Buke 160gsm Notebook Review  | Introduction

Do you need to spend $35 on a notebook with 160gsm paper? Or can you find one that costs less than $12? I’m here to tell you some very good news and tell you all about the Buke Notebooks journal with 160gsm paper … and that you can get this notebook for less than $12.

Imagine my surprise when I was just browsing AliExpress for the latest stationery goodies (no, you’re not the only one who does that!) and the wise algorithm gremlins showed me this 160gsm paper dotted notebook. It caught my eye because the label looked suspiciously familiar and I was just curious enough to hit the Buy Now button. Then 13 days later it was in my hot little hands! (I love it when Aliexpress sellers have super fast shipping.)

What’s interesting about the Buke Notebooks brand is that they are the maker rather than just a company that has something manufactured. It’s a factory who is selling directly to consumers. That explains why the price is so low! From my research, it looks like this is the company that you’d go to if you want to buy a pallet of custom-designed notebooks to sell in your retail store or online shop.

Of course, when I saw the notebook and browsed through their store it made me wonder if this was a fly-by-night type of company. But Aliexpress does a really good job of vetting their store owners and giving buyers a ton of information to help us evaluate if a seller is trustworthy and has good ratings. The Buke Notebook Store has been open on Aliexpress for 5 years with a customer service rating of 99.2%.

But how is the notebook, Pam? Is it worth the wait? How did it perform in the tests? OK, OK, OK… I hear you. Let’s jump into this review.

This is NOT a sponsored review … but you can still support me

Affiliate Advertising Disclosure

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.

Features & Specs

Before we get too far into this review, let’s talk about what this notebook is called and what’s available in their lineup. The name of the company is Buke Notebooks. It appears that the name of these notebooks is “Owl Bullet Journals.” So what do we call it? I’ve been calling it Buke but I wonder if I should actually call it Owl. What do you think? If we call it Owl, then the gold owl emblem on the front cover makes more sense. Buke Owl Journal? Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Thankfully, the description on their Aliexpress listing is very good. So we’ve got specs to look at – but also scroll down to the bottom if you want even more detailed nerdy data.

There’s one satin bookmark ribbon and the cover is PU leather. The back document pocket is well made with ribbon-like gussets and a double-thickness of heavy cardstock to form the pocket. The pocket itself is quite “tall” – meaning that the top edge of the pocket opening goes all the way to the edge of the paper and butts into the spine of the book (this makes it a little difficult to quickly grab that opening to open it).

We have a standard elastic closure that feels strong and tight. The matching elastic pen loop is adhered to the inside back cover and wedged between the cover and the back pocket. The construction shows that the pen loop is well placed and doesn’t look or feel like it will break or fall out – no gap where the loop is glued in.

Page Style

Hardcover and softcover options both have rounded corners and contain 160 dotted pages. The dot grid is 5mm and the dot count is 40×27. The dots are a medium grey but fairly small so they aren’t too obtrusive on the page.

As mentioned, the paper is 160gsm and they are calling it “ultra paper” in their description.

There are 160 pages in all varieties of the notebook, however, the pages are not numbered. Typically in a notebook like this you have an opening page for contact information in case you lose your journal. However, this one came with a sticker that has that information printed instead – you can stick it in yourself. I kind of like this option because I’ve always thought that the contact information section should be on the inside of the front cover, not on that first page. The first page is the perfect place to put an inspirational quote or poem since that’s the page you see most often when you open your book every day.

It comes with a stencil… and an owl!

The Buke journal also comes with a little stencil. It’s plastic and sort of flimsy, but not as flimsy as some of the stencils I’ve purchased in those big 20-piece packs. You’ve got the alphabet, arrows, and a few symbol stencils that would come in handy for bullet journaling.

On the front cover of the journal is a gold blind embossed logo – the owl is actually kind of cute and I like the script of their branding… so I don’t hate the logo itself. I just don’t really like where and how it’s placed. On the back cover is the Buke Notebooks logo, also embossed in gold. I think I’d like to see both of these logos on the back of the notebook instead, but for the price, I’m not going to whine too much.

But wait, there’s more! Once you remove the band from the journal cover you’ll find on the backside a handy measuring tool with lots of great info. Line weight, angles and mm diameter references – a great little bonus!

Styles & Sizes Available

So there are actually three different Buke journals to choose from with 160gsm paper.

