic to it when you pour it out so it retains its consistency and doesn’t get too chalky once dry.

Note that both watercolour and gouache will require either slightly thicker paper or gesso on the page before using them as they are quite wet mediums.

Mildreds Palette
My watercolour paints squeezed into old pans, in my Great Grandmothers’s old watercolour tin
Gouache tubes and a cheap plastic palette

Other Ways to Add Colour

So far we’ve looked at paints, but we don’t always have a desk to sit down at and a water cup nearby.

These next supplies are good for on the go – they transport easily and don’t require special tools, plus you can create a colourful background really easily and quickly with them. They aren’t messy, so you can use them on the sofa or in bed for lazy journaling.

Watercolour crayons

Watercolour crayons, like Faber-Castell Gelatos or Caran D’ache Neocolor II, are a really simple way to add colour. They are crayons that are waxy/oily in consistency, but when you add water they turn into a light paint.

If you use water with these you will need sturdy paper, but I will show you a simple method that doesn’t require thick paper to use these. They can be great for making a simple coloured background to write over.


Soft pastels

These have a sort of chalky feel, and they work well to colour a background to write over without needing any water or anything – simply smudge with your fingertips.

I prefer these to oil pastels because you can write over the top of these – the oil in oil pastels makes it really difficult to write over!


There are so many ways to add colour to your journal that it would be impossible to list them all here. These are the ones that I turn to regularly, and the ones I’ll demonstrate simple techniques for. If you find something else that you love, then use that!