If you’re looking for fountain pen friendly notebooks, the choices can be pretty overwhelming. I’m not just talking about options like lined versus grid paper. I’m talking about the sheer number of manufacturers who are making amazing notebooks these days. And it’s not just one per manufacturer! Some companies like Life have many different options available. How are you supposed to choose which one will work best for your needs?
I am a bit of a paper junkie, so I’ve accumulated quite a few notebooks recently. I’ll be trying each one out and letting you know what I think about it. There will be some widely available notebooks in this list, but there will be a few others that might be a little more obscure or harder to find as well.
Instead of doing individual blog posts reviewing each notebook, I plan to continually update this post with new notebooks. I’ll point out the general features, while also listing any positive and negative traits that each notebook has. At the end of the article you can find a list of all of the notebooks I’ve covered so far. Notebooks will be listed alphabetically. I hope you find this helpful in choosing your next fountain pen friendly notebook!
Note: For the purposes of this article, a notebook is either regular or spiral bound book of blank, lined or grid paper. This means no notepads with perforated sheets of paper or journals or planners with printed dates on each page.
Paper Weight: 68gsm?
Page Style: Lined
Size: B5 (other sizes with different model numbers)
I use this notebook as an ink journal, which means whenever I ink up a new pen I write down the ink and pen in this notebook so that I have a history of what combinations I’ve used. With that being said, I’ve written in it with quite a few different inks and pens! Out of all the different combinations I’ve used, only one has shown any bleeding and I’ve experienced no feathering. The paper also has fairly low ghosting, which is good news if you like to write on both sides of a page.
The paper is nice and smooth, but not as luxuriously smooth as Apica’s Premium notebooks. While it does show some sheen, it does not show a lot. The Fabriano EcoQua notebooks definitely show more sheen and cost about the same amount. The Apica CD15 does show shading very well. As far as I know, the notebooks only come with lined paper. The lines are a light grey and they do not run across the entire page, which leaves small margins on both sides. Each page also has a “No.” and “Date” header printed on it, which can be used for journal entries or just ignored. The header, as well as the first and last lines of each page, are printed in blue.
The Apica CD15 notebooks are a great value notebook. They come in a variety of sizes and colors. The paper is fountain pen friendly. These notebooks are widely available and can be found in many boutique shops that don’t even sell fountain pens!
Paper Weight: 68gsm?
Page Style: Lined, Blank, Grid
Size: A4, A5, A6, B5
I had high hopes for this notebook. Before I ever used it, I believed it was an equal to Life’s Noble Notebooks. After using it, I knew this was not the case. The Apica Premium C.D. notebook is not a bad notebook by any means, but the paper is not as premium as other’s I’ve used. It has a bit more bleeding than I would expect from a premium paper. I haven’t seen any feathering and it has a very low amount of ghosting. The notebook also lays flat when open due to it’s stitched binding.
The paper is very smooth and is a pleasure to write on. While it does show sheen, it doesn’t show as much as other premium notebooks. In fact, I would say the regular Apica CD15 notebook has similar sheen and shading properties to the Premium! While the paper is nicer to write on, I don’t believe it is worth the increased price.
In my opinion, the Apica Premium C.D. notebooks are not a good value. Although they cost just as much as other premium notebooks, the paper does not have similar properties. They are very fountain pen friendly and are enjoyable to write in, but I believe the same amount of money would be better spent on a notebook from Life or Midori.
Binding: Glue, Coil, Staple
Paper Weight: 85gsm
Page Style: Blank, Grid, Lined, Dot
I have been using this notebook whenever I test out new pens and inks, so it has been exposed to almost every type of nib and ink that are around. It has handled them all equally well, with minimal feathering and bleeding. Feathering has occurred with two different inks that I can see and bleeding has occurred on a few different occasions where ink flow was abnormally heavy. For normal writing, neither of these should be an issue. Ghosting is a little higher than I would like, but unless you’re very sensitive to it, it should be possible to write on both sides of a page.
The paper itself is a pleasure to write on. It is not as smooth as many of the different Japanese papers that are on the market today, but it doesn’t have a lot of texture or offer much feedback when you write. It’s hard to describe, but it just has a little more friction than some of the other notebooks I’ve used. The paper color is an off-white, but definitely not as yellow as a cream colored paper. It shows a moderate amount of ink sheen and shading.
The Fabriano EcoQua notebooks are, in my opinion, one of the best all-around notebooks you can buy. They come in a huge variety of sizes, colors and page options. The paper is fountain pen friendly. They are widely available. And, one of their best features is that they are not very expensive!
For a full list of the notebook options that are available, check out the Fabriano EcoQua website.
Paper Weight: 78gsm
Page Style: Lined
Size: A5, A6, B7
I started using this Maruman Cover Note notebook as my daily planner at the beginning of 2018. After writing in it almost every day for a few months, I have to say that I am disappointed in the quality of the paper when used with fountain pens. I initially had high hopes for it, as Maruman typically has good paper quality and the paper felt very smooth.
