Italian paper manufacturer Fabriano has an eco-conscious and inexpensive notebook that they call EcoQua. These notebooks come in a variety of sizes, colors, bindings and page styles. They also sport 85gsm paper, which is just a little heavier than the usual 80gsm found in many fountain-pen-friendly notebooks. But how do they compare? Do you get what you pay for (in this case less) or are they good contenders for notebooks you should find and try? Read on to find out what the Fabriano EcoQua notebooks have to offer you and your fountain pens.
Note: In this review I’m taking a look at the A5 glue-bound notebook, but will also reference my experiences with an A4 staple-bound notebook. I have not used their spiral-bound notebooks.
The first thing you’ll probably notice when you’re looking for an EcoQua is the number of cover-color options available. Get ready to be greeted by a rainbow of colors. The covers are not only colorful, but are also made of a heavy card stock that feels nice to the touch. The paper is not a bright white, but isn’t what I’d call cream. The dots on the dot-grid ruling I picked up are very light, bordering on hard to see (which is a good thing for me). The paper does not feel super-smooth, but doesn’t seem to have much of a noticeable texture.
- Pages: Varies
- Paper Weight: 85gsm
- Binding: Spiral, Glue, Staple
- Page Style: Lined, Dot, Blank, Grid
- Size: A4, A5, A6, Pocket
Ink-handling characteristics (A table with the following properties can be found at the bottom of this post)
- Sheen: Very Low
- Shading: Medium
- Bleeding: Low
- Ghosting: Medium
- Feathering: Very Low
- Dry Time: Fast
- Many different options
- Elastic closure on some notebooks
- Unique front cover on some notebooks
I first picked up a Fabriano EcoQua notebook years ago and used it on a regular basis for testing out new pens and inks, both mine and at local meetups. To say that I’ve used hundreds of pen/ink combinations in these notebooks is not an exaggeration. One of the reasons I like them so much is that they have solid ink-handling capabilities, while at the same time are not super-expensive.
The paper offers a nice writing experience if you don’t mind some texture. It is not super-smooth and has some feedback, but not so much you have to worry about the tines of your nib getting stuck. I tried writing on it and Midori MD with the same pen and it definitely has more feedback than Midori MD (which has a decent amount for a premium Japanese paper). Personally, I don’t mind it and actually enjoy it for a change of pace every once in a while, but do find that some nibs (like a steel Lamy Al-Star nib) have much more feedback than others (like a gold Pelikan nib).
One of the things I like most about this paper is the fast dry times coupled with very low feathering and low bleeding. Given the fast dry times, there is still a decent amount of shading. Ghosting is average and should be low enough that most people can use both sides of a page. While a bit of sheen may show up for some ink/pen combinations, don’t expect to see much of it on this paper.
I can’t post this review without mentioning a few things that I’ve heard and experienced with these notebooks. If you look at online reviews for the glue-bound notebooks, you’ll read about pages falling out of notebooks. While I don’t doubt that it happens, I have never had it happen.
I also had read once that EcoQua notebooks have consistency issues with the paper. I’ve used quite a few of these notebooks and all but one have been of the same quality. Of course, having one that is low-quality is not a good thing. I did a test page for it, which you can see below. Notice that it has significantly more feathering and bleeding.I don’t know if there is a way to tell which notebooks have good (or bad) paper in them, but based on my experience, chances are they have good paper.
I have been a long-time fan of Fabriano EcoQua notebooks, so hearing that they may have some quality and consistency issues made me really sad. Still, I feel like can confidently recommend them to most fountain pen users. If you’re worried about the pages falling out, the staple-bound and spiral-bound notebooks make great alternatives to the glue-bound options. If you’re worried about getting a notebook with bad paper in it, maybe you can find a place to purchase (and test) it locally. I know that many art supply shops sell them. Overall, I’m confident that if you get one with good paper you’ll see why I enjoy using them so much. Good luck!
If you’d like a bit more information about how I test papers and notebooks, I wrote an article about my paper rating system.
Fabriano EcoQua Notebook
Fountain Pen Love Overall Rating
Pros: Inexpensive, fast dry times, lots of options
Cons: Potential consistency issues
Value Rating: 3.43 Stars, Cost per A5 sheet: $0.08
Who this notebook is for: Anyone who wants an inexpensive notebook in a particular size, binding or page style
Upgrade to this notebook from: Random no-name notebooks
Upgrade from this notebook to: Midori MD