Using your own photography in your art journals

Hi Messians, Julia here with a confession – I am awful at documenting my life. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t quite get into that format. I always start with such good intentions – I print off holiday pictures, I write down what I did each day of a new adventure but… I get bored. I find it easier to live in the moment and when I look back the details are fuzzy but the feelings are fresh. I love reading about how other people do it “properly” and always want to be one of them but I have to accept, it’s just not me. I do however, have my own format. I like to document by taking photographs of my daily life, travels and things that inspire me. I love to use these images in my art journaling and in different ways other than just sticking them in. It kind of makes each page more special and personal because to anyone else, it’s just an image, but to me, it’s part of my life. A real experience I have had, linked to memories and emotions. I have listed below a few different techniques to incorporate your own photography into your art journals – in less traditional formats. This is a real favorite thing of mine to do so if you have any other ideas or methods, please share in the comments below!  


I take a lot of photographs where colour is my main inspiration. These images are great to cut up and collage. They are a hit of freshness and vibrancy that really mean something to me when I see them.

gm-julia-unexpected photography-01

Photographs of tiles from my trip to Lisbon used

gm-julia-unexpected photography-02

Photographs of street art from my trips to Lisbon and Japan


My favourite way to do this is by tracing in photoshop, although it could easily be done with tracing paper as well. I like the naivety of line you get and the composition is always good – because it has come from a real photograph!

gm-julia-unexpected photography-03

Traced from a photograph of my grandparents garden


I like to use my own silhouette as it offers a small personal touch to a page. I can recognize myself but I’m not sure others would – I like this hidden personal element.   

gm-julia-unexpected photography-04

Feeling small but mighty in Kyoto


When I was a university student I had a real obsession with photocopying. I like the way you can use contrast to break an image up and how you can layer things on top of one another. It is an interesting way to use your own photography because of these manipulations. Because you are working with duplicates, it’s gives you extra creative freedom as well!  

gm-julia-unexpected photography-05

My parents first home, photocopied and spliced

Let me know if you like to use your own photographs in unusual ways as well – I’m always looking for new ideas!


Julia is a British designer and creative enthusiast. She loves to express herself through shape, colour and pattern – living by the ethos of more is more!


  1. Katie Smith

    These are fabulous ideas, Jules!

    Sometimes I print out some of my photos to use as backgrounds in my journal.

    • julia Thomas

      I’ve noticed you do that – I should of referenced you! <3

  2. Emily@squiggleandswirl

    Ooh I’m definitely wanting little tiny photos of me to put in my journal now, thanks for some new and creative ideas Julia !

    • julia Thomas

      I’ll be on the lookout for tiny Emily’s 😉

  3. Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

    I’ve been meaning to do the photocopy thing since Cait mentioned it, but I love your idea of cutting everything up and creating a brand new background.

    • julia Thomas

      Thanks V! I look forward to seeing your take on this, especially now you’re in Beijing and you’ll have an array of awesomeness at your front door! <3

  4. anna friesen

    These ideas are so cool! Thanks! 🙂

    • julia Thomas

      Yey! Thanks Anna! <3