Eclectic Scribbles 160gsm Mandala Notebook Review

As I was searching for every notebook I could find that had 160gsm paper, someone mentioned the Eclectic Scribbles journal they were using. So of course, I went on a hunt to figure out what the heck an “Eclectic Scribbles” was and why I hadn’t ever heard of that brand. As it turns out, it’s not actually a notebook brand at all. It’s an artist and she just happens to have some journals in her shop that have this high-quality paper I was searching for. It was a tough choice to pick which of her three cover styles I loved the most, but I settled on the one called “Mandala.”

Eclectic Scribbles is an online shop, community, and blog run by Amanda Moon. She inspires other artists to be creative and offers up her creations for sale in dozens of different ways. Everything from stickers, stencils, and washi tape to digital art tools for Procreate to keepsakes (including journals) that are graced with her beautiful artwork. Don’t see something you like – she also does custom commissioned work, too.

Let me tell you a bit about Amanda before we dive into this review. If you read the About Me page on her website, you’d think she was telling the story of MY life – we certainly have a lot of things in common. She has a degree in graphic design (me too!); she loves all different types of art and tends to hoard/collect more tools and supplies than she could ever use (me too!); she is a “jeans and comfy shirt” type of gal (me too!); she isn’t really a people person (me either!); and she has a younger sister who is crazier than her (me too!).  

But one of the most amazing things about Amanda is the battle she fights every day with her health. Brain tumors, social anxiety, OCD, fibromyalgia, migraines, and a few other not-so-fun ailments thrown in just to keep things interesting … she’s one tough woman! I love that she keeps coming back to art and that she shares it with the world. Including this journal that I’m going to review for you today!

So let’s get into it and discover what’s so great about this journal.

Features & Specs

As I mentioned above, the cover design of the Eclectic Scribbles notebook is a unique feature. The mandala 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 vinyl with a printed designed on it.

Eclectic Scribbles dots and stitching

The dots in Eclectic Scribbles are super tiny and very light grey – making them difficult to see.

And the best part of this cover is that it’s just black and white – no pre-determined color scheme. Which means it’s the perfect canvas for my own artistic additions… of course I took advantage of that opportunity and grabbed some Sharpies to add some color.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a massive collection of Sharpie markers that mostly go unused because those alcohol-based markers bleed through everything… but when you’ve got a cover and a non-porous surface, Sharpies are the perfect tool.

Let’s talk about the paper

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.


Other Features

You have all the usual features in this notebook that you’d expect. The elastic on this notebook is not super tight and has plenty of stretch to it. I imagine that when this notebook is filled up with fat pages of art journaling, notes and painting that the elastic will be the perfect amount of stretchiness for a filled-up notebook. There are two black satin ribbons but one of them has started to fray (I fixed 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.

I found it interesting that the back pocket was a bit shorter than normal. It’s not a bad thing, just different than what I see in most notebooks. It makes me wonder if this is a specific design decision or if it just came that way from the notebook manufacturer as a standard feature. 

Styles & Sizes Available by Eclectic Scribbles

The notebook by Eclectic Scribbles stands out as different than the rest of the 160gsm notebooks I’ve reviewed. The feature that stands out the most for this journal is the cover design. I bought the one called “Mandala” but there are two other options – “Zentangle” and “Steampunk” that are equally as awesome! The cover art is actually original artwork by Amanda at Eclectic Scribbles.

But it’s not just a pretty cover … the notebook is really good, too. Construction and durability of the notebook is right up there with any of the other notebooks I’ve reviewed. It feels solid and the sewn binding seems secure. I broke in the spine (like you’re supposed to with any new hardcover book), and the notebook lays flat without any problem.

The only size option you have is A5, which seems to be the standard size for bullet journalers so it was a good choice. As I mention I bought the cover called “Mandala” and it has a black/white design on the front — at least that is until I finish coloring it with my array of Sharpies!

Pen Test & Paper Quality 

I’ve tested 16-ish different normal writing pens in this journal. So before we dive into the test results, 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 (just click the “+” button to open each tab and see the list of supplies). 

Normal Pen Test Results

I was pretty impressed with the pen test results in Eclectic Scribbles! Look at the pictures below! WOW! Of the six different notebooks I tested with 160gsm paper, the Eclectic Scribbles paper performed at the top of the list. Only one other notebook had better test results, but even those standings were so close that this notebook could be tied for first place (the notebook in first place for pen testing was QiHeng).

