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 medium gray color so they aren’t obtrusive on the page. The construction of the journal is solid and the cover feels nice (a smooth vegan leather in various fun colors). But there was something about this journal that I just didn’t love at first. 

The paper weight is 100gsm but the opacity of the paper is not as opaque as some other notebooks with the same weight. The weight and feel of the paper were deceiving. Plus the smoothness of the paper was causing pens that normally don’t smudge to be all smudgy (yes, I know that’s not a word but let’s roll with it). 

Wait a minute…

I’ve got to back up here because something happened in the middle of writing this journal review. I purchased a purple journal and at the time that I bought it, the journal came with 100gsm paper – super smooth, almost glossy, blah, blah. I did the pen test and evaluated the paper, construction of the journal and all the features and specs. Then I filled in the massive spreadsheet with all the stats about this journal. I took photos of the testing pages, even editing the photos and had them ready to put into this blog post.

And as I normally do when writing a review, I refer back to the original product listing on Amazon (or wherever I bought it) to make sure I have the details correct as I’m writing. Whoa! That’s when I realized that Scrivwell pulled a fast one on me. 

They totally changed the paper! UGH! I mean… that’s a good thing if the paper is better. But all that work on the review for the wrong journal put me back at square one. So of course, I ordered the new journal and started all over again. 

And now for the review…

This new version of the Scrivwell journal is SO much better. I mean… it was good before. But now it’s even better. The paper is 120gsm so minimal ghosting or no bleed through. Plus the paper is less “slippery” so the smudginess isn’t an issue anymore. The cover has changed a bit too (not better or worse, just different). So I’m hitting the backspace on all the stuff I already wrote… and starting over. Let’s dive into it!

For those who have the old version of the Scrivwell journal, let’s do some comparisons.

  • SIZE – both are the same size – true A5
  • PAPER WEIGHT – old is 100gsm, new is 120gsm
  • PAGES – the old version has 240 pages, the new has 208 pages
  • BOOKMARKS – both have 2 bookmarks, both are satin ribbons
  • FEATURES – both have an expandable pocket and elastic closure bands

When you hold the two books up against each other the size is the same – including the thickness of the journal. Even though the paper is thicker in the new version, there are fewer pages so the thickness of the journal remains the same. 

The texture on the covers is a bit different. Both versions are vegan leather (basically a fake leather material of some sort – probably PU leather). The old version has a more pronounced texture whereas the new version is more smooth and soft.


The paper in the Scrivwell journal is 120gsm and it’s white. Not bright white but it’s more in the white family than it is in the cream or ivory family. The dots are spaced 5mm apart and go all the way to the edge of the paper – and the dots are a nice medium gray color, as I mentioned above. The paper has a coating to it which aids in that smooth writing experience. 

What surprises me about this paper is that even at 120gsm there’s more ghosting than what I’d expect. But white paper is never going to be as opaque as ivory paper, right? Which means because this paper is less opaque, you have more ghosting or show-through on the backside of the page when you write with most of the pens I’ve tested. Obviously, the thinner the pen nib the less ghosting you have (I love my .38mm gel pens for this exact reason). 

But this paper doesn’t act like 120gsm paper when it comes to ghosting. What gives? Ahhh… but this paper is also coated during the manufacturing process which is why it’s so smooth to write on (it’s like butter!) and also why we get smudging when some inks don’t dry immediately (we’ll talk about that more below). Rather than inks soaking into the fibers of the paper, the coating lets the ink sit on top of the page and you have to wait for the ink to dry on its own without the help of paper absorption. The coating is added to the paper to prevent bleed-through of ink to the back side of the page. 

Let’s talk about coated paper

Coated paper is heavier than uncoated paper. We’re about to get super nerdy here but I’ll try not to make it too technical. Ready?

