Michelle Rossibell Gutierrez uses stamps, watercolors, and other tools to write in her new Prima Traveler’s Notebook.

Photo by Deisy Larios

In this fast-paced digital world, it’s no wonder people are slowing down in an analog way by gravitating to journals in all their myriad, wonderful forms.

Journals have always been around, but now folks are journaling with a purpose, which means a healthy market for specific journals, especially travel, art, and Bible journaling, and the tools used. Check any bookstore, craft depot, or Instagram post and you’ll find countless journal options.

“The journaling trend may be in part a reaction to how much time we spend on our electronic devices,” says Tiffany Hill, an editor at Fox Chapel Publishing, which has a new imprint, Quiet Fox, specifically for journals.

“Our lives are full of paperless efficiency, so the act of physically writing or drawing something has become beneficial in different ways,” Hill adds. “Journaling can relieve stress, help you think things through, and depending on the subject, even result in a treasured keepsake.”

Gutierrez makes good use of her Prima Traveler’s Notebooks’ zippered pouch to hold pencils, markers and other accessories.

Photo by Deisy Larios

The journaling trend has certainly impacted the craft market, with accessories, tools, and books filling shelves.  Bullet journaling and hand lettering have both been hot this year as well.

“Not only are journals and planners themselves popular purchases, but people are looking to try out some of the skills and topics associated with creative journaling — hand-lettering, doodling, Bible journaling, etc. — and they’re turning to how-to books for instruction and inspiration,” Hill notes.

Journaling tools can be as simple as pens, inks, stamps, washi tape, and stickers, or as artsy as gesso, watercolors, colored or watercolor pencils, texture pastes, stencils, and more.

Let’s look at three distinct journal trends, each with specific needs: travel, art, and Bible.

Travel Journals: Easily Transportable

There are two unique characteristics of travel notebooks: the size (smaller than traditional journals at roughly 8¼ x 5 inches, or about 3½ x 5 inches for passport size) and elastic bands to hold inserts, making this an extremely versatile system as the inserts are easily added or removed.

Simple Stories’ Carpe Diem Traveler’s Notebook collection include a variety of colors and styles for journal covers and inserts.

Photo by Roberta G. Wax

The Carpe Diem Traveler’s Notebooks from Simple Stories include inside pockets and bands to make it easy to add and remove smaller inserts.

Photo by Roberta G. Wax

The slimmer profile makes these journals easy to slip into a backpack, suitcase, purse, or pocket for journaling on-the-go. Many have pockets or pouches to hold maps, tickets, ephemera, etc., plus a pen loop and that nifty elastic cord. With this system, travelers can take as many light-weight inserts as they like, then put them together at home. It’s a neat, organized, and highly transportable system that has proved so popular it has been adopted in other notebooks.

The travel journal idea seems to have originated in 2006 when Midori, a Japanese company, now called Traveler’s Company, introduced the concept of a slim notebook “to inspire travelers around the world.”

Simple Stories’ Carpe Diem collection has the travel journal down pat. Besides the journals and inserts, the company offers free printables to customers online as well as a ready-made class for retailers. “We design the project, photograph it and write the step-by-step instructions,” explains Layle Koncar, Simple Stories’ marketing director. “All (the retailer) needs to do is purchase the product, download and print the instructions, put the kits together, and teach the class or sell it as a ‘to go’ kit.”

“The portability of the traveler’s notebook lets you take your journal anywhere to create on-the-go,” says Michelle Rossibell Gutierrez, special accounts manager at Prima, which offers a range of traveler’s notebooks, inserts, accessories, and mediums.

“Our consumers have made the traveler’s notebook a part of their daily life,” Gutierrez says. “It’s being used for water coloring, journaling, calendars, etc. It’s your personal journal where you share your life and art.” And the zippered pouches and pockets are perfect for storing pens, stickers, etc.

Ranger designer Dyan Reaveley has created new art journals,inserts and more for her Dylusions line.

Photo by Roberta G. Wax

Art Journals: Medium-Ready

“Art journaling is the strongest component out of the three aspects of journaling,” says Ranger Signature Designer Dyan Reaveley, whose new journal line is travel-friendly with a slim profile but with the same mixed media-friendly paper as her other art journals. “Travel journals and Bible journaling are spin offs from art journaling and use similar materials and techniques.”

Paper is key for art journals – strong and smooth to take watercolors, pens, ink, sprays, paint, texture pastes, etc. Ranger’s expanded journal line now includes artful covers and inserts decorated in Reaveley’s inimitable quirky style, plus stickers, washi tape, paints, sprays, colorants, templates, stamps, stencils, etc.

Dyan Reaveley’s book offers lots of art journaling tips and techniques.

Photos by Roberta G. Wax

Reaveley’s book, Distinctly Dylusional: A Guide to Art Journaling, offers an easy blueprint to begin an art journal, even if you think you can’t draw.

“Life is hard,” Reaveley says. “Your art shouldn’t be.”

Bible Journaling: A Leap of Faith

Devotees of Bible journaling say that writing, highlighting, doodling, or creating art in their Bibles is a way to connect with a biblical text. Journaling helps you slow down and think about the passage you’re reading, or to meditate about certain passages.

“(Bible journaling) is an act of creative worship,” explains artist and avid Bible journaler Sandy Allnock, who keeps her Bible art simple, using mostly watercolor, watercolor pencils, regular colored pencils, a white gel pen, and Micron pens.

“These mediums don’t bleed, they don’t get bulky, they don’t require gesso or page prep of any kind,” she explains. “I keep it very, very simple.”

Others suggest Zebra Eco, Sakura Pigma Microns, Ranger DWM Scribble Sticks, Archival Inks for stamping, etc. But as with any medium, it’s always best to test.

“Test mediums on a back page or the table of contents,” Allnock advises.

Drawing in a Bible goes way back to illuminated manuscripts, which were adorned with beautiful, ornate images and monograms, often in gold or silver. Today, practitioners have an array of tools, such as highlighters for underscoring passages, low-bleed pens in many colors and widths, washi tape, and vellum or transparencies to use over pages. There are even Bibles made specifically for journaling, with wide side margins or blank pages between printed pages. For those who don’t want to write directly on their Bibles, there are several ancillary workbooks.

“Bible journaling, in its barest essence, is about connecting with God,” Allnock says.

So whether you’re setting off on an exciting travel adventure, experimenting with new art forms, or looking for spiritual meaning in the Bible, you’re sure to find a journal to fit.

Fox Chapel Publishing has expanded its journal market with several books specifically for faith-based journaling.
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Roberta G. Wax

Roberta G. Wax


Roberta Wax is an award-winning journalist and imperfect crafter. A former news reporter, her freelance articles and projects have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, from the Los Angeles Times and Emmy magazine to Cloth Paper Scissors, Somerset Studio, Craftideas, Belle Armoire, etc. She has also designed for craft companies. Although she has no art background she was a crafty Girl Scout leader. www.creativeunblock.com

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