Creative Journaling Ideas

Tell the story behind the photos with these tips and tricks guaranteed to jump-start your journaling.

Go Beyond the Photo

Design by Emily Pitts

Images don't always tell the whole story, so use your journaling to provide a context for the photos. Emily provided unseen details about her husband's decision to buy a new car. Describe the things that can't be seen, such as other sights, sounds, and smells; the activity leading up to or following the moment captured by pictures; and the emotions related to the photo.


SOURCES: Patterned paper: Crate Paper (blue with yellow dot), My Mind's Eye (printed kraft, wood grain). Stickers: BasicGrey (yellow letters), Jenni Bowlin Studio (brown letters), Studio Calico (green letters). Ribbon, tags: Studio Calico. Buttons: Making Memories (blue flower), My Mind's Eye (blue), Scenic Route Paper Co. (orange, green), Studio Calico (wooden). Paper clip: Tim Holtz. Spray ink: Studio Calico. Pens: Micron by Sakura of America. Punches: Martha Stewart Crafts. Adhesive: American Crafts.

Share the Five Ws

Design by Lynn Ghahary

Not sure where to start your journaling? Look to the five basics: who, what, when, where, and why. Then ask yourself what other highlights you would like to mention about the day or event, such as Lynn did with her journaling about a day at the pumpkin patch. Imagine you're repeating the story to a friend. What details would you be sure to include?


SOURCES: Patterned paper, stickers, die cuts, metal clip: BasicGrey. Font: Traveling Typewriter off the Internet. Brads: Making Memories. Ribbon: Karen Foster Design. Pens, adhesive: American Crafts. Markers: Copic. Punches: Stampin' Up!.

Record a Conversation

Design by Kimberly Neddo

Quotes from your subjects can often bring a story to life, and journaling is easy when you include word-for-word dialogue. Keep a notepad and paper at the ready to write down a conversation, or record it on your cell phone when you're on the go. Play up the dialogue aspect by printing the conversation in a script font.


SOURCES: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper. Patterned paper, rub-ons, spray ink: Studio Calico. Font: Hypatia Sans Pro Semibold off the Internet. Ribbon, buttons: My Mind's Eye. Stamps: FontWerks (Blox Alpha), Studio Calico. Adhesive: American Crafts.

Make Lists

Design by Sande Krieger

Bullet points or lists are an easy way to provide details about your story. Sande made Top 10 lists of her favorites for the year. Mix handwriting, stamps, rub-ons, and stickers to create lists that are visually appealing.


SOURCES: Patterned paper, die cuts: BasicGrey. Stickers: BasicGrey (labels, arrow), October Afternoon ("top," "twenty ten"). Rhinestones: Hero Arts. Stamps: 7Gypsies (disclaimer), Hero Arts (alphabet), BasicGrey ("f.y.i"). Ink: Memories for Stewart Superior Corp. (red), Staz-on by Tsukineko (black). Pens: Sharpie. Punches: EK Success (arrow), Fiskars (star). Adhesive: Fiskars, Glue Dots International.

Show Your Emotions

Design by Candi Gershon

Capturing the emotions surrounding your story can help fill in what the facts don't reveal, such as Candi's feelings about her first son growing up. Write the thoughts that pop into your mind, without worrying too much about editing. If you're nervous about putting your emotions on display, consider hiding them in an envelope or behind a photo.


SOURCES: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper. Patterned paper: My Mind's Eye (green stripe, multicolor stripe), Fancy Pants Designs (ledger), Sandylion Sticker Designs (orange). Corrugated paper: Paper Reflections. Font: Post Master by Autumn Leaves. Stickers: Sandylion Sticker Designs (star), Junkitz (title). Buttons: Autumn Leaves. Pen: Zig Writer. Corner rounder: Creative Memories.

Work with Quotes

Design by Erin Clarkson

If you aren't sure how to begin your journaling, consider borrowing words from someone else. Erin used famous quotes about love as a starting point for her journaling. She wrote her own opinions and advice relating to each quote. Song lyrics, Bible verses, or a favorite quote can also be great jumping-off points for journaling.


