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It evokes a strong reaction for some, the controversial thing I’m doing in this video. When I started art journaling, I was scared to cover up layers. OOPS, guess I just spoiled where I come down on this controversy now. Along with this “controversial” move, I’ll be using a gel plate for speedy stenciling because it creates an irregular, dare I say, organic element as this art journal comes together.

First layers are a great place to let loose and play! This isn’t carefully planned or meticulously. It’s just using a gel plate to quickly stencil. Yes, impatient me appreciates the speed! The organically irregular edges to the stenciled areas is all courtesy of the gel plate.

Is this the only way to use a gel plate with stencils? Absolutely not! There are loads more techniques- so many I’ve got an entire workshop dedicated to it because getting the look you want when gel printing can feel like random luck.

But it’s not luck. It’s about understanding how and why stencils and a gel plate work together. Anyone, including you, can make prints these when you understand how stencils interact with paint and color on a gel plate. That’s why I created Stencil-rific Layers, to take the guessing out of gel printing with stencils! You can check out all the details here.

What’s the best paint brush for art journaling? There isn’t any one brush that is “the” brush to use. It’s a very a personal decision, so I’ll share why I choose the brushes I do.

It’s a hard life for brushes with me – I’m not a fan of carefully cleaning and I’m happy to let them soak for days. So for that reason, I go for inexpensive brushes. Having an expensive brush is just pressure to take good care of them. I prefer to avoid pressure when playing.

The oval shape has been pulling at me lately, so on book text, I used the Arches stencil to create ovals. I love that stencils are so versatile! In the video, you’ll see how it’s just a simple flip and how to create a variety of sizes from one arch.

Submarines. Once the ovals were cut out, they reminded me of the portholes on a submarine. What a colorful view from these windows too!

This is where things get controversial. By covering up most of that layer, some feel that it is being wasteful. I am not in that camp. For me, the process of creating the layers was fun and that’s enough reason for it to never be wasteful! Also, the layers are never fully covered with some peeking through the white paint and that wonderful color on the edges.

With the colorful portholes, the word explore called to me. Imagine seeing these kinds of colors looking out from a submarine!

Several quotes by Matisse on this stencil would have easily worked but I chose the one about courage because it takes courage to dive in a submarine and it takes courage to create. Every time you make a page in your art journal, you’re putting some of yourself out there. That’s vulnerability, and it definitely takes courage! To people who don’t art journal, they may wonder how it takes courage to stencil or move paint around, but it really does. Guess that’s another potentially controversial idea.

The last touch is some scribble journaling. When writing this way, I am writing actual words but nobody can actually read them. This way there’s no pressure to spell things correctly or to write neatly.

Here are the supplies used. Some of these links may be affiliate links which means I may get a small percentage and it doesn’t cost you anything extra! And you get a really good feeling knowing that you are helping keep the free tutorials coming!


There’s an easy way to add the color to these Sketchy Women so that it’s loose and free. As a bonus, it uses very little paint too! Along with the how in the video, I’m also sharing several ways I used the women in my play.

Creating crisp stenciled images i

  1. Use a small amount of paint. In the video, you see me dab off the cosmetic sponge so that I only have a small amount of paint on there.
  2. Pounce straight up and down.
  3. Use a thick paint like a heavy body paint. All the supplies I’ve used are linked up at the end of this blog post for you.

To add the color, I squeegeed it on using a tool called a mini blade which is flat and made of silicone (so easy clean up). The mini blade is bigger than many of the spaces so that’s why I only put small bits of paint on it. But there’s another reason why having a larger tool than “needed” is helpful.

It’s tough to get into every little space, let alone precisely when working with a tool that is “too big” for the space. That creates the loose look!

***Don’t have a mini blade? Substitute with whatever you’ve got, such as an old gift card or hotel keycard cut in half lengthwise.

What colors you use can quickly change the vibe of the women. By using red and green, they’re not ready for the holidays.

Once you’ve stenciled the women, what can you do with them? Use them in any of your play from art journals to cards to collages! Below is a quick collage card made using leftover bits from my scrap piles.

Here’s a quick art journal page using one of the women as the focal image. The title word was also created with a stencil using a reverse stenciling technique. I’ve made a video on that’s done- you can check it out here.

Creating these women uses very little paint and they’re quick to make so it’s easy to get a pile of them. One perk of having a bunch of something is that you might see something unexpected. At 8:38 in the video, you’ll see what I saw…

Stencils are one of those versatile art supplies that can’t be used up and they play with just about every art supply you already have! What you’ve seen here is just one technique of, for all practical purposes, unlimited techniques you can do with stencils. If you want more ways to use your stencils while deepening your understanding, then check out my online workshop, Joy of Stenciling Workshop.

Here are the supplies used. Some of these links may be affiliate links which means I may get a small percentage and it doesn’t cost you anything extra! And you get a really good feeling knowing that you are helping keep the free tutorials coming!


It almost sounds too good to be true, but The Art Bundle for Good really is $5400 worth of art classes for $99. That’s more than 90% off! Actually closer to 98% off. But I’m getting ahead of myself because you might be wondering what is the Art Bundle for Good?

It’s over 100 art courses and resources on topics like watercolor painting, art journaling, gel printing, sketching, mixed media, drawing, abstract art, acrylic painting, collage, pastel pencils, colored pencils, creativity and much more all bundled together for one low price.

That’s the bundle part, what about the good?

25% of the Art Bundles for Good goes to support Courageous Kitchen, a Bangkok-based charity helping refugees. Art Bundle for Good has raised $118,950 for charity so far. That’s the good in its name. This is the 8th year that John Bardos has been bringing together a wide range of artists for this bundle.

So what all is in this bundle?

You can see everything included here. Over 85 artists contributed more than 100 classes! One of my gel printing workshops, Playing with Found Patterns, is included. When that workshop opens back up, the cost of just that one single workshop will be $79. Right now, this bundle is the only way to join that workshop.

The wildest part of this deal is that there is a 30 day money back guarantee- it’s right on the Art Bundle for Good website:

“If you are not 100% satisfied with the Art Bundles for Good, please email me (John Bardos) within 30 days for a full refund. I just ask that you take 2 weeks to try a few of the courses and resources in this massive Art Bundle. Is that fair?”

I’d say that’s more than fair John! You can see all the details about the bundle and get registered at

But you might want to hurry because this bundle goes away forever on Monday, Nov. 6th, 2023 at 11:59pm ET!