Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cheap Ways to Art Journal Part 2

This is Part 2 of my series of blog posts, on how to Art Journal on a budget.  Here is Part 1.

Let's jump right into glue, pens, stencils and spray inks.

  1. Glue 

    I have found the most economical solution for gluing stuff down into your art journal are glue sticks and tape runners.  A liberal application of a glue stick onto the back of your item, along with burnishing it well with an old credit card/hotel key, will prevent it from curling back up (even if you apply a wet medium on top of it, like acrylic paint or watercolors).  Added bonus: No wrinkles!  And glue sticks are very affordable - my favorite is the big Elmer's glue stick.  I've heard other people swear by UHU glue sticks, too.  Tape runners are slightly more expensive, but the Elmer's tape runners they sell at Walmart are priced right and work well.

    If you really have your heart set on a wet medium as your glue, then the most affordable option is Mod Podge.  I would recommend getting it at Michael's or Hobby Lobby with a coupon, however.  For some reason, the price on Mod Podge has gone up, so while they sell it at Walmart, I wouldn't pay the extra money, if you have other options.  I also recommend getting it in the Matte version - the Glossy version will cause your pages to stick like nobody's business.

    Another option is Traci Bautista's Collage Pauge (available at Hobby Lobby).  It's priced about the same as Mod Podge, comes in various finishes and is another item I'd use a coupon on.  It works well.

    After that, it's into the land of expensive items, like Matte Medium and Gel Medium, or expensive glues like Yes! paste.  Unless you see yourself doing tons of image transfers (gel medium), or using matte medium like a clear gesso, too (it works well for that), I'd skip these and go for the Mod Podge.  Like I said in my previous post, it's important to regularly use Gel Medium, because it will dry out on you if you don't.
  2. Pens

    This is an area where you can go a little bit crazy, if you're anything like me.  I spent a long time, trying to find the perfect, thin-nibbed pen that would write over acrylic paints well.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered Bic Crystal ball-point pens.  They're $1.47 at Walmart, for 10 pens, in a variety of fun colors.  They write really well over layers of stuff.

    Another option is Sakura Gelly Roll pens, in ever flavor they come in (Souffles, Glaze, Glitter, Shadow, etc.).  Not as cheap as the Bic Crystal, but definitely something you can affordably get a few of at a time.  The nibs seem to stand up well to everything, and you can buy them individually at Michael's (or check out your local art supply store, if you have one). is another way to get them.  Be careful at JetPens, though - it's so easy to get sucked in there!

    For a white pen, white corrector pens work great.  This is something, though, that I'd spring the $2-3 for one at an office supply store, or Walmart, versus the ones they sell at the dollar stores.  The dollar store ones just frustrated me by globbing up, blooping out paint and not working at all. 

    Another affordable option are dip pens.  If you're lucky enough to live near an art supply store, it's easy to buy the holder and a few nibs in widths of your choice, for about $6-$10.  That's the equivalent of 3-4 pens for that price.  Ink can be a little more expensive (about $5-6/bottle, depending on the brand), but it's a lot of bang for your buck.  You can then try painting with the ink with a brush, too, or using it in a spray bottle as a spray ink.  There are so many fun colors of inks out there, too, and oh how luscious your handwriting looks written with a dip pen.  Even Walmart sells a set of dip pens, for a reasonable price - you just don't have a choice of what nibs you're going to get.

    By far, the pens I reach out for over and over again, are my Sharpie Water-Based Poster Paint pens, in the extra-fine nib.  These are not regular Sharpies (which I have used, and seen die on me, from using them over dry paint - the nib just gets clogged).  They're more expensive for just a marker (about $2.50), but since they're acrylic paint in pen form, they write over everything.  They're available at Michael's, last time I checked.  I keep a white one and a black one, and don't have to worry about them not showing up, getting clogged, the nib wearing out - any of that.  The only thing is that when you first open them, you have to hold them upright (nib pointing up), and "burp" them - push the nib down to let the air out.  If you don't, and try to push the nib down with the nib on a surface, you will get paint gushing out of it.

    Highlighter pens are a really fun option, too, especially for wide-nib work.  I've written with these several times, and then gone around my letters in a black pen - really makes the letters stand out.  And hey, neon is hot right now!

    I've tried several other lines of pens and markers, including a few Copics.  While Copics come in so many lovely colors, they are just completely out of my price range ($7/marker).  They also bleed through paper, as they're alcohol-based.  There is a line of alcohol-based markers out there called Spectrum Noir, which are much more affordable ($12 for 6 pens, versus $40 for 6 of the Copics).

    I'd really recommend looking at Kelly Kilmer's post on her favorite pens - it's an excellent resource.  She does an extensive review, and it's a great place to start, before picking out a pen to try. 

