Bible Journaling Mediums Part 1: Acrylics and Watercolor {How To Use Them and Everything You Need To Know}

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When it comes to journaling, there are a lot of different methods that you can choose from. When you are just getting started or are like myself are not a natural artist familiar with all of those mediums already, it can be quite overwhelming to decide. Which are the best? How do I use them? What are the best techniques? What are the challenges?

This week, we are going to look at four common mediums used in journaling, primarily as related to backgrounds. I will share my personal thoughts, favorite techniques and general pros and cons. Today, I will focus on two: acrylic and watercolor paints:


Acrylic Paints

How To Use: 
Acrylic paints are probably my most used medium simply because there are so many ways to use them! They can be used with stencils, to freehand your own designs, etc. There are MANY great options to look into but I will share my favorite three.


  • Card Technique. If you've followed my journaling posts, you've heard me talk about this before... but what is it? To do this simple technique, you simply apply a small amount of acrylic paint to the edge of a credit/gift card (or purchase a special paint card). Place the paint end of the card on your page and wipe down. Continue until you achieve your desired look. If using multiple colors, be sure to let dry between colors. This gives you a bold background, but generally keeps the layer of paint very thin so you can still see the words through. I love this technique for its bold style and simplicity.

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  • Splattering. This fun technique is one that can be used in addition to others or all on its own, and again is VERY simple. Take a paint brush and dip in your paint. Hold over your page. Now to actually create this effect you have a few options. For the cleaner option, take a pencil in one hand and hold under your brush (the direction will for a cross) and tap the brush to splatter the paint. Easy enough, right? If you don't mind getting your hands dirty, you can instead run your finger along the paint on the brush to get that same effect. This is messier, but I feel like this gives me a bit more control nonetheless. Using a cheap tooth brush works very well for this technique as well. I love using this technique to add a little something extra to my pages. Sometimes I'll just add a few splatters, whereas others I can create a whole background, it's very versatile in that way.

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  • Watercolor Effect. We'll talk more about actual watercolor paint techniques below, but as I find that better quality watercolors are not as readily available or cost effective, I will often water down acrylic paints to get a similar effect. The colors tend to stay more vibrant, while still allowing me to get that same look! To do so, just add water to your paint and mix, then check out some of the techniques below.

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The Pros:
As I said, acrylic paint is probably my most used mediums. There are several reasons why, including:

  • Affordability. You can truly find acrylic paints to fit just about any budget. Your very basic paints can be found in a variety of colors at just about any craft store for under $1 per paint. While you can certainly find higher quality paints, these lower cost ones are a great option too. 
  • Versatility. The techniques above are just a few of the ways that you can use acrylic paints in your journaling, but there are many more too. They're not just great for journaling either, we often use acrylic paints for a variety of fun projects and kids crafts too! 
  • Ease of Use. While some techniques might take a little more work than others, I find that generally speaking, acrylic paints tend to have the least learning curve of all of the mediums I am discussing in this post. 
  • Vibrant Colors. Perhaps my favorite aspect of using acrylics is how vibrant the colors are, in my experience moreso than any of these other mediums. I love bold colors, so this is a huge plus for me. And again, that great variety of colors to choose from is also a huge pro in my book.

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The Cons:
While it may be among my favorites, it's not without a few downsides worth mentioning:

  • Goes on Thicker. While the card method generally helps keep your paint in a thin layer, it's not foolproof. If you're layering colors or have a darker color, you might find that words can be unreadable underneath. This is something that is definitely worth considering if that is an issue you want to avoid.
  • Bleed Through. This can be a pretty common issue for MANY mediums in journaling due to the thin nature of the pages. You can prep your pages with Gesso to help with this. Personally, I don't worry so much about this myself and just consider it part of the process, something I will write into my permissions page.


Where To Find:
Acrylic paints can be found just about anywhere from craft stores, online retailers and stores such as Walmart, Meijer, etc. For the most budget friendly, I generally use Craft Smart available at Michael's. The paints are about 70 cents a bottle and they come in a huge selection of colors. Despite their low cost, they go on quite well and produce stunning colors. My top choice overall are the Hand Made Modern paints available at Target. At around $2-3 a bottle, these are still a more budget friendly option than higher end paints though certainly not the cheapest option available. Their color selection is absolutely stunning and always changing with the seasons and trends and go on beautifully. Color wise these cannot be beat. For higher end quality paints, I really enjoy the 'Shanna's Favorite Paint Set' set available at Dayspring. These are great paints but are by far the priciest of these listed. The quality is great though. Aside from that though, I most appreciate the color selection. They are bright, bold and perfectly coordinate with many of my existing Illustrated Faith supplies.


