If you’re a fountain pen user and are interested in bullet journaling, choosing a good notebook is probably the most important decision you’ll make. But how do you choose the best notebook? What factors or features should you even consider? In this article I want to take a look at some fountain pen friendly notebooks that I think are great options for bullet journaling.
I started bullet journaling earlier this year, so I don’t necessarily consider myself a bujo (bullet journal) expert. I do consider myself somewhat of a paper and notebook expert, though. Over this past year I have tried many different notebooks for my own bullet journals and feel like I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Still, each person is going to be a little different, so first let’s think about what features your new notebook needs.
If you’re not sure what bullet journaling is, this post might help.
Considerations To Make
Before you grab a notebook that you happen to have laying around or head out and buy the first notebook you see, you should spend a little time thinking both about what you want and what you need in a notebook. Bullet journals have few requirements, which is why so many people like the system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your life a little easier with a little bit of planning.
One of the first considerations to make is what size of notebook you’ll want to use. The most popular notebook size is an A5, so you’ll have the most options to choose from if this size best fits your needs. Other sizes that are often used are B5, A6 or the tall and narrow size made popular by Traveler’s Notebooks. There is no right or wrong size to use, so ultimately it might come down to if the other options you want are available in a size other than A5.Next, you’ll want to decide on a page layout. For a bullet journal, most people prefer a dot grid, as it provides structure to the page but isn’t very intrusive. Some may prefer a traditional grid, while others might want a lined or blank page. Again, there is no right or wrong, but it’s important to choose what is going to work the best for you. You know I can’t get through a discussion on notebooks without mentioning paper. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things to consider when purchasing a notebook. If you end up writing in your bullet journal every day, the quality of the paper will have a major impact on how much you enjoy using it. There are other considerations to make as well. Dry time is a critical consideration. If your ink takes a long time to dry, it may smear or just annoy you. The amount of ghosting is also important since you will most likely be writing on both sides of a page.
“Bullet journals have few requirements, which is why so many people like the system”
The binding and cover material also matter. For the binding, you’ll probably want something that opens and lays flat. For the cover, you’ll need to decide if you want a soft, flexible cover or a hard cover. A hard cover is going to offer a bit more protection, as well as give you a surface to write on if you don’t have one. The downside is that hard cover notebooks are typically more expensive and there aren’t as many available as softcovers.One of the last things to consider, but by no means less important, are the extras that come with many notebooks. By extras, I’m referring to ribbon page markers, page numbers, an index, a rear pocket to hold things, elastic closures… you get the idea. While none of these affect your writing experience, they will affect your daily experience.
Using my own experience as an example, I can tell you that having a dedicated index doesn’t matter to me, but I find writing page numbers by hand to be annoying. I don’t need an elastic closure, but having a ribbon to mark my current page is very nice.
Recommended Notebooks For Bullet Journaling
Now that you’ve had a bit of time to think about which features will work the best for your bullet journal, let’s look at a few different options. Each was chosen for a specific type of user, so while not all of them may appeal to you, hopefully at least one will.
This is one of my favorite notebooks and what I’m currently using for my own personal bullet journal. The paper is incredible and handles fountain pen ink extremely well. Want shading and sheen? You’ve got ’em. Don’t like feathering, bleed through and ghosting? No worries. Midori notebooks open and lay flat very easily due to their fantastic binding and many signatures. They also come in many different sizes and page layouts.
Drawbacks to the Midori MD (as far as bullet journaling goes) are that it does not have page numbers, an index or any type of closure. Dry times may also be just a bit higher than some people care for.
These notebooks will lend a touch of luxury to your daily routine. While relatively inexpensive, they have great paper and a load of options that work well with bullet journaling. They don’t have a dedicated index page or page numbers, but if you don’t mind adding them yourself this heavy-papered notebook should serve you well.
Exceed Bullet Journal
These may or may not be possible to find, as they are frequently out of stock.
To be honest, I had originally written down Leuchtturm instead, but then I remembered how much I loved the Exceed notebook when I tested it out. Leuchtturm is basically the default bullet journal notebook for most people, but in my opinion more people should consider an Exceed notebook. Not only do they have the same features as a Leuchtturm, including page numbers, index pages, dual page ribbons, an elastic closure, hard cover and a rear pocket, they also have better paper and cost about half of the price!
If you purchase this notebook, expect some sheen and shading, decent dry times and little to no bleeding, feathering or ghosting. In short, you can expect fantastic paper wrapped up in a notebook with many useful features for bullet journaling. You can also find many different colors, sizes and page layouts.
If you love Tomoe River paper and just can’t imagine writing on anything else for an extended period of time, you should strongly consider an Endless Recorder notebook. They seem to be made a little differently for each retailer who sells them, but overall you can expect 68gsm Tomoe River paper, an elastic closure, page ribbon and rear pocket. Some versions have page numbers while others do not. All seem to have about the same number of pages and choice of page layout. Of course, since it’s Tomoe River paper, expect huge amounts of sheen, significant ghosting and long dry times.
Black n’ Red
Black n’ Red notebooks might seem like a bit of an unusual choice for a bullet journal, but keep in mind that some people might prefer a lined or spiral bound notebook. Black n’ Red notebooks would make an excellent choice for a bullet journal due to the fact that they have excellent paper with extremely low ghosting. In fact, they have some of the lowest ghosting I’ve ever seen in a fountain pen friendly paper. Add to this the fact that they come in many different sizes (and even some non-spiral hardcovers), they should be considered a worthy contender for your next bullet journal.
Other Notebooks To Consider
If you want a few more options, here are some notebooks that might just work for you.
- Leuchtturm1917 – A solid, feature-packed notebook, but a little pricey and inconsistent paper quality.
- Logical Prime – Who says notebooks have to have a lot of pages to be used for a bullet journal? These fantastic notebooks have fewer pages than the others mentioned, but have excellent paper.
- Profolio Oasis – These notebooks don’t have many extras but are relatively inexpensive and high quality.
Everyone is going to have different features that they look for in a bullet journal. Whether it’s great paper, a hard cover or extras that make daily use more efficient, a bullet journal should be both functional and enjoyable to use. The notebook recommendations I have made above take most of these factors into consideration, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide what notebook will work the best for your needs. I have gone through a few different notebooks in the last year trying to find the one that works the best for me and have settled on the Midori MD. Others that I tried had more features and better dry times, but ultimately I decided that enjoying the various qualities of my inks (like sheen and shading) were more important to me than fast dry times.