Make an Eco-Friendly Art Journal From Junk Mail

February 26, 2020

Junk mail is a big pain. No, I don’t want a new credit card. No, I don’t want to enter a contest. No, I don’t want a free steak dinner in return for hearing about my retirement options. Also known as direct response mailers, junk mail not only clutters our homes, it kills a lot of trees to do so. 

One eco-friendly way to deal with your junk mail is to repurpose it as art materials. In particular, I like the large postcards that real estate agents and performing arts organizations distribute. They are printed on very heavy cardstock, so they will not warp even when you slather them with paints and glues. Assemble a stack of these postcards, apply a base coat of paint to each to hide the printing, bind them together into one book, and you’ll have a set of blank canvases that will serve as an art journal.

Now you may ask: What’s an art journal? It’s a visual diary, a creative sketchbook. Instead of writing your thoughts, you express yourself by painting, drawing, collaging, stenciling, stamping — however you like to create. Your art journal is a mixed media reflection of where your head is. Each page is different, and there are no right or wrong ways to create them. It’s not meant to hang in the Louvre, so don’t self-critique your ideas or artistic abilities. After building a few pages, you’ll find it quite therapeutic and addictive. And the fact that you upcycled what would have ended up in landfill makes your art journal that much more special. 

What you’ll need:
Junk mail postcards
White acrylic paint
Acrylic paint of different colors
Your favorite art materials
Hole punch
String or ribbon


1. Save all your junk mail postcards. If they come in various sizes, that’s fine, as the pages in your art journal do not have to be the same dimensions. 


2. Apply one or two coats of white paint over the postcards to hide what is printed on them. 


3. Add splashes of color on top of the white paint. I like applying paint with sponges to get a mottled effect. Another trick is to place a blank piece of paper on top of the colored paint that you’ve added, press down on the paper and lift it off. This technique creates a unique, leathery texture.


4. Embellish the pages using whatever art materials and techniques you desire. You don’t have to fill your art journal all at once. Tackle a page at a time.


5. To bind the pages together, punch two holes on the sides and tie them together with some string or ribbon.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects online.

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