The 160gsm Journal Comparison – Introduction

The journaling community has lost its ever-loving mind over notebooks with 160gsm paper!

First, it was 100gsm paper, then it was 120gsm paper… and now everyone is going nuts over 160gsm paper. There are only a couple of the well-known brands who carry a notebook or journal with dotted 160gsm paper and those companies have gotten a LOT of coverage in the blogosphere. 

Archer & Olive and Scribbles That Matter are the two notebooks getting all the attention these days. Mostly A&O, right?!

We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the evangelism of these new thick-paper journals – followers are very vocal in their loyalty. Message boards and Facebook groups are filled with recommendations for Archer & Olive – even going to so far as to recommend that brand new baby journalers should dive headfirst into the most expensive journal on the market today as their very first purchase.

But you know me… I’m just a nerdy skeptic at heart. If too many people are all talking about the same brand of notebook, I tend to get very suspicious. Well, technically I first get annoyed, then I move into seriously pissed off… but then it usually settles down into suspicion. I’m a pretty even-tempered person but when I reach the end of my patience and I get fed up with the obsessive evangelizing, it usually results in a massive research project to uncover the truth.

Can you guess which stage of rage in at right now?

One day I stumbled across a Facebook group question from an uber newbie (literally it was the first journal purchase of her entire life). That question had close to 40 replies by the time I came across it and more than 80% of the replies were telling the original poster to buy an Archer & Olive notebook. The very first purchase of a journal to see if you even like journaling should NOT be a journal that costs $35!!! What are people even thinking?

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was finally ready to find out if Archer & Olive was everything the interwebs were saying it was … or if there were some other notebook brands that could knock it out of the ivory tower it was in.

Anger + Shopping = “Shopping Rage”  – similar to Road Rage, but without cars, and involves credit cards, retail outlets, and excessive nerdy research.

Within 20 minutes I had spent close to $150 on journals (many 120gsm journals jumped into my shopping cart too – those reviews will be coming soon)!

How many 160gsm paper notebooks are there anyway?

Comparing 160gsm notebooks

Based on all the chatter, you’d think there were only two notebooks in the whole wide world that have 160gsm dotted paper designed specifically for bullet journal enthusiasts. Those two would be Archer & Olive and Scribbles That Matter. But I was convinced that there had to be more than just those two. You know … brands without a massive marketing budget.

My research revealed that there were, in fact, many other notebook brands with 160gsm paper in a journal designed for the bullet journaling or art journaling community. 

I skipped the notebooks that were designed for artists since 160gsm paper is very common in sketchbooks and various forms of mixed media notebooks. Those types of notebooks have blank pages and won’t work well for bullet journaling.

My hunt revealed SIX notebook brands that fit the bill (if you know of any others, please let me know and I’ll look into them too). The brand I’ve purchased, tested, reviewed and compared here include (in alphabetical order):

  • Archer & Olive
  • Buke Notebooks
  • Eclectic Scribbles
  • QiHeng
  • Scribbles That Matter
  • Tekukor

You probably haven’t heard of half the names on this list. Yeah, me either. But now you know them and I’m about to tell you every single detail about each one so you can decide which notebook you want to buy. Hint – it’s not the one you’ve heard about a million times before.

This is NOT a sponsored review

… but you can still support me

I want to be very clear about this part before we dive into the reviews. This post is NOT sponsored by any notebook manufacturer, brand or seller. Nobody paid me to write nice things about them. Everything here is my honest personal opinion. I purchased these notebooks myself with my own hard earn (and quickly spent) money.

My promise to you is that everything you read here is honest, true, raw and real. If I don’t like something, I’m going to tell you. If I do like something, you’ll probably get tired of how much I talk about its awesomeness. You’ve been warned. Why am I so passionate about this aspect of Stationery Nerd? Simply because I was duped by reviews that were not completely honest and I wasted a lot of money buying recommended journals and supplies that didn’t live up to the hype those reviewers conveyed. I’m taking the opposite approach with this series of reviews (and the entire website in general).

Honest. True. Raw. Real. 100% of the time. I promise.

Buying excessive amounts of stationery supplies can get expensive. But in the interest of supporting my stationery hoarding habit, some of the links in these reviews are actually affiliate links to Amazon. That simply means that when you click on those links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission on those purchases at no additional cost to you. To put it into context, if you purchase a notebook that costs $15, I will earn about 50-cents or so.

You are not obligated to click on any link I include here, but if you do, thank you! Every little bit helps me to purchase more and more stationery supplies so I can continue providing in-depth nerdy reviews here for you.

For more information about sponsored content, affiliate links, and advertising on this website to read the full affiliate disclaimer policy.

Individual Notebook Reviews

Even though I’m going to cover a lot of details about each of these journals and compare them to each other – you’ll probably want to head over to the more detailed review of each of these notebooks. I’ve done extensive testing and dug up as much information as I can about each.

Besides reviewing the notebook itself, I also think it’s important to understand how the company behind the notebook works. Are they trustworthy? Are they reliable? Will they be around for a long time? How often are they going to change their product materials or will they stand the test of time and not change?

Be sure to dig deeper into each notebook review once you’re finished reading this comparison. Here are some quick links to each review.

