When it comes to making bullet journal banners and headers, you’re only limited by your imagination. That being said, there are a handful of so-called fundamental banner and header doodles worth learning for any of us kickstarting a BuJo.
This post will show you how to draw these popular designs, step-by-step. You don’t have to become the Michelangelo of bullet journaling to pull these off well. So, let’s get started!
Supplies I Strongly Recommend
Don’t underestimate your stationery! The following recommendations aren’t mere gimmicks – they truly make this whole experience easier. That’s why this subheading deserves first place.
Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens
Our pens of choice for writing, line art, sketching, and layouts. Pitt artist pens from Faber-Castell use archival-grade ink, which is bleed- and feather-proof, lightfast, and dries in about 5 to 6 seconds. Their nibs glide across the paper just right, without feeling too slippery or too scratchy.
The 4-pack in black is all you need for the tutorials below. It contains a 0.3mm Superfine, a 0.5mm Fine, a 0.7mm Medium, and a .5-5mm Soft Brush pen.
Sakura Pigma Micron Pens
For incorporating small colored details into your banners and headers, the Pigma Micron pens from Sakura are the best. Why? Because their acid-free pigmented ink is vibrantly consistent across the spectrum.
I’d suggest investing in the 16-piece Assorted Colors set, which has enough colors and shades to fulfill most projects. For example, if you’re looking to color your botanical doodles, the set includes three shades of green and two earthy colors.
Any Ruler With Circle Stencils
If you’re only going to be working with lines and boxes, then any regular ruler would do. To draw symmetrical flourish frames, however, I’d recommend a stencil ruler with at least two different-sized circles.
Michaels sells this cheap silver metal ruler by Artist’s Loft, which has both square and circle stencils – with three different sizes for each shape.
A Notebook With Dot Grid Paper
Since you’re reading up on how to draw banners and headers, I’m guessing your bullet journal will be an amalgamation of creative expression and functionality. In this case, it’s better to invest in a dot grid notebook. I wrote an article on all the reasons why a dot grid is ideal for artistic bullet journaling, so please check it out if you’re curious.
General Doodling Tips To Make Things Easier
One more thing before diving into the tutorials. To become proficient at doodling bullet journal banners and headers, try adhering to these all-encompassing principles. They’ll level the learning curve quite a bit.
Learn To See and Do the Basic Shapes First
A cardinal step to improving as an artist is to simplify the subject into its basic shapes. This will help with accurate proportions, perspective, and make the process less overwhelming.
Fortunately for us, bullet journal doodles are meant to be simple, so, most of the time, the geometry is easily distinguishable. Identify what the major shapes are, then draw these first. Tune out the details until you have the integral structure of your subject.
Use a Guide Wherever and Whenever Possible
A guide may come in various forms such as a measurement tool, a penciled-in draft, a step-by-step diagram, or even the dot grid of your notebook. It’s crucial for symmetry. Even seasoned doodlers still start their designs with a guide of some sort. Therefore, be shameless in utilizing whatever guide is available to you!
Basic Bullet Journal Banners and Headers
These banner and header doodles are simple, yet look great when deployed tastefully in your bullet journal spreads. You could either draw them freehand or resort to a ruler for the straight lines now and then.
Tutorials for these are a dime a dozen, but here’s my spin on how to do them step-by-step. Hopefully, they’re not too confusing!
1. Basic Folded Ribbons
Ah! The quintessential bullet journal banner. Who doesn’t like ribbons?
Step 1. Draw a rectangle, the length of which is enough to encompass your heading. Be conscious of the proportions, though. Too thick, and it’ll look like a folded band-aid. Too thin, and it’ll appear overly extended.
Step 2. Add however as many folds as you’d like, which also resemble rectangles, except a portion of them is hidden beneath the layer above. These look aesthetically better if they’re shorter than the main strip and, for the final fold, remember to include the ribbon’s edge cut.
Step 3. Using slanted lines, connect all of the visible corners for each separate fold. This gives the illusion that the ribbon has a backside, which is partially revealed at the folds.
A useful tip. When you’re starting out, keep the width of the ribbon identical across all folded layers. For instance, if the upper rectangle is two grid cells thick, maintain that thickness for the folded layers below. Once you’re familiar with the process, you can experiment with varying thicknesses, perspectives, and shading.
2-4. Curled Ribbons
A more natural-looking ribbon. These might appear complicated, but once you master the “curl”, you’re home-free to create strips as twisted as you’d like.
