MEGA NOTEBOOK & JOURNAL REVIEW SERIESHardcover and Softcover Journals • Composition Notebooks • Spiral
All the Sizes: A5 • B5 • A6 • B6 • and more
Updated: June 9, 2019
In my quest to find the perfect bullet journal notebook I ended up buying
24 notebooks …. uhhh… sorry, that number is now up to around 48 different notebooks! I keep buying more and more notebooks! Someone help me! I might need a journal intervention. But you’re in luck! My obsession with stationery will help YOU choose the perfect notebook, too.
Even though we’re up to 48-ish notebooks right now, I’ll be adding to this review page as I continue to collect more (because you know I won’t stop shopping anytime soon, right?!). You’ll find most of the well-known brands that many journalers talk about, but there are also a lot of notebooks brands that are lesser known. And because so many folks have requested journal types besides just the standard A5 size that most bullet journals are in, I’ve added a whole range of different sizes and notebook types.
We’ll cover B5 or composition notebook size down to the smaller notebooks in B6 and A6 sizes. There are even spiral bound notebooks in the mix. But it doesn’t stop at notebook sizes, of course. I’m exploring the world of paper weights – everything from 70gsm in Moleskine up to 100gsm in Scribbles That Matter and 120gsm in Lemome and even the ultra thick 160gsm in Archer & Olive notebooks. I hope to help you better understand the notebook brands you already know about and maybe introduce you to some brands you’ve never heard of before.
So grab a pot of coffee (you’ll need more than a cup) and a snack and let’s dig into these reviews. We’ll look at pen test results, count dots, measure lines, compare paper color and weight … and endure lots of nerdy commentary about all these notebooks. Ready? Let’s go!
Navigating This Epic-Sized Journal Review Page
There’s a lot here and you might need a map to navigate this page. Besides the actual journal reviews below, I’m also going to cover my method for reviewing and choosing my favorites as well as a list of the pens I used and also a little vocabulary lesson. Each notebook will obviously fit into more than one category, so pay attention to the section titles below to find the features of the journal you want.
Let’s talk about sponsorship
This is NOT a sponsored review … but you can still support me
I want to be very clear about this part before we dive into the reviews. This post is NOT sponsored by any notebook manufacturer, brand or seller. Nobody paid me. Nobody promised me roses or steak dinners to write nice things about them. Everything here is my honest personal opinion.
The vast majority of notebooks here are ones I purchased 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 once I started reviewing notebooks and got about 30 journals deep into this obsession, notebook manufacturers started to notice and wanted me to test their notebooks too. I want you to know how I handled those requests because I believe in being 100% honest and transparent with you about this part.
Of the 48-ish notebooks here there are 4 journals that I did not purchase but rather they were sent to me for free from the company who sells them. None of those companies required me to write and publish a review in exchange for those free notebooks – they simply asked if they could send me products to try. I am choosing to include those reviews here because I felt they were worthy enough to include.
In the interest of full transparency with my reviewing process, I have updated all the reviews in this series to include a notation of how I acquired the notebook. I will tell you if I paid for it with my own money or if the notebook was sent to me for free. If you have any question about this notation or if anything is unclear, I want you to reach out to me and ask.
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 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 58-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.
Notebook Specs We'll Review
Notebook & Journal Specs
Before we jump in I want to tell you what the criteria were as I was searching for a notebook as I was on my initial quest to find the perfect notebook for myself.
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.
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 an 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 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
Welcome to Vocabulary School…
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.
COATED PAPER – this term is one used in the paper manufacturing industry and is different than the same term used during the printing process. When paper has been coated by a polymer mixture to change the quality of the paper itself that impacts the weight, surface gloss, smoothness or reduced ink absorbency. Coated paper range from very glossy to only slightly glossy – the level of coatedness (is that a word?) directly impacts how the ink behaves on the page. Heavily coated paper won’t let the ink soak into the fibers of the paper that would create feathering and bleeding. However, because the ink doesn’t absorb into the paper, it sits on top of the paper and needs to dry on its own before it becomes permanent – which is what caused the ink to smear easily. Uncoated paper allows ink to soak in and dry quickly. Think of newspaper as uncoated but a glossy magazine as coated.
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!
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:
- Bic 730R – .7mm
- Papermate Flair – Medium
- Papermate Flair – Ultra Fine
- Pilot P-500 – Extra Fine .5mm
- Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen
- Sakura Pigment Micron – Size 01
- Sharpie Accent Liquid Highlighter
- Sharpie Pen – Fine
- Sharpie Pen – Stainless Steel
- Staedtler Triplus Fineliner
- TUL Retractable Needle Point – Medium 0.7m
Let’s start this Bullet Journal Notebook Review already!
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.
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. Each hardcover bullet journal notebook I’ve purchased and reviewed is listed here – just click on the picture and it will open a new window with the full review. You can read the all of the reviews in their epicness, or you can take the road of sanity and only jump to a specific brand you’re considering. Or feel free to skip all the individual reviews and 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.
