If you’ve realized you just can’t stop watching junk journal videos on youtube, you’ve probably also gotten excited about the idea of starting one for yourself. But it can be a little overwhelming. There are so many fantastic junk journalers out there and they all have a massive stash of craft goodies and gadgets.
It can be intimidating. I know it was for me, because I wasn’t really a crafter to begin with. I dabbled here and there, but I definitely didn’t have a craft room or all the goods many other junk journalers had. I had maybe, mayyyybe a craft drawer (its a lot more than that now, but we’re not here to talk about my paper obsession).
So for the longest time I just put off making them. I just didn’t think I could, and didn’t want to spend a ton of money.
Then after watching a few really inspiring videos I finally decided that I really wanted to try bookbinding, and a junk journal seemed as good an opportunity as any. I went ahead and bought a few supplies and the rest is history. But the best part was, I realized I didn’t need nearly as many supplies to get started as I thought I did.
So I put this guide together for others, just in case you’re intimidated too, and not sure where to start.
Best Junk Journal Supplies for Beginners
All right… down to the list of junk journal supplies you’ll need as a beginner. I’ll be skipping things like pencils and a ruler, as I assume you probably have those lying around the house already – but if you don’t, obviously you’ll need those too. There are also many many more things you can get to get started. If there are other things you find inspiring and really think would help you make a beautiful junk journal – go for it! This is just the essentials I found helpful when I was a beginner myself.
First things first you’ll need paper. That is after all, the heart of the junk journal – the pages.
What kind of paper you want depends on what kind of junk journal you’re putting together. Are you just wanting to turn your junk mail and old magazines into a new mixed media art piece? Then you might not need to buy any paper at all!
You might just want to start with regular computer paper, too. If that’s what you have on hand. While you’re still experimenting and learning it’s probably one of your best options.
Are you planning to create tea dyed blank pages to fill your books or doing double-sided print with printables? Then you might want to get some heavier duty printer paper, or even some high end stuff that can handle being dunked in tea without falling apart or ripping. Here’s some of my favorite paper:
If you’re planning on a scrapbook style junk journal, where you’ve got a theme and all your papers match and the paper is acid-free then you might want to get a pad of scrapbook paper to get you started. I recommend Michael’s for getting started as you can get cheap and pretty pads of paper there for $5 a pad during their sales. Amazon also has a pretty good selection of paper pads for a decent price, like this one:
If you’re wanting something fancier, scrapbook.com is the place to go. They have many of the higher end brands of scrapbooking paper and a wide variety that you’re unlikely find elsewhere.
I hesitate to tell beginners to try printables. Only because getting the things to print the way you want can be a bit of a headache if you don’t regularly use your printer. And if you don’t have the best printer for printables, you can fly through ink cartridges faster than you can blink and get kinda crappy results in the process.
But…if you can’t find a paper pad you like or you just don’t live close to a store and don’t have prime, printables are an easy way to get designs you like at an affordable price. Etsy is full of shops that make gorgeous printables and even junk journal kits that come in various themes. We even have a few printables up in our shop.
This is the next most important thing after paper for your junk journal supply stash. Scissors can get you started if they’re all you’ve got but having a ruler inbuilt and the ability to cut a straight line easily will make all the prep work for your journals go so much faster. Bonus points if you get one that can trim multiple pages at once or cut chipboard.
This one is the one I started out with and still regularly use for small jobs:
I have one similar to this big guy now though, and it’s a dream (and it cuts chipboard!)
Sewing Needles, Thread and an Awl
If you have a regular old sewing needle and thread lying around – you really have all you need to get started. You can use the needle to stitch and to punch holes, and sewing thread will get the pages stitched together in a pinch.
However, getting a few decent needles, some waxed thread and a book awl will make things a lot easier on you.
We use this awl:
And this thread (I love the color variety for making the spines match or contrast the books):
If you can get your hands on waxed thread, it will make your life so much easier!
Needles – admittedly, I use my grandmother’s hand-me-down heirloom needles. She was a seamstress and she had an amazing collection that we inherited from her. But you can still get some decent ones online, or pick up at your local craft or fabric store. Singer is usally a reliable brand:
At the very least you’ll want glue to help make your covers. I think most junk journalers have their favorite glue that they swear by and use in their work. In fact if it was possible to have a heated debate in the junk journaling world, I think “whats the best glue” mighth be the question to start it. So, I’ll just say glue is a personal thing, and you may want to experiment with a few different glues until you find one that really works for you – I’ve seen everything from regular school glue to the hardcore, ventilate the room and don’t get it on your fingers type, being used by different junk journalers.
I started out using craft bond by Elmers. I’ve found it dries quickly enough, but not so quickly that it creates problems. Also if you use it in a thin layer with a brush, there’s no rippling or warping to your paper.
This is my favorite:
The glue sticks are also a fantastic help where you are first starting out. Just know that you will go through them fast and buy them in bulk:
My husband likes to use a spray glue for adhering chipboard to paper covers. I hate the smell of it, and you’ll definitely want to use it in a ventilated area. I will say in my old job where part of the job was mounting graphics to board, spray adhesive was our go-to.
Here’s his favorite to use:
If you’re planning instead to do something more archival – glueing pictures or making a book you want to last for a very very long time. I recommend a more serious archival quality glue. PVA book glue that’s pH neutral like this one is good:
There are even higher quality ones than this that you can get from specialty shops, but I definitely don’t think you’ll need this as a beginner. In the beginning, it’s just about learning how to make the journals. Later you can worry about perfecting them (I know I still haven’t!)
The above things are really the only ones you’ll need to get started to make a basic book. But there are a few other things I recommend to help you get creative.
The first is the ubiquitous Tim Holtz distress oxides (vintage photo and walnut stain are popular options:
along with a blender to apply it:
It really does vintage things up for you, and its very versatile. The oxide is also great at letting you build the level of darkness you want, which is nice when you’re trying to just add a subtle hint here or there.
The next is washi tape. I started out with Tim Holtz washi tape as I am in love with the whole vintage vibe of his line, and using his stuff makes it easy to match everything together and have it look cohesive. He has a few standard rolls and then also comes out with holiday versions as well. You can usually get a good deal on them on Amazon or find them at Michael’s or Joann’s.
The last thing I recommend is getting some ephemera packs. Whether they are Tim Holtz versions or some of the other multimedia brands that the craft stores have, or even grabbing some printable versions. When you’re first starting out and just learning how to make your journals, you’ll be thankful to not have to do every single creative thing from scratch!