    Pens I avoid, because I've killed them - Pitt Pens, the fine points.  The brush point Pitt pens work great over acrylics and gesso, but the finer point pens - the nibs clogged on me, from residue from the paint.  Sharpies are another one - it's the felt tips on them.  I also won't buy Uni-Ball Signo pens in white (available online and at Michael's).  I know some people swear by them, and when they work, they're opaque and lovely.  My problem is that either I go through the ink way too quickly, or they've quit working on me, half-way through.  They're a little pricey, so I just gave up on them.
  3. Stencils

    Oh, when the stencil craze hit, I thought I was going to go crazy, too, because stenciling can get really expensive, really quick.  Then I stumbled upon die-cut scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby and Michael's.   For $1-$2 per sheet, I found a delightful array of patterns and designs to use in my art journal.  A word to the wise, however - if you're going to use non-permanent inks on them, then I'd invest in some Krylon spray sealer, and spray them on both sides.  Otherwise, the inks will sink into the paper, and then transfer onto your next project (since you can't rinse these stencils with water).  When they're sealed, it's easier to wipe them over with a baby wipe.

    Hobby Lobby also sells a brand of stencils called "Show-Off", and they are surprisingly affordable.  Just another word to the wise - they're also pretty flimsy, so be careful how you store them.  It's very easy to get them tangled and bent, if you're not careful.  But they have lots of fun shapes, for $3-4 per stencil.

    Dollar Stores also tend to carry lettering stencils - I found a pack of 5 lettering stencils in 5 different sizes for $1.  Keep an eye out at thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales, too - and not just for traditional stencils, but really, anything with texture and holes in it.  I've taken apart dollar store silk flowers for the pattern the petals create (a great mask), and used dollar store doilies, crocheted and paper, for stencils.

    You can also make your own stencils, using relatively simple shapes (like silhouettes of images from a magazine), some manila folders, and an X-acto knife.  I just cut a manila folder in half (to get two pieces), glued down the magazine page (the whole page - no point in trying to cut it out if you're going to go over it with an X-acto knife) to the manila background, and then cut out the image with an X-acto knife.  The bonus is that you end up with a stencil and a mask.
  4. Spray Inks

    I have searched high and low for an affordable option for spray inks, and again, was delighted to find my solution: dollar store Bingo Markers.  Dollar Tree sells them at the end of their kids' toy aisle.  They come with a pop-off top, and you can then pour the ink into a spray bottle (again, very affordable).  The colors are vibrant, but they are water-soluable, so just keep that in mind when you're layering.  They also have the added bonus of forming perfect little polka dots, if you use the bingo marker as intended. 

    Here's an example of the blue bingo marker (left), sprayed through a stencil on plain drawing paper, versus Dylusions spray ink in Turquoise (right):

    Blue Bingo Marker on the left, Dylusions in Turquoise on the right

    From there, it seems all spray inks get pricey (around $5/bottle or more, and little bottles).  I have used ink meant for pen work in spray bottles too, with mixed success.  Some inks are actually acrylic-based, and I've found they can clog up spray bottles if not diluted enough, or used often.  I had a horrible time with Dr. Marten's pH inks (sold as a set of 12 at Hobby Lobby) clogging up my sprayers.  But the ink also smelled bad, so the inks may have "gone bad".  It was disappointing however, for the friend and I that purchased the set together (another great way to save money!).

    Now-a-days, when I have an extra $5, I just pick up a bottle of Dylusions in a color I don't have, and have been slowly building my collection.  Dylusions is also sold at Hobby Lobby in 2-packs, so another chance to use their coupons.  The only downside, for me, to Dylusions is that they're water-soluable, so if I paint over them, it picks up the color from the spray ink.   For some people, though, this is a fun bonus, so it just depends on what you like.  I will spray a page with Krylon sealer after spray work, if I want the color to stay put.

    Next post, we'll get into Gesso, and various sundry items, like ephemera (if you're so inclined), washi tape, watercolors and oil pastels.


Karen Taylor said...

Love your thinking, love your style Kristina W. This kind of sharing is helpful to us old timers as well as new timers. These 2 posts are very generous sharing :->

Kristina W said...

Thanks so much, Karen - appreciate you commenting!

DeBorah Beatty said...

I've used plain old Elmer's white school glue with success. I also have used the paste ( from the kids' section) when I ran out of Yes Paste with great success. Very cheap and easily applied with the edge of an old debit card.

I can't wait to find the white Sharpie marker you referred to.

Ellie said...

I've also looked for cheaper ways to play. I found that cake decorating dye works great. It's inexpensive and will last a long time. Talk about a win/win!