The notebook is well made and I think the stitch binding will stand up to a lot of use. The stitch binding also allows it to lay flat, which is always a good quality for a notebook to have. It has two ribbon page markers, which I have found to be useful when using this notebook as a planner. The paper is actually very nice to write on. It is very smooth, has dark grey lines and a nice ivory color. It has decent shading, but only shows a bit of sheen on the strongest sheening inks.
I don’t think that I have experienced any feathering with this notebook. It also has low to medium ghosting. The thing that really lets this notebook down is the amount the paper bleeds. With normal writing and a variety of nibs and inks, I would say that over 75% have bled through the page, making writing on the reverse side almost impossible. Of course, if you only want to write on one side of a page, this won’t really be an issue for you since I haven’t had any writing bleed through onto the following page.
While this notebook has some good things going for it, I would not recommend it to anyone who wants to write in it with fountain pens. Not only do most pens and inks bleed through the paper, but it also fails to show any sheen for most inks. There are definitely better fountain pen friendly notebook options out there. For full product details, check out the product page on the Maruman website.
Paper Weight: 68gsm?
Page Style: Blank, Lined or Grid
Size: A4, A5, A6, B6
I’ve long been a fan of Midori paper. I have used a Midori notepad in the past for writing letters and always enjoyed using it. This notebook is no different. Its design is very clean and simple. It has a stitch binding which allows it to lay flat while in use. It also has a single ribbon page marker, which is helpful for keeping track of how much of the notebook you’ve used. As for feathering or bleeding, this paper is excellent and I haven’t experienced any of either so far. It also has a low amount of ghosting, so writing on both sides of a page should not be a problem.
This paper also shows a good amount of shading and sheen. All of the different inks I have used with it look very good. The ivory color of the paper is light enough that it does not drastically change the appearance of the ink. I also find that the grid pattern on the paper is very light and, while helpful with writing, does not interfere with reading what’s been written.
Midori MD notebooks are very fountain pen friendly. While they don’t show the highest amount of sheen compared to a few of the other notebooks in this roundup, they are probably one of the most well-rounded options available today. Regardless of your needs, you’ll have a hard time finding a better notebook than a Midori MD. For more information, you can check out the Midori MD product page.
Paper Weight: 68gsm
Page Style: Blank or Dot
Size: A5, A6
I use this notebook for my ink journal, in which I test all of the different inks I have. It is made by Taroko Design and uses Tomoe River paper, regarded by many to be the best paper for fountain pens. Its stitch binding allows it to lay flat, but I have found that over time the cover has started to curl a bit and doesn’t sit completely flat with the rest of the book when closed. I have not experienced any feathering or bleeding with this paper (other than bleeding with big ink splats). Since it is the heaver Tomoe River paper, it also only has medium ghosting.
Tomoe River is well known for showing off the different properties of ink and this notebook is no exception. The white paper color will not affect how ink looks. The amount of sheen that it shows is some of the highest you’ll find. It also shows a good amount of shading. These come at a price, though, as dry time is longer than with many other papers.
The Taroko Enigma notebook is a wonderful notebook for fountain pen lovers. The paper quality is amazing and the book is very well made. It even includes an insert that you can place behind the page you’re writing on to keep things smooth and your writing straight. If you want one of the best notebooks around, you can’t go wrong with an Enigma by Taroko Design. If you don’t want wait on an order from their Etsy shop to ship from Taiwan, other notebook options are available on Amazon.
|Page Style |
(Blank, Lined, Grid, Dot)
(Glue, Stitch, Coil, Staple)
|Sheen Amount||Bleed/Feather/Ghost||Other Features||Comments|
|Each page has margins and date or page number header.||A great, inexpensive fountain pen friendly notebook.|
Apica Premium C.D.
|Blank, Lined, Grid||Stitch||Medium||Bleed: Medium|
|Lays flat and has an index page at the front of the notebook.||Nice to write in, but overpriced compared to other premium notebooks.|
Fabriano Eco Qua
|Blank, Lined, Grid, Dot||Glue, Staple, Coil||Medium||Bleed: Low|
|The banded journals have an elastic strap and back pocket. The other notebooks do not.||Great general use notebook that shows off ink properties without costing very much.|
Maruman Cover Note
|Includes 2 page ribbons.||A rather disappointing notebook that bleeds too much to recommend for use with fountain pens.|
|Midori MD||Blank, Lined, Grid||Stitch||High||Bleed: Low|
|Has 1 page ribbon and stickers for labeling the notebook.||One of the best all-around notebooks available.|
|Taroko Enigma||Blank, Dot||Stitch||High||Bleed: Low|
|Includes plastic grid insert for placing behind pages.||One of the nicest notebooks around for fountain pens.|
Hi, my name is John. I’m a Colorado-born professional photographer who recently moved back to Denver after spending 3 years in San Francisco. I’ve been using and collecting fountain pens for over 20 years. I got my first one in college when I got bored taking notes with ballpoints and pencils. Since then I’ve bought and sold hundreds of pens, but have consistency in my love of Esterbrooks.