Keeping written secrets and hiding words in your art journal

There are lots of reasons why we keep art journals but for some of us, at least some of the time it’s a place to express our feelings. Sometimes we can do this with colour, images, patterns, quotes or lyrics. Sometimes we need to write, sometimes a lot! Sometimes we write but we want to obscure that writing in some way. This blog looks at ways of using hidden words in art journaling.

Why write in a visual journal?

We all use our journals in very personal ways and what works for me may not be what works for you. However, my interaction with other journalers has shown me that many of us are creative with words as well as images, we feel deeply and we need to find a safe place to put it all! Our art journals are an essential part of self care for many of us and writing our thoughts and feelings here just feels right! You can read more about my art journal process here.

Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash

Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash

Over years, this has raised questions for me. How do I combine my writing with my art? Should I keep a separate journal? Am I writing too much or not enough? How can I keep my writing private if someone else could open my journal? If I want to share my art pages, how can I keep the personal stuff, personal?

A note about sharing art journals

For many years, I didn’t share my journal pages. When I started there was no Instagram to post my latest spread and the only person that saw those journals was me. There are so many opportunities now to share our art and to join a community of other artists of all styles and levels of experience and it’s wonderful. However, we can still choose to keep our work private. We can also choose to produce work that fulfils our desire to share while protecting our personal thoughts.

A friend once asked me about written diaries that I kept. Wasn’t I worried that someone would read them? Or that my loved ones would find them when I was gone? I understand that keeping writing private is important for some. This might mean keeping a separate journal for writing. For me, I’ve found benefits in keeping my art journal pages, my notes, thoughts and even the occasional shopping list in one book and I only share what I want to, good or bad! But yes, there are times when I want to hide or at least disguise my words too.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

So how do I add writing to my journal and keep it private?

Perhaps we develop ways of expressing ourselves with words that would appear hidden or just cryptic to others. Here are ways I’ve used in my journals. Some work better depending on the materials I’m using, how much I’m writing or how much of my writing I want to hide. If you have your own method, leave a comment and share it!


Writing your feelings and thoughts directly onto your blank page, get it all out. Use any medium that isn’t water-soluble. When your done simply Gesso over the whole page. The writing is there, the words have been expressed but they will be permanently hidden and only you will know what secrets are hidden underneath. This is perfect if you have a lot to write as you can fill the whole spread.

Smudged and washed pencil

Create your background in your usual style and then use a soft or water soluble pencil to write onto it. This method lets you smudge and blur your writing or use a wet brush to wash out the lines. The pencil marks then become part of the background and you can control how much you leave behind.

Opaque paint

As before, create your background and then add your writing. With this technique, use an opaque paint to paint, splash, print or stencil partially over the writing. This will leave some words or lines visible but will obscure the words enough. The writing becomes a mysterious, interesting layer in your art and the peeks of words can remind you of the thoughts you have written.

Scribble writing

Using scribble writing is my favourite for pages that need volume! I use a thick black paint pen and shout my words onto the page in a messy flurry of energy. They are unreadable even to me but this process is about releasing the energy rather than creating a pretty page! I might build up layers onto top of the words but sometimes they become a very visible layer.

Collage your words

Write your thoughts onto notepaper first using a permanent pen or pencil. When creating your journal page you can add pieces of your journaling as collage. Rip up the notepaper, use it upside down, back to front and in tiny and larger pieces to add texture and include your writing.

Secret pockets of writing

Using pockets in journals is very popular and they have so much value for journalers looking for places to hide! They can be beautifully decorated and become embedded in the page. Beyond holding a pretty tag or pull out, pockets can contain snippets or pieces of writing to be sealed inside with glue, tape, staples etc. I used this method previously to keep yearly intentions and wishes. It’s perfect if you want to go back and read what you’ve written but keep it hidden.

Keep it short and cryptic

Probably my most used method is to create small statements to use as a focal point. I’m expressing myself on the page using colour and shape and texture and then at the end I use just a few words to complete the story that I’ve told. It’s almost like I’m thinking through the issue or feeling as I create until I have a message I need to tell myself. This message becomes a brief statement of my feelings and it doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else. Looking back at these pages I can recall what I was thinking and feeling as I made it. Use letter stamps, typewritten snippets or handwriting to create your short and slightly cryptic statement.

Five minute journal page by Kore Sage

If you like to hide your private thoughts in your art journal I’d love to hear what techniques you use? Do you use the same technique or mix it up? Or maybe you prefer to keep your writing in a separate journal? Leave me a comment and let me know how you include your writing in your journal. Do you  always leave it to read or try to obscure it?

Over on Redbubble you can find my print-on-demand designs for art journalers! They make great gifts for your fellow journalers and the perfect little treat for your art table.

Art journal mug by Kore Sage Art

Art journal mug by Kore Sage Art



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