If you are an aspiring artist, then you need to get in as much practice as you can, typically using a sketchbook. However, there is another way you can practice, and also let loose your creativity whenever you want and wherever you are – that is by getting the best art journals.
Technically speaking, any journaling notebook can be used as an art journal, but some are better than others. It is your duty to pick which one out of the literally hundreds of choices in the market is the best for you.
I have tested lots of art journals so you do not have to. The following are some of the best journals, in my opinion. Hopefully, this list will help you choose the right one for you.
Top Best Art Journals Reviews
1. Strathmore Visual Mixed Media Journal
The Strathmore Visual Journal is a mixed media art journal, which means you can use different art media on the pages and it will still turn out rather well. I have tried using chalks, colored pencils, and even oil stick pastels and they worked rather well on the paper.
I even had quite marginal success using watercolors, though, you will need a bit of preparation first. So, if you like using different art media for your art journal, then this might be the most ideal for your purposes.
Speaking of the paper, this art journal uses a 100% recycled cotton/vellum finish. This makes this art journal completely vegan-friendly. There are absolutely no traces of animal products in this journal. In addition, since the pages are made from recycled materials, this product is also very environmentally-friendly.
The pages are also spiral-bound so they will always lay flat on any surface that you choose to work on. I like this kind of binding because I do not need to hold the other pages down or crease the paper whenever I am sketching. The spiral binding also makes it easier to tear off pages because you will not be running the risk of ripping the paper.
Finally, the cover also looks rather nice. It is made from a plastic material that has a leather-like texture embossed on it. What you are seeing when browsing this product is the protective sleeve.
You can just rip it right off once you take this journal home with you. Also, you can choose from several different sizes. If you want a journal that you can take with you anywhere, the smaller 5.5” x 8” should be perfect.
2. Leda Art Softbound Cover Artists Sketchbook
Even though the Leda Art Supply sketchbook looks like an ordinary journal, you will discover that it is a true artist’s journal once you open it. The pages are made from 81-pound paper, which is, in my opinion, the most versatile thickness of art paper.
It is thick enough for most dry art media and even a bit of light watercolors. So, if you like using different kinds of art mediums, you will like this journal.
I also love the PU cover of this art journal. The surface has a rough, cross-hatched texture that feels nice on the hands. I like running my fingers over the cover before I start sketching. It has a somewhat relaxing effect.
The cover also looks nice. It has a clean, minimalist aesthetic, which is nice for an art journal because the contents should be more colorful than the cover.
Another thing about the cover that I liked is how stiff and durable it is. Although the PU cover is flexible, it provides enough rigidity to prevent the pages from creasing and folding even when you place this journal in your EDC bag. In addition, this journal comes with an elastic band that keeps the cover closed and secured.
Let us talk about the quality of the book’s construction. We have already talked about how sturdy the cover is and now, we will be focusing on the binding of the pages. The nice thing about this binding is that it has a very solid construction.
Even if you tug on the pages, the stitching will hold them in place. Also, even though the book does not lay flat completely, it does open enough that you do not have to hold down the rest of the pages.
3. Speedball Travelogue Drawing Artist Journal
The first thing that I noticed about the Travelogue Drawing Book is its unusual shape. It is square. This is a far departure from the traditional rectangular journals, but don’t worry as you will get used to it soon enough.
The shape and size of this artist journal are the perfect size and shape for an EDC journal. Wherever inspiration hits you, just pull this out of your bag and start sketching.
The most important thing that you need to take into consideration when choosing an art journal is the quality of the paper. This journal has excellent quality in that regard. The pages are 130GSM thick.
This means that you can even use watercolor on it and the paper will not warp unless, of course, you use a lot of water. The paper is also acid-free so it will not affect the colors you use.
Now, let us talk about the cover. Unlike most of the art journals in this list, the cover is made from stiff cardboard wrapped in book cloth. Just holding this art journal in your hands is enough to tell you that this is a high-quality product.
It is like holding a well-crafted classic book, and you can be sure that you will love it every time that you are using this product. There are also other nice additions to this art journal. One is the elastic band used to keep the cover closed, which will prevent the pages from getting creased and folded while you are carrying the journal in your bag.
This journal also has a ribbon bookmark so that you do not have to rifle through the pages and accidentally crinkle the paper. In addition, the way the pages are bound to the cover allows the journal to always lay flat on your table.
4. Ohuhu Art Sketch Drawing Book
Ohuhu is known for its excellent colored markers. They are among the best that you can buy. However, they also make art journals and sketchbooks that will allow you to make the most use of their markers.
The pages are made from incredibly thick paper, 200GSM to be exact. This means that the paper is thick and dense enough that you can use markers and even watercolor without worrying about them bleeding through the other side.
