Altered Covers for Journals from the Dollar Bin

I was recently asked to serve with the Young Women in my church.  It’s a big job, but I’m so excited to see them progress in their testimonies!  It has become a tradition in our congregation for the leaders to bake a super awesome, individual sized cake for each of the young women on their birthdays.  This tradition has lasted for years, but as new leaders, we did not want to have to continue doing something that wasn’t really necessary.  And yet, we couldn’t not do anything, either.  So, what did I do?  I volunteered to do some altered covers on some dollar bin journals, so that each young woman can have an altered journal on her birthday.  I have to say, it’s a lot more fun for me than baking a cake, if still a bit time consuming…  🙂

altered covers with texture paste and embellishments

Since I’m going to be doing so many of these, I’ve come up with a quick step-by-step formula so that I can create unique, colorful, beautiful journals quickly and not spend hours on each one.  The part that takes the longest is the drying time for any texture paste or ink.

I created a free printable so you can quickly refer back to these steps if you want or need a blueprint for a quick project.  Click the button below to subscribe and download the sheet, then tack it up to your wall while you work.

Click to download

Essentially, you work from flat to raised elements to build up the surface bit by bit.

  • Sand and gesso the surface to prepare it for all the stuff you’ll be adding, and to help cover any crazy printing on the original surface.
  • The first elements to add would be patterned paper/tissue wrap.  Use gel medium to adhere it to the surface. (You can also use modge podge, but I don’t like modge podge.  It’s too sticky. Gel medium is waaaaay better, and worth the extra expense.)
  • Add some texture to the surface by taking some texture or modeling paste and applying it to the surface with a palette knife or through a stencil.  You can also adhere some fabric, cheesecloth, or even paper towels, napkins, or tulle to the surface for some fun texture.
  • This is where I usually add some stamped images, especially script stamps.  I stamp lightly in certain random areas so the stamped image doesn’t show up completely, but compliments the surrounding texture and elements.
  • Time for some color!!  I am such a fan of india ink splatters misted with water.  The ink spreads in such a fun, organic way, and the colors blend in variegated, awesome ways.  Of course, there are so many types of colors and ink out there- anything goes!!  The techniques are literally endless.
  • Time to embellish!  Metal pieces, chipboard, flowers, paper, etc.  Go crazy.  I use gel medium to adhere my pieces.  It’s firm, dries clear, and I don’t worry about anything falling off, even metal.  Be generous.
  • Finishing touches- go over your cover one more time and decide if it needs anything else- more color?  microbeads? a bit more stamping?

And that’s my process!  The longest part is waiting for things to dry, which is fine because I can start the same process on a few of the other journals while I’m waiting.

altered covers with flair altered covers- chipboard altered covers- paper flowers

I hope you’ve enjoyed this altered covers project and tutorial today!!  I’d love to know how you use the process to create some altered covers and if you alter the steps, what steps you add, etc.  Let’s keep inspiring each other!!

Don’t forget to subscribe so you can download the printable!

Click Here to Download

altered covers- back cover

Why it’s Important to Keep an Art Journal

keep an art journal I love history.  Old journals, documents, newspapers… they all tell stories that otherwise would be lost and I’m fascinated by them. I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love keeping journals, especially art journals.

Keeping a personal history is important, though I will confess that keeping a personal history was not what I thought I was doing when I began art journaling. In the beginning, I thought of it as a way to practice new techniques, and then it became a means of inspiration to create when I was paralyzed by fear.  Now in hindsight, art journaling has taken on a new meaning for me.

As I’ve been working on making my art journal a daily habit, I’veseen my progression as an artist.  My first pages were pretty terrible and unimaginative as I was trying to figure out the how’s and why’s of what I was doing. I used to be embarrassed by those pages, but as each blank sheet of paper metamorphoses into something colorful and full of texture and layers, I can see reflected in those pages the changes I am going through as a person.

