Introduction

In my quest to find the perfect A5 bullet Journal notebook I ended up buying 24-ish different notebooks. Yes, 24. So grab a pot of coffee (you’ll need more than a cup) and a snack and let’s dig into this review, pen test and nerdy commentary about the notebooks we all know and love.

So let me restate — I’m reviewing 24-ish notebooks here. I say “ish” because I’m only reviewing 24 here today. There are more. I have a few that didn’t even make the cut because I discovered they were no longer being manufactured (or maybe I just couldn’t find a way to purchase them online), so those 4 didn’t make it to the final list. There are also some non-traditional notebooks I’ve picked up in my quest that will have their own series of reviews – those include spiral bound books, some composition notebooks worthy of bullet journaling…and maybe a few other journals I want to tell you about – but we’ll save those for another day. Today, we’re just going to tackle these 24.

First I should probably state the obvious here … put it out in the open so you don’t have to wonder or start rumors. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to stationery products. There. I said it. Happy now? Let’s move on then.

Here are a few housekeeping things to keep in mind…

Tips for easy navigation

This post is very long. VERY long. With two dozen journals to review, there’s a lot of words to describe all those journals. And there are a lot of pictures. A LOT of pictures. Plus there’s a downloadable spreadsheet with the specs for all these notebooks and plenty of nerdy commentary about all the journals I tested and the pens I used to test them. So with all that said, I want to introduce you to the table of contents and the “back to top” button.

Use the Table of Contents above to navigate around on this page. You’re welcome to read the entire thing straight through, it’ll take about 45 minutes. But the easiest way to review the information here is to click on the section you want to read in the Table of Contents, then use the “back to top” button to get back to the list again and go to the next section. The “back to top” button is a little gray arrow that appears in the bottom right corner of your screen once you scroll past the first section of the page, just click it and it will fly you back to the top.

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

Something else you should know is that this post is NOT sponsored by any notebook manufacturer, brand or seller.  Nobody gave me notebooks for free. Nobody paid me. Nobody promised me roses or steak dinners to write nice things about them. Everything here is my honest personal opinion. I purchased all these notebooks/journals myself with my own hard earn (and quickly spent) money. I truly have been on a quest to find the right notebook for my own personal use and it got a little out of hand. But in the interest of supporting my stationery hoarding habit, some of the links below are actually affiliate links to Amazon. Making a purchase in this way helps to support this website and my ability to provide you with additional reviews of products in the future. Thank you for your support.

Just the Facts Ma’am

If you want to get straight to the specs of each notebook without all the narrative and photos below, you can download the comprehensive spreadsheet right now. Just add your email address to gain access to the file. You’ll be subscribed to the newsletter and get updates on new product reviews like this one.


Notebook Specs I Wanted in my Next Bullet Journal

Before we jump in I want to tell you what the criteria were as I was searching for a notebook.

This all started when I started carrying a notebook with me everywhere about seven months ago. I’ve always carried notebooks but suddenly it had become an everyday necessity. I had developed my own task management and life organizing system over the years, but one day a friend point out that what I was doing was called “bullet journaling,” which sent me down a rabbit hole of discovery. So I started calling my journal a bullet journal (even though I didn’t play by all the rules – see my Hybrid Bullet Journal System here) and continued to use my journal to keep track of my daily tasks, thoughts, interesting tidbits or quotes, and even for taking notes when I listened to a podcast (another obsession of mine) or read a book. The journal I was carrying was just one I already had in my stash and just pulled off the shelf and started using it (the Green Inspired Journal in the photo below also has a full review on the list). Then at the end of May, I made a purchase of a Galen Leather handcrafted notebook cover. By the first of June, the first notebook has been purchased and the pen testing began!

We’re NOT going to discuss my obsession with leather in this post. But let’s just say that it’s real. Just look at this notebook cover. I’m sure you can understand the obsession.

Galen Leather A5 Notebook Cover

I knew my next journal needed to meet a specific set of requirements to even make it to my shopping cart. Since I was spending my own money on these, I needed to be highly selective in the notebooks I purchased to test. The list of requirements for my perfect notebook are:

  • SIZE – It needed to be A5 size to fit the new leather notebook cover.
  • LINES OR DOTS – I prefer a lined notebook as opposed to a blank sketchbook or dot grid. Although I do love dots in certain circumstances, so dots weren’t completely out of the running if something caught my eye. It’s interesting that I started this search looking exclusively for lines but ended up choosing a dotted notebook as the winner for my own use.
  • COVER – A beautiful cover is a bonus. If it’s something that I enjoy holding in my hand for the next several months, it’d have a better chance of being chosen. We’re not talking color here, this is about how it FEELS in my hand, the material from which it’s made and how sturdy the notebook construction might be over the time I use it.
  • PAPER – The biggest and most important factor is the paper. High quality, smooth paper that doesn’t show any ghosting or bleeding is essential. I don’t want to be restricted by which pen I use, so the paper needed to deal with any of my most trusted pens (we’ll talk about those in a minute).

So now that the requirements were settled I started searching. I watched review videos on YouTube, I read reviews on individual notebook listings on Amazon, and I even scoured all of the bullet journal guru websites to find out which journal they were using.

What I found was that almost universally everyone was using the Leuchtturm1917 dotted notebook and they loved it beyond measure. In fact, the creator of the Bullet Journal system, Ryder Carroll, even had a special edition version of the Leuchtturm1917 with the Bullet Journal branding on the cover. So I took a closer look at the brand and specs of that notebook. I was skeptical because the paperweight didn’t seem to be a good quality at 80 gsm. And seeing pen test results online concerned me because of the ghosting and bleeding. But I decided to give it a try anyway. My full review is below.

That’s where things started going downhill. I trusted the Bullet Journal gurus to tell me the truth. But when I saw the results of my own initial pen tests, I realized that those gurus were probably being paid to say nice things about a notebook that had really bad paper and was overpriced for such poor paper quality.

Then I fell victim to the same notebook “experts” who were raving about UberWorks notebooks. YouTubers and bloggers were so excited about how great these notebooks were, so I jumped on that bandwagon too. My full review of Uber Works is also below.

I kept being disappointed whenever I listened to someone else’s review of a notebook. I was tired of being duped. So I dug in and did what I did best. I researched, tested, evaluated, compared, and bought more notebooks than any one girl could use in a lifetime …. and here we are now.

