What’s the Deal with Junk Journals?

junk journals

I’m addicted to junk journals. Oh wait…Hello out there! It’s been a long, long time. There has been so much going on in the world of websites that my Tech Geek job has demanded most of my time. Secure sites, privacy policies and other web related things have filled my head, and although I’ve still managed to create art, time to write about it just hasn’t been there.  You’ll notice that changes have been made to the blog, with it now hosted on my tmariehilton.com domain. It also sports a sweet little lock in the address bar to let you know it’s secure.

Enough about the tech stuff, back to the junk journals statement. I am addicted to junk journals, especially to creating them.  You may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about.

What is a Junk Journal?

A junk journal is a handmade book created from many types of paper, often recycled materials like patterned papers, sheet music, envelopes paper bags, maps, brochures and more. The covers are often created from old book cover or cardboard/chipboard bases covered with paper, fabric or paint.  What can be used to create a junk journal is pretty much endless. Some people, like me, create junk journals to look old or vintage and use papers and materials that are coffee or tea-dyed to look old. We also really love to discover things like old ledgers and advertisements to use as well. The older the better. If we can’t find old pages, we can purchase digital kits that we can print out to use in our journals.

The papers and embellishments used in junk journals are often called ‘ephemera’

A junk journal doesn’t always have to have a vintage feel to it though. Many people enjoy creating them with modern day materials and colorful magazine pages. And of course, for those of us who are artists, it’s always fun to include our own art, either as a mixed media cover or within the pages of the journal.

Themed Journals

Many fans of junk journals like to create them around a theme.  As an example; a sewing themed junk journal might be made up of old sewing patterns and pages from books or magazines about sewing with things like buttons, and sewing do-dads as accents.  Perhaps they imagine a young lady from Victorian times and what might be within the pages of her journal, so we might use flowered papers, Victorian era advertisements, calling cards and other items that fit that theme. It’s lots of fun to theme junk journals.  With my wizarding items being a big hit on my Etsy store and at craft fairs I’m doing some wizarding themed junk journals with a twist, they are also traveler’s notebooks, meaning the junk journal pages are created in inserts that can be added or removed from the book.

What do you DO with junk journals?

Another cool thing about junk journals us that you can do lots of things with them.

  • A traditional Journal: Just like more traditional journals, a junk journal is perfect for writing in. Most journal makers leave plenty of empty space for writing as well as pockets and ‘tuck-spots’ for adding bits and pieces of memorabilia.
  • You can use them as a planner. Some journal makers will create calendar type pages for keeping track of your days. If not, you can use the blank pages to create your own calendars and daily schedules.
  • Lots of people use them like a scrapbook, adding photos and memories to the pages. If you are using your junk journal this way be sure you use acid free papers when creating it. Purchasing a junk journal?  It’s perfectly fine to ask if it is safe to be used with photos and is archival quality. If keeping your scrapbooks archival doesn’t matter to you, you won’t have to worry about acid-free properties.
  • Use it as an art journal. The combination of different types of pages can make it fun to create your art inside of a junk journal. They are perfect for mixed media art, using different types of mediums, plus they take especially well to collage. I create my junk journals with a mix of paper weights.  From a heavier, tea-dyed (neutralized to be acid-free) digital copy paper to the almost sheer Tomoe River paper and even paper bags. Experimenting with art supplies on the different types of paper can be tons of fun. Colored pencil work looks amazing on paper bags and watercolors give the Tomoe River paper a luscious crinkly look and feel when dry.
  • A special event or trip journal. If you want to document your next vacation or the family reunion a junk journal is perfect. Vacation to the happiest place on earth? Do a Disney themed journal with lots of tuck-spots for memorabilia.  Family reunion? Create a junk journal with lots of old family photos, recipes and newspaper clippings and leave plenty of space to add reunion photos. You can even have family members write family history or memories within the pages at the reunion.
WizarDori© junk journal

Be sure to visit my Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/tmariehilton/ )for a chance to see a video of this journal and a chance to win one of my handmade, junk journal TN inserts.

How do you learn more?

There are plenty of folks on YouTube to check out (see list below).  There are folks who can show you how to create your own, or just give you flip throughs of the ones they’ve created.  If creating your own junk journal isn’t your thing, check out Etsy, where you can purchase handmade junk journals.  Be careful, it’s addicting.

Junk Journal YouTubers to watch:

Nik the Booksmith

Leanne at CreativelyFree2BeMe

Tracie Fox LoveJunk Journals

Wendy’s Journal Adventure

Mrs. Cog

Be sure to follow my Facebook Page, YouTube Channel and Instagram account for more information and details about my WizarDori© journals, wizarding wands, potions and mixed media art.


  1. Janice Riner on August 12, 2019 at 6:35 pm

    I enjoy making junk journals but while watching various videos I’m baffled as to why put pages in the journal that can’t be written on. I guess I’m just not “with it “ enough to understand the purpose.