SOURCES: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper. Patterned paper: BasicGrey. Decorative paper: Legion Canvas Photo Paper. Font: Brandish (quotes) off the Internet, Helvetica CY (journaling). Stickers: 7Gypsies ("through thick and thin"), BasicGrey ("here's my best advice"), K&Company ("and that's the truth"), Little Yellow Bicycle ("lucky to?," hearts), Making Memories (felt letters), Pink Paislee ("mom says"). Rub-ons: American Crafts ("on the"), Making Memories ("what," "worth," "subject of," stars). Pens: Zig Writer. Punches: Family Treasures.

Interview a Family Member

Design by Lisa Truesdell

A question-and-answer session can provide additional facts when you aren't sure of the story behind a photo. Lisa's grandfather and great uncle had passed away, so she turned to her grandmother to gather the facts behind an interesting photo she couldn't resist scrapbooking.


SOURCES: Cardstock, stickers, adhesive: American Crafts. Patterned paper: My Mind's Eye (orange, yellow, wood grain, aqua), Studio Calico (map, banners). Font: Postmaster by Autumn Leaves. Buttons: Papertrey Ink. Wood veneer accent: Studio Calico. Punches: EK Success (uneven scallop), Martha Stewart Crafts (pinked circle), Stampin' Up! (notebook border).

Use Your Favorites

Design by Gillian Nelson

Lists are a fantastic way of journaling about yourself. Gillian picked a variety of topics and listed her favorites, her wishes, her dislikes, and her frustrations. Bits and pieces of her favorite paper and embellishments made the perfect accents for her all-about-me page.


SOURCES: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper (kraft), Scrapworks (blue). Patterned paper: American Crafts, Anna Griffin, October Afternoon, Sassafras. Font: Traveling Typewriter off the Internet. Stickers: Heidi Swapp (arrows), American Crafts (green and black letters), Kaisercraft (white letters). Chipboard: BasicGrey (heart), Maya Road (house), The Paper Studio ("g"). Brads: Making Memories. Ink: Tsukineko. Pen: EK Success.

Define a Mood

Design by Lynn Ghahary

A single expression can say a lot about a person. Pair an expressive photo with a dictionary definition of their mood. Print it on vellum and paste over patterned paper to make it stand out.


SOURCES: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper. Patterned paper, chipboard accents: Jillibean Soup. Vellum: Recollections. Font: Rough Typewriter off the Internet. Stickers: BasicGrey. Thread: Coats & Clark.

Add Meaningful Music

Design by Jennifer Perks

Is there a song that immediately makes you think of someone? Pair that song with photos of the person (or people) on a scrapbook page for instant journaling. Help the title or lyrics stand out by spelling the words with bold letter stickers.


SOURCES: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper. Patterned paper, trim: Sassafras. Font: Century Schoolbook off the Internet. Stickers: American Crafts ("live your life"), Sassafras (label, "listen"). Gems: Queen & Co. Magnetic snap: BasicGrey. Paper clip: Target. Thread: Coats & Clark. Pen: American Crafts. Circle cutter: Provo Craft.

Document Your Roles

Design by Linda Barber

Everyone takes on multiple roles in the course of a day, week, or month. Together, they make us who we are. Make a list of all of your roles, then take photos that represent each hat you wear. Place the photos in a collage and list each special role you play for quick journaling.


SOURCES: Software: Adobe Photoshop CS2. Fonts: Traveling Typewriter, SC Amelie, Vargas off the Internet. Digital elements: Adorned kit (background paper, coffee stain) by Paislee Press, Herringbone overlay by Erica Hernandez, Bookbag Essentials (notebook paper) by Gina Cabrera, Ultimate stitches by Lisa Whitney Designs.

Capture Facebook Comments

Design by Heather Melzer

Sharing photos with friends is a lot of fun, but capturing their comments and reactions to your photos can make it even more special -- and make your journaling easier. Print out comments from a special picture to share what you and others are thinking about the photo. Heather mimicked the Facebook logo by filling a text box with pink and adding a white "f."

Editor's Tip: Use the "print screen" function on your computer to take a digital screenshot of your post. Since your photo may look pixelated, layer a print of the original on top of the screenshot or digitally replace it in image-editing software.


SOURCES: Cardstock: The Paper Studio. Patterned paper: Fancy Pants Designs. Font: Lucida Sans Unicode. Flowers: American Crafts (felt), Making Memories (metal). Glitter brackets: Jolee's Boutique.

