The A – Z of Artful Journaling: Background Basics

Grab your kit! It’s time to lay down some colour!

One of the easiest and most beautiful ways of decorating your journal pages is to simply splash watercolour around. I’ve been watercolouring for a few years now, but I only got into using it in my journals after watching Ali Brown’s YouTube videos in which she ‘plops’ watercolour onto the page. If you like to learn by watching demonstrations, then you should definitely check her out. You can also take a look at my artful journaling playlist on Youtube.

So, your basic kit is:

  • paper
  • paints
  • a brush
  • two water jars and
  • a pallette

Now, lets mix up some paint. We’ll talk about colour choice in a future post, but for now, just pick two or three colours that lift your spirits. I love brights, so I’ve gone for an orange, a red and a shocking pink.

Use your brush to plop a couple of pools of clean water in each well of your palette, then pick up some paint with a clean brush and mix it with the water. It’s worth noting, that for watercolours to do what watercolours do best, they need lots of water to play in. As a general rule, they want to be runny and watery, not thick and creamy.

Next, clean your brush in your ‘dirty’ pot then pick up some clean water from your ‘clean’ pot. Spread this about on your journal page in the areas you want the colours to be. Remember, watercolours love lots of water to play in!



Your brush should still be clean at this point, so go ahead and dip it into one of the colours on your pallet then brush it on your page. The paint will run to wherever there is water. If there are dry areas that you want to be coloured, just pick up some more paint and spread it around. Be gentle. You don’t have to scrub at the paper. The watercolours will do most of the work for you.

It’s a good idea to start with your lightest colour and then add darker colours later because it’s harder to lighten an area of colour than it is to darken it.

You don’t need to dry the paint between adding each colour. In fact, you want the paint on the paper to stay wet until you’ve finished the adding process. This way the colours will mix on the paper and give you some lovely new hues.

When you’re happy with your page, you can leave it to dry, or you can dry it with a heat tool or hairdryer. The advantage of leaving it to dry is that the paint will dry in the pattern it’s currently in. The disadvantage is that it can take a long time, and it might bleed through even the most robust of papers. The advantage of using heat is that it is quicker, but you have to be careful not to blow the paint around too much. Deep pools will shoot across the page and leave painty trails – of couse, if this is the effect you want, then really go for it! I often do.

So, there you have it: how to lay down a basic background using watercolour paints. Over the course of this series, I’ll be showing you other kinds of media and techniques that you can use to add colour to your page, plus the myriad things you can layer on top to add interest and texture. We’ll also talk about writing the words too.

So, have you tried this method before? What paints and paper do you use?

Thanks for reading. See you next time!

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