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How to Make an Art Journal for $1

Learn how to make an art journal for about $1, with this classroom tested system. All you need are book rings (25¢), drawing paper (75¢) and some recycled cardboard.

There’s a reason why artists have collected their art in journals for hundreds of years. Who wouldn’t opt to have all their personal work in one spot? To be able to flip back to see what they did before, and maybe keep things they are still working on?

As a teacher to an elementary school of 800 students, I struggled with this wish for years. Every option I found was either too expensive or too inflexible or too time consuming to put together. That is, until I discovered a two-hole punch at my local Staples store.

Some experimenting led to this 6″ x 9″ art journal system that worked so well, I adopted it for all my 2nd through 5th graders for quite a few years. A few benefits of the system include:

  • Saving money. You only need two book rings per student, and 9″ x 12″ art paper cut in half. The covers are free if you recycle by having students bring in old boxes.
  • Save time. No more sorting of artwork. Each student is now responsible for finding their journal and putting away their own art at the end of each class. Third graders on up can easily do this, any younger and they can do this with some assistance.
  • Cut down on unfinished work. The 6″ x 9″ paper is much easier to finish than the usual 9″ x 12″ size, especially if your art class is short on time. Early finishers? Easily flip back to old work and complete unfinished projects.
  • Get art home safely. Single projects that go home in backpacks often get folded and beat up in the process. This guarantees some protection until the end of the year. Making art at home? Now you can keep sibling art separate.
  • Parents love it. They have an easy way to save all their child’s work in one place too. This is especially true for those with siblings, when it’s hard to keep things separate.
  • Journal growth instills a sense of pride. Students start to appreciate the idea that some things take time, that a collection of their work can be pretty amazing if they just keep at it. A few pages at the beginning of the year turns into something pretty substantial by the end.
art journal for kids
Journals organized by classroom


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Time needed: 30 minutes.

How to Make an Art Journal

  1. Cut 9×12 drawing paper in half (to 9″ x 6″) with a paper cutter.

  2. Use paper punch to center two holes at the top of one end.

  3. Cut cardboard to 9″ x 6″ with a paper cutter.

  4. Assemble cover and paper with book rings and clamp shut.

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