What Are The Best Fountain Pen Friendly Notebooks For Bullet Journaling?

John Bosley Bullet Journal 24 Comments

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.

fountain pen friendly notebook size comparison
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.

different paper layouts
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.

hard versus soft cover notebook
Midori MD Cotton Notebook lay flat
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.

Midori MD Cotton Notebook ribbon marker
Exceed 100gsm A5 Bullet Journal index page

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.

Midori MD

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.

You can read my full review of the Midori MD Notebook here.

Midori MD Notebook Review
Lemome Notebook

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.

You can read my full review of the Lemome notebook here.

Lemone Notebook Review sitting on desk
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.

You can read my full review of the Exceed A5 Bullet Journal here.

Exceed 100gsm A5 Bullet Journal information
Endless Recorder

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.

You can read my review of the Endless Recorder notebook here.

Pen Chalet Endless Recorder Notebook Review front cover
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.

You can read my review of the Black n’ Red notebook here.

Fountain Pen Paper Sample Pack black n red notebook
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.

Conclusions

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.

Comments 24

  1. I’m about to finish out my Leuchtturm1917 but I’ll be getting a different notebook to try out. Life is too short! Maybe that Exceed one.

  2. Useful post — I’m currently using a Rhodia Goalbook for mine, which has the pre-printed index, page numbers, and some calendar-type spreads at the front. But I bought a (lined) Midori MD A5 for my personal journal and I think I like the Midori paper better, so this might be my next bujo. I’ve been doing this for years and always used Leuchtturms until just this year when I started experimenting with other options.

    1. Hi Sara, I’m glad you found it useful! I still have never tried out a Rhodia Goalbook. Sounds like I need to pick one up and try it out! I do agree that the Midori paper is nicer to write on than Rhodia, though. I hope you’ve been enjoying your experiments with other notebooks!

  3. Pingback: Pen Stuff And Giggles | An Inkophile's Blog

  4. This is a handy breakdown. I just got ordered a notebook through Goulet (one of their exclusive’s with tomoe river paper), but the black and red looks really nice too, might have to give it a shot!

    1. The Black n Red is fantastic as long as you don’t mind spiral binding and lined paper. They do make some hardcover versions. Honestly, it’s nearly as good as TR but usually much cheaper!

  5. Nice to see the Exceed notebook as a feature rich alternative to Leuchtturm. The only drawback to not owning a Leuchtturm, is not being able to say you use a Leuchtturm and the looks you get. 😉

  6. You left out Nuuna dot grid journals!! Nuuna is my top choice of journal because of the 120 GSM paper! The paper is a dream. Nuuna journals come in a variety of sizes that have high-quality, totally awesome covers made of recycled leather, vegan material, or Jeans Label Material. I become overly excited when the new Nuuna journals come out!

    Nuuna does not have a pocket or page finder and Nuuna is made in Germany, which might be a drawback for some. Please try one this year! I’d love to hear what you think!

    1. I’ve never tried a Nuuna journal, Mary! I’ll definitely try to get my hands on one and will be sure to share my thoughts. They have some great cover designs! Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. Dear John_ Can you tell me wjat was the make of your index book on the what are best notebooks for fountain pen bullet journaling ?

  8. I think the Rhodia Goalbook deserves an honorable mention here. I acquired one by accident but loved the paper. When I stared BuJo, it was the perfect excuse to write in my Goalbook. Also, it’s packed with useful features! Everything you mentioned, plus an undated perpetual calender & built in “future log”. The only downside is a little ghosting if you use a very wet, wide nib fountain pen. It may not be everyone’s favorite, but it’s worth a try if you like the features enough!

  9. You won’t regret it. If you like the dot pad, the Goalbook has much better paper in my opinion. I’m glad you still check & reply to this post. I’m new to the fountain pen world & I’m just learning the ropes… but it’s awesome to see so many other fountain pen fans out there. I look forward to hearing how you like the Goalbook. Keep up the good work!

  10. Great review and I love Tomoe River as well (though my personal preference is the Galen Leather Co.s “Everyday Book”). But today I finally received what I consider to be a version of the “Holy Grail” of journaling inserts. A 200 page onion skin paper insert by TNAccessoriesbyLyn on etsy.

    I’ve loved onion skin paper since I was a kid (I’m now in my 60’s) and had thought I would have to settle for Tomoe River paper until I found that you can still get journals made with onion skin paper!

    I always use a fountain pen and yes, ghosting is high and long dry times with onion skin, but the feel and “crinkle” factor have always won me over (I buy reams of Onion Skin just to use single sheets for “scrap” notes).

    1. That sounds really interesting, Michael! I’ve heard people talk about onion skin paper before, but have not tried it myself. I’ll have to look into it.

      Actually, I just remembered that Yamamoto has some very thin papers in their sample pack. None that are specifically called onion skin, but maybe some that are a similar thickness. I did enjoy writing on them, but agree that they have extreme ghosting and very high dry times.

  11. The Goalbooks are lovely – I am on my third. I don’t love the paper tint but they have a white paper version out now and that’s next in my queue. I just love the smoothness of the Clairefontaine paper.

  12. I’m just starting to think about bullet journaling. I feel a little overwhelmed but am ready to dive in. I am going to read Ryder Carroll’s book first. Has anyone used the Scribbles That Matter dotted journal?

    1. That book is a great place to start, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. I found it to be very helpful and inspiring. I haven’t used the Scribbles That Matter journal, so can’t give firsthand experience, but a quick scan of some reviews sounds promising for use with fountain pens.

  13. Hi there I’m currently using a md notebook in a6 but want an a5 as I’m living in China black n red is not available here, would you recommend the life notebook or the md a5? Thank you for your website 🙂

    1. Hi Benjamin, for a bullet journal I’d recommend the MD A5 over the Life. Life paper tends to be much more affected by hand oils, causing it to feather easier. I use Midori MD for my own bullet journals and never have issues with that. Thanks for reading!

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