I purchased the gray hardcover A5 notebook (I hadn’t noticed the black with gold pages version otherwise I probably would have bought that one for a couple of dollars more). Thankfully, the description on their Aliexpress listing is very good. So we’ve got specs to look at – but also scroll down to the bottom if you want even more detailed nerdy data. But here’s a summary from the website.

 

Hardcover & Softcover – same interior specs

  • ultra paper, 160 g/m²,
  • 160 pages
  • 5x5mm dot grid
  • 143×205 mm for inner pages size
  • matching ribbon bookmark
  • lies flat, opens at 180°
  • fine pu leather cover
  • foil stamping in the gold color – owl logo
  • expandable inner pocket in the back
  • pen loop holder

Pen Test & Paper Quality 

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 including 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.

Below is the full list of pens along with links for each.

Normal Pen Test Results

I was pretty surprised about the performance of Buke Notebooks’ notebook. The ghosting on all pens is similar to what I’d see in a good quality 120gsm notebook with all the normal writing pens. In fact, I compared the ghosting results of Buke with the results of Scrivwell. They’re similar. Buke performs better than Scrivwell (120gsm paper). The ghosting isn’t horrible and in a normal review I’d consider this level of ghosting as “minimal” or “slight” at best. But I am expecting more from a notebook with 160gsm paper, right? However, look at the results of the art marker and Sharpie marker! There’s ghosting but no bleed-through! If I were only looking only those marker results, 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. The paper in Buke is not slick in such a way that it prevents ink from drying, though. This theory will hold true when we get to the part of about how each notebook stands up to the Feathering Test below.

It’s difficult to see the ghosting in the photos below because it’s so slight. But look at those markers! And also, the writing experience on this paper is outstanding! Gel pens are smooth … but then I grabbed a fountain pen to do a writing sample and I was blown away! This paper is SO SMOOTH… it’s buttery! And the shading of the fountain pen ink on this paper is similar to what I get with Tomoe River paper. This would make a great journal for those who love writing longhand diary entires because of how glorious it is to write on.

The scoring below (all the way at the very end of the page) has a section for the writing pen rating. If I were only rating the ghosting, this notebook would get about 25 points (out of 100). But taking into account the lack of bleed-through with alcohol markers and also the beautiful writing experience on the surface of the page, I’ve given Buke extra points.

Art Supplies & Paper Quality Archer & Olive Notebook

Art journaling is a huge consideration when it comes to a notebook that claims nothing will bleed through or ghosts on this paper. In fact, many of the videos you see in their marketing and advertising show heavily coated pages using various art supplies. One I recall seeing is where the entire page is painted in black paint then decorations are added on top of that paint. Very cool!  But is it true? Did I see the same results? Of course, I’m going to test it!

I’m a long-time crafter and scrapbooker so I’ve got a room full of art supplies (did you follow along with my Craft Room Cleanup last year?). I went on a treasure hunt to find as many different types of art supplies I could in a variety of different categories of media. These are all supplies I have used in my art journaling attempts in the past (“attempts” because no matter how much I try it just never looks all that great). Here’s a list of the supplies I’m testing:

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.

Art Supply Test Results

Wow! This notebook is amazing when it comes to art journaling. Not only does the Sharpie marker and alcohol art marker perform well (hardly any bleed-through at all, just ghosting), the other supplies passed the test too. Yes, we’ve got bleed-through with the alcohol ink and dye ink, but we expected that, right? 

Of the 10 art supplies tested, Buke passed all but the 4 hardest supplies giving it a rating of 60% success. Even the heavy swatch of fountain pen ink that gave other notebooks a bit of trouble did not bleed through at all. 

Pros & Cons

Let’s compare the pros and cons of this notebook and see how it measures up. 

PROS

  • The price for this notebook can’t be beat. For less than $12 you’re getting an outstanding 160gsm journal.
  • Art supplies are perfect for the paper in Buke Notebooks. The pages hold a lot of wet media and would be excellent as an art journal. 
  • The cover is super soft and feels good in the hand – plus the more I look at that cute owl on the cover, the more I like it. 
  • With hardcover or softcover options – this is perfect for both sides of the fence.
  • Fountain pens perform beautifully on this paper! So buttery smooth!

CONS

  • Because this notebook comes from an international marketplace, shipping can take a bit of extra time. I got mine in 13 days, but depending on where you are in the world, it might be more.
  • The normal pen test was a bit disappointing. The coated page allows the ink to sit on the surface so no bleed-through, but the ghosting is really bad for this weight of paper.

