Hybrid Art Journal Illustration


One of the most attractive things in graphic design of catalogs, etc. is when real life crosses over onto the written, drawn, or printed page, while still looking like real life. It’s a good thing I have this example above, because that’s not easy to explain in words!

This used to be difficult to do because backgrounds had to be painstakingly removed from photographs, layered onto a scan of the writing or drawing in Photoshop, and fake shadows had to be created to make the marriage look real.

But with the tools we have now, the whole thing’s a piece of cake, because you work with the two parts in real life.

Start by creating a page of writing, or a drawing, or type your journaling in some cool font and print it out.

It will save a lot of headache to create this part the same size as you want it on your journal page. Then, the aspect ratio of the final piece will match your journal page and all you have to do is size it.

Choose some clever, real life object to use as an illustration for these words, and place it where you want it on the page. The real life object can be as 3D as you want because you don’t have to scan it.

Take a photo of the page with the object on it. Best is to use your iPad to take the photo, but a camera or phone will do.

Edit the photo to perfect it, or even add filters to make it look old or whatever, and then print it to size. Most journal pages are Approximately 8.5″ x 5.5″, so make your print a little smaller than that.

You can print the perfect size right from your iPad if you know how. I have a great PDF workbook on that subject that can help if you aren’t sure about iPad printing. You can find it here:



Add the composite print to your journal by gluing or taping it in, or tip in the page if you know how to do that,

Another possibility is to print a mirror image and transfer it in. Sheer Heaven Transfer works best for journals because it is neat and dries quickly, but it doesn’t work as well on rough pages. Works best in Moleskine Sketchbooks, Strathmore Visual Journals in the Bristol or Mixed Media format, or Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook.

I intend to try a number of ideas using this technique – thinking Spice or Birdseed charts, hand-drawn maps with real objects from the locations (small like twigs or leaves).

How about a garden journal page with info on the plant, and a real life blossom, leaf, or seeds laid on the page in areas you left blank for that purpose.

You could even reverse the process and write a note about a place and photograph the note in the setting – like an info page about a certain type of flower and take a photo of the note stuck in the flower bed.

The wonderful thing about iPad cameras is that they shoot great close-ups.

Have I gotten your imagination started? I hope so.



  1. Our Christmas list includes a printer for my iPad. Maybe after Christmas?

  2. Nice thought for composition. Sometimes I like to add photos to my drawn pages in my journal but I don’t often take a photo and meld the two; I wonder if I ever have even! I’ll have to try it. I’ve got book one of your IPad series. I need to finish working with it and get the others! The new year is coming and the Christmas spending is pretty much over so I can start planning on this year!

  3. Just to let you know…I still have & use your iPad1!!!
    Buuuuuut…… I do have an iPhone 6. It’s camera is really fantastic! Some day, I’ll retire #1, but not in the foreseeable future……

  4. Thank you so much for this idea. I’m currently making a list, because I love list making, and now I have something new to add to the list in progress. I purchased the small Epson XP310 after the Santa Fe workshop and finally printed photos to test it out. It works great for photos to use like this. I have yet to use my Sheer Heaven Transfer paper but I will soon. And I’ll try this technique. You have definitely inspired me to try this technique.

  5. Love this idea. As much composition as I’ve done for my journals, I never thought of this one. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas, Jessica & family.

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