Step 1. Establish the shape of the ribbon by drawing the full length of the edge that’s tilted towards you. In this case, it’s the bottom. Notice how I planned where the curls will be by bending this line according to those areas. Also, this line could run above or below itself but should NEVER intersect.
Step 2. Form the visible sides of the ribbon where it curls. The outside edges should look like “hooks” to resemble the gentle folds. For the inner edges on the backside, be careful not to pierce through any overlaps.
Step 3. Complete the ribbon by joining the outside edges to segments of the opposite length. Make these segments as parallel as possible to the other length so that the ribbon’s thickness is uniform.
A useful tip. By drawing the visibly longer length first, followed by the visible edges of all the curls, you’re better able to control the complexity of your ribbon’s shape. Examples 3 and 4 demonstrate this. Once you’re adept enough with this technique, you can doodle ribbons, rolls, and scrolls as complex as need be.
5. Simple (Yet Effective) Heraldic Banners
Heraldic banners range from the most whimsical to outright chivalrous, but their basic structure remains the same.
Step 1. Draw the shape of your banner first minus the “hanging” edge (usually the top of the shape). Make small parallel curves where the edges are supposed to fold or wrap over a ledge. This is to give the banner some dimensionality.
Step 2. Close the banner by drawing a straight line that connects the ends of the curves.
Step 3. Make the “ledge” by drawing additional segments, slightly offset from the previous line, on either side of the banner. You could also darken the gaps resulting from the curves where the banner folds over to make a shadow.
A useful tip. Heraldic banners look convincing when they’re “anchored to” or “dropped down” some kind of “edge”, such as the top of a frame in your BuJo layout.
6. Raised Shapes With a Directional Shadow
The Renaissance was built off of these! Add some 3D to your 2D plane fast with shapes that appear to pop off the page.
Step 1. Outline your basic shape.
Step 2. Draw an offset of your shape based on the angle of perspective. For simple shapes, the offset doesn’t have to be perfect, so you could simply eyeball it. In this example, I positioned the rectangle lower than and to the right of the vanishing point, so, logically, only its top and left sides are visible.
Step 3. Fill in where the shadows should be. You could either imply shadows by using hatches or by filling in the area with solid color. Both techniques work nicely for bullet journal doodles.
7. Raised Shapes of Differing Heights
With slightly more effort, you can make the three-dimensionality of your raised shapes even more pronounced. How? By incorporating differing heights.
Step 1. Depending on your preference, you could either start by outlining the “highest” shapes first, or the easier sections. Keep the outline basic for this step. Leave generous space where the sides of differing heights will be intersecting each other.
Step 2. Continue outlining the smaller, or less general, shapes. In my case, I’m adding an irregular pentagon at the top of the square to form sort of a cornerstone relief. Notice how I marked the point where both bottom sides of it should meet. Small markers like this make a huge difference to the symmetry of your doodles.
Step 3. Establish the base height of your shapes first by drawing the sides that are visible from your angle of perspective.
Step 4. Visualize and calculate the thicknesses, angles, and intersections of the more complicated sides, such as where two corners of different elevations interact. Notice how, in my design, the cornerstone begins on the same plane as the square but protrudes higher. I marked with dots where the bottom corners of the clip should be.
Step 5. Shade the shadowed areas in. I wanted the light to fall off the top and face of my doodle. So, for realism, only the left-facing sides were shaded.
8. Hanging Ornaments
Hanging ornaments are another popular bullet journal header idea. They work fantastically for title spreads.
Hanging doodles are easy to make. Draw some vertical lines wherever you deem fit and embellish them with objects of your desire. Common ornaments include lightbulbs, stars, and plants. You could either surround your heading with these suspended decorations or integrate them between the lettering, as I did in the examples.
Useful tip #1. Draw the strings using a finer pen compared to one you’d use to doodle the ornaments with. For instance, if you decide to draw your ornaments using a .7mm Medium nib, then switch to a .5mm Fine or even a .3mm Superfine nib for the strings.
Useful tip #2. Less is more. Too many lines may detract from the heading by cluttering up the page. So, leave plenty of negative space. Also, irregularity and asymmetry work particularly well with hanging doodles, so implement varying lengths and unpredictable spacing.
Easy Botanical Banners and Headers for Bullet Journaling
What would a banner and header bullet journaling tutorial be without the botanicals? These are so popular that they deserve an exclusive section. Fret not, though! It’s easy-peasy to learn your vines, leaves, and branches – and turn these into superb embellishments in no time.
