Hello friends! We often get many questions asking what supplies to purchase or if you should prep your pages and what different mediums you should use. I thought it would be helpful to have a place to go to that shows the pros and cons of each of them. So often we say that all you need is a Bible and journaling pen. We still believe that wholeheartedly but know that you guys want to worship with some other fun supplies. We want to remind you to use what you feel comfortable using. This list does not mean we think you need all these supplies to Bible journal. We never want you to buy something you won’t use or don’t feel comfortable using in your Bible. These are just some of the tools we like to use or avoid when we are worshiping in our Bibles.
Markers and Pens
Since a journaling pen is our most important medium for Bible journaling besides our Bible, I thought I would start there. Faber Castell Markers and the Illustrated Faith Journaling Pens are our favorites. The Illustrated Faith pens were made for Bible journaling and we are excited they come in many different sized nibs as well as now coming in several fun colors too. They are permanent so they won’t smear if it gets wet and they write well over paint. Faber Castell is a great marker option with their brush and Big Brush tips. They do not bleed unless you go over the same area a few times. The darker colors will shadow sometimes. Faber Castell Big Brush Markers are great for using as stamp ink also, so see the pros and cons above about them. I highly suggest testing pens and markers in the back pages of your Bible if you aren’t sure about them, since there are so many options out there to choose from to list all of the pros and cons. This is just a general list of some pros and cons. Also, Shanna did a comprehensive post about pens before our favorite Illustrated Faith pens were babies, so if you’re interested in seeing how other pens compare, feel free to take a look at that post HERE.
- many varieties of pen nibs sizes and shapes
- great for handlettering, coloring, and journaling
- many are not permanent and will smear
- many bleed through, especially markers (except Faber Castell and Illustrated Faith pens)
This is my personal favorite medium to use and many of us love adding a little to our backgrounds. It is a very popular medium to use so I thought I would go through some of our favorites first. Shanna also did a comprehensive posts on paints that you may be interested in checking out… What’s the Difference – Paints
- wide variety of colors to choose from to match your project
- does not bleed through
- also prevents bleed through which is why many Bible journalers don’t use gesso
- many have some transparency to it so you can still read the scripture
- permanent when dry so it won’t smear or reconstitute when wet mediums are added on top
- some are opaque and will cover words if that’s something you’re trying to avoid… especially the cheaper craft paints
- some have a slick surface which can smear stamping or journaling before they are dry
- if you use a lot of layers, paper can get heavy
Many Bible journalers choose watercolor as their favorite medium, especially illustrators and hand-letterers. I will admit, I am not gifted with watercoloring but have had so much fun trying it out. Creative team member, Amy Bruce, inspires me so much with her watercoloring and she’s done so many really great tutorials using them. Amy’s tutorials can be found HERE. Also, Shanna’s post on paints addresses some watercolors too, including some that bleed. Her post is dated before Illustrated Faith watercolors were born, so you will not see a demonstration of them here, but Amy’s tutorials do use the Illustrated Faith Watercolors… What’s the Difference – Paints
- transparent option that won’t cover the scripture’s words.
- wide variety of colors
- easy color mixing
- there are some (not most) that will bleed through if you do not prep beforehand
- there are some (not most) that are chalky and chip away over time… they also become opaque with layering and will cover the scripture words
- if too much water used… potential of paper tearing
- not permanent, so will reconstitute if it gets wet again
Shanna did a really comprehensive post that I often send people to as a resource. It really explains the differences between the different kinds of ink as well as what bleeds, what shadows, and what does neither. What’s the Difference – Ink
- great for using those stamps we get in our kits or collections
- wide variety of colors to choose from
- some do not bleed (see Shanna’s post linked above) pigment ink and Stazon ink are favorites of many Bible journalers
- some do bleed (see Shanna’s post linked above) dye inks are the big culprits for this.
- some are not permanent so they will smear if they get wet… Stazon is a permanent option that dries quickly
Gelatos and Neocolor II
These are pretty much the same as watercolors listed above… so below are just additional pros and cons, see “watercolors” above. However I have not found them to bleed or be chalky.
- can be used without a brush or without water
- potential to clog pens if not completely dry before journaling (I recommend leaving out for at least 24 hours to dry completely before journaling)
Gesso seems to be the most asked about and there are definitely differing opinions on it, many love it or hate it… in addition to my list, I want to point you to a post that Amy wrote about it. Most of the Illustrated Faith team choose not to gesso or prep our pages first, but this is a nice comprehensive post detailing cases in which she would use it. She sometimes uses it, so I feel her post is really helpful in deciding whether or not to “prep” your pages with gesso… To Prep or Not to Prep – Freedom in ALL Things
- prevents bleed through when using mediums that normally bleed through your Bible pages
- great transparent white paint when white acrylic paint is too opaque to our liking
- has tooth to it, so it’s great for when you want to watercolor over acrylic paint that’s too smooth
- if not needed, it makes the paper heavy
- white and black gesso will cover the words, if you’re trying to avoid that use clear
- gesso has tooth and makes it gritty, some have a lot of tooth and will destroy your pens
Matte Medium or Decopage Medium
Many people ask if Matte Medium or Mod Podge can be used to prep their pages. Mod Podge is a brand of decopage medium, it is the most popular and most referenced when asked about… though, there are other brands. Matte Medium and/or decopage mediums are sealants and glues and very different than gesso, they don’t “prep” a page. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, they are two very different things and used for different reasons in the arts and crafting world. Again, Amy’s post linked above is a really great resource for this information… To Prep or Not to Prep…
- using it as a glue… just a dab will do to adhere paper pieces down… you want to make sure it’s underneath and not used as a sealant on top of your pieces in this case…
- it’s great for gluing down bulkier items that tape runner wouldn’t adhere well.
- if your Bible gets near heat and/or humidity, it will melt and possibly adhere your pages stuck together
- it is often very thick so makes your pages really heavy and bulky
Mist and Spray Inks
This one again depends on the brand you’re using as some will bleed through and some will stay on top of the surface. I highly recommend testing first in the back of your Bible if you are concerned. I will say that Heidi Swapp Color Shine is what I will use because the ink stays on the top of the surface and doesn’t bleed through. However many of the mists and spray inks I have tested bleed through, much like most markers bleed through.
- fun medium to splatter and spritz
- use a paint brush and use it like a watercolor
- transparent so it won’t cover words
- many will bleed through and are very much like dye stamp inks
- some have a pearlessence to it and may cover the words if too much is used… this is why Heidi Swapp Color Shine sits on top rather than soaking/bleeding through.
I hope this helps with making decisions on what to purchase to get started. We do really encourage you to use what you already have and don’t be afraid to test in the back of your Bible. Many of these opinions are mine. After lots of trial and error, I have my favorites and I have things I won’t use in my Bible but will use in an art journal or on canvas. Please only do what you are comfortable doing. This is between you and God and we would never encourage doing something you aren’t comfortable with. Below are a few of our favorite basics that we use most often for Bible Journaling.
Have fun, enjoy the process, and most of all… enjoy your sweet time in the Word and with God.