After a couple unhappy starts to my notebook hunt I decided to get serious about specs. From here on out I was not going to try any notebook that had less than 100 GSM paper. I found several that meet the requirements and started placing orders. What I have for you below is a comprehensive review of all of the notebooks that I have collected, where they came from, how to find them yourself and what details you need to know about their quality and usefulness as a  bullet journal, art journal, or writing journal.

Vocabulary and Glossary of Terms

I want to make sure we all know what we’re talking about before we get too far into this review. So let’s start with some vocabulary.

  • GSM – grams per square meter – this is a measure of the paperweight. The higher the number, the thicker the paper.
  • GHOSTING – when you can see the writing from the previous page on the next blank page. Sometimes ghosting is minor and unobtrusive. Often it’s a major problem and can interfere with the writing you put on the following page. Some people aren’t bothered by ghosting, Personally, I hate it. I want a clean, fresh, unblemished page to write on.
  • BLEEDING – when the ink from your pen or marker soaks through the paper and appears on the following page or stains the next sheet in the notebook. Bleeding is always bad. I don’t know anyone who says they like or tolerate bleed-through.
  • FEATHERING – when the ink spreads along the fibers of the paper and creates a feathered appearance along the line you drew. This usually happens when you have uncoated (matte) paper.
  • NOTEBOOK vs. JOURNAL – for the purposes of this review, I’ll be using these two terms interchangeably. If you want to get technical about the etymology of the words, journal is derived from the French term jour – meaning day. So a notebook is a blank book whereas a journal is a notebook that you write in each day. But that seems like splitting hairs here, so we’re just going to pretend they mean the same thing for now. Okay?

Pens and Markers and Highlighters! Oh, My!

Pens and markers in pen test

Let’s talk about pens. I’m a “black pen” type of gal. I don’t use colors pens or markers in my journal…. Well, I do once in awhile, but not often. I like a dark black ink – not heavy or wet, but true black. I also use highlighters in my journal. Usually just pink and green (you can learn more about why highlighters are so important in my journaling process by checking out the Pastel Highlighter Showdown).

Each journal in this review was put through a pen test to find out how well the paper stood up to a variety of ink types. This includes a collection of the pens I use regularly along with the two highlighters I’ve used in my journals that have the wettest, heaviest ink coverage:


Mega Bullet Journal & Notebook Review

And now the mega bullet journal notebook review, in alphabetical order by brand name. As a reminder, this is an unbiased, unpaid, unsponsored, no-BS review of these notebooks. If you see any mistakes or oversights as you’re reading through it, give me a shout and I’ll take a look and make corrections. 

Hardcover Notebooks

Because this review is so epic – no really, it’s truly amazing! – I had to split up the full journal review into two main sections. Hardcover notebooks and soft cover notebooks. I’ve listed them below in alphabetical order.

You can read the whole review in all its epicness, or you can take the sane road and just jump to a specific brand you’re considering. Or if you’re really brave, just jump to the bottom where I tell you which notebook I finally decided to use for my everyday bullet journal … and what I’m going to do with all the other ones.

Hardcover A5 journals in this review include:

  • Artist’s Loft – available locally at Michael’s
  • Exceed Hardcover Book – may be available locally at Walmart (probably discontinued)
  • Green Inspired Journal – available locally at Target
  • Lemome Classic Ruled Notebook
  • Lemome Dotted bullet journal
  • Lemome Cork Cover ruled notebook
  • Leuchtturm 1917
  • Markings by C.R. Gibson – Bulleting Log Journal
  • Moleskine Classic Collection
  • Peter Pauper Press Essentials
  • Picadilly
  • Scribbles That Matter
  • Superior Maker Notebook
  • Tekukor
  • UberWorks LUFT
  • UberWorks GAYA

Artist’s Loft Hardcover Journal

<<<PHOTO COMING SOON>>>

  • Key Features: great low-budget starter option with OK paper
  • Size: 8″ x 6″  |  203mm x 152mm
  • Cover: hardcover  |  8+ color options
  • Binding: sewn
  • Pages: 249
  • Additional features:  index pages (4)
  • Page styles available: dotted | lined
  • Paper Quality: 80gsm
  • Ghosting? moderate to heavy ghosting
  • Bleeding? some bleed-through
  • Feathering? no feathering

My general thoughts:

This journal is brand new on the market and it’s only $5. You can buy it at your local Michael’s store or on Michael’s website. It comes in dotted or lined and is a great starter journal or those on a budget. The paper is only 80gsm and the ghosting is pretty bad with some of the wetter pens. However, if you’re looking for a practice journal or a special collections only journal, this is a great option. I’ve been wanting to practice my penmanship and learn how to do brush lettering – so maybe this will be the journal to use for that. Overall this is a solid choice for form and function. The cover is good quality and the binding seems to be solid. The pages are numbered and the dots are super light gray (on a bright white page). For a $5 journal, I’m definitely impressed.


Exceed Hardcover Book

StationeryNerd_Exceed Journal Review

  • Key Features: great low-budget starter option
  • Size: 5” x 8.25” (13 x 21 cm) – not true A5 size
  • Cover: PU leatherette, hard
  • Binding: sewn binding
  • Pages: 120 sheets (240 pages)
  • Additional features: bookmark (extra long), back pocket
  • Page styles available: lined | dotted | blank
  • Paper Quality: approximately 70gsm
  • Ghosting? Yes, very bad
  • Bleeding? Yes, even with pens that don’t normally bleed
  • Feathering? Yes, but only on the wettest inks

My general thoughts:

There’s a craze going through the bullet journal community right about these notebooks. You can find them in the Back to School section at your local Walmart store… well, I should say, some local Walmart stores. Lots of people can’t find them, or can only find the lined version (like I did), but can’t find the dotted version in various cover colors. Why the craze? It’s the price. This notebook only costs $6.64, so it’s a great budget option. This would also work for a “practice” book — some bullet journalers like to play around with spread options before they commit to recreating it in their main bullet journal. But if you’re looking for high-quality paper that doesn’t bleed or ghost, you might want to spend a few extra bucks and buy something online instead. The pen test on this failed miserably and I wouldn’t be able to use it for my main bullet journal because of the ghosting on my favorite pens. If I used a pencil or a thin ballpoint pen, this might be a great notebook option.