Criteria for reviewing all six 160gsm journals

I’ve run testing on all six notebooks and ranked them best-to-worst in a variety of categories. Interestingly, there wasn’t one brand that came in first place in all the categories. There are definitely clear winners and losers, but the standings on each competition are very interesting. Here are the categories I’m using to rank these brands.

  • Construction & Durability
  • Features & Specs
  • Normal writing pen test & paper quality
  • Art supply test & paper quality
  • Fountain pens & feathering test
  • Company trustworthiness

CONSTRUCTION & DURABILITY

Notebooks in this category should all have amazing construction and be ultra-durable. We paying a premium (in most cases) for these journals so we expect more from them. How did they stand up to my testing? I’m going to cover the general construction of the notebook – binding style; cover style; extra features such as elastic closures, bookmarks, document pockets; and special pages.

I’ve gone into a lot more detail for each of these journals in their individual full reviews so you can head over to each one for more info. But here I’m going to give you an overview of each.

Click the + button on each tab below to open the box and read my nerdy rambling comments. (Listed in alphabetical order.)

Archer & Olive

ARCHER & OLIVE – construction and durability

This notebook feels luxurious in my hand. With a price point of $35 for my B6 version of the notebook, I was expecting a lot from this brand. The linen cover and gold hot-stamp emblem give a classy look to this journal. 

The hot-stamp gold emblem held up just fine to my fingernail scratch test. Like most hardcover books, you need to break in the spine in order to make the notebook lay flat when open. The elastic closure is firm and the bookmarks are securely in place and don’t look like they will fray over time. The back pocket is pretty standard and looks good to me. One big concern is the pen loop. The loop is attached to the back cover between the back cover and the document pocket and there’s a sizeable gap that’s not well sealed. The pen loop seems to be securely in place (and I haven’t heard of any reports that the elastic falls off) but I worry about the durability of this part. 

Overall, the construction and durability of Archer & Olive look great and the reputation of this brand holds up to the reality of my testing.

Buke Notebooks

Buke Notebooks – construction and durability

I was most skeptical about the Buke Notebooks notebook. I mean… I bought it on AliExpress for around $12, so I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. However, I needed to judge this notebook against the others in its class and determine if it could compete against brands that cost three times as much. But I got a pleasant surprise when the package arrived. 

The cover is PU leather with a gold embossed owl on the front. The embossing is crisp and beautifully done – not that I love the design, but the workmanship on that part is very good. The leatherette cover is very soft and entices me to stroke it because it feels so good. There’s one bookmark – made of grosgrain ribbon (which is my favorite style of bookmark) and there’s no sign of fraying at the end after I’ve put this one through the review process. The elastic closure is firm and looks well secured to the back cover. The document pocket is standard construction with ribbon-like gusset – my only concern is that the pocket is pretty tall and the opening is almost all the way at the spine of the back cover so it’s not easily accessible. Usually, the pockets are a bit shorter so you can grab the edge easier. There’s nothing wrong with the pocket, it’s just constructed differently than normal. The elastic pen loop is also attached securely between the back cover and document pocket with no concern that it will fall out of fail. 

For a $12 notebook, I’m highly impressed with this one. It’s on par with notebooks in the luxury category for sure. 

Eclectic Scribbles

ECLECTIC SCRIBBLES – construction and durability

The notebook by Eclectic Scribbles stands out as different than the rest of the notebooks in this review. We’re going to talk about cover design in the next section but I need to mention it here for Eclectic Scribbles (we really need a nickname for this brand – do we call it ES or EcSr or something more clever?). The cover of this journal is a print of original artwork by Amanda who is the (amazing) artist over at Eclectic Scribbles. The artwork is printed on a semi-glossy material that is then turned into the cover. It sort of feels like a cross between PU leather and high-quality paper.

The elastic on this notebook is not as strong others in the competition and is actually the narrowest of the bunch. There are two satin ribbons but one of them has started to fray (I’ll fix that by trimming the end and hitting it with a quick flame). The back pocket and pen loop are secure and have typical construction. The notebook lays flat once you train the spine. 

My biggest concern with the construction of the Eclectic Scribbles notebook is actually the printing of the paper. The dots are SO tiny and such a light shade of gray that they are barely visible. Unless I am actually leaning over the notebook and writing on the page, the page looks blank from any distance. If you’ve got old eyes like mine, this is a major problem. I don’t know if this was a design decision or if this is a printing flaw at the manufacturing stage. 

The construction and durability of the Eclectic Scribbles notebook are pretty good. Bookmark durability is a concern and dot printing is a problem for anyone with any type of eyesight difficulty. 

QiHeng

QIHENG – construction and durability

This QiHeng has the same luxurious feeling of Archer & Olive and Tekukor with the linen cover and metal hot-stamped emblem. It’s a notebook that costs half the price of the most expensive options in this review but the quality is equal when it comes to the actual construction of the notebook. The hot-stamp emblem on the front is durable and holds up to my fingernail scratch test. There’s also no problem with the notebook lying flat when open. 

