How to Choose a Journaling Bible

With so many different options available, how can you possibly decide which is the best journaling Bible for you? In this post, I’ll give you five things to consider in your shopping, so you know how to choose a journaling Bible that fits your needs.

how to choose a journaling Bible

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When I bought my first art journaling Bible back at the end of 2015, there weren’t nearly as many to choose from. I really wanted an NIV journaling Bible (since the NIV is my go-to version), but there weren’t any available at that time. And then, I spotted one on Amazon…the NIV Journal the Word Bible would be released in late December 2015, so I asked for a gift certificate for Christmas, and got it as soon as it was available. I was so excited to get started!

Little did I know, how much Bible journaling would transform my relationship with God, and help me fall in love with His Word. It’s made the Scriptures come alive in such a unique way, that mere reading or note-taking can’t do (I’m just such a visual person, you know?).

journaling Bible - Psalm 19 - heavens declare the glory of God

Of course, nowadays, there are TONS of NIV journaling Bibles, plus other translations like the NLT, ESV, and so forth. Not to mention other options, like interleaved Bibles, or Bibles with extra-wide margins.

That means, if you’re interested in buying a journaling Bible, the choices can be pretty overwhelming. How can you possibly know which one is best?

What is the best journaling Bible?

Okay, so before we get into how to choose a journaling Bible, let’s get one thing straight: there is no ONE best journaling Bible out there. Pretty much all of them are great Bibles; it just depends on what you’re looking for!

Each journaling Bible has different qualities, that make it unique. Some are better for writing, some are specifically designed for art journaling, others are even made to be compact and easy to take with you on-the-go (like if you travel a lot for work!).

And, you don’t have to stick with just one either! You can start with a basic journaling Bible, but then add another one that you use for a specific purpose (like an interleaved Bible, to do full page artwork in). [At the moment, I have two: my original NIV Journal the Word Bible, and the Illustrating Bible—which has bigger space for journaling].

Bible journaling watercolor page on Psalm 113

How to Choose a Journaling Bible: 5 Factors to Consider

The key to knowing how to choose a journaling Bible, then, is to know what qualities you’re looking for! Once you’ve identified what you’re looking for, that will make it so much easier to select the best journaling Bible for you. Just ask yourself these five questions…

1) Which translation(s) do you prefer?

When deciding which is the best journal Bible for you, this is the first question to ask… Which version do you usually read the Bible in? For example, do you enjoy the old fashioned language of the King James Version (KJV)? Or maybe you’re like me, and prefer the modern New International Version (NIV) or New Living Translation (NLT)? If you’re not sure, head over to or to read in different versions, and see which resonates with you.

NOTE: Not every version is available as a journaling Bible; the most commonly available (at the present time) are NIV, ESV, NLT, CSB, NRSV, and KJV. I would love to someday have a journaling Bible in the Amplified version (which I love for its clear breakdown of the original Hebrew and Greek meanings of the words), but at the moment, there are no AMP journaling Bibles. I also hope someday to find in NIV interleaved version, but for some reason all the interleaved Bibles currently available are ESV.

2) What’s the paper like?

The next step in finding your best Bible for journaling, is to consider the paper color and thickness.

Of all the qualities of my original NIV Journal the Word Bible, the only one that I’ve really wished were different, is the paper color. The paper is not bright white, but more like a yellow tint, which would be fine for black-and-white note taking, but it doesn’t work as great for Bible art journaling. I’ve noticed that the colors I put down, often don’t look as bright or true to their original color, since they’re interacting with the yellow tint of the page.

Bible journaling - work as for the Lord

So, if having a pure white page is important to you, definitely consider that in your search. The Illustrating Bible is one that has bright white pages, and I also recently discovered this NLT journaling Bible that has crisp white pages (I’m thinking about getting that one for my next journaling Bible, when my current one gets too full!).

Also, be aware that most journaling Bibles have very wafer-thin pages, which means that they’re prone to bleed-through with certain items, and even with colored pencils you may see some “ghosting” (where the artwork is faintly visible on the back of the page).

If you are looking specifically for a journaling Bible with thick pages, then the Illustrating Bible is your best option. (More on the Illustrating Bible, in question #4 below…)

That being said, even though my first journaling Bible has super-thin pages, I’ve still made it work by prepping the page with gesso in some cases, and then other times I just let it show through and don’t worry about it. No big deal.

Bible journaling - Jesus paid it all

3) What’s the page layout like (font size, margins, etc.)?

There are a number of things to consider in terms of what’s actually ON the Bible pages. Do you prefer normal size text, or a large print journaling Bible that’s easier to read? Would you like a single column journaling Bible layout, or is two columns of text okay? Do you want lines in the margins, or do you prefer a journaling Bible without lines? (Lines can be handy for note-taking and as a spacing guide for hand lettering, but if you’re planning on doing a lot of detailed artwork in the margins, it does look nicer without the lines).

You can also get a journaling Bible that comes with pre-printed art in the margins, like this NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible, which is a great option for beginners. It’s up to you, whether you would prefer to have a blank margin on every page (for your own creations), or if you want some ready-made art to color.

Beautiful Word Coloring Bible cover

4) How much space do you want for journaling?

This one is a BIG factor in how to choose a journaling Bible… 😉 A regular Bible typically only has 0.5” margins (which you can totally journal in, but it is pretty small). Most of the best journaling Bibles feature 2” margins, but there are a few exceptions. If you want more space, the Illustrating Bible is a spiral bound journaling Bible which boasts 3.75” margins—excellent for art journaling, and for adding dimensional items like stickers to your Bible pages.

The Illustrating Bible now comes in two versions for you to choose from: a CSB version (green cover, which I have), and the newer NIV version (available with a pink cover or dark gray cover).

Illustrating Bible - armor of God journaling

Another great option for more space, is an “interleaved” Bible, which has a blank page in-between every page of Bible text. With an interleaved journaling Bible, you can create elaborate full-page artwork, without worrying about obscuring the Bible text!

5) Does portability matter to you?

One last thing to consider when deciding which is your best Bible for Bible journaling, is whether or not you plan to take your journaling Bible on the go. For example, if you want to take it to church, Bible study/journaling small group, on vacation, business travel, etc.

Most Bibles are pretty easy to carry on the go, with one notable exception… The Illustrating Bible may be the best Bible for art journaling, but it’s so huge (9.5”x9.5” and 2” thick), and pretty hefty, it’s really best for journaling at home only.

Psalm 23 - Illustrating Bible

And if you want something even smaller and easier to carry than a regular journaling Bible? Look for “pocket” journaling Bibles, like this NIV Journal the Word New Testament Pocket Bible, which is about as small as a journaling Bible can get!

Now that you know how to choose a journaling Bible, you can go out and select the best one for you! But no matter which Bible you choose, use it well…to study God’s Word, and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). ❤️

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Lorrie November 22, 2020, 9:15 pm

    Hi Barbara
    I’m new to Bible journaling (well any journaling) and was considering the Spiral bound NIV Illustrating Bible. I was wondering if you could tell me if the pages are too think to be able to put a design behind them to be traced. I’m sure my creativity will need some help and tracing a design would be helpful for me.
    Thanks for your help!

    • Barbara Austin November 23, 2020, 7:45 pm

      Hi Lorrie! You can definitely still trace things through the Illustrating Bible pages. But, regardless of how thin the Bible paper is, I highly recommend using a light pad for tracing. I always use one, just because I can see what I’m tracing so much better with than without it. Kind of like the difference between squinting to see something in a dimly lit room vs. turning the light on…that light makes a big difference!

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