Favorite supplies for keeping sketchbooks and art journals

a bouquet of art supplies

The following is a list supplies I use for the sketchbook process / keeping visual journals.

At the end of the page, are pictures and prices from my Amazon shopping list. Scroll down to see it.

This same supply list is like a base recipe that goes out to everyone in my workshops. We add or subtract supplies, our ingredients, depending on the specific workshop I’m leading.

One of my personal missions in life is to demystify art supplies—

to help make creativity and personal self-expression easier and less intimidating for everyone.

So the supply list here is made up of inexpensive and easy-to-find supplies, many that can be found in office supply and department stores. Stuff that you might buy for kids while shopping for school supplies.

We are all beginners every time we face the black page.

a pile of Lisa Sonora Beam's sketchbooksBlank Sketchbook 

Size: Around 8 x 10 inches or 5 x 7 inches are ideal.

Binding: Either spiral or hardbound works. Choose what you like best. Bindings are a matter of personal preference.

You can find blank sketchbooks at artist supply shops, stationers and some drug and department stores. It doesn’t have to be fancy. The pages can be text weight paper, the kind for sketching. No need for heavy paper like the kind used for watercolor.

Blank, unlined paper, is ideal, but if you you absolutely love to work in books with lined paper, go for it.

Again – it’s all a matter of preference and what feels best to you. This work is all about Happification, so your blank book has to feel good to you. Feeling good in our creativity spills over into all areas of life. This is the goal!

Blank Sketchbooks I found on Amazon

a couple of recommendations:

Hardbound binding:

Sketchbook Black cover 8 1/4 x 11″

Sketchbook-Black Blank Book-5 1/2 x 8 1/4″

Spiral binding:

Strathmore Visual Journal- Smooth Bristol Paper 9×12 Inch

Strathmore Visual Journal Spiral Bound 5.5″X8″-Bristol Smooth

If you’re not sure which size or binding to get, and you can splurge on more than one sketchbook, then pick up several in different sizes and bindings to get a feel for what you like to work in best.

You might need to venture into a proper art supply store to find a sketchbook – but maybe not.

Sketchbooks are available online (here is my linked Amazon supply list) and in many bookstores, museum shops, gift stores and boutiques.

Once you start looking for a blank book, you’ll start noticing them in uncommon places.

Craft paint

You’ll find this in 2 oz bottles, get the stuff that’s a couple of dollars a bottle (sometimes on sale for less).

I like these:

Set of 18 Martha Stewart brights (!)

Beautiful 18 color set of 2 oz. craft paints

In the USA: If you have Michael’s craft store, look for their store brand called CraftSmart. Michael’s and JoAnn Fabrics carry other brands of craft paint. If you look for the 2oz bottles in the Craft Paint aisle (not the Art Supply aisle), that will get you to the craft paint. Some large drug stores carry craft paint as well.

Michael’s also has a line of Martha Stewart craft paint, they’re about $2 per bottle.

Another source for 2oz bottles of craft paint is Blick Art Supplies – check out their online store if you don’t have one locally. They also have a great selection of Sketchbooks.

Get white, off-white or cream, and light grey, plus a several of your favorite colors. If you are attracted to glitter or metallic colors, you can pick up those, too.

mexican paint colors

I use a traditional handmade pot from Oaxaca to store my paints here in Mexico. And also those big plastic tubs for laundry.

Glue Stick

Pens – your favorite writing pens, plus a few ballpoint pens and pencils


Ruler (not for measuring, but for cutting paper)

Crayons, markers and/or colored pencils (whatever you like to doodle with, stuff from the drug store or office supply is fine)

Tissue or thin papers (think stuff you get for gift wrapping). It’s ok if they are wrinkled, torn.

8.5 x 11 paper – several sheets in your favorite colors, whatever you may have on hand

Decorative paper This adds a lot to the journal – scraps are OK.

Magazines and books to cut up. Go through  your stash and gather image-intensive magazines. Ask friends for discards, try thrift shops and check your library. Many libraries give these away or sell them very inexpensively.

A bag of junk and scrap paper: Raid your recycling bin and or/office supply stash, or dump out the paper from your junk drawer.

Paper items that are good fodder collecting include:

greeting cards


old file folders



paper in colors you don’t like, don’t use

graph paper, ledger paper

pages from old notebooks, calendars

a bucket of pens in all colors of the rainbow


In addition to the above, you may choose to work with the following supplies. If you are on a budget, just add one item at a time, wait for sales, or even better: trade with others who like do keep sketchbooks.

Don’t let lack of the perfect supplies stop you. Use what you’ve got!

Photos of yourself, family, work, home (make copies of originals so you’re not afraid to “ruin” anything)

Favorite quotes or poems

Rubber stamps/ink pads

Alphabet stamps or stickers

Collage Ephemera – whatever you may already have


Needles, thread, buttons, fabric pieces, ribbons


turquoise tackle box beautifully contains art supplies I use every day for visual journaling

That pretty picture of my tackle box is just a decoy – away from what my work table really looks like.

See what I mean here: Where women *don’t* create

What are your favorite supplies for sketchbooks and keeping visual journals?  

Lisa’s Art Supply Shopping List

The links on this page will take you to Amazon, where I have an affiliate account. You don’t have to shop there, it’s a convenient place to browse. If you do shop via my links, it doesn’t cost you anything, and I do get a little commision to use toward my *ahem* long list of Kindle purchases.  🙂 thanks.

10 Responses to Favorite supplies for keeping sketchbooks and art journals

  1. kayla June 2, 2017 at 2:06 am #

    Hello , I have tried to start a Mixed Media Art Journal but have become stuck on how to get started on what I what to do with it …I love art and have as long as I can remember but …im not sure how to get started and don’t have much besides paints and markers to do with …I took a old book and painted all the pages black and white to start and NOW I am stuck ! could you give me some ideas? PLEASE YES I have youtubed and googled and all im just stuck.

  2. Donna McKenzie August 31, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    Thank you Lisa for the opportunity to join you and others for journaling being a procrastinator I am truly hoping I can focus it I can focus enough to finish

  3. Myrna Fanney December 31, 2015 at 7:43 am #

    Hi Lisa, I am very excited about the 30-day journaling project! I have never journaled before but I am looking forward to the challeng and am sure the process will open up some creativity for me! I received a beautiful art journal for Christmas and am anxious to fill the pages. Great timing! ✨?

  4. Françoise June 27, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    Lisa, I’m so psyched about the #30dayjournal project. I’m an educator. I always try to bring and encourage creativity in my classes. I have included art projects in my Spanish curriculum and the kiddos look forward to them during the year. That said, while I’m working I’m drained and my personal projects are usually left aside. So I wanted to say thank you for the inspiration. I’ll be relaunching my blog and the challenge (and you of course) has given me that little push I needed. Also, my sister and niece are coming to visit me from Chile and I’ll be translating the prompts to Spanish and have journals for them so we do this as a family 🙂
    Mil gracias!!!!

    PS: What kind of caddy are you using for your art materials?

  5. Michele June 16, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    Am looking forward to the 30-day journal project… can’t wait!


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