    • TMarieHilton on August 12, 2019 at 7:29 pm

      Hi Janice, it’s totally understandable that seeing pages in a journal that are already decorated, have text, etc. leaves you wondering why put those types of pages in a journal. I use those pages for adding photos as it gives me an automatic decorative background. I’ve also used a bit of gesso on a part of a page, allowing me to write there but still maintaining part of the decorative element of the page. I hope this helps!!

    • Theresa on August 25, 2023 at 3:19 pm

      Hey Janice,

      I realize I am late to answering this question. However, just in case someone else scrolls by and wonders the same thing, I thought I would try answering it.

      I do put many pages in my junk journal that would appear to be not for writing. Like for instance, a music sheet, a magazine page, a coloring page, a page from an old book etc. It is very easy to glue something on top of that page to provide a writing spot. So the page is a backdrop or border. The ephemera you add to the page can be for the writing. Such as a pocket with a tag or tuck spot. Also you can use a gel pen or sharpie to write on certain papers to have the writing stand out to be seen.

      Also, it is good to note that not everyone who makes junk journals write in them. Some people love the making of junk journals but don’t find the journaling part enjoyable.

  2. CORINA on November 6, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    Is there a book out there to help me get started? very curious about them.

    • TMarieHilton on December 12, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      Corina, I’m not aware of a book on junk journaling, but be sure to check out YouTube. There are a ton of great tutorials and ideas on junk journaling there!

      • Mary Siniawa on March 19, 2024 at 9:21 pm

        Natasha from Treasurer Books wrote a book for beginners.

  3. Pamela at The Paper Outpost on January 2, 2020 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Corina! I have been bitten by the junk journal bug too! I can’t seem to make enough of them! When I get done one I instantly want to make another! I think your description of what is a junk journal is spot on! 🙂 Sincerely, Pam at The Paper Outpost 🙂

    • Lucy Yanagida on January 31, 2021 at 5:14 am

      Pam at the Paper Outpost! I love you! And love your channel! I have learned so much from you! And Corina great article! I do t know where I came across Junk Journals but it has reminded me of how in love with paper I am and always have been. I’ve made my first one so far. It is just for me and was experimental! Lots to learn! I particularly want to make themed ones! I love vintage. My sister wants me to make her one! Thanks guys. Loved reading about them!

  4. Hadassah on May 8, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    I am in love with junk journals. I am more if a collector I suppose. I mean I use them for journaling but some of the more elaborate ones are just nice to page through and have the experience of feeling the different ephemera etc. it’s like a sensory experience. My personal preference is Halloween themed journals as Halloween is a happy place for me. I have a Harry Potter themed one that I am adding to as I go along. Yes I’m hooked!

    • TMarieHilton on May 8, 2020 at 5:20 pm

      My favorite journals that I’ve made have been Halloween or Harry Potter themed! I agree, the sensory experience is part of the junk journal love!

  5. Mona from Kitchen Counter Crafts on July 2, 2020 at 9:21 pm

    So… I write on a page or two, especially when giving a journal as a gift (which I love to do). The reason behind it is because at first, some of my friends were scared to write in it – they thought it was too _______ (fill in the blank: lovely, weird, awkward, work of art, precious, etc). I wanted to write in it as an example and a personal note for my friend. I also include my own sketches/doodles to help prompt them to do the same.

    • TMarieHilton on July 3, 2020 at 6:31 pm

      What an excellent idea! Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Elizabeth on February 22, 2021 at 5:50 am

    Can you tell me what the tags are for? I see lots made and very decorative , but what purpose do they serve??

    • TMarieHilton on April 15, 2021 at 2:38 pm

      A lot of crafters enjoy working on tags because they are a smaller size. Tim Holtz does a lot of his creating on tags. As for their purpose. They are great for testing new techniques and creating swatches, but they are also a great way to create something quickly. They can later be used several ways, many people add them to cards, art journals or larger mixed media pieces. You can also use them for cutting out dies, which often gives you a very unique die cut result. And of course you can save them for reference if you’ve swatched colors or practiced techniques on them. In that case, putting them on a binder ring is a great way to flip through them to find the color/technique you want to view.

  7. Lydia on July 2, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    I love junk journaling and of course everyone has their preference!!! Lately I’ve seen Pamela of Paper Outpost and love her work as to her originality, and from scratch as compared to the using of items already made or created by others. Well, don’t mean to offend anyone of the crafters out there, since all is your own preference and beautiful!!!

    • TMarieHilton on July 2, 2021 at 11:20 pm

      I’ll have to check out Pamela! I love that each crafter brings their own style to junk journaling. I also think it’s so cool that junk journaling keeps growing and changing.

    • Rebecca on October 26, 2022 at 10:32 pm

      Hi Lydia. I love Pam at the Paper Outpost! Her journals are truly inspired and she is so much fun to watch, and her style is truly unique. I really enjoy watching so many other people on YouTube as well, Nik the Booksmith, Natasha at Treasure Books and Joie de Fie are also wealth of knowledge and creativity. Those four are my favorite because most of everything they make is out of unique things they’ve collected, their own art, and actual junk. That’s more to my personal liking as well. Having said that, I do love me some Tim Holtz paper dolls. Haha!