The elastic closure band is secure and strong. The satin ribbon bookmarks are well seated and show no sign of frayed ends – I like that the ribbons are two different colors in dark grey and light grey to match the cover color. The elastic pen loop – which matches the color of the elastic closure and ribbons, is secure and well-positioned between the back cover and document pocket with no major gap. The back pocket is constructed well with ribbon-like gussets and heavy paper body. However, like the Buke notebook, the top of the pocket is really tall and butts right into the spine of the back cover. 

There is also an option for PU leather covers with various emblems on the front – I haven’t tested the durability of this other style but I am going to assume it’s the same as the linen cover version.

TIP: When searching for this notebook on Amazon, I find it easiest to search for the name of the seller’s storefront. The search term I use is “SeQeS Notebook.” They also sell a 100gsm version.

I’m really impressed with the construction and durability of this QiHeng notebook. And the more I see that ant on the cover, the more I love him.

Scribbles That Matter

SCRIBBLES THAT MATTER  – construction and durability

The folks at Scribbles That Matter have developed their line of notebooks specifically for bullet journalers which is why you see so many features built into their books. They have also spent a lot of time and energy listening to their community about problems with construction and correcting them as they continue to develop their journals. In some instances, this is a great practice because we see some good quality features – such as the pen loop that is riveted directly to the back cover so it doesn’t fall out after extensive use.  

I won’t go into my feelings about the practice the STM brand has of listening so intently to their social media audience and how it makes the notebook construction inconsistent. You really never know if the notebook you order next will be the same as the notebook you just finished using because they’re constantly changing their product. You can read all about how I think they have “jumped the shark” in the full review (I get into a bit of a rant, so be warned). 

I chose the Pro version which means the PU leather cover does not have the all-over embossed doodle design of the other STM notebooks. The leatherette cover is soft to the touch – similar to the feeling of Buke’s notebook.

The Scribbles That Matter journal lays flat, as you’d expect. Two grosgrain bookmarks (in grey and black to match the charcoal cover) are secure and show no sign of fraying. The back pocket is well constructed with ribbon gussets, but again, the pocket is tall and too close to the spine. The elastic closure band is strong and the pen loop is secured into place with a metal rivet. 

Overall the STM journal is well constructed and well thought out from a design and production standpoint. No worries here.

Tekukor

TEKUKOR  – construction and durability

Even though Tekukor has the same look and feel of other linen-covered notebooks, there’s something different… actually a few somethings. Let’s explore why. 

If you’ve read the full review of Tekukor, you know that they asked me specifically to test the durability of the hot-stamped gold fern leaf on the front of the notebook. I put it through a brutal fingernail scratch test and it held up beautifully. The extra-wide elastic closure is one of my favorite things about all of the Tekukor notebooks – it’s strong and at least twice as wide as other notebooks. There are three color-coordinating grosgrain bookmarks that show no sign of frayed ends. The back pocket is well constructed and gives you just enough space at the top to open easily. And yes, it also lies flat when open. 

The most notable difference is the thickness of Tekukor compared to every other journal here. The other version of Tekukor – their 100gsm notebook – has 192 pages. I’m so happy that they decided to keep that same page count in this 160gsm notebook, too. This makes the notebook thicker and feels more robust – robust in a delicate type of way because of the luxurious feel of the materials used. 

You all know how much I love everything Tekukor does and this new notebook in their product line is not a disappointment. This notebook is well-constructed and extremely durable. 

DESIGN & COVER OPTIONS

Have you ever bought something that you don’t need but you needed to have it because it was beautiful or cool? No? Just me? I’m a graphic designer as my day job – which extends to the rest of my life, of course. Design thinking is part of my DNA and I notice the way things are created, decorated, and presented So I notice the way notebooks are designed and also the design options of covers. 

In the next section, there’s a line on the chart that talks about the cover options, but I wanted to mention that in more detail here.

Archer & Olive – cover design is the strongest feature of Archer & Olive notebooks. I chose to purchase a linen-cover version with the gold hot-stamped bee on the front. There are several different emblem options in the linen line. There’s also another line of options where the cover is PU leather and has a beautifully printed pattern. They specialize in floral or nature-inspired designs. There are lots of options from Archer & Olive.

Buke Notebooks – this is the only notebook brand in this review that has an option both hardcover and softcover versions. All of the covers have the embossed gold owl on the front and you have several color options to choose from. 

Eclectic Scribbles – this notebook comes in three design options – Mandala (the one I bought), Zentangle, and Steampunk Cat – all of which were designed by Amanda. Her artwork is beautiful and being able to see it on a journal is a great bonus. 

QiHeng – this line of journals have both linen and PU leather options for the cover. Each one has an emblem on the front. The linen-cover options are a bit creepy-crawly, right? You choose between an ant and a spider. The PU leather options have more emblems to choose from – owl, fox, bear, or squirrel, each with their own color choice. 

Scribbles That Matter – with STM you can choose from either the Iconic or Pro cover options – Iconic has icons, Pro does not. At any given time there are about 4 to 8 different color options, but that selection is constantly changing so you never really know what will be available. Their standard notebook color is teal with yellow accents so you can usually find that one in stock. 

Tekukor – this notebook line has three cover options – blue, burgundy, olive green. Each cover has a gold hot-stamped emblem that is inspired by nature – fern, palm leaf, or lotus leaf.