Look closely at that Sharpie test and you’ll barely be able to see the ghosting on the page. We know that alcohol markers don’t perform well on any paper, no matter how thick it is. (That’s why they make special marker paper for stuff like that.) But not only did the Sharpie perform well, so did the Copic-style marker! Those green marks on the photo below only barely bled through the page. Very impressed, indeed!

I also tested fountain pens and how ink performs on the page. I used a few different pens and inks to make sure I was getting a reliable reading. I’m pleased to report that Eclectic Scribbles is very fountain pen friendly. Not only is the paper smooth to write on, but there’s no problem with feathering at all. The paper has a slight coating so the ink doesn’t soak into the paper and feather out into the paper fibers – which is also what helps those alcohol markers perform so well. Also below you can see that the ink I used has some nice shading properties and the paper helped to show that off nicely.

We pretty much expected these 160gsm paper notebooks to perform well in this test. This was an easy test. The hard test is coming up next. Art supplies! Oh boy…. let’s see how it did! 


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

A journal designed by an artist is bound to be a great option for art journaling, right?  Yep! And Eclectic Scribbled held up really well to my tough testing of art supplies. Of the 10 art supplies I tested only 4.5 of them failed – giving this notebook a solid score of 55% success. Let’s examine what we have here.

The alcohol-based art supplies all failed, as expected. The Sharpie and Copic markers on this page were put on heavier than they were on the pen testing pages, so once you start adding multiple layers of these markers, you start to get bleed-through. No big surprise. Also the liquid alcohol ink was a failure – but then again, every single notebook I tested in this series also failed that test.

So that leaves us with two other supplies that gave us problems… and neither one of them were all that bad. First the Dylusions Distress Spray ink, when applies straight out of the bottle, bled through the page a bit. That’s not the way you’d normally use that type of ink (it’s a spritzing bottle, but I didn’t spritz it because I wasn’t prepared for that big of a mess!) so to have it applied straight to the page and bleed through is not unexpected. But for the amount of ink I put on that spot, the bleeding was pretty minor.

The other problem area was the Noodler’s Apache Sunset ink. I applied it with a paint brush. I don’t know why I used a paint brush on this journal – most of the others I use a cotton swab. Mmm…. odd, Pam! But the result was a very heavy application of fountain pen ink. Obviously that’s not how you’d use that supply, but it’s a good test to determine if this notebook would be a good option to use as a swatching book or pen/ink inventory journal. This is where that half-point comes into play. Because I was unduly heavy-handed with this one, I only deducted five the points for this, not the full 10 points. (Each art supply is worth 10 points giving it a possible score of 100.)

 

Overall, I’m really impressed with the performance of this notebook and how well it stood up to the supplies I threw at it. This would definitely be a great option for art journaling! 


Pros & Cons

Let’s look at my thoughts on some of the good and bad things about the Eclectic Scribbles 160gsm notebook. 

PROS

  • The price is right! At only $20-ish you can’t beat such the price for such a high-quality journal.
  • I love supporting artists and having a piece of their creations as part of my life.
  • The covers are adorable! I also love that you can color the black/white design with Sharpies and personalize the notebook for your own design taste.
  • The paper is great and holds up to a lot of different pens and art supplies.

CONS

  • I’m concerned about how small and nearly-invisible the dots on the page appear. It’s definitely difficult to see the grid unless you’re right on top of the page.
  • The bookmark fraying issue could be a concerned in the future if the ribbons don’t hold up to normal daily use. It was an easy fix to stop the fraying and I hope it holds.

Conclusion

I’m so happy I found this notebook… but more importantly, I’m thrilled that someone introduced me to the entire Eclectic Scribbles community. I love Amanda’s artwork and I love her story. If you don’t already follow her Instagram account, you should go over there and check it out now!Stationery Nerd Approved Seal

Which of the cover designs do you like the best? You know Jack and Pounce (the official Stationery Nerd kitties) would love the Steampunk Cat journal. Maybe they need their own bullet journal? You know… to keep track of vet appointments, vaccines, visits to grandma’s house and of course which cat food they’re going to turn their nose up to this week. 

The Eclectic Scribbles 160gsm notebook received the Stationery Nerd Seal of Approval.

Stationery Nerd Kitty

And of course, no Stationery Nerd review would be complete without a “kitty outtake” – so here’s Pounce trying to steal the show during the photo shoot!

Notebook BrandECLECTIC SCRIBBLES

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