Another thing that might seem weird for beginners is the shape of this art journal. Unlike most other art journals, this one is square, measuring 8.3” x 8.3”. Most journals have rectangular pages, but square pages are better for art journals as you do not need to worry about the orientation of your drawings.
Another nice thing is that this art journal is compact enough that you can easily keep this in your bag. Still, it is also big enough to give you more than enough space for your drawings.
When you draw on cheap paper, you will notice that the paper will get discolored after just a couple of months, which will also cause your drawings to discolor. The pages are acid-free, too.
This means you do not have to worry about your drawings getting discolored after a significant number of years have passed. The drawings you put into this art journal are guaranteed to still look as good as the day you drew them.
This sketchbook contains 78 sheets of 200GSM paper, and because they are highly resistant to bleed through, you will essentially be getting 156 pages in total. That’s a lot of pages where you can practice your techniques, or if you want, you can carefully remove the page so you can display your work proudly.
5. U.S. Art Supply Mixed Media Drawing Sketchbook
Unlike most of the other art journals in this list, the US Art Supply journal is made for use with watercolors. This means that this art journal is one of the actual mixed media sketchbooks that are available. I have tested this sketchbook using pencils, colored pencils, markers, watercolors, and acrylic paints and they have all worked quite well.
Speaking of the paper, the pages are 230GSM paper, which is quite thick. This makes it ideal for use with watercolors because the extra thickness prevents the page from warping and bleeding.
In addition, you do not need to prepare and stretch the paper before you use watercolors on it. This makes this the best choice for a sketchbook that you can use immediately whenever inspiration hits.
Another nice thing about this watercolor book is that you are getting 76 sheets of high-quality paper. Essentially, you will be enjoying 152 pages where you can work on your technique.
Unlike other sketchbooks that use cheap paper and do not do anything to enhance the appearance of your drawings, this artbook has a nice tooth that adds a great texture to your drawings. Also, you are getting two art books with every package, which gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
There are also a couple of little extra features that give this art book a lot of convenience. There is a convenient ribbon bookmark so you can quickly get back to your previous project. In addition, there is an elastic band that helps keep the book closed. It comes in handy when you are carrying this art book in your EDC bag.
6. Minimalism Art Premium Hard Cover Notebook Journal
The Minimalism Art notebook journal is technically just a regular journal, but you can also use it as a quick art journal. This is especially true when you choose a notebook that has blank pages. This is a great choice if what you are looking for is an EDC notebook that you can use for quick sketches whenever the desire to do so strikes.
The thing I liked the most about this journal is the way the pages are bound. I noticed how much they value durability in the binding of the pages. In addition, the way they are bound makes it possible to lay them flat on a table when you use them.
The lay-flat feature makes it easier to draw on the pages. The reason is that you do not need to hold the other pages down so you can draw properly.
The cover is made from high-quality faux leather, which provides enough rigidity to keep the pages from creasing and crumpling. This is an important feature especially if you are thinking of bringing this notebook along with you as an EDC art journal.
You can just stuff this into your bag and you do not have to worry about the pages getting ruined. The paper used for this journal is not necessarily artist-grade, but they are not that bad at all.
The paper is 120GSM weight, so it is a bit resistant to ink bleeding. This means you can use this journal as a sketchbook for pencils, and maybe even light ink drawings. Do not use color markers or other heavy art media as it would ruin the paper.
7. DSTELIN Spiral Notebook Journal
Just like the Minimalism Art notebook, the DSTELIN spiral notebook is technically not an art journal but with how it is constructed, you can use it like one. The pages are unlined so you can use them for practice sketches.
With that said, although pencils are the ideal medium to use for this journal, the paper is thick enough that you can use it for light ink sketches and not worry about bleed-through. The overall construction of this journal is also quite conducive to practicing your art.
The spiral binding and stiff cardboard covers help keep the paper from getting creased. In addition, the spiral binding allows the notebook to lay flat on your drawing surface. This eliminates the need for you to hold down one side of the journal and provides you with a perfectly flat paper surface to draw on.
I also liked the very minimalist design of this notebook/art journal. For most people, an art journal should not have a design that is too busy and distracting. This journal has plain, stiff cardboard backing, and the pages are cream-colored and unlined.
There aren’t even any traces of branding anywhere in the journal. This is as minimalist as a journal can get, and if you are into this kind of aesthetic, then you would like this product.
The DSTELIN journal measures just 7.5” x 5.1”, which makes it the right size for your EDC bag. This means you can practice your sketches wherever and whenever you want. The spiral binding also allows you to fold the journal in on itself so you can easily hold this notebook with one hand and sketch with the other.
8. Arteza Watercolor Sketchbooks Art Journal
The best thing about this sketchbook is that it is made for use with watercolors, which means you can use other art media on it, like pencils, acrylics, and light oil paints. If you are looking for a true mixed-media sketchbook, this might just be the one you are looking for.