FEATURES & SPECS

The data below allows you to compare each brand side by side. I won’t bore you with written commentary about all these specs (hey! I heard that sigh of relief!). 

Also – this is the first time I’m using a comparison table like this. Let me know if it works on your device or if anything looks wonky.

Notebook BrandARCHER & OLIVEBUKE STATIONERYECLECTIC SCRIBBLESQiHENGTEKUKORSCRIBBLES THAT MATTER
Model | StyleSignature Dotted NotebookDotted NotebookMandale Dot Grid JournalSeQeS Dotted NotebookDotted NotebookPro Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | SoftcoverHardcoverHardcoverHardcoverHardcoverHardcoverHardcover
Cover Optionsfabric with gold embossed | variousHardcover | Softcover owl on frontoriginal artwork by makerlinen fabric | faux leatherlinen fabric | 3 colorPU leather | 8 color options
Sizes AvailableB5 | A5 | B6A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Typesewn bindingsewn bindingsewn bindingsewn bindingsewn bindingsewn binding
Paper Weight160 gsm160 gsm160 gsm160 gsm160 gsm160 gsm
Paper ColorWhiteLight IvoryWhiteWhiteWhiteWhite
Paper Surfacesmoothsmothsmoothsmoothsemi-smoothsmooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blankdotsdotsdotsdotsdotsdots
Dot Descriptionsmall | light greymedium greytiny | very light (barely visible)medium greylight greymedium grey
Grid or Line Spacing5mm5mm5mm5mm5mm5mm
Grid CountB5 ( ) A5 (26x38 ) B6 (33x23)27 x 4039 x 2839 x 2739 x 2739 x 27
Number of pagesB5 + A5 = 160 pages B6 = 112 pages160160160192150+
Are pages numbered?NoNoNoNoYesYes
Special pagesNoNoNoNoNoKey, Index (3), Pen Test, Mindfulness
Bookmarks2 bookmarks1 bookmark2 bookmarks2 bookmarks3 bookmarks2 bookmarks
Back PocketYesYesYesYesYesYes
Elastic ClosureYesYesYesYesYes | extra wide elastic closureYes
Pen LoopYesYesYesYesYesYes - held in place with metal rivet
Additional Features-Includes: Stencil, file sticker, ref.sheet-silver emblem on front (hot-stamped)gold emblem on front | decorative endpapers-
Purchase LocationArcher & Olive WebsiteAliExpress - Buke Notebook StoreEclectic Scribbles WebsiteAmazonAmazonAmazon
Price I paid$35.00$11 (13 days for shipping)$20.00$15.99$26.95$20.99

NORMAL WRITING PEN TEST & PAPER QUALITY

Here is where we begin the rating portion of this comparison. In each notebook, I tested 16 different writing pens. These are the types of brands you’d expect to use in a normal bullet journal or standard long-form journaling notebook. Fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint, fountain pen inks, highlighters, and calligraphy brush markers. Here’s the list.

SUPPLY LIST

First, let me just list all the supplies I’ve used for the basic pen-testing. I’ve chosen a variety of pens and markers in different categories. I’m testing fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint pens, fountain pen inks, and various highlighters and markers. I even threw a Sharpie Marker in the mix as the alcohol marker you should never use in a journal. And because this paper is supposed to be bleed-resistant and ghost-proof, I also grabbed an art marker (a generic version of Copic markers). Whenever possible I used a black pen because that is going to give us the darkest possible ink to test ghosting or show-through.

On those pages, I also put a few swipes of Sharpie Marker and Copic-style Marker, but I also used those alcohol markers on the art supply page. At first, I was going to just ignore those two markers because they’re covered in the next section with art supply testing. BUT… I’ve got a problem. 

See, if I take out the 2 alcohol markers from the list then there’s nothing left to “compare” because all these notebooks did just fine with all these pens. There’s virtually no ghosting in any of the notebooks. 

Then there’s the one really tough fountain pen ink I threw into the testing mix that half of the notebooks failed. Except when I say “fail” I really just mean they got an A- instead of an A.  

So the only way I was able to rate these notebooks from best to worst in this category was to take into account the two alcohol markers and the Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts fountain pen ink. We’ll judge those markers again in the art supply section.

PEN TEST WINNER

One notebook was far and away better than the others – I say that because the Sharpie Marker was barely visible, the fountain pen ink doesn’t show through, and the paper held up to Copic-style marker pretty well. QiHeng Stationery’s Notebook wins this round, hands down. Even though I’ve ranked the journals in order of performance, I gotta say that this was nearly impossible to do right. I’ve seriously wavered a dozen times about the difference between Tekukor and Eclectic Scribbles. And I’ve wavered a dozen more times about the difference between Scribbles That Matter and Archer & Olive. Buke Notebooks were definitely in last place, though (more on that in a minute). 

QiHeng Stationery

The QiHeng notebook was far and away the Gold Medal winner in the pen test. The paper stood up to two touch alcohol-based markers!

Tekukor &
Eclectic Scribbles

The Tekukor and Eclectic Scribbles performed almost identical and share the Silver Medal for pen testing.

