Turning Trash Into Treasure

Art Journaling is the current ‘thing’ around here. It’s a fun, interesting way to get the stuff out of your head, and it looks good too! Well, sometimes.

But have you seen the cost of those PaperBlanks journals? They are absolutely fabulous – don’t get me wrong, but between the cost & how gorgeous they are, I’m just not quite ready to take the plunge. Yes, I’m terrified that I’ll ruin it. Honesty, it’s a good policy, no?

Instead, we have turned to recycling. And this time of year is the best for it.

We are using those magazines & catalogs that everyone & their dog’s sister’s parakeet are sending out right now, and it’s SO easy to do.

Supplies needed:
– magazine or catalog
– glue (Elmer’s or ModPodge or whatever you have around)
– Gesso

Yep, that’s it.

catalogOpen up the catalog & start gluing pages together. You want the pages to be a little thicker than most catalog pages are, so I usually glue 2 pages together at a time. I go through the catalog first to see if there are any pictures or words that we want to use  and work around that (one had my daughter’s name in large, colorful letters that she wanted to use). If you will want to cut out the image, just tear the page out. Otherwise, you can just paint around it. Just make sure it’s not on the inside of your new pages.

glueOnce you have a lovely drizzle of glue, press the pages together.

pressing -pagesI usually press from the spine out to make sure the edges get a nice coating of glue.


Together forever 🙂

Repeat with all of the pages in the catalog, making sure you leave un-glued pages in between to paint on.

Let that dry a bit, then we get to turn this catalog into a real book!

Grab your gesso.


Yes, I buy mine by the gallon

Paint a good layer all over that catalog page.

paintJust 1 layer should do the trick, after all, it’s not going to STAY white, right?


I had some acrylic leftover from another page, so I decided to smear it in with the gesso before it was dry. We’re flexible like that. I will often paint designs with acrylics at this stage to give the journal some character before I really even start on it.


The only downside to this is that you have to let the paint dry on the pages before you can turn the page. That’s why I work on around 5 – 8 books at a time. I’ll take a week & cover the table with magazines & paint the pages every few hours.

Occasionally the pages get a little saturated at the binding – whether with glue or with paint – so I will often put a strip of fancy duct tape down the spine once I have the cover painted. Not completed, but painted. (This one’s obviously not finished!)

new-journalLearn from my mistake here though – save the cover for last if you are going to give it fancy colors! It WILL pick up the other colors & drips from whatever it gets set on (even if you try to be careful).

That’s it! A brand new ready-to-paint journal for almost free. And the supply seems to be limitless.

a stack of upcycled art journals

While most catalogs that come in the mail are pretty much the same size, there is a variety of sizes – and every once in a while you will find one that is landscape instead of portrait.

upcycled art journals from magazines & catalogs

You can personalize the covers before you start, or as you go – just like the pages inside.


The big question –  do they hold up? Well…
I’ve done all kinds of things to these journals:

scrunched & glued kraft paper

scrunched up kraft paper

Watercolors on cheesecloth

watercolors on cheesecloth

Melted Crayons

melted crayons

Even drywall putty & wrapping paper!

Even drywall putty & wrapping paper!

























So far, it hasn’t fallen apart…

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