5 Ways to Repurpose Old Magazines in an Art Journal

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When I began to repurpose old magazines in an art journal, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just winging it.

repurpose old magazines in an art journal text overlaying collage image of mixed media woman face

5 Ways to Repurpose Old Magazines in an Art Journal

My journey started digitally around 2021 when I started Your Refuge Journals and was “branding” on social media. Someone taught me how to create images by cutting, pasting, removing backgrounds, and I often used high fashion models as images for my Instagram covers.

As my bullet journaling transitioned into art journaling, I had not ever considered that what I was creating on social media was actually a digital form of collage.

I loved the contrast of black and white images against bright, happy, and joyful colors. This was such a shift from my previous website appearance but the colors, the collaging aspect of things, and the transformations of old fashion magazine pages helped me express outwardly what I was feeling inwardly.

I began collecting different fashion magazines, cutting out images, and transforming them on paper the same way I did digitally.

However, there was one aspect of repurposing old magazines in my art journal that I did not anticipate: the emotional transformation and my ability to express myself.

Over time, along with a ton of self-work, I have successfully learned to verbalize how I am feeling without flipping my marbles. Not only does it benefit me by being more confident, it doesn’t make others around me uncomfortable.

What I do excel at, however, is connecting with emotions, Not only with myself, but with others. Using collage in my art journal provides an outlet to express what I am unable to communicate in words and helps develop a more positive relationship with myself. In addition, it helps balance out the disconnect between my head and my heart.

It helps release anxiety, stress, become self aware of my fears, challenge and resolve my negative self talk, but most of all, it helps me find the words I need through a complete process that I have discovered completely on my own.

Being completely transparent, I live with chronic pain. My independence has been shattered by osteoarthritis and lymphedema.In addition, COVID 19 impacted my lungs in a way that restricts my ability to do things I once used to do with less effort.

Being creative in my art journal gives me a sense of purpose, and teaches me that I can live, even though my life has changed. Over time, I have learned to build new habits and even though I am a work in progress, having my art journal to show up to whenever I choose to, releases the negativity that builds up inside of me has given me a new sense of myself.

It is a mindful practice that when used consistently, can signficantly reduce stress and improve overall mental wellness.

I realize this may not be why you came here — to hear my own story – when your story is much more important. However, I want you to know that I relate, and I am here walking with you every step of the way. And I feel it is important for you to know that what I am sharing isn’t just because I found some information in the internet and am just regurgitating it.

Upcycling old magazines is used in a lot of mixed media (using different art mediums in one art piece), and truly can benefit your mental health when used to collage your story in your art journal.

These are 5 ways to repurpose magazines that I have used personally and hopefully you will find them useful in your own journey of living and creating a positive experience for your life.

Use Old Magazines for Positive Affirmations and Mantras

5 incredible ways to repurpose magazines in your art journal text overlaying mixed media image of a woman with magazine collage scraps

One of the easiest ways to add typography to your art journals is to go through old magazines and cut out words. I, personally use my own lettering because I love hand lettering my own stuff, but I have an entire collection of words I store in a ziploc bag.

I want to share something important in relation to trauma and words.

When people experience trauma, especially during childhood, the brain becomes negatively impacted in the areas of learning and communication.

When we struggle with using words to describe our experiences, it is challenging expressing ourselves to others in words. Often times, we begin expressing ourselves through our behaviors. Others see this as negative, and that one who “is too emotional.” This compounds the shame we often are already experiencing due to our unresolved traumas.

I say “our” because I have experienced this in my lifetime.

When we cannot describe things in words, we cannot verbalize to others how we are truly feeling. It is frustrating because we cannot help feeling “no one understands.”

By working our art journals in layers, take our time, and embrace the process, we can add a layer of text over the top to add deeper meaning to the process. I like to think of it as closure.

Of course if you have unresolved trauma, I will always encourage you to seek therapy. I only mention this for your art journaling because if you are using it for your mental health, I think it is important to help educate others including yourself about why it is so difficult to communicate when you have unresolved trauma.

With that being said, flipping through already written words from pages on magazines can help you develop positive affirmations and creating mantras for yourself.

Clipping out random words, phrases, or even just letters, and storing them for a later time, can help build a collection of words for those times you are struggling to find your own.

Besides, some of the typography in magazines is super cool and can add to the aesthetic of your journal pages.

Using Old Magazines for Color Inspiration

mixed media collage with fashion model magazine cut out and handwritten patience quote

Because everything I do is self-taught, color theory is not my strong suit. There is one awesome thing that you can learn from fashion magazines and that is the use of color.

Think about it for a moment. Professional photographers and editors know how to combine colors in images. They know how to design pages so that they evoke emotion to their audiences.

Fashion designers know how to dress their models. Home interior designers know how to make homes pop with color accents.

Chefs and food photographers know how to present colors so we want to eat their food.

You can teach yourself about what colors you can use, and what will be aesthetically pleasing to your own eyes by looking at the backgrounds, what colors are used minimally, and what colors are used a lot.

For example, if you are feeling drawn to the color yellow, find images where the color yellow is at the forefront, Look at the other colors in the images, and see how they are being used. The yellow may be against a dark blue background which makes the color yellow ferociously pop out.

But what if that doesn’t suit your mood and emotions? Your image in your own journal isn’t going to respond to your own emotional needs the way you want it to, then. Keep scouring magazines until you find one that you connect with and use the colors similarly in your own artwork.

You don’t have to copy the photograph. Just use it for the color inspiration for your own art journal. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of what colors to put together. And the beautiful thing is, you will eventually find what works for you, a color palette that you love, and will be able to capture your own emotional experience more authentically.

