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The Best Notebooks and Notepads for Writing, Doodling & Everyday Use

The Best Notebooks and Notepads for Writing, Doodling & Everyday Use

Despite living in the digital age, there are simply times when it’s still best to reach for a trusted paper notebook. Of course, not all notebooks are made equal. While they are designed for various purposes such as note-taking, sketching, and a myriad of other uses, quality isn’t always apparent unless you know what you’re looking for.

Over the last six months, I’ve gone on a journey of buying, using, and testing over 50 notebooks of varying sizes, shapes, and paper. You see, I’ve always had a penchant for using a copious amount of notebooks as my primary methods of keeping a to-do list, sketching, and taking notes of ideas that pop into my head. For the sake of minimalism and uniformity of design, I’ve always stuck with one notebook brand. They always served their purpose for me and looked relatively decent on my shelf after having been filled. But of late, I’ve realized that I could be getting a lot more out of my notebooks, so I decided to go on a hunt to find the best notebooks in the world.

Let’s say that I’ve put a lot of pen, pencil, and marker to paper over the last half-year and here are what I think to be some of the highest quality notebooks. All of these spectacular notebooks will undoubtedly give you a much better writing and note-taking experience than your typical $4 or $5 notebook you’ll find at your local Wal-Mart.

The notebooks I tested were designed for various purposes, including journalling, writing, brainstorming, doodling, to-do-list keeping, reporting, list-making and bullet-journaling. And no matter whether you’re looking for a soft-cover, hard-cover, spiral, leather, or cloth-covered notebook, these selections will not only last long but perhaps also inspire increased creativity and productivity.

But before we take a look at my review of some of the best notebooks in the world, let’s have a look at some paper terms you should know before reading on.

PAPER TERMS TO KNOW

Feathering – The extent to which ink bleeding from the edge of pen strokes (letters or marks) as opposed to crisp lines with no feathering. 

Toothiness – The level of texture or how smooth the surface of a piece of paper is. In general, the more toothy the paper, the more friendly it will be towards pencils and crayons. 

Bleeding – Ink coming through to the other side of the paper and showing on the opposite side of the page. 

Ghosting – The level of visibility of ink on the other side of the page. This will affect how usable both sides of a page are. 

Paper Weight: This is simply a measurement of paper thickness. Most commonly measured in GSM (Grams per square metre). The higher this number, the thicker the paper is. 

Paper Coating – Sometimes, manufacturers decide that the best way to get the ideal paper texture is to cover their paper in a coating. This is often a polymer mixture of sorts. This coating can impact a variety of paper’s attributes, including its glossiness and smoothness and how good it is at absorbing ink or graphite. 

NOTEBOOK SIZES

While not all manufacturers adhere to standard notebook sizing categories, there is a generally acceptable level of notebook sizing as shown below: 

NotebookSize in Inches
A48.27" x 11.69"
A55.83" x 8.27"
Cahier5" x 8.25"
A64.13" x 5.83"
A72.91" x 4.13"
B56.93" x 9.84"
B64.92" x 6.93"
Letter (U.S.)8.5" x 11"
Legal (U.S.)8.5" x 14"
Cardbook2.16" x 3.54"
Passport3.54" x 4.92"
Pocket3.5" x 5.5"

SHEET STYLES

LINED – Lined or ruled notebooks are perfect for people needing a place to write copious amounts of text. 

BLANK – Artists and doodlers usually prefer blank notebooks to write creatively and draw without the limitations of conventional note-taking lines and grids. 

DOTTED GRID – The versatile dotted grid pattern consists of dots that can be used as a guide as you’re writing but also gives you ample room for the occasional sketch or two.

GRAPH – Notebooks printed with graph paper are useful for engineers, designers, web, and app developers who constantly make diagrams, mock-ups, or plans for new interfaces or physical structures. 

BINDING

GLUE BINDING

Glue binding can be a challenge for some notebooks since it’s not as strong as other types of notebook binding and tends to lead to an overall shorter lifespan. However, when combined with thread-binding, it can dramatically improve overall durability. Some glue-bound notebooks are made this way intentionally so that pages can be easily removed.

STAPLE BINDING

Staple binding is often used for thinner notebooks (64 pages or less). Staples are placed in the middle of the pages, and then the pages are folded into a notebook. It’s often found on pocket notebooks and thin paper pads.

THREAD BINDING

In a thread binding, the notebook is stitched together using sewing thread. It typically has more pages than a book with staple binding, and the stitching is stronger than that of a staple-bound notebook. 

THREAD & GLUE BINDING

With thread and glue binding, the notebook can lay flat on the desk or table and can contain a higher number of pages than in notebooks, limited by the strength of their binding. It also happens to look more aesthetically interesting and is often found in fancier journals and higher-quality notebooks. 

SPIRAL BINDING

A spiral notebook is a good choice for people who are looking for a lightweight, durable notebook. Unlike notebooks with a rigid binding, a spiral notebook is more flexible. This makes it ideal for people who have trouble holding pages of a book straight or often carrying their notebooks in their back pockets.