Something else to remember is that this is a seasonal item. I’m sure once the 2017 Back to School season is over, Walmart will no longer be carrying this notebook. So if you really want to use this one, go find it now and buy a bunch of them.  For a starter or practice notebook, it’s fine. Use pencil or light ballpoint pen in this to avoid ghosting and bleed-through.


Green Inspired Chipboard Exposed Binding Journal

StationeryNerd_GreenInspired Journal Review

  • Key Features: only available locally at Target. Heavy paper with fun quotes on the cover.
  • Size: 8.25″ x 5″  |  210mm x 130mm
  • Cover: hard with multiple sayings options
  • Binding:  sewn with exposed spine in accent color
  • Pages: ~180
  • Page styles available: lined
  • Paper Quality: ~110gsm
  • Ghosting? No ghosting with most pens and markers
  • Bleeding? No bleeding
  • Feathering? Smooth paper, no feathering

My general thoughts:

This was my first official “bullet journal” (even though I’ve kept task management notebooks for years, we’ll just call this the first since it was during this notebook that I discovered the term). The exposed spine with the accent color is a fun feature. Some might not like that the colored band extends to the inside of the spine so it takes up about ¼” on the edge of each page, but I found it didn’t bother me. The chipboard cover has an embossed quote in the accent color too.

I had a bit of a problem with the cover wanting to split away from the spine but a few dabs of E6000 glue and an hour with a binder clip to hold it in place fixed the problem. Normally if a notebook comes apart like that on me, I’d be inclined to throw it away – but I love this notebook so much that I just patched it up and moved on. I’m sure the problem was because I stuffed my journal with stuff and it just got too fat for its britches.

I have two of these notebooks – one in blue with the saying “Today is the Day” (my main bujo) and the other in lime green with the saying “Life is what you make it.” I use the green one as my learning journal where I keep notes from classes, books, podcasts or seminars I attend.


Lemome Eco-Friendly Natural Cork Notebook

StationeryNerd_Lemome Cork Journal Review

  • Key Features: natural cork cover, all pages are perforated
  • Size:  8.4″ x 5.7″
  • Cover:  hard | natural cork fabric cover (does that mean the fabric is made from cork? Not sure.)
  • Binding: sewn | 180° lay flat spine
  • Pages: 192
  • Additional features: all pages are perforated
  • Page style available: lined | blank
  • Paper Quality: 120gsm
  • Ghosting? None at all
  • Bleeding? None at all
  • Feathering? None at all

My general thoughts:

You can’t go wrong with any notebook by Lemome. I’m so impressed with their paper quality and the 180° lay flat spine construction is truly amazing. This means you don’t need to break in your notebook to make the pages lay flat – it does it straight out of the box. Speaking of box… it’s such a classy feature that all the Lemome notebooks come in a black box with a plastic shrink wrap around the whole thing. It definitely protects the notebook during shipping and makes for a special unboxing experience. The cover on this is glorious! It’s not real cork (at least I don’t think it is), it is some type of super soft and durable material with a cork pattern printed on it. It’s a notebook I want to keep touching. It gets bonus points for the cover alone.

The unique thing about this notebook is that all the pages are perforated so you can tear out a single sheet without ruining the entire binding (I’ve done it, I’m sure you have too, but let’s not talk about those silly mistakes). I’m a lined-notebook kind of gal, so this one is ideal for me because it only comes in lined or blank pages. But if you prefer dots, check out the next notebook on the list.


Lemome Thick Classic Notebook

StationeryNerd_Lemome Classic Journal Review

  • Key Features: suede-like cover with pen loop on the cover
  • Size:  8.4″ x 5.7″
  • Cover:  hard | soft suede-like fabric
  • Binding: sewn | 180° lay flat spine
  • Pages: 180
  • Additional features: comes with label stickers
  • Page style available: dotted | lined | squared | blank
  • Paper Quality: 120gsm
  • Ghosting? None at all
  • Bleeding? None at all
  • Feathering? None at all

My general thoughts:

I love this paper quality! The pen test is amazing and you can’t even see any ghosting for any of the pens – even the wettest inks. The lines in this are dashed and gray, so they have a subtle appearance. There are 23 lines spaced 8mm – so it’s definitely wide-ruled. I suspect I got a bad apple in this notebook because I haven’t seen any mention of the problem I have in any reviews – but the cover is slightly askew. It’s like it was accidentally glued on crooked so it sits back from the page edge by a tiny bit. Once I fill it up and start using it, I’m sure that wouldn’t be an issue, but it’s something to note. The pen loop on the spine is interesting and clever. I like the concept, but you pretty much can’t open the book to use it if there’s a pen in that loop, so it becomes impractical for those of us who use more than one pen during a planning session.  The cover has a suede-like finish. It’s soft to the touch but very rigid for a solid hardcover.  Overall, a very good notebook.


Lemome Bullet Journal

StationeryNerd_Lemome BuJo Journal Review

  • Key Features: debossed tree on cover, bonus pack with pen and ruler
  • Size:  8.4″ x 5.7″
  • Cover:  hard | PU leather
  • Binding: sewn
  • Pages: 185
  • Additional features: comes with label stickers
  • Page style available: dotted
  • Paper Quality: 100gsm
  • Ghosting? Some ghosting 
  • Bleeding?  Only bleed-through on wettest inks (Bic 730R)
  • Feathering? None at all

My general thoughts:

Because I loved the previous Lemome notebook so much, I wanted to see if this one stood up to the high quality of paper and construction. The cover is a faux leather with a debossed tree on the front. It also has a pen look, which doesn’t come with many of the brands I’m reviewing here today. This one is dotted and it came with a great pen (I was expecting a cheapo pen, but this is very nice and I actually love it!).

The paper quality is pretty good, but not great. Note that this version of Lemome notebook comes with 100gsm paper, rather than the 120gsm that is in the other models I tried above. I was disappointed that there was some minor ghosting of the darker ink colors and wettest inks but it still stood up fairly well to the pen test. It’s still a good notebook choice and I’d probably use it and adapt my pen usage to accommodate the ghosting. The pages are dotted and numbers and have a slew of fun bonus pages at the front for annual planning, goal setting, and future logging.