Scribbles That Matter
+ Archer & Olive

Tied for last place the Scribbles That Matter and Archer & Olive notebooks did not perform well in the pen testing.

no medal for Buke Notebook

I was pretty surprised about the performance of Buke Notebooks’s notebook. The ghosting in Buke is similar to what I’d see in a good quality 100gsm notebook with all the normal writing pens. However, look at the results of the art marker. If I were only looking at that one result, Buke would be in first place. I suspect that Buke has a heavier coating on their paper which could mean they started with thinner, less opaque paper so when the weight is measured at the end of the manufacturing process, it comes out to 160gsm and the coating contributes significantly to that weight. That’s just a guess because I don’t have any additional details on the paper outside what is on the packaging. The paper in Buke is not slick as you’d expect with a coated paper so it doesn’t prevent ink from drying (smudging isn’t an issue). This theory will hold true when we get to the part of about how each notebook stands up to the Feathering Test below.

Alright… let’s move on. I’ve spent way too much time talking about the most boring part of this whole notebook comparison!
QiHeng art supply test page

I was extra tough on this notebook, noticed how much watercolor I put on that bottom right corner!

ART SUPPLY TEST & PAPER QUALITY​

Ahhh… art supplies! This is where things get real! You know that a major part of the marketing efforts from these companies claim that 160gsm paper in their notebooks stands up to the “no bleed” test with all sorts of pens and art supplies. Hold on there, cowboy! This nerd doesn’t believe your hype!

So I dug through my craft room (remember the huge Craft Room Cleanup from last spring?) and pulled out art supplies that should work in these journals …. Along with a few supplies that I knew were going to likely fail. Needless to say, I was pretty surprised at the results.

There are 10 different art supplies on the list. I will be grading each notebook on the pass or failure of each art media. We’ll look to see if the paper itself held and then evaluate how the paper performed. We’ll look at ghosting, bleeding, and feathering as well as the crinkliness of the paper (yes that’s a word, I just made it up!). There are a possible 100 points in this test – each art supply worth 10 points. In some instances, I’ve given partial points if that seemed fair.

First, let’s look at the art supplies I used.

Art Supply List

The list of goodies used for the art test

  1. Watercolor paint wet – a wet application of watercolor paint then letting the paint air dry 
  2. Watercolor paint dry-ishanother application of watercolor paint but with this time with less wet and I dabbed it with a paper towel to soak up any excess water and then let it air dry
  3. Tim Holtz Distress Paint  – this comes in a dabber bottle and is an acrylic-based paint
  4. Ranger Dylusions Distress Ink – full-strength – even though this is a spray bottle I used it with a small paintbrush instead (spraying this stuff makes a huge mess!) This test was the ink straight out of the bottle.
  5. Dylusions Distress Ink – diluted with water  – same as above, but this time I diluted it slightly with water to see if that made a difference.
  6. Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink – this ink is not really designed to be used on paper, it’s more for non-porous surfaces. But why not try and see what happens?
  7. Dye-based Ink – similar to the alcohol ink but there’s no alcohol in this version. It’s a water-based dye ink instead of being alcohol-based.
  8. Acrylic Ink – a thicker ink that is based on acrylic paint
  9. Copic-style Marker I tried the alcohol art marker again on this page
  10. Noodler’s Apache Sunset Fountain Pen Ink – Using a q-tip I applied a swatch of fountain pen ink to the page to see what would happen. Assuming fountain pen ink is normally used in a pen, this will test if you are using a broader pen like a Pilot Parallel or a glass dip pen.
My favorite part of this whole thing was this part! I love getting my fingers all messy with paint and ink – it felt more like playing than working. Although, is reviewing stationery supplies really “work” …. Ha! Probably not. 

ART SUPPLY TEST WINNERS

So this was an interesting experiment for sure. Let’s first give each of these notebooks a failure-rate number to put things in order. 

  • QiHeng – 3 failures 
  • Tekukor – 3.5 failures 
  • Buke Notebooks – 4 failures
  • Eclectic Scribbles – 4.5 failures
  • Archer & Olive – 6+ failures
  • Scribbles That Matter – 7+ failures

NOTE – I gave two of them a half point (Tekukor at 3.5 and Eclectic Scribbles at 4.5). What this means is that 1 of the supplies “sorta” bled through but it was closer to ghosting than it was a full-blown failure. And then two notebooks received a “+” which means not only did the medium fail but it also soaked into and through the following page of the notebook. 

Let’s evaluate these test results and look at all 10 of the art supplies I used.

There are two main categories of results. Pass or Fail. Four of the notebooks pass and actually performed pretty well. Two of the notebooks not only failed, but they failed really, really badly. Yep, you guessed it… Archer & Olive and Scribbles That Matter failed hard!

So this process was really difficult for me. Once I finished the testing and evaluated the results and gave each one their score, I needed to rank them from best to worst. In looking at the art supplies that failed and figured out that there were two that didn’t perform well in any of the books – both were the heavy alcohol-based supplies. 

I knew that the Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink was the toughest medium in the entire list and all of the paper succumbed to that abuse – I decided to throw that one out and not use it to consider the winners. Also, the alcohol art marker was pretty equal across most of the journals so I threw that one out too. So I decided to just cover those things up in all the journals with little Post-It notes. 

QiHeng &
Tekukor

QiHeng and Tekukor share the Gold Medal for their outstanding performance in the art supply testing.