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

BEST NOTEBOOK FOR SCHOOL, COLLEGE AND NOTE-TAKING

Whether you’re headed back to college or have a loved one starting high school, the Apica Notebook, with a 7″ x 10″ size, is the right size, weight and quality, including a quick-drying paper that will keep all of your lectures tidy and organized. Alternatively, consider the Muji Notebook B5, which is affordable and provides an easy writing experience in a larger-sized notebook. 

BEST NOTEBOOK FOR BULLET JOURNALING

Without a doubt, the Scribbles that Matter notebook is the most friendly bullet journaling notebook there is. If you’re fully committed to this journaling technique, the Scribbles that Matter notebook makes a perfect companion to all your neat and tidy journal writing needs. 

BEST NOTEBOOK FOR FOUNTAIN PENS

Sporting a ridiculously thick 120 GSM paper, the Minimalism Art notebook performed exceptionally well with all of my fountain pens. It also happens to be an excellent overall notebook for handling nearly any sort of ink or pencil. If you’re looking to keep notes as the founding fathers did (though I must admit I did not perform any Quill and ink testing), I highly recommend this notebook for all your fountain pen writing.

BEST NOTEBOOK FOR JOURNALING

Choosing just one notebook from this list for this category was tough. Any number of these notebooks could easily qualify as being the best notebook for journaling. But in my opinion, because of its durability, stylish looks, and excellent paper, I recommend the Dingbats Wildlife A5 Hardcover notebook as your best bet to keep your journaling habit going.

BEST NOTEBOOK FOR KEEPING NOTES IN THE FIELD

Suppose you need a notebook that will survive the elements, unpredictable weather, and a whole lot of dropping, being stepped on, and general rough handling. In that case, there’s no better choice than the Elan Publishing Indestructible notebook. 

BEST NOTEBOOK FOR WRITING IN THE RAIN

Need a reliable notebook that will take all kinds of water beating down on it while still allowing you to take notes effortlessly? Look no further than the Rite in the Rain Weatherproof notebook

BEST NOTEBOOK FOR TRAVEL

Perhaps I’m a sucker for that old Indiana Jones aesthetic, but the Traveler’s Company Spiral Ring A5 notebook has all the right features to make it my choice for the best notebook for travel. It’s versatile, lightweight and easy to stash in any small bag. 

BEST NOTEBOOK FOR VISUAL PLANNING

I’m a visual thinker. That means that I often need to sketch something out to make the idea clearer in my head. That usually means I want a notebook with a large canvas for my sketches and paper that’s easy to sketch and write on with nearly any instrument. It also helps if it can lay perfectly flat. Luckily the Maurman MNEMOSYNE notebook meets all that criteria. 

WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST THESE NOTEBOOK REVIEWS

In addition to buying and testing over fifty notebooks in a hands-on analysis of each notebook, I also examined hundreds of reviews from some of the top pen and paper bloggers from around the world. I also read hundreds of reviews left by regular notebook buyers on various retail merchant websites to get a feel for other people’s opinions about each notebook I tested. 

Each notebook I tested was scrutinized by using various pens, pencils, crayons and markers. Oh, and I also watched numerous YouTube reviews of these products by notable stationery experts. 

TESTING CRITERIA

Every notebook I bought and tested went through a pretty standard set of criteria I set out for each notebook. Not all 50 made it into this article as I was pretty sure that no one wanted to wade through fifty different products, but the ones that did make it through wound up scoring highly amidst the following criteria I set out for their review:

Design

  • Do the aesthetics of the notebook encourage you to use it instead of gathering dust somewhere?
  • Do the lines / dots / grids feel like they hinder or help your note-taking activities? In other words, are they muted enough to be useful, or do they get in the way?
  • Does the notebook look good on a shelf or a desk?
  • Does the notebook easily fit into bags, pockets, and backpacks?
  • Are there too few or too many pages?
  • Quality and size of the line / dot / grid spacing

Build Quality

  • Level of attention to detail
  • Choice of materials used throughout
  • Quality of the binding
  • Does the notebook feel substantial or flimsy?

Page Quality

  • Is the page smooth enough for writing or sketching? Is it too smooth or too rough? (toothiness)
  • Paper thickness (GSM)
  • Paper material
  • Paper receptivity to various pens, pencils, markers and crayons
  • Does writing on the paper result in feathering, and to what extent?
  • Does writing on the paper result in ghosting, and to what extent?
  • Does writing on the paper result in bleeding, and to what extent?

The Cover

  • Is the cover clean and subtle or busy and over-designed?
  • Is the cover minimalist, classic or boring?
  • Is the cover soft or hard, and what kind of feel do you get when holding it?

Extras

  • Is there a place to stash ripped-out notes?
  • Built-in bookmarks?
  • Included tools or reference pages?

Value

  • Given the price, what is the overall value of the notebook you’re buying?
  • What is the cost per page?