Watercolor Paints

How To Use:
Like acrylic paints, watercolors are very versatile. I will however admit that I am far from an expert on this one! I am always trying and learning new techniques. If you REALLY want to dive into watercolors, I definitely recommend checking out Pinterest or YouTube for more in depth tutorials. In the meantime, here are a few techniques I have tried and enjoyed:

  • The Basics. Before we can get to any more in depth techniques, we must first know the basics of how watercolors work. To get started, you will want a bible mat placed under the page you will be working on. While I recommend doing this regardless of the medium you choose, it is an absolute must with watercolor to prevent the page below from getting soaked through and sticking together. You can purchase an Illustrated Faith Bible Mat (the perfect size for journaling bibles), but in a pinch you can use some thicker cardstock or even a think plastic cutting board. Now, wet your brush and dip in the color you need. The more saturated your brush is, the lighter your colors will be. Play around until you find just the right look. Paint onto you pages as desired with generous amounts of paint... patterns, ombres, puddles, etc. Use coordinating colors and allow little puddles to form where your colors meet if you'd like to blend them a bit. Your page will likely crinkle up and curl a bit as you're working, but don't worry, once it dries it will straighten out a bit more. As the page becomes saturated, it will become more fragile so be mindful of that. Blot with a paper towel if necessary (this can also add a fun texture too).Regardless of techniques used, always allow to dry completely before adding any more elements to your page. You can use a paper heat tool to speed up the process, or even a hair dryer if desired.

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  • Plastic Wrap. This is my favorite technique as I love the way it helps blend the color and the beautiful effect left behind. To do this, pick out 2-3 coordinating colors. You'll want to choose colors that are going to blend well and not create a muddy looking effect as they meet. I've found that blue and purple or blue and green are gorgeous options. You could even use multiple shades of the same color too. Again, wet your brush and apply generous 'puddles' of paint throughout the page. Allow these puddles to touch and blend as you work. Once finished adding paint, take a piece of plastic wrap, crinkle it up a bit, and lay over and press it into your wet paint puddles. Allow to dry, or mostly dry. Remove the plastic to see the beautiful design it has created underneath. I love how this technique helps to blend the colors and creates a beautiful pattern.

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  • Salt. This technique is simple and creates a really great, almost sand like background look...again, add some watercolor to your page. Then, sprinkle salt over the wet paint. Allow to dry, then scrape the dried salt off (I use a gift card or paint card to do so). While this technique looks fantastic and isn't difficult to do, you do want to be careful in doing so. Don't use too much salt and be certain to scrape off the salt slowly. It can stick to the page, and because Bible pages are much thinner than watercolor or even regular paper, this can cause little tears. Don't rush it.

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The Pros:
Why do so many people love using watercolors? There are many great things to love:
  • Beautiful Colors. When using watercolor paints, the colors are still gorgeous but are often much more subdued than acrylic. They're also very easy to blend and adjust to the perfect pigment for your desired look based on how much water you use. 
  • Easy To Read Through. Unlike acrylic paints, watercolor is very easy to be read through, again because of those lighter colors. While I personally am okay with words being covered from time to time, this is an idea that many are uncomfortable with. Generally speaking, even with darker colors, it would take SEVERAL layers of paint to find the words below unreadable, making it a great option for full page washes. 
  • Versatility. Again, there are many different techniques beyond these to try with watercolors which can make it a great option to play around with. To be honest, there are likely even more options than with acrylics. 
  • They don't dry out. After time, many acrylic paints- even if kept closed tightly- can start to dry out and thicken. This isn't a problem if you use a color frequently, but I've had some that I loved but didn't use as frequently dry out before I had the chance to use them all. With watercolors, you don't have that problem so they will last despite infrequent use. 


The Cons:
As gorgeous as watercolors can be, they are not without their downsides:

  • Requires More Practice. While watercolor isn't the MOST difficult to use, it does require more practice to really figure it out. How much water do you use? How much paint? How to blend colors? More practice is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're just starting out, it can be a little intimidating to figure out. 
  • Requires More Care. In the salt technique, I talked about how more care was required when removing the salt, but the same could be said with using watercolor paints in general. They require a generous amount of water which can make your pages easier to rip while they are wet...and again without backing can soak clear through to the next page. These are all issues that are easy to work around, but are certainly something to be mindful of as you work.
  • Bleed Through. Again, a common problem seen among many mediums. With watercolors, the color does often bleed through to the other side, or a the least can give it a wrinkled effect. I do find with watercolor however that the subtle colors on the opposite page can serve as a background all it's own. To be honest though, even when I'm ONLY using stickers, washi and die cut...I tend to avoid journaling on the back of a page I have already done. Bleed through aside, the bumps from any of these elements can make it harder to work with. 


Where To Find:

Watercolor are available at just about any craft store and online retailers too. You can even purchase inexpensive kids watercolors at stores such as Walmart, Target, etc. These are workable if you are on a budget and looking to just play around with watercolors before making a more expensive purchase. That being said, with watercolors, I have found that paying extra for better quality paints does make a huge difference. My personal go to is 'Shanna's Favorite Paint Set' from Dayspring. These colors again coordinate well with a good variety of Illustrated Faith goodies, but beyond that the pigmentation is fantastic. I find that I have to use much less to get the same amount of colors with these than what I would with the cheaper options. A little bit goes along way.


Do you love using acrylic or watercolor paints in your journaling? What are some of your favorite techniques to use, or some you would like to try.

Later this week, I will share two more mediums: gelatos and ink. Stay tuned for more on those.

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"Pleasant words are as a honeycomb: sweet to the soul and health to the bones." Proverbs 16:24