Buke Notebooks
& Eclectic Scribbles

Both Buke and Eclectic Scribbles would be excellent notebooks to use as an art journal.

Archer & Olive

The Archer & Olive notebook just barely made it to the Bronze Medal winner’s circle.

Once I had those two art supply results covered up, the judging was a lot easier. What I came up with was Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners. Two equal winners in Gold and SIlver, one winner in Bronze.  

Gold Medal Winners – both QiHeng and Tekukor ended up with one art medium that bled through in addition to the two alcohol-based supplies. QiHeng failed with dye ink and Tekukor failed with a Sharpie Marker and both of them had a little bit of trouble with the swatch of fountain pen ink. I would give QiHeng a slight edge over Tekukor because of the way the paper performed with watercolor (Tekukor got more crinkled). 

Silver Medal WinnersBuke Notebooks and Eclectic Scribbles did very well too. Besides the two art supplies that were thrown out, each only had two major problems with bleed-through. Buke failed with dye ink and Sharpie Marker, Eclectic Scribbles failed with Sharpie Marker, fountain pen ink and a little bit of the Dylusions Distress Ink. Buke performed a tiny bit better than Eclectic Scribbles. 

Bronze Medal Winner – Yep, I basically gave Archer & Olive a consolation prize. In addition to the two alcohol-based art supplies that were thrown out, there are another four supplies that failed (watercolor, distress ink, fountain pen ink, and Sharpie). The Dylusions Distress Ink and the alcohol ink both seeped into the next page of the notebook, too (major point deduction!). Amazingly the dye ink barely soaked through the page – and this is why A&O got a medal. 

No Medal for Scribbles That Matter

Oh STM, you’re a hot mess! Your paper is so porous that everything just seeps through the page. As you look at the pictures, just ignore that big blue splotch on the upper left of the page (I spilled acrylic paint and made a massive mess!). Once I covered up the two alcohol-based art supplies that were thrown out, we still have a disaster. Dylusions Distress Ink, dye ink, fountain pen ink, Sharpie, and watercolor all failed (and some soaked into the next page, too) – that’s a tally of five failures in addition to the two that were thrown out. 

What shocked me the most about Archer & Olive and Scribbles That Matter was the watercolor. What the heck happened? They both did fine with watercolor that was applied in a much drier way and dabbed with a tissue to soak up any excess water. But when you add a bit more water and let it dry on its own it just soaks straight through the paper. The paper gets crinkled and starts to get fuzzy, too. With all the promotional videos I’ve seen from both of these companies, I would have expected watercolor (at the very least) to perform the best. I’m very disappointed. 

FOUNTAIN PEN & FEATHERING TEST

Whew! This showdown is getting massive! But hey, that’s what we nerds do – we research every single teeny tiny detail, analyze it, compare and test it and then figure out who is best. In the past, I’ve gotten several of you ask for more robust fountain pen-testing. So here we are. Robust fountain pen testing, coming up next!

Several months ago I jumped headfirst down a rabbit hole of fountain pens and ink. I have amassed more pens than we need to mention here – but to summarize, I’ve been exploring the world of Chinese pens. It’s like a huge game to find the best performing pen for the cheapest possible price. Yes, I’ve bought pens that were less than $2 and I keep discovering more brands to try out. 

Needless to say, I’ve got a bunch of pens inked up and ready to go. So the list of inks and pens for all these tests is pretty wide-ranging. But here’s what I’ve tested.

Fountain pens & inks

  • Platinum Preppy with Platinum cartridge ink – this is a safe choice, IMHO. I’ve never had this ink bleed through any of the notebooks I’ve used it in and the ink dries quickly. The dib is smooth and I love the way it writes. With a price point of around $7-9 this pen is a great starter pen. I chose this pen because the smoothness of the writing experience is reliable so it’ll be a good way to test how smooth the paper is.
  • Jinhao x750 with Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts ink – this pen has a medium nib, except it seems to lay down a much heavier line than other medium nibs I have tried. So add that heavy ink flow with an extra wet ink (Noodler’s has a reputation for being very wet) and you’ve got a combination set for disaster. Yep, I did that on purpose. 
  • Bamboo (no name) pen with J. Herbin Vert Reseda (turquoise) ink – I see this pen on eBay and Aliexpress quite often by a bunch of different makers/brands, so I’m going to just call it a pen without a brand name. I picked it because of the stub nib that lays down a wide flat line of ink and that’s the only pen I have with that kind of nib. 
This test includes two different factors. First I want to see how the pen glides along the surface of the paper. Is it smooth or does the tooth (texture) of the paper cause a rough writing experience? We’ve already covered the bleeding and ghosting side of things, so that’s not a factor here. 

The second test is to determine if the ink feathers on the paper. Feathering is when the line of ink you lay down on the page starts to spread out from that original line and creates a feather-like shape instead of a crisp line. Feathering is bad. We don’t like feathering at all. 

And this is where I get to play with toys! I dug out my magnifying glass, to begin with, but that just didn’t give me the amount of magnification I wanted to examine how the ink behaves on the paper. I’ve also got a jeweler’s loop that has 60x magnification. Wow! This thing is amazing and it lets me see clearly how the ink behaves with amazing detail. You should have seen me trying to finagle my camera to line up with that tiny eyepiece. But I did it! Anything for you guys!