Leuchtturm 1917 Dotted Bullet Journal

StationeryNerd_Leuchtturm1917 Journal Review

  • Key Features: it’s the most popular choice among bullet journalers, not great paper though
  • Size: 5.8” x 8.25” – true A5 size
  • Cover: hardcover, multiple colors available
  • Binding: sewn binding
  • Pages: 249 pages
  • Additional features: 2 bookmarks, back pocket, index pages at front
  • Page style reviewed: dot grid / dotted
  • Paper Quality: 80gsm, smooth, coated
  • Ghosting? Yes, moderate to heavy ghosting with most pens
  • Bleeding? Yes, for some of the wettest inks
  • Feathering? No, the coated paper prevents feathering on wet inks

My general thoughts:

Yes, this is the most popular bullet journal in the planner community, but I am not impressed with the paper quality and will not choose this for my everyday bullet journal. In fact, I’m very disappointed with the amount of raving reviews I see and when I compare what everyone says about this notebook with the reality of my own review, it makes me wonder how many of those online reviews are a result of paid endorsements. These raving reviews of poor quality paper have made me suspicious of the entire bullet journal guru community and instilled a level of mistrust that probably perpetuated this entire 28-notebook epic review situation. <sigh> Yes, the notebook itself is well made and high-quality binding, cover, and bookmarks – but the paper is lightweight and the ghosting on the pages is a serious problem for me. I bought one, but I probably won’t be using it for bullet journaling.

In my unpaid, unsponsored opinion…. skip this one and go for something with at least 100gsm paper. There are plenty on this list at a much lower price point that are higher quality choices.


Markings by C.R. Gibson Bulleting Log Journal

StationeryNerd_Markings Journal Review

  • Key Features: Great page layout for square grid notebook, lots of resource pages, and a free ruler! Only available from Office Depot.
  • Size:  8.5″ x 6″
  • Cover:   hardcover  |  leatherette
  • Binding: sewn
  • Pages: 240
  • Additional features:  annual calendars, time zone map, measurement conversion chart, plastic ruler
  • Page styles available:  square grid with date bar along top of each page
  • Paper Quality:  ~70gsm (maybe 60gsm – I couldn’t find this data)
  • Ghosting?  Yes, heavy ghosting
  • Bleeding?  Yes, heavy bleeding
  • Feathering? Yes, some feathering

My general thoughts:
I admit it, this was an impulse buy that I probably shouldn’t have purchased. But when I saw that it was only $9.99 and it had a nice plastic ruler that came with it, I figured I’d throw it into this review for the fun of it. I knew as soon as I felt the paper that the quality wasn’t good and it would fail the pen test miserably (it did). I even tried ballpoint pen and it just shows through completely. I guess if you only use one side of each page it’d work for someone at an office.

The great thing about this notebook that I wish others would adapt (or at least provide as an option) is all the extra information on the inside covers (front and back). Not only do you have a two-year annual calendar on the inside front cover, but you’ve also got a quick reference time zone map for the United States and a measurement conversion chart in the inside back cover. The plastic ruler also works as a bookmark since it sits higher than the page size – but if you prefer, there’s a small pocket on the inside back cover designed to hold the ruler in place.

I’d love this notebook if the paper was a heavier weight and didn’t show through all the pens I’ve used to write in it. Maybe if you’re a pencil-type of journaler it’d be idea.   Buy this journal at Office Depot.


Moleskine Classic Notebook

StationeryNerd_Moleskine Journal Review

  • Key Features: The Moleskine name carries a lot of weight in the art world and excellent journal construction is a key feature of this line of notebooks
  • Size:  8.25″ x 5″
  • Cover:  hardcover with 9+ color options
  • Binding: sewn
  • Pages: 240
  • Additional features:  dots go all the way to the edge of the page
  • Page styles available:  dotted  |  lined  |  squared  |  blank (and a variety of artist journals also available)
  • Paper Quality: 70gsm
  • Ghosting?  Yes, terrible ghosting – making the backside of each page unusable
  • Bleeding?  Yes, even with pens that normally don’t bleed elsewhere
  • Feathering? None that I’ve seen, the paper has a coating for fountain pen writing

My general thoughts:

We all love Moleskine because they brought the idea of carrying a notebook around with you everywhere to the mainstream. The name recognition and reputation seem to carry this brand – I say that because the paper quality alone wouldn’t hold up in a lesser known brand name. I have an old soft cover Moleskine from years ago and when I pulled it out to do this review and compare it to my newly purchased hardcover Classic, I see that the paper is still the same as it was all those years ago. In an attempt to make that old notebook useable, I had started to glue two pages together just so I could use both sides of a page. I abandoned using that old notebook and ended up using it to practice doodles and scribbles with new pens.

On the other hand – if you are in the market for a good artist sketchbook or watercolor notebook, definitely look to Moleskine. I have a mini watercolor notebook and love the paper quality in that one.


Peter Pauper Press Essentials Notebook

StationeryNerd_Peter Pauper Press Journal Review

  • Key Features: just like the name implies, this is a solid notebook with all the basic features you need in a good journal at a great price
  • Size:   True A5 | 8.25″ x 5.75″   |  210mm x 145mm
  • Cover: hardcover with 2 color options
  • Binding: sewn
  • Pages: 192
  • Page styles available:  dotted  |  lined
  • Paper Quality: 100gsm
  • Ghosting?  Minimal ghosting
  • Bleeding?  No bleeding
  • Feathering? No feathering

My general thoughts:

I have the lined version of this notebook and love that it’s narrow ruled with light gray lines. It’s a great economical choice but you’re not skimping on quality.  This notebook is in my top 5 choices and I love the way it feels in my hand – which sounds strange but for some reason I just like holding this one. It feels solid and substantial but comfortable and friendly. The paper is a light ivory which almost reads as pure white if you’re not holding it up to printer paper (which is a nice reprieve from all the cream and dark ivory in the pile). This might seem like a journal that’s for the budget level journaler, but don’t let the low price point fool you – this journal will stand up to the big boys on the playground for sure!