A useful tip first. Rarely is foliage uniform in nature. So, although your branches, stems, twigs, leaves, and flowers should be patterned, they shouldn’t be 100% identical or even. Introduce some intentional irregularity to your botanicals.
9, 10. Laurels and Wreaths
First used as a sign of victory in ancient Greco-Roman times, these decorative delights are synonymous with bullet journal doodles today.
Step 1. Start with the directional shape. Laurels are mirrored patterns, meaning each side should be symmetrical from a vertical axis. I decided to draw a downward bracket for my laurel as a starting shape since it resembles two branches extending symmetrically outward.
For the wreath, I began by implying the circular shape using six evenly distributed leaves. You could, of course, simply draw a solid circle representing a looping branch, too.
Step 2. Add the end of the branches for laurels, if necessary, as I did. Likewise, connect the leaves of the wreath using segments, as shown. Notice how the segments are slightly irregular, just as real stems would be.
Step 3. Populate the branches with leaves and/or smaller offshoots. Observe how these are staggered and “going along with the growth” – all angled in the same general direction.
Step 4. Make the foliage more realistic by accenting the leaves with midribs (center lines) and veins, or by further populating the branch with other simple floral patterns.
Whether elegantly controlled or full-on jungled, vines make awesome BuJo art!
Step 1. Start by creating the line of your vine. A natural vine always climbs or grows along a nearby host and is rarely straight, so plan yours accordingly.
Step 2. Space out some prominent features such as large leaves and simple flower bulbs. Notice how I drew mine in such a way that they appear to split – to twirl away – from the main vine.
Step 3. Add additional rudimentary details such as offshoots, sprouts, flower pistils & stamen, and other plant anatomies.
12. Tips for Creatively Doodling Any Botanical Pattern
Like snowflakes, no two hand-drawn botanicals are the same. In a way, this gives you more creative leeway to experiment with various patterns. Still, to make your vegetation appear more convincing, try implementing the following principles.
Useful tip #1. Use fractals, which exist stunningly in nature. A fractal is a pattern that repeats itself on successively smaller scales. However small the part, though, it will still resemble the whole. Pine branches and needles are a perfect example of fractals at work.
Useful tip #2. Small details make a big difference. For instance, by adding a midrib (the center line of a leaf) to each leaf, your drawing suddenly seems less cartoonish. Use an ultra-fine pen for such delicate features.
Useful tip #3. Angle your leaves, stems, and twigs in the direction of the growth of the parent branch. This creates a tidier effect that’s more pleasing to the eye.
13. Flowering Vines
Similar to regular vines, except with flowers in bloom.
Step 1. Plan the route of your vine first, then map out where your flowers will grow. I started with the basic shape of my flowers, with four petals to each. Remember to vary the sizes, shapes, and rotations of the petals.
Step 2. Continue adding however many petals to your flowers as you’d like, staggering them to form a full radial pattern. I decided to insert four additional petals between the existing ones.
Step 3. Draw the vine, including a few offshoots and sprouts. Observe how I added swirls at all of the ends.
Step 4. Put in some additional details for enhanced realism.
Intermediate Banner and Header Ideas
These BuJo banner and headers look amazing but require a tad more calculated planning to pull off. You’d be surprised how much effort it takes to create pleasing freehand curves!
14. Minimalistic Rectangular Vintage Frames
Vintage frames always bespeak elegance. Add some to your bullet journal for that polished touch.
Step 1. Measure out and establish the sides of your rectangle but leave a gap at the corners. The size of these gaps will depend on how big you’d like the corner grooves to be. Mine will be about one cell wide in diameter.
Step 2. Trace a circular stencil to create the corner grooves. This is where a stencil ruler comes in extra handy. If you don’t have a circular object to trace with, then lightly pencil in the curves first to ensure they’re all uniform.
Step 3. With a thicker pen, draw the inner border, which should be identical in shape to the outer frame. Leave some separation between the two, but not too much. It’ll be wise to also use a ruler and stencil for this step.
Step 4. Top off the design with a small, simple vintage ornament, as shown in the example.
15, 16. Minimalistic Rounded Vintage Frames
Get your measurement tools ready for these, ‘cuz you’ll be needing ’em! Properly assessing alignment and symmetry is critical for these sensitive designs.
Step 1. Start by pencilling in the various guidelines needed to ensure a well-aligned, balanced, and symmetrical frame. Use basic shapes, lines, dots – anything that will help guide your freehand to produce the desired form.