There are a lot of qualities I see in other successful people that I just do not have, but I want to develop. I’m not a morning person.  I am easily distracted, and I give in to my fears way too often, sometimes without even realizing it.  I get frustrated with myself a lot because of these things, but when I look through my art journal, I can literally see my progress- and not just as an artist, but as a person.  As I flip through those pages they serve as encouragement for me on days when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  I am progressing as a person.  I am making changes and I don’t need to be frustrated with myself.  My art journal has come to serve as a reminder for me to have patience with myself and to keep working, no matter what. I still have a long way to go, but I will get there.  It may take me longer than it takes other people, but that’s ok.  I’ll get there. And when I doubt that, all I have to do is look in my art journal.

I know that I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by my weaknesses, or frustrated when I compare myself with other artists and come up short.  Were all human, and we all feel this way sometimes, to one degree or another.  But if you keep a record of your progress, you will be able to see how your hard work pays off and it will help you realize that you are making progress.  Even if it’s a tiny step at a time, that’s ok.  We can make our dreams come true!

These two pages are a couple of my first art journal pages ever.  They are pretty terrible, obviously, but I am grateful for them.  They are bricks in the foundation of my art, and represent the time and hard work I put into becoming a better artist.

keep an art journalkeep an art journal

These next two, plus the first one at the top, are the newest pages I’ve created.  I still see a lot of weaknesses in each page, but they also show new techniques I’ve been practicing.  A calligrapher I know on Instagram (colorsofchrist– she’s fabulous!) showed how she uses pearlex powders to create bright colored inks that stand out wonderfully against black backgrounds.  I didn’t waste any time!  I had to try it, and though I need to add a bit more powder to get the same richness of color, I loved adding bright text and splashes to my black pages.

keep an art journal

I created the background for these bottom pages with modeling paste and acrylic paint, but it was still missing something, so I decided to use my calligraphy pen to sketch a bit on the surface.  In some spots I used a lot of ink to create thick, spontaneous lines.

keep an art journal
Thank you so much for reading.  I hope I’ve helped you remember that art is a process, and that if you struggle with fear and frustration like I do, keep an art journal.  It can really help you remember your progress and motivate you to keep working.

Altered Planner Cover- lots of texture!

altered planner

I have a confession to make- I hate planning.  HATE it.  I don’t really know why, but every time I try to get organized I lose interest, and just end up doing- I don’t know- not what I need to do.

Anyway, I recently found a new way of planning that uses bullets on graph paper. It actually seemed like it could work for me, and since I already had an empty graph journal I’d bought for like 2 dollars at Borders and never used, I’ve been working on my planning for the past week.

Of course, the journal I’m using needed a new cover.  Black is just too boring, am I right? Ok, it’s not always boring- I actually like black a lot, but this journal needed something else.


  • I began by sanding the faux leather surface.  I knew I was going to be adding a lot of layers, and I wanted as much for them to adhere to as possible.
  • Then came layers of gesso, cheesecloth, muslin, and texture paste.  I specifically formed the muslin to create a pocket for a pen, so wherever I may take my planner, I’ll have a pen with me as well.
  • I sealed them all with gel medium for extra strength before I added anything else.
  • I used several stamps to decorate my textured surface.
  • Then came lots of metal embellishments, along with a chipboard clock that I cut in two.
  • Once they dried in place, I painted them with gesso.
  • I added ink with a “controlled splatter” technique I learned from a recent video by Mireille Binet- she ink brushed on plastic wrapping to apply droplets of ink to the surface of her project, and I replicated that here.  Thanks Mireille!
  • Flowers and beads came next, with a few splashes of ink for the petals.
  • The last thing was to add the chipboard sentiment.


Hopefully I can become more organized and better able to plan my days with the help of this altered planner.   I think this yummy cover will help, don’t you?

altered planner close up

altered planner cover with mixed media elementsaltered planner cover

altered planner back cover

Thanks for reading!  Don’t forget to subscribe for more tutorials and projects- I’m brainstorming a lot of awesomeness for the blog, so stay tuned!!

