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  • Writer's pictureHannah Ghafary

Visual Journaling: Your Imagination's Canvas

Pictured Above: visual journal page I created in 2019.

This week I want to tell you guys about a self-care activity I am obsessed with: visual journaling. If you don't have a creative bone in your body, don't stop reading here! You don't have to be an artist or know anything about art to visual journal, which is why I've created this guide to help you get started.

Okay, but what's a visual journal?

Essentially, visual journaling is a beautiful blend of an old-school journal and a sketchbook. It is a free and unconventional combination of verbal and visual elements on paper. You'll quickly learn that there are very few rules about what constitutes a visual journal.

A visual journal entry I created in 2015 inspired by the changing of seasons in my life.

A visual journal can exist in the dusty pages of old novels from your attic or decorative photography books collected from thrift stores. I have even seen visual journals created from atlases and dictionaries. Over the years, the pages of my visual journal have become a place where pens meet paintbrushes, markers meet magazine clippings, and found objects find a home.

Pictured Above: visual journal page created in 2017.

Why make a visual journal?

Well, for starters: journaling is a therapeutic activity with very tangible benefits to your physical and mental health. Studies show that those who journaled only three days a week for fifteen minutes showed reduced anxiety, lowered depressive symptoms, and greater overall happiness relative to baseline.

A journal serves as a bookmark of mistakes you've made, the accomplishments you are proud of, and the great moments you want to remember many years from now. Writing these things down allows you to reflect on your experiences in a safe environment where you can process them without fear or stress. Likewise, the pages of your visual journal can be a great place to start the habit of building an attentive, reflective and intentional life.

Pictured Above: visual journal page created in 2018.

If you are an artist, your visual journal is a great space to practice the process of communicating ideas through creative mediums effectively. Personally, I find that my visual journal is also a great place to confront creative blocks through unconventional experimentation without pressure or "rules".

So, how do I make a visual journal?

Your visual journal exists to be a freeing, creative space in which to layer and experiment with media. That being said, there really are no rules about what you can and can't include in a visual journal… All you need is a book and your imagination. But don't be intimidated by these broad guidelines! If you're not sure where to begin, here are some great things to include in your visual journal:

  • Sketches and ideas for future works

  • Magazine clippings the inspire you

  • Musings

  • Reminders

  • Reflections

  • Notes and questions

  • Fabric scraps

  • Burn or tear pages

  • Glue in tickets to events you attended or old-school, 4x6 photographs

When it comes to what kind of book to choose for your visual journal, the sky is the limit. See (above) this vintage furniture manual that was turned into a visual journal. Photo via Whitney Panetta.

Your visual journal should be a reflection of you. It should tell others about your personality, your interests, and what you have researched or discovered in your creative process. When it comes to choosing what kind of book you will use to create your visual journal, I'd recommend picking something personal to you (i.e. your favorite graphic novel or an atlas with maps of somewhere you've always dreamed of visiting). Integrating the original content of the pages into your journal will be more easy and meaningful if the book somehow reflects your personality or interests.

Photo via Whitney Panetta.

If you're still stuck on where to start… Pinterest has a lifetime's worth of visual journaling inspiration. Feel free to go check out my board, where I've been saving examples that inspire me for years. Another amazing visual journaling resource is a blog from Atlanta-based artist, Whitney Panetta. Whitney's blog, Look Between the Lines, is truly a hidden gem of the internet. It is filled with countless images of her enviably beautiful visual journal pages she has created over the years.

Pictured Above: visual journal page I created in 2016.

I hope you enjoyed this crash course on visual journaling, and that it leaves with that imaginative itch to get creative in your spare time this weekend. If this blog inspires you to create a visual journal (or if you already have one), definitely feel free to share them with me. Comment below, shoot me an email, or tag me in a post! I would love to see what you create. ♡ Next week, be on the look out for my first ever VLOG on Posh & Painterly, where I will tutorial some drawings anyone (yes, anyone) can make. If you don't want to miss it or other future content here on Posh & Painterly, be sure to ⇩ scroll to the bottom ⇩ of this page and subscribe so you will receive updates!


Smyth, Joshua. (2018, December 10). “Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial.” JMIR Mental Health Vol. 5. 6 February 2020.

Panetta, Whitney. (2019, November 18). "Visual Journaling." Look Between the Lines. 6 February 2020.

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