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Journaling Bibles Comparison & Review

by Krystal Whitten February 09, 2017 7 Comments

Journaling Bibles Comparison & Review

Let's talk about journaling Bibles. Up until recently I had only one journaling Bible, quite literally called The Journaling Bible, which I loved, and that was good enough for me.

Today I own three journaling Bibles. I know, why do I need so many... 

Last month I received an advanced copy of the brand new Canvas Bible from NavPress/Tyndale to help them promote on Instagram prior to the launch. I've never owned The Message Bible before, and I had some preconceived ideas about it (more about that below), but I was excited to look at it and try it out.

Then last week I purchased The Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition from Crossway Books on a whim. One, to expand my creativity and challenge myself, and two, because I thought it would be fun to write a comparison review for you.

So now that I have three journaling Bibles, what am I going to do with them? I think they all serve different purposes. Let's look at them together!

The Journaling Bible (ESV) by Crossway Books

ESV Journaling Bible by Crossway Books

About 8 years ago I received the Crossway Books Journaling Bible as a Christmas gift. A friend of mine had one for taking notes in the margins, which was an appealing idea. I've always been an ardent note taker, but I never looked back at my old sermon notebooks. Plus I liked the compact size of it. Little did I know I would one day join people drawing and painting in their Journaling Bibles all over the world.

The Journaling Bible has 2" margins on both sides for notes, doodling, lettering, whatever you want. It has very thin light lines, which is awesome! It helps me keep my lettering straight, but the lines don't get in the way of my work. They practically fade from notice once there's writing on the page. Other versions have thick bold lines that are very distracting by comparison. 

My version has double columns, and it comes in a single column edition too. 

I've figured out which tools bleed and which ones don't. Which ones smear with water, and which ones don't. Here's a post I wrote about the best pens to use for Bible journaling.* 

As far as paper goes, you can use many different mediums in these Bibles. Acrylic paints hold up really well with virtually no bleed-through. You can watercolor too (as shown above), but take care not to saturate the paper with too much water. You can see there's no color coming through. Just some ghosting from the lettering, which is perfectly acceptable in my opinion. You can use a a barrier like gesso to prevent bleeds and wrinkles if you want to. I've never used gesso, so this is a personal preference and not something you have to do.

*Disclaimer: Anytime you use paint or a new pen, I'd recommend testing it on a page in the back.

Here are the nitty gritty details:

  • Size: 6.7 x 1.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • 7 pt. type (it's pretty small)
  • Ivory paper
  • Ruled margins
  • 1088 pages
  • Available in hard cover and leather

PROS: 2" wide margins, thin lines, compact size
CONS: small text size may bother some

The Canvas Bible (The Message) by NavPress

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I received an advance copy of the Canvas Bible from NavPress to help them promote it on Instagram. I did not get paid for posting, and I did not get paid for reviewing it here. 

I love this Bible! First of all, it's beautiful. I chose the Spring Palette cover, but they also have a white imitation leather cover with gold foil stamping. This Bible has the same 2" wide margins as the Crossway Books Journaling Bible, but it also has almost 300 illustrations inside for you to color! For you adult colorers out there, this is a really exciting feature. From teens to adults, this is a fun tool to use to. The pre-drawn Bible verses also serve as inspiration for your own lettering and drawing.

You can see in the picture above the pre-drawn illustration and the blank margin on the other side. The pre-drawn verses are peppered throughout and are beautifully done. 

There are several two-page spreads that are full illustration - gorgeous!

This is an illustration/lettering verse of mine. I traced the image on the next page for inspiration. I used my favorite brush pen, the Tombow Fudenosuke hard tip to do the lettering, along with colored pencils and the Tombow Dual Brush Pens for color.

Here's a look at the other side, and you can see how the Tombow Dual Brush Pens bled through a little (and I was careful!). I wouldn't recommend using them for large portions of saturated color unless the bleed-through doesn't bother you.

 A note about The Message translation

I've always had a negative association with The Message Bible because it's not a "real" translation. Maybe it seemed irreverent to me to make the text so casual. So when I received the Canvas Bible, I was surprised and pleased to read about what prompted the author Eugene Peterson to write The Message in the first place.

After several years as a seminary professor of Hebrew and Greek, Peterson became a pastor. He quickly found out that outside the seminary world very few people were interested in reading and learning the Bible. For 30 years he devoted himself to helping his congregation understand the language of the Bible through the language of today, the language we use in our every day lives. He wanted people to listen, really listen, to the message in it. Here's what he says about The Message:

"The Message is a reading Bible. It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available. My intent here is simply to get people reading it who don't know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again."