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...
Has Scribbles That Matter jumped the shark? Will the 160gsm paper be different the next time you buy one? Does this review even matter? Let’s review it anyway.
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...
Tekukor 160gsm Dotted Notebook Review You all know how much I love Tekukor, right? I’ve been using the 100gsm A5 dotted journals for the past couple years and my current everyday carry is the smaller A6 Tekukor with 100gsm paper. And now they have a brand new notebook...
QiHeng 160gsm notebook review | Introduction When I set out on a quest to find every bullet journal notebook with 160gsm dotted paper, I was fascinated with this one when I found it. QiHeng Stationery also goes by the name SEQES on Amazon - at least that’s what’s in...
The Archer & Olive 160gsm notebooks have taken the bullet journaling community by storm. I’m skeptical when there’s so much hype. Here’s my nerdy review.
When you first pick up a Scrivwell notebook it seems pretty unassuming. Nothing outstanding or spectacular about the dotted pages or construction of the journal. I mean… it’s good and all. The paper is smooth and a pleasure to write on. The dots are a nice...
Several months ago the owner of Key Point notebook reached out to me to introduce himself and offer a notebook for review. I declined the freebie and opted instead to purchase it on my own. So in a continuing effort to be as real, raw, and honest about my...
I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am that this journal is in the world! No really... I don't think I've ever been this excited to write a product review than right this very minute! Humor me and go with it, ok? First, let me just get this part out of the...
Amazabooks Journal Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: Size: 8.5" x 5.3" Cover: hard, pu leather with wavy embossed design that included silvery dots Binding: sewn Pages: 240 Additional features: comes with pen loop Page styles available: dotted...
Artist’s Loft Hardcover Journal Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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:...
Designworks Ink Journal Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: Size: 8.5" x 5.8" - true A5 Cover: hardcover, chipboard with cloth binding, floral with gold foil embossing Binding: sewn Pages: 192 Additional features: it's...
Notobooks Neo Dot Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: Size: 8" x 5.5" (slightly smaller than true A5) Cover: PU leather, only available in black with blue accents Binding: sewn Pages: 192 Additional features: pen loop, back pocket, killer endpage...
Peter Pauper Press Essentials Notebook Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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 priceSize: True A5 | 8.25" x 5.75"...
Chance Book by Labon Notebook Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: Size: 8.25" x 5.8" (1/2" narrower than true A5) Cover: hardcover with cloth covering in 6 colors Binding: sewn Pages: 192 Additional...
Moleskine Classic Notebook Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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:...
Picadilly Essential Notebook Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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...
Scribbles That Matter Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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...
Superior Maker Essentials Notebook Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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...
It was August 2017 and I was on a quest to find my next bullet journal notebook. I had a pile of 30 journals to choose from. And no matter how much I loved some of the other journals, I kept coming back to Tekukor. It was my #1 pick back then and now, two...
Lemome Eco-Friendly Natural Cork Notebook Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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...
Lemome Thick Classic Notebook Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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...
Exceed Hardcover Book Bullet Journal Notebook Review My Review: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...
Green Inspired Chipboard Exposed Binding Journal Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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...
Leuchtturm 1917 Dotted Bullet Journal Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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...
Markings by C.R. Gibson Bulleting Log Journal Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: 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:...
Dingbats Wildlife Medium A5+ Notebook Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: Size: 6.3 x 8.5 -- 1/2" wider than true A5 Cover: PU vegan Leather Binding: sewn Pages: 192 Additional features: perforated pages, back pocket, pen loop, FSC certified Page...
Ghost Grid Dot Hardcover Journal Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: Size: 8.25" x 5.5" - this is half-letter size rather than A5 which makes sense because this is a company based in the USA so American sized paper would be logical for this...
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. Just click the photo of the journal you want to learn more about and it will open the full review in a new tab. 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.
Daycraft Journals Bullet Journal Notebook Review Inspiro | Stop Wishing Start Doing Signature | Grey & Turquoise Key Features: Key Features: high-quality paper, beautiful covers, great binding Size: 8.3" x 5.8" | 212mm x 151mm Cover:...
Pentalic Art Traveler Pocket Journal Bullet Journal Notebook Review Metallic Gold - lined Turquoise - dot grid Key Features: Key Features: Amazing paper in a softcover notebook that has a rich feel to it Size: 8" x 6" | 203mm x 152mm...
Alibabette Editions Paris La Vie Est Belle Journal Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: Key Features: Size: 8.25 x 5.9 Cover: soft | 8+ decorative cover design options Binding: sewn | paperback binding Pages: 100 Page styles...
Clairefontaine Basic Cloth Bound Notebook Bullet Journal Notebook Review Key Features: Key Features: You can’t go wrong with any notebook that has Clairefontaine paper. Size: 8.25" X 6" | 210mm x 148mm Cover: soft |...
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.
Download the Journal Comparison Spreadsheet
Receive a free copy of the A5 Bullet Journal Notebook review spreadsheet. Just add your email address.
Thank you! Click the link 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!