I used a very similar color theme in this image as the original magazine page. I just cut out the model and matched the colors as closely as I could (because as I said, I am not a color theory expert), but added my own style to make it my own. This was so fun to make and I just played around using my own creativity on my journal page. Feel free to use this layout as inspiration for your own journal !

Create Gorgeous Backgrounds With Magazine Transfers

mixed media collage image of Kethy Fortner on Gelli Plate magazine transfer image of fashion model

Late 2022 I wanted to find ways to create backgrounds in my art journal and came across the world of Gelli Plate mono printing. This opened the doors for a whole new level of self expression and creativity for me.

Mixed Media artist Einat Kessler describes a gel printing plate as “a soft surface that comes in a variety of sizes that is made with a mineral based glycerin which give the plate a flexible and moldable surface so that you can spread paints, add textures, and make many prints.”

It is super easy in one sitting to create at least 50 images. “What would I ever do with 50 sheets of painted paper?” Easy … they become useful for backgrounds for your art journal. Not only can you transfer magazine images, you can store them away and use your Gelli Plate prints for collage.

The above image of my friend and travel and lifestyle digital creator Kathy Fortner, is an example of a collage I created using a gel plate monoprint as a background. I wanted to honor Kathy for all of the inspiration she has given me by showing me how to look at the world differently, even in the midst of adversity.

I had created a magazine transfer and while going through my stash of Gelli Plate prints, I was beyond excited to find I had one of a fashion model with a striped shirt which matched the shirt in Kathy’s photo. I transformed her photo by cutting it out, changing her clothes, and adding it to the background.

You just HAVE to give this journaling technique a try. Here is another example of how I used an old magazine uisng a gel plate.

The letter “T” is a print I created on Sumi Paper, and then colored over it with some Crayola Super Tip Markers. I made some marks with a Posca paint pen and hand lettered with a Tombow Fudenoske after the Liquitex Matte Medium adhesive dried:

mixed media visual journal collage of fashion model with hat standing next to door rotated

I will say, however, be patient. This journaling technique is not foolproof and there is some trial and error that comes along with it. However, working through the challenges, and being persistent helps build self-confidence and motivation to keep going which carries over into everyday life.

I found these supplies worked best for me for this process, especially the acrylic paint:

Create a Mixed Media Collage With Magazine Clippings

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Being fairly new to using old magazines for collage, I honestly did not know what I was doing. It was not until I began exploring mixed media that I began to delve into different journaling techniques, including using old magazine clippings to create meaningful collage.

Mixed media is simply just a variety of different mediums, or art supplies, in one composition. The word collage simply means a collection of materials glued to a page. Collage can be created using old magazines, photographs, images printed out from your copier, scraps of different papers (including the Gelli Plate papers I mentioned above), and just about anything you can find.

Collage can help you tell your story. Only you can interpret your own experience and collage can truly help you find your voice.

Examples of materials you can use for collage in your art journal:

  • Old magazines
  • Sheet music
  • Ephemera
  • Advertisements or junk mail
  • Stamps from envelopes
  • Food labels
  • Pages from old books
  • Coloring pages from adult coloring books
  • Comic strips or comic books
  • Old newspapers
  • Acrylic paint scraps
  • Old children’s storybooks

If you enjoy junk journaling or want to give it a try, you can use textiles such as buttons, burlap, lace, twine, yarn, or any materials that you have laying around. You can collage using just about anything. Go with what you feel. Art journaling is about self-expression so just go with it.

Using magazine clippings of fashion, home decor, food, people, and cosmetics, are some things you can collect to add to your journal page spreads. There is no “right” or “wrong” way. This is YOUR story and no one else’s. You tell it in YOUR way and whatever makes sense for you.

I do encourage you, however, to set an intention before beginning. Your intention will help guide you through your process.

Repurpose Old Magazines in an Art Journal By Altering the Pages

With a little bit of acetone and an old rag in a well-ventilated area, you can completely alter the look of an old magazine page.

You can rub some acetone through a stencil and it will remove the color of the page underneath leaving a beautiful image and effect. You can then either glue to the entire page to your art journal and use the altered page as a background, or you can tear around the stenciled image like I did in this journal spread:

IMG 4075

If you have been wondering what to do with outdated and old magazines, these are my 5 favorite ways to use them for my weekly art journaling pages. You can collage, use words to create quotes, positive affirmations, and mantras, create beautiful backgrounds with a few additional art supplies, or use them for color inspiration.

These are only a few things you can try. At the end of the day, you can do whatever you like and use whatever art and journaling supplies you have on hand. Be creative and you will find new and different ways to make them your own.

Not knowing what to do with old magazines has always been my nemesis considering I just don’t seem to like to throw them away. Trust me, after cutting them to shreds page after page, you will have no problem getting rid of them afterwards. This also … saves our environment as well because less wasted paper is going to end up in the landfill.

Although we all love beautiful aesthetics in our journals, falling in love with the process and finding what works for you, will also help you fall more in love with yourself and your life.

No matter what artistic level you think you are, you are the artist of your own life. You are the conductor, the melody in your own symphony, and the beautiful soul behind the messages in your own personal journal pages. Those old magazines are the audience, just waiting for you to bring them on stage and orchestrate meaningful, personal stories, and inspirational messages together.

Whether you are going to repurpose old magazines in an art journal with collage or cover the pages with words, magazines are a valuable resource for self expression, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are. The sky is the limit. Just play and have fun and trust the process.

Here are some other posts you may find helpful for you:

Using Alcohol Markers| A Beginner’s Complete Guide

How to Start Journaling for Self Love

5 Creative Journaling Techniques to Improve Your Mental Health

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