Free Journal Style Guides (For The Journaling Impaired)



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I have to make a confession. I’m a little obsessed with journaling, even though I’m really not good at it. On Instagram, I follow artists whose grocery lists are more beautiful than anything I’ve ever made in my life. I’m entranced by the idea of filling sleek little volumes with deep thoughts conveyed by precise, elegant handwriting, observations communicated through dynamic lettering, and memories captured through charming sketches and lively watercolors.

It’s not as though I’ve never tried this… I have stacks of notebooks going back years. But they’re all more or less the same – pages and pages of scribbles, with the occasional movie or concert ticket scotch-taped into place. I mean, I almost failed fourth grade because my handwriting was so bad. Lovely penmanship is not something that comes naturally to me. I can draw OK, but it’s not as though you could easily tell whose likeness I’m trying to capture.

Nonetheless, I have this dream, and I can’t shake it. I want to be able to create journals that I feel good about.

Now, I may have lousy handwriting, but I do know a fair bit about design. If I’m making a publication or a website, I know I need to start off by creating two things: layout and styles. The layout tells me where the elements are going to go, and the styles tell me what they’re going to look like – fonts, sizes, colors, etc. So, I thought to myself, why don’t I just create a layout and style guide for my journal? Journal paper isn’t very thick, so if you put a printed page behind it, you can see the lines fairly easily.


I had so much fun with this, I wound up doing eight different layout templates, each with a different theme. There’s one with seven sections for a daily planner, one with four illustration spaces for monthly review, and even one with a space that’s the right size for an Instax polaroid photo.

The style guides were a bit more challenging, since most fonts are not easily used as reference for hand-lettering. However, I came up with two different themes, each of which has distinct headline, sub-head, and body text styles.

I’m pleased to report that, after some experimentation, they do indeed help tremendously! My journal pages may still not be Instagram-worthy, but I do feel more accomplishment than frustration, which is a dramatic step forward.





Some people might look at these, and say, “That’s cheating!” or “Those still suck!” To which I would reply, “So what?” I’m not selling anything, I’m just using these as a reference for my private work, and sharing it with others so that they may do the same. If you don’t like my font selections, you can easily find your own. The layout templates themselves are open-ended enough to be customized with infinite variations.

I present them here as a public service. If you are also a frustrated, wannabe journaler, perhaps these will help. These are all designed to fit a standard A6 notebook, and because I prefer blank pages, I made them with that in mind. The style guides should be at a scale that works pretty well, even in a lined or a grid notebook, but the layout templates may need to be adjusted a bit, to line up with your existing grids and lines.

Right-click here and “Save As” to download the PDF. Then trim, fold, and use!

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