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Six Tips For Using Watercolour In Your Journal

by Hayley Remde 22 Apr 2019 3 Comments

I am a BIG fan of using watercolour in my journal! Personally, I find it’s the quickest way to colour in a spread, and I just love the effects you can create with this medium. However, as we all probably know by now (and maybe like me you found out the hard way), most dot grid journals are not made to withstand water. This doesn’t mean we cannot use watercolour, but it does mean we have to be mindful when picking a journal and tweak our painting techniques to avoid notebook disasters. In this blog I will help you pick the right journal for you, and let you know some tips I have found along the way that will help you avoid bleeding and get the best results with watercolour in your journal.


Recommended Supplies:

  • Archer and Olive Journal – This is the only journal I have found that can withstand watercolour with no ghosting or bleeding. 
  • Watercolours – My go-to watercolours are Winsor and Newton as they offer a brilliant range of colours at an affordable price.
  • PaintbrushesTo be able to paint pretty much anything, I recommend having a mop brush (for covering large areas), a medium sized round brush (can do everything!), and a fine brush (for small details).
  • Washi Tape – Great for lining your pages for bigger pieces.
  • Fineliners For outlines! My favourites are the Unipin fineliners as they’re waterproof, affordable and have a strong nib.
  • Heat Tool - Or a hair dryer!
  • Pencil


Tip One: Picking Your Journal

Watercolour Bujo Setup

Before buying a journal, it is important to do some research to see if it will handle the mediums you plan to use in it. Instagram is brilliant for this as you can search brand-specific hashtags for genuine images of people using that journal and how it holds up. Alternatively, if you know a creator who uses watercolour, don’t be afraid to ask them what they’re using! Many times in the past I have sent unedited pictures and videos of my journals to help people make their choice.

It is also important to note that you can also message the brand and ask them how their journal handles watercolours. If it does, they should send you examples from their customers! However, I would only do this if cannot find the examples yourself, as the brand will be bias and want you to buy their product.

Here are some brands that I personally have experience with:

  • Archer and Olive – beautiful white paper, no bleeding, and no ghosting. My personal favourite!
  • Leuchtturm1917 – there is a lot of controversy around how this journal performs, but the coated pages do hold watercolour exceptionally well. However, there is a lot of ghosting, so it will depend on your personal preferences whether this one is for you.
  • Dingbats – similar to the LT1917. Only differences are I would say it holds slightly less water, but does ghost less. However, the pages are on the yellow side of cream, and the Wildlife range have perforated pages which you either have to avoid or risk bleeding.
  • Lemome – extremely similar to the Dingbats.
  • Scribbles That Matter – these journals have lovely thick pages, but they do not handle watercolour at all as the pages are not coated.
  • Nuuna – gorgeous journals, but do not hold watercolour.


Tip Two: Water Control

Dipping Brush In Water

When you have picked a journal that you know can handle watercolour, it is important to remember that it is NOT watercolour paper. You aren’t going to be able use the same techniques in your journal that you use on 300gsm cotton paper! The main tip to remember is to limit the amount of water you use. Even though you won’t be able to do crazy wet-on-wet techniques or several heavy washes, you can still do most things using less water. What I like to do is dedicate a page in the back for testing, or if you like Dutch Door layouts, save the spare paper for practice. You will quickly learn how much water is ‘too much’.


Tip Three: Layering

Painting In Journal

The main way to ensure you’re not saturating the paper is to let the paper dry between layers. This is because if you’re putting more and more colour on the page, you’re also adding more water on already wet paper. I’ve found that when people are using journals that can handle watercolour, but they tell me they’re still experiencing bleeding, it’s because they’re unknowingly using more water than they think.


Tip Four: Dry With A Heat Tool

Drying Journal

Letting the paper dry between layers can be time-consuming. A way to ensure you don’t get impatient is to invest in a heat tool. A heat tool is basically a more focused hair dryer, and it can dry watercolour layers in seconds! Also, I believe it reduces page wrinkling too!


Tip Five: Washi Tape Barrier

Peeling Off Washi-Tape

Lining the page/painting with Washi Tape (or any peelable tape) has many benefits:

  1. It leaves a crisp line around the painting.
  2. Ensures you don’t get watercolour where you don’t want it!
  3. Avoids watercolour seeping around the edge of the page and onto the other side. 
  4. Reduces some of the page warping/wrinkling.


Tip Six: Flatten Pages

Weights on Journal

If you’re painting a large area, it is quite common to get a little page warping/wrinkling (even with the heat tool). Whilst it doesn’t bother me too much, it can be annoying if the pages don’t lie flat when it’s open beside you, or if you need a killer photo for your Instagram. Thankfully, this is super easy to fix! All you need to do is gather some heavy items (books/small weights/boxes) and leave them on top of your journal overnight. By the morning they should have sufficiently flattened out!


Hopefully I’ve given you some confidence to dig out your watercolours and paint in your journal. If I have, I would love to see your spreads, so tag me on Instagram (@hayleyremdeart) and use #hayleyremdeinspired to get the chance to get your creations featured in my stories!


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21 Oct 2021 Leona Sutherland

Thank you for these tips and information. I have received my first Archer & Olive note book and was very scared to use water paint on it as it is a beautiful journal. Today I will try my hand at water painting in it will these tips. Thank you again.


08 Jul 2021 Maithili Mistry


28 Apr 2021 Theresa Bellflower

Thanks for the information and tips!

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