Let me say upfront that all that you need is good pens and a Bible! My advice would be to keep it simple in the beginning. As you see techniques you would like to try then you can add to your collection of supplies. Some of the art supplies I have listed are fairly expensive. I’ve added to my own art collection very gradually over the past year. From my limited experience, the major advantage of more expensive art supplies is the vibrancy of the color that they add. It’s totally fine to raid your child’s art supplies to get started, too. While I really enjoy trying new art supplies, more often than not I come back to using pens and colored pencils. I will keep adding and updating this page as I make new discoveries!
The biggest challenge is selecting art supplies is the thin Bible paper. Here are the big three things I try to avoid:
- bleed through
- tearing or badly damaging the pages
- adding a lot of weight and thickness to the page
I’ve really been surprised to discover just how many art supplies work just fine in the Bible! I rarely prep my pages with anything; I just grab some art supplies and dive in!
The Bible: You can use any Bible that you like, but a wide margined Journaling Bible is ideal. Amazon.com has several options if you search for journaling Bibles. I have been so pleased with the ESV single column Journaling Bible by Crossway. I like the single column layout, the wide margins, and the translation. The Bible has held up amazingly well! It’s small enough to carry everywhere. There are many different covers to choose from, but the insides are the same. There are now many Bibles with line art to color. Here is a link to my review of coloring Bibles.
For pens, I use the Sakura 50075 16-piece Pigma Micron 05 Assorted Colors Cube Collection Ink Pen Set—I can’t say enough good things about these pens. They have brilliant colors and don’t bleed through the thin Bible paper. They don’t smudge or smear even when I go back to erase stray pencil marks. You can paint over any marks made with these pens with no ill effects. There may be other pens that work well, too, but these pens set a pretty high bar!!! I often use Sakura brush pens to fill in bubble letters. They don’t bleed! For a thicker, black line, use the Sakura graphic 1 pen.
Colored pencils. After good pens, colored pencils would be next on my wish list of starter supplies. Prismacolor Premier pencils have a soft lead that quickly and easily fills in color on the thin Bible pages and are great for adding color to hand lettering and the background. Faber Castell Polychromos pencils are another beautiful option. These pencils have a harder lead and hold a point better. I like them for making more detailed colored pencil drawings. Crayola Colored Escapes are bright and vibrant and blend nicely at a reasonable price point. (These pencils are my favorite after reviewing many colored pencils.)
Don’t overlook the obvious. You can do so much with simple art supplies. Crayola colored pencils are great for adding color to the page. Crayola markers can be used like many high-end markers (for stamping and even water color type effects)–just prep the page first with gesso. Crayola’s kids paint work surprisingly well. It dries somewhat chalky, but unlike a lot of tempera paint it doesn’t have an odor and the paint doesn’t bleed on untreated paper. The only Crayola product that didn’t work well was the Crayola watercolors. Even with page prep, I found that Crayola watercolors bleed (most watercolor paint does not, so this was a surprise!). For ideas on using Crayola supplies, read more here.
Sakura Gelly Roll Metallic pens—the ink won’t bleed through, but it does need some time to dry or it will smudge (and copy to the other page if you shut your Bible quickly.) I especially love being able to write in gold!
Pencils—I usually use pencil before using ink. I just look for any sharpened pencil lying around my house!
Water Color Pencils—These are nice for coloring, highlighting text, and background color. With a little bit of water they blend nicely and don’t tend to bleed through the paper (but adding water may make the page wrinkle slightly). The Albrecht Durer 36 Watercolor Pencil Set Tin from Faber-Castell is a high quality set.
Derwent Inktense Pencils are much like water color pencils, but the pencils are truly ink in pencil form. Once the ink is activated with water it dries to permanent color. The pencils have a bit of a learning curve, but they offer amazing, intense colors that blend well with minimal water. For more vibrant color and an easier time activating the ink, I would recommend prepping the page with gesso first. See more here.
Erasers—What would I do without these! I prefer the white hi-polymer erasers because they don’t tend to tear the page and they lift pencil marks easily.
Mrs. Grossman stickers—They come in lots of themes and simply make me happy! I remember going to a gift shop when I was little and selecting my favorites from big rolls of Mrs. Grossman stickers. For Bible journaling, I like that the stickers are nice and thin. (Or any stickers that make you happy would be a good choice!)
Illustrated Faith has lots of cute stickers, paper pieces and Bible-themed designs printed on transparency paper. It’s so fun the way that the Illustrated Faith products coordinate. They quickly brought a bright and cheerful feeling to my daughter’s bird-themed Bible.
StazOn ink is solvent based and doesn’t have the same bleed-through risk as some of the dye-based inks. (In my experience, I’ve had minor bleedthrough with a very new ink pad. It gets better once it dries out!) For stamps, I think the clear stamps that stick to clear stamp blocks make it so much easier to position the stamp on the Bible page correctly the first time.
Tai Bender has a really nice collection of clear stamps available on her Etsy shop Growing Meadows. I like that her stamp sets are perfectly sized for Bible Journaling and include lots of stamps that can be used with many different Bible verses. My stamp collection has grown over the last two years. There are many good sources of clear stamps! You can find new Illustrated Faith stamp sets at DaySpring. I was delighted to discover some hard-to-find Illustrated Faith sets at the bythewell4God Esty shop; this shop also has new stamps from Kristen Wolbach. SRM Stickers has adorable Bible Journaling stamps, too; almost too many to choose from! You can find stamps by Karla Dornacher and Krista Hamrick at Sweet ‘n Sassy Stamps. Two other great sources for clear stamps are Winnie & Walter, LLC and Joyclair.com. So many options!!!