  8. Robin Ellison on October 24, 2021 at 4:53 am

    I would love to know if there are any craft shows that have junk journals. Are most lessons on podcasts or YouTube?

    • TMarieHilton on November 24, 2021 at 5:52 pm

      I have sold themed junk journals at a craft show before. In fact they were one of the items that sold out. Mine were wizarding themed (re: Harry Potter). I’ve found that there are a ton of junk journal lessons on YouTube. Teachable has some good ones too.

  9. Louise on February 22, 2022 at 11:22 pm

    Thank you for the article! I started making junk journals a couple of months ago. I love doing it. I leave several blank and or lined pages in mine so someone can write or draw in them. So far I’ve just given them away because I would have no idea what to charge. I see them on Etsy from $30-$400 and cannot figure it out. Again thank you for all the ideas.

  10. Marta Creswell on March 3, 2022 at 3:09 am

    I’m 78 years old…have been keeping a day book for years and as my life becomes more leisurely I’m adding fewer to do lists and more art. Collage, drawings, pockets and scraps of old art projects. So my day book has evolved naturally into a junk journal.., 19 junk journals so far. I love the wealth of online input. Your enthusiasm inspires me.

    • TMarieHilton on March 3, 2022 at 2:59 pm

      I’m so glad I could be a small bit of inspiration! I’d love to see your journals! • Tina

  11. Tanya on March 8, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    Ive been watching a lot of you tube tutorials on junk journaling and i would love to create my own. As i dont have alot to write in one, can i just use it as a creative outlet,

    • TMarieHilton on May 6, 2022 at 2:47 pm

      Absolutely!! I find often I can’t really find a lot to write, but I use the creative process the same way some would use journaling.

  12. Sassyplanet Digital on June 6, 2022 at 2:03 am

    Thank you for this! What I love about junk journals is regardless of what you use it for, it brings unique art into that part of your life.

  13. Liz on November 9, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    All I can say is, Why?

    • TMarieHilton on November 9, 2022 at 3:08 pm

      Why create a junk journal? It’s like any other art form, every artist has a different reason and there also doesn’t have to be a why, it can simply be a creative outlet. It’s also a great way to recycle papers and ephemera. I used to sink thousands of dollars into CM scrapbooks, scrapbook supplies, and blank journals. I find a great deal of enjoyment in creating my journals myself now. I can use up old supplies, old books, etc. and create something unique to use. Although many of the pages might have designs or text on them, I either use those for photos and mementos or I use gesso to add my own journaling or artwork.

  14. Kathy Wood on March 4, 2023 at 3:31 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled onto your page. I love making vintage themed journals and I have sold quite a few. I currently teach a journal making class at our community art center. The class has been well received and enjoyed with beautiful completed journals by class end. The thing is, I have one student, that has taken more than one of my classes. She enjoys the process but keeps asking me what she’s supposed to do with the finished journal. Besides the obvious, I keep giving her ideas. She then proceeds to ask “what do I do with all the pockets and tuck spots?”!! I try to tell her it’s her own personal diary/journal/scrapbook/etc. to do what she pleases within the pages and tuck collectables/notes/samples/ephemera/etc. into those tuck spots and pockets. Her consistent questioning is getting under my skin. All the other students came into my class with their own ideas as to what they were going to do with their finished journals. But this one lady is driving me crazy. I will be using some of your suggestions in my next class to help inspire. Thank you.

  15. Hayden on March 5, 2023 at 1:09 am

    It’s basically collage under a new name. Mixed media in a book. I’m hardcore against the destruction/repurposing of books for ‘art’ however, so I simply buy a journal or notebook and go from there; I love how rumpled and misshapen they start to look halfway through. Tearing books up is absolute hubris. Use magazines. Find stuff you like on pinterest boards and print it out. People make it so easy and there’s ton of beautiful ephemera that’s already been scanned waiting for someone to make it theirs.

    • TMarieHilton on August 7, 2023 at 12:37 pm

      Hayden, All of the actual books I’ve used I have either gotten from library book sales or thrift stores. Those are the final stops for books before they are destroyed anyway. And in the case of using little golden books, I preserve the covers and the pages, so the book is actually retained just in a different form.

  16. Dawn clark on February 12, 2024 at 12:28 am

    I’m pretty new to junk journaling, but I have everything I need to make them already in my art room. It was like all of the things I have been collecting for different types of art for so many years have finally found a purpose. A huge light came on and now I have something to do with it all, and it is fun and beautiful, I can’t get enough of it. I believe I have caught the 🪲.

    • TMarieHilton on February 12, 2024 at 12:56 pm

      Hi Dawn,
      It’s such an easy step for those of us who have dabbling in different types of art for years and it’s so satisfying that all of those supplies can be used to create such a fun, beautiful and useful item. Enjoy!!

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