How to Bullet Journal When You Can't Draw
I’m not an artist and I certainly don’t claim to be, but I really love and enjoy the creativity that using a bullet journal provides.
However, if you spend ANY time looking at Instagram or Pinterest to get bullet journal ideas, you may end up feeling like you shouldn’t be bullet journaling at all. There are so many over-the-top ideas and intricately designed spreads that most of us can only dream about accomplishing. Seeing all of that can be a bit deflating.
But, if you look at the original bullet journal concept designed by Ryder Carroll, it was designed as an organizational system to keep all of your notes, tasks, thoughts, dreams, events, etc…in one book.
No fancy doodles, decorations, or embellishments - just clean simple pages helping you to find information you need at a moment’s glance.
I have found for me, however, that in addition to keeping my life organized, I love the creative outlet of being able to add some decoration to my pages. So, I set out to explore other options to decorate my bullet journal and make my pages pretty.
10 Ways to Bullet Journal When You Can’t Draw
Stencils are a great way to get starting adding a little something to your pages.
You can get stencils for frames, lines, weather icons, arrows, banners, speech bubbles, check boxes, stars, social media icons, letters, and more. Here’s a 20 piece stencil set made just for planners and bullet journals.
Stencils are really inexpensive and the sheets are usually about the size (or smaller) than a standard bullet journal. That makes it easy to keep a stencil sheet or two tucked in the back of your bujo for easy use.
If you want to take things a step further, you can use a Cricut Machine and acetate sheets to make your own stencils sheets. It’s an easy process and you can make stencil sheets for just about any shape you can dream up or find online.
Here’s a video tutorial about using a Cricut to make stencils.
#2. Washi Tape
The invention of washi tape has to be one of the best inventions of the century; cute, colorful tape that can be moved and removed without ruining the paper…genius!
Washi tape is available in just about every color, theme, and decoration you can image.
This is one of my favorite washi tapes. It’s 2” wide tape with assorted frames on it. You can write directly on the washi tape so it’s an easy (and quick) way to decorate your page. Since you only use one or two frames at a time, this washi tape lasts a LONG time.
My other favorite tape is the cute banner washi. It allows you to put decorative flags across the top of a page, to divide a page, or to top off a frame. I’ve bought several rolls of this washi!
Washi Tape Tip: When using washi tape, I like to pick a color theme for my page spread and stick with only two or three different washi tapes for that page. If you use too many, the page starts to look busy rather than pretty.
#3. Favorite Doodles Section
Do you ever sit there staring at a blank page not knowing what to draw or write? Get rid of blank page overwhelm by creating a favorite doodles section in your bullet journal.
Having this section has helped me through MANY bullet journals.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not a great artist, but I do enjoy doodles. So I rounded up my favorite doodles and I create a few reference pages in the front of every bullet journal. These are all easy doodles that don’t require any expertise.
Here’s an example of some of my doodle reference pages.
Now when I have a new page spread to create, I simply flip to my doodle reference pages, pick a few cute things that I can draw and add them to my bujo spread.
I’m always in search of more cute and easy doodles to draw, so I’ve written a lot of posts on it you may want to check out:
Once I add a few quick doodles and frames to my pages, my favorite part is coloring them in with colored pencils.
#4. Hand Lettering
You might not be an artist, but how is your penmanship?
You can experiment with different handwriting styles and make that the focal point of your pages.
Over the years, I’ve played around with lots of different styles such as bounce lettering, faux calligraphy, block lettering, combination of caps and lower case, and decorative letters.
Just like with doodles, I’ve created a few reference pages of my favorite handwriting styles. When I’m stuck, I turn to the handwriting pages in my bujo, pick a style and I’m off to decorate my latest spread.
Check out this related post, the Best Beginner Hand Lettering Tutorials
If all else fails, rely on the talent of others to decorate your pages by using stickers!
If you love the look of calligraphy, but just can’t make the letters look pretty, try these days of the week stickers.
You can create a different theme for every month with these colorful seasons stickers from Carpe Diem.
Stickers are also a great way to add banners, dividers, and icons to tasks and to do items. You could purchase a collection like this one.
Stamps are another way to make yourself look like a bullet journal rock star!
I’ve accumulated quite an assortment of planner and bullet journal stamps because, once you buy one…you definitely want more!
Stamps come in rubber stamps or clear stamps. The clear stamps are the most popular for planning and bullet journaling because there are lots of stamps on one sheet. You’ll just need a clear stamp block and an ink pad to use with your stamps.
Learn more: How to Use Planner Stamps
You’re thinking, “I told you I can’t draw and now you want me to paint in my bujo?”
Now before you say anything, hear me out about watercolor. Watercolor paints are a super easy way to add some creativity to your bullet journal pages and you don’t need to be an artist to use them!
We’re talking Kindergarten level painting here!
Take a look at the three examples below. The one on the left used a strip of bright pink washi tape across the top of the spread and then days of the week are accented by a pretty (and simple) wash of watercolor.
The middle image was created using a black Sharpie Pen to create the overall page filled with calendar and tracker boxes. Then washes of bright water colors are used to fill in each box as a pretty background.
The final image is made by making large dots and writing the first letter for each day of the week overtop.
Even though you’re just making simple blobs of color, you’ll feel surprisingly artistic when you pick up that paintbrush! Watercolor paints are very affordable and there are portable kits you can throw in your bag and take with you.
I have this portable watercolor set and it includes two brush pens. You fill the pens with water and you can paint anywhere.
If making perfect lines and circles is a challenge, get a ruler. It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget about this simple tool.
This 6-inch clear ruler is small enough to tuck in the back of your bullet journal. Since it’s clear, you’ll be able to see if you are lining up lines where they should be.
Add circles to your bullet journal, too! You can use them to make mood mandalas, block schedules, sleep trackers, and much more. The Helix 360 degree Angle and Circle Maker will help you create circles with ease and perfection!
#9. Simple Icons
Consider adding simple icons to your pages! These are very tiny doodles (only one grid block) in size, but they pack a lot of punch and make your pages look really cute.
I found a video from NElizabeth and she shows you how to make 90 tiny doodles for your bujo or planner.
On a new page in your bullet journal, copy down all the icons you see in the video. Then you’ll have them for easy reference when decorating your pages.
#10. Minimalist Bullet Journal
Still apprehensive about decorating your bullet journal? Try a minimalist bujo!
These bujos are low on decoration but high on style! You’ll be using a simple black pen and making the most of the white space - very chic and modern!
I hope you found these 10 ideas helpful.
Don’t let anything stop you from bullet journaling! Remember, a bullet journal is to help you stay organized, not a competition to see who makes the best bullet journal.
Which of these techniques and tools will you use in your bullet journal? Let me know in the comments below.