FOUNTAIN PEN & FEATHERING TEST WINNER

This test was less about crowning a winner and more about finding out how the paper performs with fountain pens specifically. So in this test, the notebooks will get a pass or fail grade for the feathering test.  We’ll also go alphabetically, rather than order of performance. 

Archer & Olive – oh poor Archer & Olive, it just keeps failing at stuff. We’ve got feathering and we’ve got a rough writing surface. The paper is definitely not smooth to the touch and you can tell that there’s no coating on the paper during the manufacturing stage (or if there is a coating, it’s pretty slight). This is a direct contributor to the feathering we see on the page. 

Buke Notebooks – The paper in Buke is smooth and it’s a pleasure to write on. Plus it passes the feathering test. No problems at all here.

Eclectic Scribbles – No feathering problems here on the Eclectic Scribbles paper and the surface is smooth to write on.

QiHeng – Not only is QiHeng top of the heap on the other tests, but it performs really well here too. The paper is ultra-smooth and the pen just glides across the page. No feathering problems either.

Scribbles That Matter – The paper here is pretty smooth – maybe if there was a level of smoothness that fell between rough and smooth?? Smooth-ish? It’s not unpleasant to write on, but you feel the paper gives you a bit of feedback more than the others. There was no feathering on the page.

Tekukor – There is no feathering on the page and the paper feels smooth to write on. Good performance in the Tekukor.

To summarize…

  • QiHeng has the smoothest writing experience. 
  • Archer & Olive has the roughest surface. 
  • Archer & Olive is the only notebook that failed the feathering test.

QiHeng

With ultra smooth paper and no feathering at all, QiHeng takes the Gold Medal.

Buke Notebooks, Tekukor,
& Eclectic Scribbles

Buke, Tekukor, and Eclectic Scribbles take the Silver Medal for the fountain pen ink test.

Scribbles That Matter

The Scribbles That Matter paper is pretty smooth and does not show any feathering.

BRAND TRUSTWORTHINESS & LONGEVITY

I almost didn’t include this section because it’s more subjective than it is information based on hard-hitting research. But I’m going to chatter on anyway.

BRAND TRUSTWORTHINESS & LONGEVITY

I almost didn’t include this section because it’s more subjective than it is information based on hard-hitting research. But I’m going to chatter on anyway.

Archer & Olive

I think this brand is here to stay. Hopefully, they get their price under control eventually. I believe the notebooks are overpriced and once more and more notebooks start appearing on the market their sales are sure to suffer. They definitely have a strong creative team to keep their notebook cover options fresh and new. However, they’re often out of stock or sold out, so they are clearly still working on their inventory management skills.

Buke Notebooks

This review used to be based on five notebooks until I found this one at the very last minute while I was browsing AliExpress (like I do). When this notebook popped up in my suggestions I snatched it up. Thankfully it only took 13 days to arrive (which is super speedy for normal shipping from China). Looking closer at Buke Notebooks I see that they are actually the manufacturer of the notebooks, not just a company that buys notebooks from someone who makes them. This is why we have such a great price of around $10-12. Their main business is making notebooks for other companies. I worry that they’ll get so bogged down in making notebooks for other companies that they’ll suddenly decide not to sell direct to consumers any longer. But that’s probably borrowing worry. 

Eclectic Scribbles

This is the one I worry about the most. The longevity of this brand rests squarely on the shoulders of the artist. If she decides not to produce another run of notebooks with new artwork, then the entire line of notebooks goes away after the current stock is sold out. On her website, the price is shown as a sale price (normal price crossed off with the $20 price as the sale price) – which made me wonder if they were on clearance. I’ve asked her if she plans to continue selling the notebooks and she says yes, so again, maybe I’m borrowing worry.

QiHeng

This company is also the maker selling directly to consumers which is why the price is outstanding. I have the same concern as the Buke Notebooks brand above – will they get out of the consumer market in favor of focusing on their commercial customers. I’ve had an email conversation with them which is how I found out they own their own factories and take care of their own design and production. When I asked them about different emblems on the cover, here is their response: “We are new to the North American market, so we are still trying to figure out what styles/colours that American customers like.” This is so encouraging and I’m excited to see what else this company brings us.

Scribbles That Matter

Do I have to say it again? I’m worried about Scribbles That Matter and whether the company will survive their insistence on listening to the vocal few of their user base. Quite often users are not the right people to listen to when it comes to making major product development changes in your line of notebooks. Yes, some of the things they’ve changed are good, like the rivetted pen loop on the back cover. But the very fact that their current lineup of notebooks ONLY includes 160gsm paper is a testament to the fact that they aren’t making wise decisions. They changed the paper because their “vocal few” insisted that they get thicker paper so they abandoned their 100gsm option completely. Until that is, the outcry from those who didn’t want thicker paper convinced them that they needed to bring back the 100gsm paper. And if you’ve been following along on their social media, they’ve got a whole new version of their notebooks in development that is not actually a notebook at all (notebook covers with softcover paper inserts). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Scribbles That Matter has jumped the shark. Can they survive the jump? That remains to be seen.