Picadilly Essential Notebook

StationeryNerd_Picadilly Journal Review

  • Key Features: tried and true notebook brand that’s been around forever
  • Size: 8.3″ x 5.1″  |  206mm x 127mm
  • Cover:  hard  |  17+ color options
  • Binding:  sewn
  • Pages: 240
  • Page styles available:  lined  |  squared  |  blank
  • Paper Quality: 80gsm
  • Ghosting?  Yes, heavy ghosting
  • Bleeding?  Yes, heavy bleed through
  • Feathering? No

My general thoughts:

There’s always this discount bookstore at the outlet mall and they seem to have a whole section of Picadilly notebooks – that’s where I picked up my copy. This brand has been around forever and I remember it from my teen years (which was only about 3 years ago, right?). The footprint of this notebook is narrower than a true A5 notebook so you’ve got less space to write, but it seems more portable than some of the others. I like that the lines are narrow and the ink of the lines isn’t too dark so it feels good to write on the pages. There must be a coating on the paper because even the heaviest of inks doesn’t feather on the page. If you’re looking for something that has a small form factor and works fine with lightweight pens (like the Sharpie Pen or ballpoint ink) this is a great option.


Scribbles That Matter

StationeryNerd_ScribblesThatMatter Journal Review

  • Key Features: iconic doodles on the front, fun color combinations, great paper quality, new notebook company
  • Size:  True A5 – 8.25″ x 5.75″   |  210mm x 145mm
  • Cover: two options:  Iconic (all over doodles pattern) |  Pro (plain cover, small doodles only on back)
  • Binding:  sewn
  • Pages:  201
  • Additional features:  1 key | 3 index | 2 pen test
  • Page styles available:  A4, A5, A6
  • Paper Quality: 100gsm
  • Ghosting?  Minimal ghosting
  • Bleeding?  Minimal bleeding
  • Feathering? No feathering

My general thoughts:

What can I say… I love Scribbles That Matter (abbreviated as STM or just Scribbles). This new notebook company has taken the bullet journaling community by storm! Not only are they listening to their users and making real changes to their product based on feedback, but they’re actively expanding their line of notebooks. The Pro version (sans-icons) is a result of customer requests. And the new sizes (A4 and A6) also customer requests. I love a company who understand that their most important asset is their loyal fans.

But wait. It’s not just about the company itself, it’s about their notebooks. The fun color combinations draw you in but the paperweight, extra features, and quality construction turn you into a raving fan. I personally use my (teal iconic) Scribbles as my travel journal. It goes with me whenever I go on a big trip or just a weekend getaway. It’s been to Mexico, the Caribbean, Florida and a few other states in the U.S.

A travel journal isn’t complete without photos, right? Before my last cruise this past Spring, I bought an HP Sprocket mini printer and took it along with my Scribbles for the trip. It was so convenient to print photos on sticky paper and put them directly on the page – then journal around the photos about what I did that day.  Scribbles + Sprocket = perfect travel duo!


Superior Maker Essentials Notebook

StationeryNerd_Superior Maker Journal Review

  • Key Features:  I liked this notebook so much I bought a second one for my work bullet journal
  • Size: 8.25″ x 5″
  • Cover:  hard
  • Binding:  sewn
  • Pages: 240
  • Page styles available:  lined | dotted
  • Paper Quality:  100gsm
  • Ghosting?  Minimal ghosting
  • Bleeding?  No bleeding
  • Feathering? No feathering

My general thoughts:

I liked this notebook so much, I bought a second one. I use the lined journal at the office for my work bullet journal – which is mostly just a task management system and place to put meeting notes. I’ve been using my work bujo since July and it’s changed the way I function at the office and made me more efficient with my project management. I like that the paper is heavyweight and I don’t have to worry about ghosting or bleeding when I grab whatever pen is at hand. Plus with 240 pages this is going to last me a while.

I mostly use a black Papermate Flair and Sharpie highlighters in my work journal and nothing shows through to the next page. This journal is slightly narrower than the standard A5 but I like that for the office because it is easy to grab it along with a pile of folders, my phone, and a pen when heading to a meeting.


Tekukor Dotted Notebook

StationeryNerd_Tekukor Journal Review

  • Key Features: WINNER!!  This is the notebook I picked as my top choice when I started a new bullet journal
  • Size: True A5 | 8.25″ x 5.75″   |  210mm x 145mm
  • Cover:  hard
  • Binding: sewn
  • Pages: 192
  • Page styles available:  dotted only
  • Paper Quality:  100gsm
  • Ghosting?  Minimal ghosting
  • Bleeding?  No bleeding
  • Feathering? No feathering

My general thoughts:

I had a pile of almost 30 A5 journals and I was faced with the decision to pick the next notebook to use for my new bullet journal. I actually sat down and looked at all of them. Opened to the pen test pages and sorted them into piles of “yes” and “no” so I could narrow down the search. There were only about 5 or 6 options in the yes pile and when I went through the second round of review, the Tekukor rose to the top of the heap. Why do I like this one better than the others… especially when so many of these notebooks have such similar specs?

I thought it was important that I choose a dotted journal (even though at the beginning of this search I was on the hunt for a lined journal) and that I needed numbered pages (even though I rarely use the index, so numbers aren’t important after all) and that it had 3 bookmarks (even though I’m now using book darts instead of ribbon bookmarks). But I still love all those things about this journal. I also love the extra wide elastic closure – it feels so much more secure than the notebooks with a thin elastic band. The paper here is amazing and feels much brighter than those that are ivory or cream. The paperweight is 100gsm and I never have a problem with ghosting or bleeding. There’s a coating on the paper so also no feathering either.

So yes, I love this journal. I love the paper and the size of the page. I love the way it feels in my hand. Even though it’s in the budget category at less than $13, it feels like a high-end journal.


