Welcome to the third and final installment of our Create Along series on making a unique mixed-media planner from scratch. You’ll love using this planner all year as a diary/datebook and an art journal. The idea was inspired by Dawn DeVries Sokol’s article “Creative Days Ahead” in the January/February 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, and this is her take on creating a one-of-a-kind planner that reflects your artistic style.
Today I’ll show you how to art up the inside pages, which is the most fun part of the project. If you missed the first two installments, you’ll learn how to make the covers in Part One, and how to bind the book in Part Two. If you’d like to work with an existing blank planner, journal, or sketchbook, feel free to jump in and start!
Below are the materials you’ll need. With the exception of a few basic supplies, feel free to use what you have on hand—this planner is all about playing and having fun, and the pages will ultimately reflect your style and artwork, so use what you love. You can also experiment with some new supplies if you like, or give that tube of paint that’s been sitting on your shelf a spin.
• Acrylic paint, a variety. I used tube and fluid acrylics in a range of colors, including fluorescents.
• Spray inks (optional)
• Collage materials, such as book text, maps, ledger pages, and magazine cut-outs
• Gel medium
• Gesso, white
• Expired gift, credit, or hotel card, or a Catalyst Wedge
• Paintbrushes, a variety
• Large binder clip (optional)
• Washi tape
• Stabilo Woody Crayons, or Stabilo All pencil, in black and other colors if desired
• Artist crayons (optional)
• Rubber stamps (optional)
• Stencils (optional)
• Inkpads (Use permanent ink if you want to color over the stamped images.)
• Stickers (optional)
• Permanent pens, a variety
Open your planner to the two-page spread you want to use, and spread some paint on in select areas. I worked on two spreads at a time using different colors and techniques, so I’ll show you the processes for both. You can spread the paint with an old gift card, your fingers, or a brush—the idea is to not overthink it. I had the most fun and got the best results by applying paint with my fingers.
I had specific color palettes in mind when I worked on both spreads, and used paints in those tones. But since the paint will be mostly covered by gesso in the next step, and we’ll be adding more color later, you can experiment and see the effects different colors offer.
Add some collage materials, adhering them with gel medium. I used torn and cut book and map pages and sheet music. Here’s the first planner spread, where I incorporated fluorescent orange and magenta paint:
Here’s the first layer of the second spread, which incorporates blue and green tones and paper cut into circles. I also used spray inks in addition to acrylic paint:
Quick tip: Place a sheet of scrap paper underneath both sides of the spread you’re working on to protect the pages and covers underneath. Dawn also has a great tip: Laying a large binder clip on a page allows you to work on the next pages while the previous ones dry.
When the paints and inks dried, I spread a layer of white gesso over the pages, again using the gift card.
The colors were still vibrant, so I spread on a second coat of gesso, letting the first dry before applying it:
On the second spread, I used only one coat of gesso because I loved the look of the dot pattern from the spray.
Quick tip: Gesso comes in a variety of thicknesses; try a variety to see what works best. You can also try using watercolor ground in white or clear, if that’s your preferred medium.
When the gesso was dry I drew light pencil lines to mark off the days of the week. In her article, Dawn said that she needs less room for weekends, so she makes those days smaller. Think about how you’d like your week to be laid out. I like a Monday-through-Sunday view, but you may prefer a Sunday-through-Saturday grid.
Next, divide the areas using a variety of materials: washi tape, rubber stamps, hand-drawn doodles, postage stamps, stickers, and strips of paper. Decorating planner pages is a great way for me to justify my washi tape addiction, so I love using it. I also split up the spaces with rubber stamps and collage papers, which I adhered with gel medium. By the way, if you’ve never used washi tape before, be warned that it’s a slippery slope.
Add the month at the top of each spread, and add the dates and days to the boxes. Get creative with the numbers—cut some from magazines, stamp them, hand write them, cut up an old tape measure—when you start looking, you’ll see that numbers are everywhere.
Quick tip: Writing the months and days on your planner pages is a great way to practice your hand lettering.
Now it’s time to start building layers of color and depth. I love how Dawn often highlights images with shadows, adding deep color values. She recommends using Stabilo Woody crayons or a Stabilo All pencil; those are excellent, as are water-soluble artist crayons. I used a combination of all three, lightly drawing black lines around images and along the edges of the washi tape, then going over the lines with a wet paintbrush or water brush. I snuck a little extra color in as well with stencils, water-soluble crayons, and watered-down acrylic paint. If you compare the pages with and without the shadows, you’ll see what a dramatic look they provide.
After that, I continued to add more color with the crayons, paint, stencils, and ink pads, plus extra collage, a few sketches, and some writing, rub-ons, and photos. The pages feel very organic to me. While each spread has its own look, the book as a whole feels cohesive.
Here is one finished spread:
And here’s the other:
I decided to dedicate the first page of each signature to a list of my goals for the coming weeks. This goals page started with paint and Gelatos spread and scribbled across the page:
I covered the page with gesso, and lightly stenciled a pattern on top:
I added sketches and lettering, plus collage and washi tape, to finish it:
Try raiding your art journals, sketchbooks, and scraps for odd pieces to use in your planner; sometimes I’ll like one element of a page and hate the rest, so I’ll cut out the part I like and add it to something else. This planner spread was the perfect place for a hand-carved flower stamp:
In Part 2 of this Create Along series I explained that the binding for the planner left room to fill it with lots of stuff. I’ve started down that road already—on the goals page I created a small envelope for receipts, business cards, etc.:
And here I created a tiny sewn book that I adhered to the page. The cover is a subway ticket:
While working in the planner, I realized that if I didn’t have a super exciting week, I could still use the spaces to add sketches, doodles, journaling, and collage. I think what I love most about the way Dawn builds the spreads is the element of surprise. Those collage bits that you added in the first layer become great jumping-off points for drawings and doodles.
I’m having so much fun working in my planner that I can’t wait to get to it, even I only have a quick 15 minutes. I hope you love this project as much as I do, and make sure to post your handmade mixed-media planners in our member gallery! If you have any questions about the materials or techniques, please leave them in the comments section.
If you’re looking for even more ways to fill your new planner, check out these books, videos, and magazines from North Light Books—there are tons of ideas that you can use on your pages!