In my examples, I began with either a large rectangle or a rectangle within an oval to create my desired framework. For the protruding curvatures, I traced small circle stencils in appropriate positions.
In Example 15, the orange arrows indicate that I placed a dot where the triangular tips of the frame would meet. All these preliminary markings will make steps 2 and 3 much easier!
Step 2. Outline the intricate parts of the frame first using a thicker pen, such as where curves and edges are more concentrated. Take your time and work incrementally.
Step 3. Now, trace over the gentler, wider portions of the frame to complete it. Erase the leftover pencil markings, of course.
Step 4. With a finer pen now, draw the inner border, which should be identical in shape to the outer frame. There’s a separation of about 3mm between the ones in my examples. Example 15 features an inner border made using dots, whereas 16 incorporated a solid line.
17, 18. Floral and Foliage Bouquets
Put your knowledge of doodling botanical patterns into practice with bouquets (or sometimes called sprays). Example 18 features a single prominent flower (from Example 17) accompanied by a leafy spray. The design is evenly split by a horizontal banner. Let’s try this together.
Step 1. Learn to draw aesthetically pleasing flowers. You can achieve this via the successive, staggered overlapping of petals. For both doodles in Example 17, notice how I started from the center and progressed outward.
Although the shapes of the petals are similar, I varied them slightly for that organic look. Also, like a nicely fanned handful of cards, the petals are radiating without unseemly gaps or clumps.
Finally, add the fine details such as petal striations. Use a .3mm Superfine – or even finer – pen. Concentrate these slender streaks at the start and the end of each petal. These slight lines are what give your florals the illusion of realism.
Step 2. Begin the spray bouquet by establishing the space where text should be. I decided to show the horizontal borders of this text bar.
Step 3. Doodle the upper and lower halves of your flower of choice, split by the middle text bar.
Step 4. Add a few partially revealed leaves behind the petals to “anchor” the flower down.
Step 5. Draw the main stems of the spray. Since this design is longer, the stems will add to the overall balance if they’re extending outward to the sides rather than over/under the flower.
Step 6. Populate the stems with plenty of leaves.
Step 7. Finish off the floral banner or header with fine details using a much finer pen.
19-23. Monoline Flourish Frames
A godly aura basks those who’ve mastered flourishing, which is the art of adorning calligraphy (an already difficult art itself). Since I’m nowhere near Sensei level, all I can teach you is a faux technique – that of using a humble monoline (non-pressure) pen to doodle some flourish frames.
Step 1. Practice making embellished ‘S’ curves. Practice a lot because there are a variety of such curves you need to become familiar with.
Base every curl, twirl, and swirl on either a circle or oval shape. I still find the need to pencil in my overall layout using two small stencil traces and a guideline before committing. If you need to do this, too, it’s totally okay!
Useful principle #1. Generally, a single curve will look more aesthetically pleasing once it’s part of the whole if one of its swirls is bigger than the other.
Useful principle #2. Avoid making more than one complete loop when it comes to your end swirls. On the other hand, avoid making less than a half-loop.
Useful tip #1. Use a fine to medium monoline pen (.5 to 1mm) for the main flourishes. Anything finer, and the inevitable unevenness of freehand becomes blatant.
Useful tip #2. Relax your grip. When drawing smooth curves, move your whole arm instead of solely your fingers. Your digits should be quite rigid, in fact. This creates better stability for more precise strokes.
Step 2. Horizontally mirror two identical ‘S’ curves so that they form an embellished “mustache”. Whether your flourish frame is visually comfortable or not largely depends on how symmetrical and aligned the curves are.
Step 3. Mirror the combined curves along a vertical axis. Leave enough room between the upper and lower “mustaches” as you see fit. You now have a frame in which to write!
Step 4. Enliven your flourish frames with simple yet effective additions. For example, you could incorporate offshoot curls & swirls, double lines, or other micro-patterns into the main flourishes for a more sophisticated appearance.
Taking Your BuJo Banners and Headers to the Next Level
As you’ve hopefully gathered from the above tutorials, the difference between basic and intermediate bullet journal banner and header doodles is mainly elaborateness. In other words, more intricacies, details, alignment, and symmetry.
It’s the same gulf between intermediate and more advanced designs. So, although more spectacular BuJo ideas are certainly eye-catching, you can do them, too. How? By building on the foundational skills you learned here.
To end off this post, here are some phenomenal examples of bullet journal banners and headers done by others around the web: