Journal, Bullet Journal, Planner, Art Journal, Junk Journal, Scrapbook – What’s the difference?

You’ve seen people create wonderful journal pages on YouTube and Instagram. You’ve bought yourself a notebook, some Washi tape, and some pastel markers. You’re ready to go.

You start looking around for more inspiration. Bullet Journal videos eventually lead you to to #plannernerds and to Art Journaling Facebook groups where people happily show off their Junk Journals. And some of this sounds vaguely familiar. Didn’t your aunt talk about this stuff when she got into scrapbooking? And whatever happened to keeping a good old diary? Or is that a journal now?

For those of you who are, like me, a bit confused with all these different brands of artsy journaling, let’s break down the difference.


Let’s start with the basics. A journal is your classic “notebook and a pen” set up. The most common form of journaling I think is still the diary, taking time each day to write down and reflect on the events of the day, your thoughts and emotions. It’s a great way to keep an account of your life, and of details you might otherwise forget. On top of that, journaling has been shown to have benefits for your mental health, relieve stress and decrease anxiety. 

A variation on the journal is the Morning Pages by Julia Cameron. Each morning, before you start your day’s work, you sit down and write down three pages of interrupted text of whatever goes through your mind. The idea is to get all the clutter and background noise out of your head and onto paper, so you can concentrate better on your work.

Another version of the Journal is the Gratitude Journal, where people note down what they are grateful for each day. The point is to shift your focus on the positive things in your life and therefore increase your mental wellbeing.

Bullet Journal (BuJo)

The Bullet Journal Method was invented by Ryder Carroll and is described in full detail in his book of the same name. Designed for productivity, the Bullet Journal Method uses a collection of page setups to help you “track the past, order the present, and design the future”. Nifty! 

Your bullet journal is set up in yearly, monthly and daily/weekly pages. Tasks, events and notes are organised and carried through the journal with a set of different symbols. This will help you plan out what you want to achieve and give you the tools to stay on top of it.

But wait! Why do I need stickers and Washi Tape then?

It’s true, for the original Bullet Journal you only need a notebook and a black pen. But you just can’t stop us stationery addicts from making things pretty with custom drawings, stamps and a collection of brush pens in pastel colours. People just took Carrol’s system and put it on a completely different level by customising their spreads with their artwork. The printables I create are based on this style of bullet journaling. 


So if the Bullet Journal is about monthly and weekly pages for keeping track of events and tasks, isn’t that originally called a planner?

Well. Sorta. 

While the Bullet Journal is created by hand in a blank notebook, a planner is normally already set up and ready to go. The classic example would be a Filofax with the ready made inserts, or any kind of student calendar. 

But of course, just because your weekly pages might already be printed, that doesn’t stop people from being creative and personalising their planners to the max.

A great example is the Happy Planner and it’s huge community. Happy Planner offers a huge selection of gorgeous planners that people then make their own with stickers, tapes and other decorations. 

Art Journal

So if the Bullet Journal has gone all artsy, what then is an Art Journal?

Most importantly, an Art Journal is not about productivity or managing tasks. More like a standard journal, the Art Journal is a form of diary where you express yourself artistically rather than in words, e.g. by drawing, painting, mixed media, or collaging. You won’t find the day’s account in an Art Journal, but it’s a fantastic way to put your emotions on paper. 

Junk Journal

As the name says, a junk journal is a journal made from junk. Instead of buying a shiny new Moleskin or Leuchtturm notebook, junk journals can be made from old books, maps, magazines and anything else that would have otherwise ended up in the trash.

The pages of the junk journal are then decorated with whatever you please. People glue in random things they have collected throughout the day, postcards, notes to write down their thoughts, the options are really endless. You can paint on the pages, or get otherwise super artsy. 

So what’s the difference to an Art Journal then? Somebody in an Art Journaling Facebook group I’m in has said it perfectly:

“Every Junk Journal is an Art Journal, but not every Art Journal is a Junk Journal”.


So you’re saying that a Junk Journal is where you collect a lot of scrap and glue it into a book? Like.. a scrapbook?

While the line between Junk Journaling and Scrapbooking can become blurry, the main difference is that Scrapbooking is mainly focused on visually documenting your family’s life. Like an insanely creative family photo album a Scrapbook will include a lot of family photos and memorabilia, while a Junk Journal can really include everything and anything.  

In the End, it’s yours to do with as you please

Now that we’ve established what’s what, I would like to tell you to just forget about all those categories and do whatever works for you. My personal bullet journal is a proper hybrid. I do the monthly/weekly BuJo spreads, but I put them in an A5 6ring binder like you normally use for planners. I also print my pages templates out on sketch paper, so that I can use the pages in between the weeks for artistic adventures like painting. I also glue random stuff in it. Oh, and I also realised I don’t really need it for productivity, so instead of tasks and events, I create a daily doodle about what has happened that day. So I guess I have a Bujo-Art-Journal-Planner? 🙂

Just because you have started a bullet journal doesn’t mean you can’t go nuts in it. Don’t like Mood Trackers? Don’t use them! Want to do morning pages and be a bit creative? Write away and then Washi Tape the shit out of them! Then paint the lot. Your journal is yours to do with as you please.

Looking for a place to start?

If you need some inspiration check out my free printable spreads. You can glue them in your journal or planner to colour and decorate, or paint over them in your art journal, or rip them into pieces to glue into your junk journal. 😉

Journal, Bullet Journal, Planner, Art Journal, Junk Journal, Scrapbook - What's the difference?

8 thoughts on “Journal, Bullet Journal, Planner, Art Journal, Junk Journal, Scrapbook – What’s the difference?

  1. I was really confused with all the diffrent terms. Your page really helped to get a better view on what I want to do, since i want to start with my own journal. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for the detailed explanation. Finally I understood!😀🙏

    1. Thank you. So which one are you going with?

  3. I’m from iran and i was confused obout this subject. Thanks for your explanation

    1. Thank you so much. Glad I could help a little.

  4. Hola y el smash book es igual al junk journal o es una variante?? Excelente tu explicación anterior gracias 🙂

    1. Good question. I would maybe call it a version of a junk journal, but it’s really about what you make of it.

  5. I don’t know yet what I really want to do, probably I will just start, maybe something like a junk-art-scrap-journal, but your article really helped me defining what was what! Thank you👍😊!

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