Tekukor

These guys have done it exactly right. Tekukor started with a single notebook-style (dotted) in a single cover color (black). They produced the best product they could and offered it to the world. Only have they saw success with that one option did they expand their line to include more cover colors. Then they added another smaller size. Then experimented with Tomoe River paper (one of my favorites) and now the addition of 160gsm paper notebooks is a logical expansion. I think the owners of Tekukor are smart and being strategic with their growth. I’m excited to see what they do next.

Scribbles That Matter

Do I have to say it again? I’m worried about Scribbles That Matter and whether the company will survive their insistence on listening to the vocal few of their user base. Quite often users are not the right people to listen to when it comes to making major product development changes in your line of notebooks. Yes, some of the things they’ve changed are good, like the rivetted pen loop on the back cover. But the very fact that their current lineup of notebooks ONLY includes 160gsm paper is a testament to the fact that they aren’t making wise decisions. They changed the paper because their “vocal few” insisted that they get thicker paper so they abandoned their 100gsm option completely. Until that is, the outcry from those who didn’t want thicker paper convinced them that they needed to bring back the 100gsm paper. And if you’ve been following along on their social media, they’ve got a whole new version of their notebooks in development that is not actually a notebook at all (notebook covers with softcover paper inserts). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Scribbles That Matter has jumped the shark. Can they survive the jump? That remains to be seen.

Tekukor

These guys have done it exactly right. Tekukor started with a single notebook-style (dotted) in a single cover color (black). They produced the best product they could and offered it to the world. Only have they saw success with that one option did they expand their line to include more cover colors. Then they added another smaller size. Then experimented with Tomoe River paper (one of my favorites) and now the addition of 160gsm paper notebooks is a logical expansion. I think the owners of Tekukor are smart and being strategic with their growth. I’m excited to see what they do next.

THE WINNERS AND LOSERS

I’ve brought all of the test results together in a single list. We’ve got some patterns emerging, right?

Pen Test Standings

  • GOLD MEDAL – QiHeng
  • SILVER MEDAL – Eclectic Scribbles and Tekukor
  • BRONZE MEDAL – Scribbles That Matter and Archer & Olive
  • NO MEDAL – Buke Notebooks

Art Supply Test Standings

  • GOLD MEDAL – QiHeng and Tekukor
  • SILVER MEDAL – Buke Notebooks and Eclectic Scribbles
  • BRONZE MEDAL – Archer & Olive  (and they only got a medal because I felt sorry for them)
  • NO MEDAL – Scribbles That Matter

Fountain Pen & Feathering Test Standings

  • GOLD MEDAL – QiHeng
  • SILVER MEDAL – Eclectic Scribbles, Buke Notebooks and Tekukor
  • BRONZE MEDAL – Scribbles That Matter (due to smoothness of writing)
  • NO MEDAL – Archer & Olive

So far I haven’t mentioned the scoring system I used in the individual journal posts. You’ll want to head over to each one and see the details of each test and how the notebook scored out of a possible 100%. The medal standings above don’t tell the full story, so I want to include below the final scoring tally that each notebook received so you can see how far apart the performance was. 

WINNER & LOSERS REVIEW SCORES

QiHeng

90%

Overall Review Score

Tekukor

84%

Overall Review Score

Buke Notebooks

77%

Overall Review Score

Eclectic Scribbles

74%

Overall Review Score

Scribbles That Matter

67%

Overall Review Score

Archer & Olive

55%

Overall Review Score

CONCLUSION

Whew! We’ve made it to the end. This review was a monster to complete and took me months longer than I first thought it would take. 

This is also the most expensive review I’ve done so far. I purchased each one of these journals with my own hard-earned money – they were not given to for free from the companies. I prefer that method of acquiring journals because it ensures that I’m being 100% honest, transparent, and raw in my reviews. I don’t like being influenced, even subconsciously, by the fact that I’ve been given free stuff. 

By the time I finished buying all these journals, it came out to around $130. Ouch! Kind of pricey for a set of notebooks that I really don’t plan to use for any of my everyday journaling (I’ll need to figure out what to do with them in the future). 

NOTE: I’m not opposed to receiving free products for review, it’s just that those reviews are harder for me to write because of that potential for some level of subconscious bias. That’s why I always disclose how I acquired the products I share with you. 

It’s clear from the standings that QiHeng is the winner in the performance categories. The construction and durability of the QiHeng notebook are outstanding and the paper is better than any of the other options. 

Tekukor and Eclectic Scribbles are also at the top of the heap and either one would make a great choice. Of course, I’m partial to Tekukor but I’ll refrain from lobbying for my favorite brand (you can’t go wrong with Tekukor). But the artwork on Eclectic Scribbles is pretty cool and if you’re looking for a notebook that stands out from the crowd, this is the one to pick. 

LET’S CHAT

I’d love to know which notebook you love the most. Were you surprised by any of the test results? Do you know of any other 160gsm paper notebooks that I didn’t find in my digging? Let me know what it is so I can check it out too. 

Leave a comment below and we’ll continue this conversation.

Kitty Outtakes

No review is complete without kitties getting into a picture or two. Here’s Jack napping under the warm lights of the photo table.