Conclusion

I love this notebook! It was a fun find while browsing on Aliexpress and I’m so happy it popped up on my recommendations list. I also love that this is a “direct from the factory” type of brand. The makers of the notebook are the ones you’re buying from without any interference from a middle-man – which allows us to get such an outstanding price. For around $12 you can’t beat this notebook. (Plus it comes with a couple nice bonuses, like a stencils!)

I wish the pen test was more successful but in the grand skeme of things, that ghosting isn’t all that terrible. Not when you take into consideration how well it holds up to other art mediums. So yes, it gets a low score for that category, but it is still getting a high score with everything else. 

I’m proud to give Buke Notebooks 160gsm journal the Stationery Nerd Seal of Approval.

Specs & Ratings

Below is a detailed chart with all the specs for this notebook. Plus I explain my rating system and give you the breakdown of the score for this notebook. Scroll down for more info.

Notebook BrandBUKE STATIONERY

Journal & Notebook Review Rating Scale

Yes, I know that review up there is super long! You know me... I'm long winded and I think you might want to know every single teeny tiny thing about this product. Sometimes you just need the facts summarized in an easy chart. That's what this part is. Below you'll see my score for this notebook. I've based my score on the following criteria. Open each toggle box below to read more about the scoring system I use. 

Notebook Features & Specs

Evaluates the available features of the line of notebooks including special pages included (contact page, index pages, pen tests, perforated pages); special features (bookmarks, back pocket); and additional features (special elastic closure, stickers, tools, pen loop).

  • 20 points • PLAIN JANE - notebook includes paper (and probably a cover) but that’s about it
  • 40 points • PURELY BASIC - notebook includes one or two features but not anything outstanding
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook includes some of the typical features but is missing some
  • 80 points • FULLY LOADED  - notebook includes all the typical features you’d expect in a notebook
  • 100 points • LUXURY  - notebook includes every feature you can imagine plus more

Notebook Construction & Durability

Evaluates the overall construction and build of the notebook or journal. Factors considered are binding and lay-flat design; cover durability; bookmark and back pocket stability; paper performance; and the overall feel of quality.

  • 20 points • VERY POOR - notebook is not recommended due to poor construction, performance, and stability
  • 40 points • BELOW AVERAGE -  notebook shows poor construction and has many areas that need improvement
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook shows an expected level of construction and adequate performance or durability
  • 80 points • ABOVE AVERAGE -  notebook shows good construction and is durable in all areas
  • 100 points • LUXURY - notebook shows superior quality in construction and durability; feel luxurious

NORMAL WRITING PENS TESTING

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. For this score I've based it on the level of ghosting and bleed-through of all the pens tested. 

  • 20 points • EXTREME - ghosting and bleed-through is so bad that you can’t write on the back of the page
  • 40 points • MAJOR - significant ghosting and bleed-through makes it difficult to write on the back of the page
  • 60 points • MODERATE - some ghosting and bleed-through is visible but writing over it is acceptable for some
  • 80 points • SLIGHT - barely visible ghosting or bleed-through and only with wet or heavy inks
  • 100 points • NO PROBLEMS - no visible ghosting or bleed-through at all

ART SUPPLY TEST RESULTS

I've thrown some tough art supplies at this notebook to see how far I could push the paper. I fully expected the alcohol-based materials to fail - there were 3 of the 10 that I expected all the notebooks in the 160gsm category to fail. Some surprised me and actually performed really well. The score in this category indicates how many art supplies PASSED the test. 

  • 10 art supplies were tested. Each supply is worth 10 points for a possible 100.
  • It is possible to be awarded partial points for a "nearly failed" or "nearly passed" supply test.

FEATHERING | CAPILLARY ACTION

Feathering is when the ink penetrates the fibers of the paper and spreads outward from the line just written. The feathering happens when ink from your pen is pulled into an absorbent paper via capillary action. Typically seen with uncoated or low-quality paper (i.e. newsprint or cheap school notebook paper) combined with wet ink or broad nib styles. 

  • 20 points  • EXTREME FEATHERING - the paper is so porous that ANY ink type feathers with every pen stroke. This is probably a paper towel or newsprint.
  • 40 points • MAJOR FEATHERING - any WET ink shows significant feathering with every pen stroke
  • 60 points • MODERATE FEATHERING - certain ink types show feathering but it’s not overly bothersome 
  • 80 points • SLIGHT FEATHERING - if you look closely you’ll see some periodic and insignificant feathering 
  • 100 points • NO FEATHERING - no feathering at all