Coated Paper is paper that has been coated by a chemical compound to add qualities to the paper including weight, surface gloss, smoothness or reduced ink absorbency. When a paper is coated it absorbs less moisture, inks sit on the surface, rather than soak into the fibers of the paper. The addition of coating on paper is part of the manufacturing process, not the printing process.  Source: Wikipedia

Scrivwell coated paper and ghosting

So that was a really long way around the answer to the question about why this paper ghosts more than expected for 120gsm paper. It’s got a pretty heavy coating and the coating contributes to the weight of the paper. The paper itself thinner than the same weight of paper that’s uncoated or just lightly coated. (Yes there are actual scientific terms for uncoated, lightly coated, heavily coated but we’ll cover that in another lesson – for now, we’ll just use layman’s terms, ok?). Which means we have more ghosting than you’d expect for 120gsm paper. 

Jumping back to mention the old version of the Scrivwell journal — the coating is different in this new one. The old version’s coated paper was super slippery and inks just wouldn’t dry and the smudging was horrible. But this new version is different. The paper is still smooth and soft but inks dry better. Much better, actually. The only inks I have trouble with are some long-drying fountain pen inks. But fast-drying inks like Platinum or some of the Noodler’s Bullet Proof inks do just fine. 

Scrivwell coated paper and bleed-through

BUT… that coated paper plays a major role in bleed-through. Scrivwell paper doesn’t allow bleed-through. With any normal water-based pen, highlighter, or marker I tried there was no bleeding at all. Not even a “trying to bleed” situation where it the ink almost soaked through but didn’t soak through completely. I was so impressed with the lack of bleed-through that I wanted to try a Sharpie Marker – the one thing you should never use in a journal. 

Using alcohol markers in a normal notebook or journal is just asking for disaster. Not only will the marker bleed through the page but it’ll likely leave ink on the following page (or sometimes the next couple of pages). Which is why you never use Sharpie Markers or Copic Markers or any type of alcohol-based art markers in a journal.

But I’m a nerd, right? I like to test things and see how far I can push the limits of stationery products. So I grabbed my Sharpies and gave it a try. Ummm…. Seriously? How is there no bleed-through with a Sharpie Marker? Oh sure there was massive ghosting with a Sharpie, but to see how well this paper performed with alcohol markers was amazing. 


Scrivwell Notebook Features and Specs

Now that we’ve spent an amazing amount of time talking about the paper in this journal, let’s cover the rest of the things. 

This is a hardcover journal made of “vegan leather” and comes in 12 different color options (black, brown, grey, white, red, orange, yellow, green, teal, purple, pink, and berry). You’ve got a sewn binding that will lie flat once you train the spine to remain open. There are two bookmarks made of satin ribbon material and a back document pocket for storing stickers, stencils, and important bits of ephemera. The elastic band isn’t especially tight but also not too lose (did anyone else just think of Goldilocks?). 

Dots are spaced 5mm apart and the gray dots are medium colored on the page. The dot grid is 40x24 in a true A5 size notebook (5.5” x 8.2”). There are 208 pages and paper is 120gsm and heavily coated to prevent bleed-through. (In the older version of Scrivwell, the paper is 100gsm and there are 240 pages.) Pages are not numbered and there are no additional special pages like an index or key page. 

Fountain Pens in Scrivwell

I’m happily hopping down the bunny trail of fountain pens right now. Anyone else jumping down that rabbit hole recently? I’m on a quest to see how good of a pen I can buy for the least amount of money. I’m pleasantly surprised by the pens coming out of China. But inks… that’s a different story entirely. I love all the different inks and experimenting with how they perform in these cheapo pens. The J. Herbin 1678 Anniversary inks that have gold or silver pigments… get outta town! I’m obsessed. 

So does Scrivwell stand up to the inks I’ve tested? Yes! Absolutely yes. Only one ink and pen combination gave it trouble – but that combo has been wreaking havoc everywhere I test it. The combination of Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts ink in a Jinhao X750 medium nib pen – this combo is a pretty wet ink and a pen that lays down a lot of ink with each stroke.

Usually, it just bleeds through the paper completely and even onto the next sheet of paper in my practice scribble books (just cheap notebooks where I can test pens) … but the Scrivwell held up much better. Yes, there’s a bit of bleed-through but not nearly as much as I’ve seen elsewhere. But any other ink I’ve tested performs beautifully. 

