{U} Upcycling: re-purposing thrash into art

Stamps. Stencils. Ink pads. Die-cuts. Distress paints. Silk glaze. Crackle paint. Dylusion spray inks. Color bloom ink spray. Washi tape. Collage sheets…

The world of supplies is huge and crazy. There are tons of art products in the market, with more introduced almost every day. With so many beautiful supplies to choose from, things can get a bit overwhelming. Not to mention hard on the pocket.


DIY stamp Image courtesy

But, you don’t need a ton of supplies for art journaling. And a lot of supplies can be easily substituted for similar effects. Best of all, you can upcycle a lot of things from around the house in your art journal! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Don’t have too many stamps? Go back to childhood “supplies” – potatoes! Cut shapes in potatoes for one-time use stamps.
  • Save bubble wrap from your next package – use it as a stamp
  • Finished reading your magazine? Instead of throwing it out on the recycling heap, use it for collage fodder.
  • Bought a book that you absolutely hate? Tear out the pages and use as collage.
  • Don’t throw away used tea-leaves. Boil them again, maybe with half a spoon of fresh tea leaves {experimentation is key here} and use the water to antique your pages.
  • Use the cardboard from cereal boxes to practice new techniques. Or as a substrate for your next painting. Once it’s painted and framed, no one will know it was done on a cereal box.
  • Keep the chopsticks you get with Chinese takeout – use it with paints or ink for mark making.
  • Don’t bother to buy circle stencils – they look really tempting, but a little extra work can give you the same effect. Use jam jar lids, the cardboard tube from a used kitchen towel roll, an old bowl

    Upcycled cardboard notebook Image courtesy

    , or the back of your paintbrush to draw/stamp circles.

  • Use cardboard cereal boxes or cardboard packaging to cut your own stencil designs. If you cut them carefully, you can keep the image to use as a mask.
  • Chipboard elements can be pricey – make your own simple elements with packaging boxes. This gives you complete control over the size and style too!
  • During wedding season, keep all the wedding cards you receive. You can use them as collage elements, or if they are on nice, thick paper, you can use it as a substrate for your painting.

Your turn! Can you think of any other things from around the house that you can incorporate into your art? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in Art Journaling and tagged , , , , , .


  1. Thank you so much for these tips! I’m planning to make a scrapbook as a gift, and I really needed this info!
    I would suggest using old ribbons to make decorations for edges, or for making ribbon flowers. Does it seem like a cool idea?

  2. Is it indecent to drool at such ideas? Well I am drooling at such hack-worthy tips. As a kid I was a wandering trash-collector, constantly foraging for trinkets to safe-keep in my treasure-box. Many of the tips you mentioned, I have a habit of collecting and reusing. This post is so my kind of thought! Too good Shinjini!
    @KalaRavi16 from

    • Not indecent at all! My husband calls me the garbage collector 😉 Things that others throw, I collect! But the possibilities of what you can do with them – that’s exciting!

  3. Visiting your blog for the first time on the letter U day. Thank goodness I got here. I love what I have found and am now following. I create altered books and collage, having fun with paper doll tags. Your blog will be helpful. I love learning new techniques etc. Thanks. While you have been busy, I have been writing about hotels and inns, their architecture and architects, the settings and significance to a community. If you have time or interest, I hope you will come visit. Cheers.

    • I’m so glad you found your way to my blog! I hope you take some time to go through some of the older posts in the A to Z challenge as well – lots of tips have been shared throughout the month!

      Your theme sounds interesting! I’ll be sure to hop over and check it out!

  4. Though I’ve thought about doing stuff like this, I don’t. Two of my daughters are very artistic and do all sorts of things like this. One of them actually started her own collage and art business for a while though now she is more into videography. They impress me with their abilities to create.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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