Uberworks LUFT and GAYA Notebooks

StationeryNerd_UberWorks Journal Review

  • Key Features: Two different lines of notebooks by Uberworks with mostly the same features
  • Size: 8.4″ x 5.6″
  • Cover:  Hard
  • LUFT: wine cork cover in 5 color options
  • GAYA: wood-print cover in 4 color options
  • Binding:  sewn
  • Pages: 192
  • Additional features:  GAYA has a pen loop and extra wide elastic band. Both notebooks have a table of contents section in the back and additional perforated notes pages in the back
  • Page styles available:  dotted | lined | plain
  • Paper Quality: 80gsm
  • Ghosting?  Moderate to heavy ghosting
  • Bleeding?  Minimal bleeding
  • Feathering? No ghosting

My general thoughts:

Let me tell you a little story about this notebook. I was on a hunt for a new journal, right? So what would any respectable nerd do? Research, of course! I read reviews, I watched unboxing videos, I examined pen tests and I asked all the bullet journaling gurus which journal they would recommend. It was about that time when EVERYone was raving about how amazing UberWorks was and how great the paper held up to heavy ink coverage. So I caved. I gave into peer pressure and bought the notebook. It arrived and I discovered I’d ordered the wrong paper type so I got online and ordered another. I don’t know how it happened but suddenly I had FOUR of these notebooks. Two LUFT in two different colors and two GAYA in two different paper styles (I accidentally ordered blank journals first and had to reorder lined). Then…

I dove straight in and started making bullet journal collection pages. But when I turned the page I was faced with ghosting – really terrible ghosting. And that’s when it hit me. All those raving reviews were actually paid sponsored reviews and the truth was never truly revealed. UGH! I fell prey to online product marketing.  These notebook purchases are what got this entire journal review thing started. So maybe you can thank all those sponsored reviewers for this…. It’s also the reason why I will only review things here that I buy myself and be completely honest with you. (whoa! I think I just went on a mini-rant there.)

Don’t get me wrong, the Uberworks journals are very good products. With the right pen selection, these are excellent choices for bullet journals. In fact, I use my LUFT lined notebook as my writing journal and it’s a joy to write in. The paper is smooth and lovely cream color with narrowly spaced lines. I do love the way this notebook feels in my hands. There are only 192 pages so it’s thin and feels easy to carry. The construction here is high quality and I’m not mad I bought these notebooks. I’m enjoying the LUFT as my journal a lot.


Softcover Notebooks

Because this review is so epic – no really, it’s truly amazing! – I had to split up the full journal review into two main sections. Hardcover notebooks and softcover notebooks. I’ve listed them below in alphabetical order. The softcover section is much smaller than the hardcover, but there are some really good options in this section. In fact, two of my top five notebooks have soft covers. Definitely, give them a fair shake if you haven’t tried one of these yet.

Softcover A5 journals in this review include:

  • Alibabette Editions Paris
  • Clairefontaine Basic Cloth Bound Notebook
  • Daycraft Inspiration
  • Daycraft Signature
  • Pentalic Art Traveler’s Pocket
  • Pentalic Dot Grid Pocket Journal
  • UNNI
  • Xonex Stone Paper


Alibabette Editions Paris La Vie Est Belle

StationeryNerd_Alibabette Journal Review 

  • Key Features:
  • Size:  8.25 x 5.9
  • Cover: soft  |  8+ decorative cover design options
  • Binding: sewn | paperback binding
  • Pages: 100
  • Page styles available: lined
  • Paper Quality: 100gsm
  • Ghosting?  No ghosting except a small amount with the wettest ink (but I’d count this as “none”) 
  • Bleeding?  No bleeding
  • Feathering? No feathering

My general thoughts:

What a fun little notebook with nice heavy paper and a beautiful decorative cover design. This would make an idea carry-along or companion notebook to your main bullet journal. It’s nice to have such a compact notebook that is made with high quality stitched binding with individual signatures of the book bound in a paperback binding. Speaks to the quality of the brand, for sure.

The paper is smooth and the lines are light and narrow set. I love that along the top and bottom line on each page there are tiny notches so you can easily draw a series of vertical lines without having to count dots or measure equal squares – it’s done for you already. If I could change one thing about this notebook it’d be that little shooting star icon at the top of every page – I just wish it wasn’t there. But I suppose I could cover it up with washi tape or a sticker…. Or maybe I would stop noticing it after I used it for a while? Check out the other cover designs, there are eight of them. I’m sorta loving that Eiffel Tower Art Deco cover they have in this line too.


Clairefontaine Basic Cloth Bound Notebook

<<< PHOTO COMING SOON>>>

  • Key Features: You can’t go wrong with any notebook that has Clairefontaine paper.
  • Size:  8.25″ X 6″  |  210mm x 148mm
  • Cover: soft  |  heavyweight textured cardstock
  • Binding: glued binding
  • Pages: 192
  • Page styles available:  dotted  |  lined  |  squared (see description below)
  • Paper Quality: 90gsm
  • Ghosting?  Minimal ghosting
  • Bleeding?  No bleeding
  • Feathering? No feathering

My general thoughts:

As I was rounding up my journal review and started talking about the progress I was making to other stationery enthusiasts, people kept asking me if I’d tested Clairefontaine paper. I hadn’t. But by this time I’d already settled on the journal I was going to use and I didn’t “need” to buy any more notebooks. (Right! Like that’d ever be a true statement.) So, of course, I bought this notebook to test out. It was the cheapest option I could find on Amazon and I bought it only because you all asked me to.

Wow! I was pretty impressed when I got this notebook in the mail. Looking at it, it’s very unassuming. The cover is a heavyweight cardstock, but definitely, note heavy or substantial. The lines on the paper are set a little wider than I prefer, but overall, the inside wasn’t anything spectacular either. In fact, even the binding – glued paperback book binding style – wasn’t even all that great. But you guys…. The paper!  No really, this paper is pretty awesome! It’s smooth. But not just smooth, it’s literally soft. You want to run your hand over the paper and pet it because it’s so soft. And writing on it is a dream! And the ghosting here is minimal, so with the right pen, you wouldn’t see anything at all (impressive for a 90gsm paper). There’s a coating on this paper, so the ink sorta sits on top of the page rather than soaking into the paper.

Let’s talk a moment about the binding. It’s glued. In fact, I think this is the only notebook in the entire lineup here with a glued binding. It’s not something I would normally choose because you can’t really open up a glue-bound book fully and have it lay flat. And often if you break that binding the pages start to fall out.  So I put this little notebook through the wringer to see how secure this glue binding really was. In several spots throughout the book, I bent the whole thing in half backward to open up the binding and see how far I had to take it before it’d break and fall apart. Mmm… it didn’t break. Then where I bent that binding I could lay the notebook open and it’d stay open on its own, lying flat. I’m impressed! This cheap little notebook (around $8) might just turn out to be the best bargain in the bunch for durability, paper quality and joy of writing).

Above I make a note that this notebook is available in dotted, lined and squared.  Here are some links for you to find those other variations.