Altered Mini Book- a dollar store notepad turned art journal


altered mini book from dollar store composition bookI learn so much from all you artists out there, I just have to say how grateful I am. I would never have thought to look for art supplies at the dollar store, but now that it’s on my radar, I’ve found some pretty cool things.  What I want to show you today is how I made an altered mini book from a composition notebook I found there.  I made a video of the process as well, so be sure to check that out, too!

The store had a set of three of them for a dollar, so how could I possibly pass that up?  Being rather obsessed with notebooks and pens, I couldn’t help it.  Besides, while I certainly buy things without having a clear idea of what I’ll use it for, that was not the case here- I wanted a notebook I could experiment in, one that I wasn’t afraid to mess up.  These certainly fit the bill!!

altered mini book

I recently bought some artist tape and I wanted to see how it would work between the pages of an art journal.  The ink I use regularly leaks between the pages, and I want to see if the tape will help keep each page clean.  Of course, adding the tape between every page made the book about 56 times thicker than normal, but since I know I’m going to be adding all kinds of paste and ink and paper on these pages, I didn’t worry too much about it.


I don’t know how long these pages will take for me to fill, but I’m looking forward to having it be even thicker than it is now.  Then, I’ll start wrecking the next one!

altered mini book


Thanks for reading and for all your awesome ideas!  I’d love for you to subscribe with your email so I can keep sending you my thanks in the form of new ideas, tutorials and videos.

Gesso and India Ink Journal Pages

india ink journal pages using a single stamp

I’ve been using india ink a lot in my recent projects.  It’s highly pigmented, blends well when wet, is permanent when dry, and is also transparent enough to show other ink colors over and under it.  In other words, I love this stuff!

I wanted to add text to these pages, and I wanted to use the same stamp to do it.

  • I applied a thick layer of gesso to both pages, and I stamped into it while it was still wet.
  • Once it dried, I added some splashes of purple ink and let that dry.
  • Then came red ink, covering the pages. I didn’t have to worry about the red covering the purple- remember, it’s highly transparent as well as highly pigmented.
  • When the background colors were dry, I used the same stamp I used for the gesso to stamp all over the page in white, purple and red ink.  It’s looking so awesome!
  • I used different sized lids to add circles of black india ink to the surface and splashed them with water a tiny bit.
  • I used a thin layer of gesso in the inside of the circles to highlight them a little.
  • The final touch was outlining the circles with lines and calligraphy.
  • Now these pages are ready for journaling!

Here is an affiliate link to the ink set that I use- there’s different sets of colors, and I’m on a mission to collect them all!!


india ink journal pagesindia ink journal pages over gessoindia ink journal pages

Using Stencils and Texture Paste in your Art Journal


So, I have a confession to make.  While I love to art journal and splatter ink and gesso on blank pages, I am totally intimidated by it as well.  I really struggle to find the balance between being inspired by and learning from other artists, and comparing myself to all of your amazing pages and feeling like a complete novice. Plus, I tend to over think things and analyze all the little details, trying to figure out what should come next, so that one spread ends up taking 2-3 days, which is totally unnecessary.

So, I gave myself a challenge and I’ve been practicing.  I really excel when I can set boundaries for myself and work on one or two techniques at a time.  In the past week I’ve been using the same parameters for each page in my art journal- using stencils, texture paste and india ink to create all my pages.using stencils and india ink on art journal pages

Of course, I did add other things on many of the pages, as well- paper embellishments, and a lot of stamps.  But it was fun and allowed me to work so much faster to know before hand that I was going to be using texture paste and stencils to create the main parts of my pages, and india ink to color them.

using stencils on art journal pages

using stencils and texture paste on art journal pages

I will say this- I am a fan of using a small brush to splatter ink on my pages, and then misting them with a spray bottle.  I feel a lot more in control of where the ink ends up then when I use spray inks.  Plus, the feathered effect that happens when ink splatters are hit with water is super cool.  You should definitely give it a shot!

using stencils on art journal pages

So, what should my next technique challenge be for my art journal?  I’m thinking something to do with text…  I’ll let you know!