Chalk edgers—These colorful chalk-based inks can be also be used with stamps, and they really don’t bleed through!
Distress inks are unbelievably gorgeous. They blend like watercolors and make amazing background color. I find that they bleed through the page very easily, but they look just as pretty on the backside! If you see absolutely amazing journal art and wonder how they get such amazing vibrant color, distress inks may be the answer. Prepping the page with Art Basics Clear Gesso will prevent bleed through (and the surface will be smooth enough for writing!). Here are some tips for using Distress Inks in Bible Journaling.
Glues sticks or double sided tape.
Sakura (the maker of micron pens) has calligraphy pens in three sizes. I think the 1mm size works best for journaling in the margins of the Bible since there’s not too much space. On my test page, they did not bleed through if I did my best to use light pressure. I look forward to using these more and improving my calligraphy skills.
Staples “Repositionable Window Decals”—I found this in the specialty paper at Staples. It’s basically clear sticker paper, and if you have an inkjet printer, it’s easy to print transparent photos to place over a verse in the Bible. It sticks well; it really is repositionable; and the text shows through.
Gelatos—Fun for background color and work well with stencils. To use gelatos with stencils, simply smear some gelatos on a water-proof surface (like a plate). Wipe up the color with a makeup wedge and then work the color onto the page using the makeup wedge over the stencil. My post on gelatos may be my most popular ever. Be sure to check it out for tips and ideas on how to use them!
Another possibility for adding background color…Panpastels. I love their vibrant and bright colors. They are not at all messy, which is a plus for me. The color is transparent. Since they go on dry, they don’t wrinkle the page the way water colors do. The colors can be layered and blended for all kinds of neat effects.
Journaling stencils are a lot of fun to use together with the Panpastels or gelatos.
Liquitex Heavy Body paints, commonly available at art supply stores, are wonderful for adding a splash of color to the page. A popular technique is to apply a thin coat of color with a credit card as a background for stamps or stickers. With a credit card, it’s possible to scrape the paint thin enough to reveal the Bible text below. But the paint can also be opaque enough to cover mistakes or add another layer of color on top of the first. Most other acrylic paints will work well, too. No need to page prep with gesso!
Dylusions Acrylic Paint is a more fluid, semi-transparent acrylic option. It was designed for art journals so it dries quickly, works well with other mixed media, and especially well with pen. It’s easy to write on top of the paint; it does not bleed through and requires no page prep. It comes in super fun colors. Personally, I like the jars and being able to pick up paint from the lid.
Water colors work surprisingly well. The water color paint that I reach for most often is the Artist Loft water colors from Michaels. Here’s a few recommendations: Test your water colors first on a back page; most water colors won’t bleed, but some do, especially Crayola water colors. Be brave, use a minimal amount of water, do a test stroke on a nearby piece of paper, and keep a paper towel handy. Whether or not to prep the page depends a little on how you plan to use your paint. If you are just adding a splash of color, you probably don’t need to prep the page with gesso. If you are doing a detailed water color painting, you will have better luck if you do.
Tombow Dual Brush pens are the markers of my childhood dreams. They are so nice to use (perfect for fancy coloring books!). They have both a brush tip and a fine line tip. The color is water-based and is blendable. The markers are especially prized for writing in beautiful brush scripts. If you use a light hand, the pens don’t bleed, but I generally put gesso down on the page before using these in the Bible. See more here.
Glitter and glue—Like any wet medium, glue will wrinkle the pages slightly. Only use glitter and glue if you are prepared to leave that page of the Bible open for the rest of the day or you may end up with stuck together pages!
I’m adding Photoshop Elements to my supply list. It’s a good, reasonably priced software product for creating your own printables (and, of course, organizing and editing photos).
Be careful of pens or ink that might bleed through. You can always test pens in the back pages of your Bible.
Remember that wrinkled pages will flatten in time, and bleed through can always be fixed by covering up the back side with more art! Washi tape is good for fixing any tears.
Gesso is a primer and good for preventing bleedthrough, strengthening the page, and adding texture. After testing different page prep options, my personal favorites are Dina Wakely’s Clear Gesso and Art Basics Clear Gesso I came across a recipe for homemade gesso; it’s pretty awesome, too. It’s a little bit more wet than the professional brands and takes longer to dry, but it works well. Liquitex Matte Gel Medium is another popular page prep option. It provides a very smooth surface for writing and stamping. For more on page prep options look here.
Draw on your hobbies and artistic knowledge for additional inspiration. Doing artwork inside a book presents a few constraints, but the possibilities are truly endless.
After a year of experimenting and watching others, here’s a big list of supplies and techniques that seem to work well:
- Micron pens
- Colored pencils
- Crayola Twistables
- Watercolor Pencils (better with gesso*)
- Inktense Pencils (better with gesso*)
- Inktense Blocks (better with gesso*)
- Distress Inks (need gesso to prevent bleedthrough)
- Distress Markers (need gesso to prevent bleedthrough)
- Watercolors (better with gesso*)
- Acrylic paints
- Pan Pastels
- Neo Color IIs
- Tombow dual brush markers (These don’t bleed if you use a light hand; gesso wouldn’t hurt!)
- Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens
- Die Cuts
- Washi Tape
- Adding photographs
- Graphite paper (for tracing)
- Prima Art Basics Gesso
*Better with gesso just means that the materials won’t necessarily bleedthrough, but that the thin Bible paper will hold the color better if that makes sense.