Daycraft

StatoineryNerd_Daycraft Journal Review

 

  • Key Features: high-quality paper, beautiful covers, great binding
  • Size:  8.3″ x 5.8″  | 212mm x 151mm
  • Cover:  soft  |  “fine Italian PU leather”
  • Binding:  sewn
  • Pages:  176
  • Page styles available:  dotted | lined | squared | blank
  • Paper Quality:  100gsm
  • Ghosting?  Minimal to no ghosting
  • Bleeding?  No bleeding
  • Feathering? No feathering

My general thoughts:

I have two of these notebooks, as you can see from the photo. The gray/blue one is in the Signature Collection and the tan/purple one with the saying on the front is in the Inspiro Collection. The notebooks are identical except for the cover design and page edge color, so I’m going to review them together here. Normally when you hear the term PU Leather you think low-quality or a material that doesn’t feel anything like leather at all. But these covers are different than most PU Leather I’ve encountered in the past. It actually feels more like leather veneer (is that even a thing?) — a thin piece of leather backed by the heavy cardstock in the notebook color choice. So basically it just feels like regular leather. It’s a soft cover but feels substantial enough to withstand some heavy use.

In fact, when I was looking at this product listing on Amazon I saw a photo by one reviewer who had 7 or 8 notebooks stacked up in a pile and each was more beat up than the next – beautifully aged with love and use. I wonder if it was that photo alone that convinced me to buy this notebook. The notebooks I have are both lined but you can also choose dotted, squared or blank options too.

The paper is smooth and heavy enough to withstand even the wettest of inks I tried. There’s very little ghosting even with the fountain pen and Bic rollerball pen I used in the test. These notebooks are among my top choices for sure.


Pentalic Art Traveler Pocket Journal

StationeryNerd_Pentalic Journal Review

  • Metallic Gold – lined
  • Turquoise – dot grid
  • Key Features: Amazing paper in a softcover notebook that has a rich feel to it
  • Size:  8″ x 6″  |  203mm x 152mm
  • Cover: soft | soft touch Italian made PU leather
  • Binding: sewn
  • Pages: 160
  • Additional features:  back pocket
  • Page styles available:  dotted | lined | squared | blank
  • Paper Quality:  120gsm
  • Ghosting?  No ghosting
  • Bleeding?  No bleeding
  • Feathering? No feathering

My general thoughts:

As I was choosing my top winning notebook choice, this was the first runner-up. In fact, the only reason I chose the Tekukor over the turquoise dot grid Pentalic was that the Tekukor had page numbers and this one doesn’t. But now that I realize I’m not really using the page numbers in my current journal, I guess that’s no longer standing in my way.

The cover of this notebook is soft. Buttery soft to the touch but still stiff enough that it’s not floppy for a soft cover notebook. The endpapers (the paper you see when you open the front or back cover) is a beautiful cream color, then when you flip to the pages of the notebook you realize how bright white the paper is. The dots or lines on the page go all the way to the edge but the color of the dots and lines is a bit darker than I’d find ideal. They are a medium gray and stand off the page a bit. Once you write on the page with black ink it becomes less noticeable but it’s still something to consider as you select your journal.

I love that the paper is such a high quality and heavy stock here. It’s comparable with the Lemome books that we all rave about — same 120gsm paper weight — and the ink just doesn’t show through at all. I love good paper! It makes me happy.


UNNI Classic Notebook

StationeryNerd_Unni Journal Review

  • Key Features: Fun color options, hard or soft cover available
  • Size:  8.25″ X 6″  |  210mm x 148mm
  • Cover: soft | premium smooth PU leather
  • Binding: sewn
  • Pages: 192
  • Page styles available:  dotted | lined | squared | blank
  • Paper Quality:  100gsm (see comments below)
  • Ghosting?  Heavy ghosting
  • Bleeding?  Some bleeding
  • Feathering? No feathering

My general thoughts:

First, let’s talk about the paper. The Amazon listing says it’s 100gsm but there’s no reference on their website or on the notebook packaging that came with my order. However, based on the pen test, I have a hard time believing this is really 100gsm paper. It acts more like a lightweight LT1917 paper that is 80gsm except it’s more porous and allows some bleed-through that you don’t see with the Leuchtturm1917. So right out of the gate, this notebook had me doubting my purchase.

The cover is soft and reminds me a lot of the cover on Daycraft and Pentalic above. I like that the inside front and back covers have a dark black paper that seems to tell a complete color story with the turquoise cover, yellow page edges and black endpapers. This is a true A5 size so it fits well with others in the category if you wanted to carry this notebook along as a second notebook in a stack. It feels good in my hand and the soft PU leather has a nice tactile quality about it. I just wish the paper stood up to the pen test for some of the wetter pens and markers I tried. However, if you use a ballpoint pen, colored pencil or even Sharpie Pen fine tip – this notebook would be a great option. Notice that it also comes with hardcover options.


Xonex Stone Journal

StationeryNerd_Xonex Journal Review

  • Key Features: I hate this notebook. I’m linking to the original listing on Amazon just so you can see the product details – but notice they aren’t even in stock anymore, so it’s not available for purchase.
  • Size: 8.25″ x 5.75″
  • Cover: soft | coated plastic
  • Binding: sewn | paperback bookbinding
  • Pages:  160
  • Page styles available:  lined
  • Paper Quality: ~70gsm (although I don’t think stone paper is measured in the same as normal paper)
  • Ghosting?  Heavy ghosting
  • Bleeding?  Heavy bleed-through
  • Feathering? Major feathering

My general thoughts:

Of all the notebooks I bought, this is the one I regret the most. In fact, I’m not sure that I even regret any of the above notebooks … but this one was a disappointment from the first time I put pen to paper. So first, let me explain this notebook.

The paper is made from stone, not wood or paper pulp like all other paper you’re used to. Basically, it’s made by grinding up leftover stone used to mine other types of stone (like marble or granite). The leftover stones are ground up into a powder then mixed with some type of plastic to create paper. Watch this fascinating video that shows How Stone Paper is Made. The paper is tear-resistant and water-resistant, so it makes the paper more durable than wood-based paper. It’s more expensive and it’s definitely a hot trend in journals right now. So of course, I needed to try it out.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the package was how heavy the notebook was. Not heavy like I couldn’t lift it, but when compared to a notebook of the same size and shape, it was noticeably heavier. In fact, as I’m writing this, I was curious enough about the weight that I dug out my trusty food scale. The Alibabette notebook above weighs 180g whereas the Xonex journal weighs 346g. Whoa! (That was sorta nerdy of me, wasn’t it?)