I can definitely get behind that! If you have trouble understanding the Bible (we ALL do to varying degrees) or need a fresh look at it, I'd suggest this Bible for you. It reads like a story – and that's what the Bible is, after all! The greatest story ever told. I like to read it side by side with my NASB Study Bible.

The details:

  • Size: 6.6 x 2.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Weight: 3 lbs
  • 8 pt. type
  • Cream paper
  • Ruled margins
  • 1536 pages
  • Available in hard cover (pictured) and white imitation leather

PROS: 2" margins, thin lines, pre-drawn art for coloring and inspiration
CONS: small point size may bother some, # of pages occupied by the pre-drawn art limit where you can create your own

    The Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition (ESV) by Crossway Books

      The Journaling Bible, Interleaved edition is my newest addition, so I haven't spent as much time in it. Instead of extra wide margins it has a blank sheet of paper between each page of text.

      This Bible was inspired by the famous "Blank Bible" of 18th-century preacher and scholar Jonathan Edwards. His KJV Bible was cut apart by a skilled book binder and then meticulously stitched back together inside a larger blank notebook. See pictures of it here.

      I love the idea of having a blank page to create art or take notes without being limited to a small 2" margin or working in a separate notebook.

      Right off the bat that full blank page was a little intimidating, though.

      My plan is to use it for painting and lettering as well as sketch notes and recording notes from Bible studies.

      I lettered out some notes from Hebrews with the Tombow Fudenosuke hard brush pen and Crayola Twistables for color.  

      The paper seems a little thinner than the other two Bibles, but I can't prove that it is. I had very little bleed through, although there was some "ghosting" on the other side. More than I'm used to, but the reason could be I'm not used to working with a solid blank page.

      This is a brick of a Bible, so it's not necessarily easy to carry around with you. But it promises to provide hours of scripture lettering and creative time in the Word.

      The deets:

      • Size: 7.2 x 2.5 x 9.8 inches
      • Weight: 4.1 lbs
      • 7.5 pt. type
      • Cream paper
      • Blank pages with traditional margins
      • 1584 pages
      • Available in hard cover (pictured) and leather

      PROS: lots of blank pages/space, slightly larger type than the others
      CONS: weight and size can be burdensome

        So which Bible is for you?

        Are you in the market for a journaling Bible? Here are some things to consider:

        1. What do you plan to use it for?
          Do you mostly want to take notes? Or do you want a creative outlet?
        2. Do you want to create your own art? Or do you prefer coloring?
        3. Does a blank page appeal to you, or is it a little intimidating? 
        4. Will you travel with it? Take it to church with you?
          Consider what size and weight you're willing to tote around.
        5. Are you comfortable with 7-8 pt. type?
          Keep in mind the font size for all of these is pretty small. If you're used to a large print Bible, you might have trouble reading these.

        Regardless of which Bible you choose, you can't go wrong with these three editions. They are all beautiful and well-made. And as of this publish date, they're all comparable in price (less than $30 on Amazon).

        Leave a comment below and let me know which one you want (or have)!

        If you have questions about pens and supplies, you can read my Favorite Pens for Bible Journaling post here and definitely sign up for my free email series for Bible Journaling beginners

        With love and lettering,

        **Please note that all links are Amazon Affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through one of them, I will earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!


          Krystal Whitten
          Krystal Whitten


          7 Responses

          Sara @ The Holy Mess
          Sara @ The Holy Mess

          December 12, 2018

          Thank you for this helpful resource. There are so many journaling Bibles out now (which is wonderful) but it can be a bit overwhelming to find the right one for you.


          April 19, 2018

          I have the ESV journaling bible and love it, however my cover has started to come apart at the edges like I see yours is as well. I just purchased the Interleaved one (after seeing it on here!), and hopefully that one will stand up to the wear and tear of daily use a little better! Thank you for this post!

          Susan Arakawa
          Susan Arakawa

          March 11, 2018

          Great article, Krystal! Thanks for the helpful tips! Very timely and pertinent.

          Kim Pressnell
          Kim Pressnell

          January 18, 2018

          I’m looking for a KJV bible for journaling. I don’t do a lot of coloring, but I do draw sometimes. Mostly I draw/journal long the verses as I’m studying. My biggest problem is finding a KJV large print with enough room for journaling. Any recommendations?


          April 13, 2017

          I love NASB and use a study Bible in that version. To my knowledge, there isn’t a NASB journaling bible yet.


          April 08, 2017

          I too and looking for a NASB journaling Bible but can’t seem to find one anywhere. Do you know of any?

          Kalee Smith
          Kalee Smith

          February 13, 2017

          I’m looking for an NASB journaling bible. Do you have any recommendations for that?

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