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 – 5mm, Blank, Grid – 4mm, 5mm
- Size: A4, A5, A6, Pocket
Ink-handling characteristics (A table with the following properties can be found at the bottom of this post)
- Sheen: Medium
- Shading: Medium
- Bleeding: Very Low
- Ghosting: Medium
- Feathering: Very Low
- Dry Time: Medium
- 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 and sheen. Ghosting is average and should be low enough that most people can use both sides of a page.
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 will say that the pages do tear out easily if you try and tear them out.
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.
Interested in trying this paper before buying a notebook? Head over to my shop and pick up a paper sample pack.
Fabriano EcoQua Notebook
Fountain Pen Love Overall Rating
Pros: Inexpensive, good dry times, lots of options
Cons: Potential consistency issues
Value Rating: 3.71 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
As always, a good detailed review. However, these notebooks don’t seem quite entry level price-wise. I ordered from Amazon yesterday Clairefontaine Europa 4866Z A4 Wirebound Notemaker 60 sheets/120 pages, costing £4. I love A4 rather than having all different sizes on a shelf, and not much more expensive than A5.
Thanks, Noel. I wouldn’t say that they’re entry level, but they are on the less-expensive side of good notebooks. Also, keep in mind that in the States Clairefontaine is more expensive than in Europe. With the current exchange rate, the notebook you purchased and this one have the same price per sheet (even though the size is different).
I used a pocket-size one for bullet journaling, in 4mm dot grid. The paper has indeed feedback so Japanese EF fountain pens may not be very comfortable, but it performs nicely anyway. White paper, nice grid, thick enough, and the cover feels durable in back pockets (more than the Moleskine pocket cahier that I used before).
Emerald of Chivor seems to make a good paper stress-test ^^.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Frédéric. I agree on all points (especially that EoC makes a great stress test)!
Where do you buy this notebook?
Alesya, I have links in the article to the product on Amazon. I personally buy them at a local art shop and have seen them in other art shops around the country.
I must have got a bad one… I had terrible feathering and bleed through.
Eberyine’s experiences differ.
I’ve heard that some people have had mixed experiences, some bad and some good. I’ve always had good experiences, but maybe I’m just lucky?
I wanted to share my experience, since I have been using the EcoQua for years. (It’s my HG notebook for rollerball and ballpoint use.) I just began using fountain pens with an EcoQua I’ve owned for ~2-3 years. I have skipping issues with the A4 spiral-bound EcoQua (graph-lined paper) with a variety of pens and inks. My fine-nib Pilots (Kakuno and Metropolitan) work just fine with basic Pilot ink and with Sailor Souboku ink. My medium-nib Lamy Safari (w/Sailor Souboku ink) and Kaweco Sport (w/Kaweco Royal Blue ink) nibs
That’s strange that your fountain pens skip with the EcoQua notebooks. Have you tried a variety of notebooks? The only thing I can think of is that the older notebook may have some hand oils on it, but if you’re using fresh pages that shouldn’t be the case.
Get them from Jerry’s or Blick, they’re several dollars cheaper, although with Prime free shipping, it might be a trade-off. MisterArt.com seems to be the lowest price. I’d rather include them in an order of art supplies, pay the shipping, and support art stores than ol’ Jeffy B. Fortunately, we have a Jerry’s in my city.
I get them from a local art supply store as well. When I lived in SF, Blick carried them. I think that may be the first place I saw them.