As for smudging… this is one of those things, right? Some inks just dry faster than others. The Platinum inks seem to be the fastest drying inks I’ve tried so far and those are excellent in the Scrivwell. But many of the Noodler’s inks or even the J. Herbin inks tend to be slow-drying so if you drag your hand through the words too soon after writing, you’re in trouble. But once they’re set and dry, everything is fine. 

Because the paper is so smooth, the shading of inks on the page is lots of fun! I just picked up a bottle of Noodler’s Lexington Gray and I like the way that performs in the Scrivwell journal. 

feathering in ScrivwellFeathering with some Fountain Pens

There’s one little problem we need to discuss though. I found that some fountain pens have issues with feathering. I say pens and not inks because I think it has to do with the nib of the fountain pen rather than the ink itself. The photo below shows the Platinum Desk Pen with major feathering (when ink spreads into the fibers of the paper along the edge of the line you just wrote). This pen has an super fine nib – it’s pretty scratchy and pointy. So I think the nib is actually cutting into the paper before the ink is laid down, which would then allow ink to feather into the fibers of those scratches. Notice the Noodlers below and the Tombow above — both wet inks but no feathering. Just something to be aware of as you choose your pen.

Watercoloring in Scrivwell

Will watercoloring work in Scrivwell and not destroy the notebook? Yes! A resounding and joyful yes! I did a pretty heavy and wet test on the pages to see how far I could take it before I broke the thing! It held up. The watercolor did not bleed through to the back of the page and the paper didn’t dissolve or get fuzzy with the addition of water. That coating really helps with this process. 

No, I don’t recommend you go crazy with tons of water in this journal. You’re better off doing a light wash of watercolor or a simple painting using a light hand. It’s paper, after all. But it’s encouraging to know that you can break out your art supplies and have some fun. 

The big benefit of adding a light wash of watercolor to the page is that suddenly the ghosting issue becomes a non-issue. After your watercolored page dries (speed up that process with a hairdryer then hit it with a light touch of the iron to make the page lie flat again) you can write on it like normal and the writing is not going to be visible from the other side. 

 


Pros & Cons of Scrivwell Notebook

Overall I love this journal even though I was a skeptic at first. The pros definitely outweigh the cons on this one. 

Pros

  • Good journal construction with quality cover materials and lots of colors to choose from
  • The paper is amazing for preventing bleed-through and keeping ghosting to a minimum
  • Smooth paper makes the writing experience a joy
  • Fountain pen friendly – and since the paper is coated the ink shading you see is beautiful
  • Thick paper allows for more heavy media types for art journaling
  • The price is right! At around $13 for this high-quality journal, you can’t go wrong.

Cons

  • The heavily coated paper extends the drying time for some inks, especially wet fountain pen ink and can cause significant smudging or smearing
  • Not a great paper option for left-handed writers due to the smudge factor

Conclusion

Stationery Nerd Approved Seal

I like this journal a lot. It has a good balance of paper weight, paper coating, and journal construction. Since my style of writing doesn’t usually cause ink smudges (I’m right-handed and rarely drag my hand through the ink right after I write something). I love the option of using watercolor on the pages without worrying about ruining a page in my notebook. 

I also love that you have so many colors to choose from (of course, any journal that comes in Stationery Nerd Yellow is a good choice!). 

Scrivwell gets the official Stationery Nerd Seal of Approval. 


FEATURES & SPECS | Scrivwell Dotted Notebook

Notebook BrandScrivwell
Model / DescriptionDotted Notebook
Hardcover | SoftcoverHardcover
Cover Options12 colors options | vegan leather
Sizes AvailableA5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Typesewn binding
Paper Weight120 gsm
Paper Colorwhite
Paper Surfacecoated | smooth & soft
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blankdots
Grid or Line Spacing5mm
Grid Count40 x 27
Number of pages208
Are pages numbered?no
Special pagesno
Bookmarks2 | satin ribbon to match cover
Back Pocketyes
Elastic Closureyes
Additional Featuresembossed branding on back cover