However, even though this sketchbook is a “watercolor sketchbook”, you should not use too much water to keep the paper from warping. The paper is 230GSM, which is quite thick in terms of drawing paper. The paper is thick enough to keep the ink from bleeding through it, which means that you can use colored markers and even acrylic markers.
You also have a choice between smooth and textured paper surfaces. I particularly like the textured surfaces as they add a bit more depth to my drawings. This journal measures 8.25” x 8.25”, so you can easily keep it inside your bag.
This makes it convenient to bring around if you like to sketch outdoors or do caricatures of people while you are riding in public transportation or when you are people-watching in the park. This will allow you to practice your skills anywhere and anytime you want.
I also like the overall look of this art journal. The cover is sturdy cardboard that is wrapped in beautiful book fabric. The cover has a nice texture that makes this sketchbook feel nice on the hand. It is quite stiff and provides enough support for the pages, thereby preventing them from getting creases.
9. 642 Things to Draw Inspirational Sketchbook
This is a novel product because this is not just a regular sketchbook. It is like an art bullet journal. This is a drawing book that provides you with suggestions for drawings. It is usually difficult to come up with ideas for things to draw as practice.
With this sketchbook, you are getting daily suggestions every day on what you need to draw. This will force you to draw the prompts that the sketchbook suggests that you do. This means that you will greatly improve your skills by drawing seemingly spontaneous things.
The paper used for this daily art prompt journal is not the best but it is also far from the worst. Ideally, you should only use pencils and ballpoint pens for sketching in this journal.
If you will be using ballpoint pens, you can expect that there will not be any bleeding. However, you should be careful when layering your pen strokes. Too many overlapping pen strokes might deposit too much ink on the paper.
As stated in the title, you will be getting 642 drawing prompts, so you will have more than enough things to do every day of the year. Some of the prompts are rather simple, so you can probably do more than one of them each day, but then some are a bit complicated that will challenge your creativity and imagination.
This book is bound like a school textbook, so do not expect it to lay flat on the table. However, keep in mind that this is not an art journal where you are expected to create highly-detailed drawings. The prompts are meant for creating quick rough sketches. They try to keep your mind and imagination sharp and keep you interested in drawing.
10. Bee Paper Creative Mixed Media Art Journal
One of the things I liked a lot about the Bee Paper Creative Art Journal is that the paper used is double-sided. One side is cold-pressed with a significant tooth while the other is hot-pressed and is much smoother. This means that you can get two types of surface textures in just one art journal.
Speaking of the pages, you are getting 50 sheets of acid-free paper in this mixed-media art journal. This means that whatever art media you use, they will not suffer from any discoloration over time.
The regular paper contains trace amounts of acid in the fibers, which will seep out after some time and will discolor the paint or pencil marks. So, if you are particularly pleased with one project of yours, you can cut it out and put it on display without worries.
Versatility is another thing that this art journal is good at. You can use a wide variety of media, like pencils, markers, pens, chalks, and more. However, this is not that good when it comes to handling watercolors but if you have to use it, then make sure that you do not saturate the paper too much, or else it will warp.
The cover is made from sturdy, recycled chipboard, which gives strong and firm support for the pages. You can place this art journal in your bag, and the cover will prevent folds and creases on the pages.
The Bee Creative art journal is spiral-bound, which allows it to lay flat on any surface. This is important because you can use both sides of every page for your drawings without having to deal with one side curling over, which makes it so convenient to use.
How to Choose a Art Journals
Shopping for art journals can be a lot of fun. However, many different types of art journals are available, and choosing just one can be quite hard. Here are the factors that I used when I go shopping for my art journals that may also be of help to you.
Paper Quality – This is the most important thing that you need to take into consideration when comparing different brands. Depending on what kind of art medium you are using, you will need to use thicker paper. For instance, if you will be using watercolors, then you will need rather thick paper so that it will not warp.
Binding Quality – Ideally, an art journal should be able to open and lay flat on the table. This will depend on the kind of binding used for the pages. For instance, if the art journal is ring-bound, it will easily lay flat on any surface.
There are also some book-bound journals where the pages are stitched in such a way that they will open flat regardless of which page you are on.
Cover Quality – The cover does more than just keep the journal closed. It also helps the pages keep their shape. If you will be carrying the journal in your EDC bag, then you have to choose one with a thick and stiff cover so that the pages will not get creased while you are moving around.
Cost – This will be completely subjective as people tend to have different budgets when buying art journals. The thing you have to consider is how much you are willing to spend, and figure out which journals fit into your budget.
The best art journals can help you work on your art skills because you have something that you can use every day. This should depend on what kind of art medium you use, whether you like using pencils, markers, or even watercolors.
The examples mentioned above are just some of the journals that I have tried so far and I can confidently recommend them to budding artists.