So let’s talk about the paper and how it performs. The paper is soft to the touch – like running your hand over white Caribbean beach sand. But the second you start to write you realize this paper has “tooth” (a roughness in texture) and grabs hold of the pen nib. Writing on the paper feels a little scratchy. The other thing that’s strange is the plastic content of the paper seems to … I don’t know how to describe it … engulf my pen nib? That sounds strange. My pen tip sinks into the paper even when I write with my normal light pressure and makes an indentation of writing on the backside of the page. On some of the pen tests, the pen tip poked right through the page and created a  hole. On all the pens used there were major ghosting and a lot of bleed-through.

Also, notice the major amount of feathering – that’s when a wet ink soaks into a paper and spreads along the pores of the page and feather into each other. Even with the lightest fineliner that never has a problem (like Staedtler Triplus Fineliner) you see the distorted line of the pen. Actually look at that Staedtler writing sample – that’s a black pen I used, why is the ink purple? Also notice that the wet inks (fountain pen, Bic, and highlighters) didn’t actually dry on the page enough before I turned the page to look at the other side, so the ink smeared onto the previous page in the book. Very disappointing performance.

I have no idea what I’ll use this notebook for. But I have it. I guess I can just say out of 30+ notebook purchases, only regretting one of them isn’t so bad, right?


Conclusion

Whew! We made it to the end. Finally! I’m curious to know if you read the whole thing or if you skipped around and only checked out the journals you were specifically interested in (drop me a comment below and let me know!). I had to go back and look at my Amazon receipts, but I can confirm that between the time I bought my first journal in this quest to the date I’m publishing this review – it’s been a long FIVE MONTHS! So now let’s do some wrap-up and announce the winners of this epic journal review.

Free A5 Journal Comparison Spreadsheet

I wouldn’t be a respectable nerd if I didn’t make a spreadsheet, right? I know what it takes to keep my nerd card! The spreadsheet is 3 pages of pure research gold. I’ve gathered all the specs you see above, and more, into a single spreadsheet that shows all the journals side by side.  Use the form below to request the download link – just enter your email address and you’ll be directed to a page to download the file.

The Winner is Crowned!

Just in case you didn’t see mention of it above, there are a couple winners in the group of journals I reviewed. Based on the original requirements I named earlier (size, lines or dots, cover quality, and paperweight) I have some favorites. There are two categories of winners here — journals I’m already using for something and journals I love and I’m searching for a reason to use them. And the winners are …

Journals I’m currently using

  • Tekukor – my everyday carry bullet journal
  • Scribbles That Matter – my travel log journal
  • UberWorks LUFT – my handwritten diary
  • Green Inspired – my learning and notetaking notebook

Journals I love and will use soon

  • Pentalic Traveler’s Notebook – I think the lined journal will be my next handwritten diary
  • Daycraft – my next bullet journal will be a lined journal, this might be the pick when I’m done with the Tekukor
  • Lemome –  if I don’t go with DayCraft for my next journal, it might be the Lemome Cork
  • UberWorks GAYA – I have used this one as an emergency bullet journal replacement journal for a few weeks and I liked the way it felt, might add this to the lineup too.

Journals I recommend for bullet journalers like me

I know a lot of you struggle with finding the perfect journal. I hope this massive review has helped you decide. But if you still can’t make up your mind and you just want to know how I rank the journals that I like and recommend, I’ll give you some help here. After this little experiment (ha! I said “little”) I don’t believe I will ever buy a notebook with anything less than 100gsm paper (with only a couple rare exceptions noted below).  Yes, that means I’ll never by a Leuchtturm1917 or even the special edition Bullet Journal Leuchtturm1917 designed by Ryder Carroll — if that makes me lose my bullet journalist card, so be it.

100gsm weight paper

  • Green Inspired Notebook – available locally at Target (110gsm)
  • Lemome Bullet Journal
  • Peter Pauper Press Essentials Notebook
  • Scribbles That Matter
  • Superior Maker Executive Notebook
  • Tekukor Dotted Notebook
  • Daycraft Signature or Inspiro Collection

120gsm weight paper

  • Lemome Classic (suede) Cover
  • Lemome Cork Cover
  • Pentalic Traveler Pocket Journal

80gsm and 90gsm – exceptional exceptions

  • Clairefontaine Basic Notebook (90gsm) – a dream to write on!
  • UberWorks LUFT or GAYA (80gsm) – but only with the right pen, no heavy ink here

What did I miss?

I already know that there are some popular notebook options that didn’t make the list. Some that you might want me to review in a future post, maybe. Here are a few that I already know you’ve asked for and why they aren’t on this list.

  • NUUNA — this European notebook looks like an absolute dream! The covers are fun and I hear the paper is amazing. But here in the United State, these notebooks aren’t easy to come by. If I were to order from the company’s website, the total price would come in around $30-45 … not exactly budget-friendly. Also, the sizes of these books aren’t in line with normal A-sizes. They are sized at 6.5 x 8.7 inches (165 x 220mm) — much too large for my Galen Leather cover. So this brand was out.
  • Rhodia –– I know a lot of people are raving about the new Rhodia Goal Book right now and I’ve been tempted to give it a try. But the Rhodia paper comes in at 90gsm and after a while, I made the rule that I’d never buy any notebook with less than 100gsm at a minimum. So the Rhodia didn’t make the cut. If you’d like to see a good pen test review of the Rhodia paper, check out this one by Heart Sprinkle.
  • Citrus Book Bindery – Fran McKay over on the Etsy shop for Citrus Book Bindery does a beautiful job with her handcrafted journals. She uses at least 130gsm paper (or heavier if you need something for art journaling or multi-media pages) and hand makes each of her journals to your specifications. I haven’t ordered one yet. But I drool often. I’m sending you over there so you can drool too. One day I’ll have one in my hands and I’ll tell you all about it!

All Done! Your Turn…

So that wraps up this epic, crazy-long, ridiculously wordy journal review. If you’ve made it this far, let me know and I’m going to send you a gold star for your bullet journal! You’re amazing!

Drop me a comment below and let me know which journal you’re going to try out from this list. Or let me know if you agree, disagree or think I’m completely off my rocker for some review I’ve written above. I’d love to hear what you have to say!

 

 

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