Include Others' Words

Design by Jen Perks

Have your child help journal. Jen had her daughter write her feelings about their pet on a small piece of paper and included pictures of the two of them together to show a special bond. She shared her own journaling on a small note card that slides behind a photo to give a different perspective.


SOURCES: Patterned paper: Queen & Co. (plaid), BasicGrey (floral), Sassafras (heart). Font: Love Letter TW. Stickers: Sandylion Sticker Designs (small letters), SEI ("&"). Chipboard accents: Heidi Swapp. Charms: Karen Foster Design (heart), 7Gypsies (key). Brads, gems: Queen & Co. Thread: Coats & Clark. Floss: DMC Corp. Paint: FolkArt by Plaid. Pens: American Crafts. Punches: Stampin' Up! (scalloped edge), Marvy Uchida (tab). Decorative-edge scissors: Fiskars. Embroidery pattern: French Knots.

Use Pics to Tell the Story

Design by Leah Fung

Tell your journaling through pictures. Document a day in your life or a timeline of a special event. Arrange the photos in chronological order. Add photo captions with the time and specifics on the picture in a small strip between photos.


SOURCES: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper. Patterned paper: Die Cuts With A View (brown, green), Making Memories (red dot, ledger, beige dot). Font: Bookman Old Style. White tacks: Chatterbox. Label holder, brads, photo turn, ticket, string: Making Memories. Staple: Office Depot. Mini staple: Tim Holtz. Buttons: Jo-Ann Stores. Thread: Coats & Clark. Software: Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0.

Write a Long Title

Design by Karen Chrisman

Make your journaling the page title, as Karen does in this layout. House the words on color blocks to make them stand out. If you have journaling that doesn't fit, write it around the outside of the layout to make the most of your page.


SOURCES: Software: Adobe Photoshop CS5. Font: King (large words), Pea Natalie (journaling) off the Internet, Arial (small words). Digital elements: Le Marche paper pack (red paper, black paper), Spot Dots No. 19 (red dot paper, black dot paper) by Katie Pertiet; Zig Zag Stitches (stitches) by Anna Aspnes; Everyday Inspirations Freebie (heart accent, staple) by Lynn Grieveson.

Use a Starting Phrase

Design by Brittany Teti

Digital pages are perfect for including lots of journaling. Play with different fonts, sizes, and leading (the distance between two lines of type) to see what fills your space and fits with your design. Use a word or a phrase to inspire your journaling, such as Brittany did with the words "I believe." Each sentence in her journaling begins with these words.


SOURCES: Software: Adobe Photoshop CS5. Font: Pea Stacy Elizabeth off the Internet. Digital elements: Just Ribbed paper pack No. 2 (background), Laurent paper pack (green paper, orange paper), Sc-anna-ty Journal Lines No. 1 (lines) by Michelle Martin; Autumn Honey element pack (orange ribbon) by Andrea Victoria; Stitched by Anna Brown No. 1 (stitches), Torn Tattered Scalloped PaperStrips No.1 (scalloped paper) by Anna Aspnes; Christmas Text Words ("Believe") by Ali Edwards; Bead Scatterings No. 1 (beads), Monarchy element pack (brown flower), Roughed Up Dots paper pack (dot paper), Thankful Memories element pack (staple, ribbon), Touch Up Paint Brushes and Stamps (paint streak), Wooden Alphabet No. 3 ("i"), You and Me element pack (frame) by Katie Pertiet; Mullany Doodled Flowers 3 (flowers) by Jesse Edwards.

Remember Ups and Downs

Design by Erin Clarkson

Write a letter to your child, as Erin did in this account of life as a single mom, and pair it with a favorite photo. Highlight key words by making them bold or a different color before printing them.

Editor's Tip: If you include a lot of text on your page, keep the rest of the design fairly simple.


SOURCES: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper. Patterned paper: BasicGrey. Font: Helvetica Neue Light (journaling), KellyP ("mom"), Pea Lauren Doodles (heart) off the Internet. Stickers: American Crafts (green letters), BasicGrey (all other). Rub-ons: Doodlebug Design ("the," "of being a single mom"). Floss: DMC Corp. Distressing tool: Making Memories.

Share the gallery

Better Homes & Gardens may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.