MIDORI MD NOTEBOOK AT

The Midori MD Notebook AT is a simple, minimalistic notebook made by masters in the art of notebook making in Japan. This notebook features lightly cream-coloured paper and provides excellent tactile feedback while using nearly any writing instrument. But don’t worry, the level of toothiness is not so hard that it won’t allow for easy-flowing smooth writing and sketching to occur. I would say that’s what’s most impressive about this notebook. The manufacturer has found a perfect medium balance between heavy toothiness and no texture. 

The matte pages in this notebook feature a light-blue ruling and offer an overall pleasant paper tone to write or draw on. Available in graph, lined or blank versions, this notebook also includes a fancy ribbon marker that is so thin and light it’s almost hard to find at first. For some, that’s a positive. For others, it will defeat the very purpose of having a notebook bookmark. 

The graph paper version I tested happened to have a nice light blue tone and wound up being an excellent level of a graph without being too distracting. I found that the Midori MD Notebook was particularly receptive and wonderful for any pencil or pencil crayon sketching in all my tests. The Midori MD also feels a touch on the delicate side, particularly the covers, so you might want to consider getting a separate cover for it. That said, the build quality and construction are excellent. With awesome lay-flat tendencies, this notebook arrives packaged in clear cellophane as well as a slightly opaque paraffin paper that you can remove or leave on for cover protection. 

The Midori MD features threaded binding that makes it strong and easy to open and, of course, lay flat. The exposed grid-like super spine is also a nice touch. The graph version I tested also had a cool feature in where every 10th square is marked slightly with a light blue dot in the outer margins making counting squares and distances easy. Every two squares are marked with a pale blue line to make it easy to count by twos. It’s small details like this that make the Midori notebook one of the best notebooks in the world. 

If you still don’t think this is a special notebook, go ahead and read about the lengths this company goes to as far as just making its own paper for these notebooks.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringVery low – Almost no visible ink bleeding from the edges of letters of lines

BleedingLow – The Midori MD notebook doesn’t feature the thickest of paper amidst the notebooks I tested, so some minor bleeding is evident, but not enough to prevent you from using both sides of the paper. That is unless you’re particularly picky or plan on using a pen or marker that lays down a heavy amount of ink. 

GhostingMedium – Some ghosting is apparent, but not enough to prevent the use of both sides of each page. 

Ruling options: Blank, Graph, Lined. Graph has 5mm squares.

Technical Specifications

  • Pages: 176
  • Available sizes: A6, B6 Slim, A5, and A4
  • Weight: 258 grams for the A5 size
  • Matte paper finish
  • Brightness Rating: 20 lumen
  • GSM = About 70
  • Drying time = medium
  • Perforations = No

LEUCHTTURM 1917 - Medium A5 Hardcover Notebook

Like many of its brand siblings, this notebook is one of the most beloved notebooks in the world. Boasting exceptional construction, varying sizes, and cover colour options along with a large feature set, the Medium A5 Hardcover Notebook from Leuchtturm 1917 is an outstanding notebook choice for nearly any purpose. 

This notebook features high-quality threaded binding that pulls its 251 pages together in a lovely package suitable for all kinds of note-taking. Featuring two ribbon markers for keeping track of certain notes, the hard-covered notebook, available in 20 different cover colours, also includes a handy table of contents at the beginning of the notebook. Oddly enough, it also features page perforations on only eight of its pages, which I think was an odd design choice. 

When I said it boasts a rich feature set, I meant it. Just check out this bevy of extras you’ll get when picking up one of these notebooks:

  • Elastic enclosure to keep the notebook closed when not in use.
  • A gusseted pocket on the interior of the back cover to hold loose papers or those eight pages you can easily tear out of the notebook
  • It lays flat quite well but takes a bit of breaking in, but don’t worry; you won’t have to break the spine for it to lay flat. 
  • Numbered pages
  • 5 mm spacing between dots, graph boxes
  • 6 mm spacing between lined version
  • It comes with a handy set of stickers for labelling and archiving
  • Paper colour is warm and pleasant, cream-coloured. 

The Leuchtturm 1917 is a pure joy to write or sketch on. I found the toothiness of the acid-free pages nearly perfect, perhaps even slightly edging out the Midori MD notebook for how good it feels to write on. If you’re lucky, you can score this notebook in a special edition colour which the company makes available from time to time. With an excellent sturdy cover that feels supple in hand, the LEUCHTTURM 1917 – Medium A5 Hardcover Notebook is a perfect choice for nearly anyone.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringVery low – Almost no visible ink bleeding from the edges of letters of lines

BleedingVery Low – The Leuchtturm 1917 notebook shows only the slightest amount of bleed-through.

GhostingMedium – Some ghosting is apparent, but not enough to prevent the use of both sides of each page. 

Ruling options: Blank, Dotted, Graph, Lined.

Technical Specifications

  • Pages: 251
  • Size: A5
  • Weight: 423 grams
  • GSM = 80
  • Drying time = Low
  • Perforations = No

APICA Notebook CD 15 - 7" X 10"

Appearing highly on many “best notebooks” lists, the Apica Notebook CD 15 is a large softcover notebook with some of the smoothest paper you’ll come across. And despite its lack of toothiness, it still takes most inks quite well and is a pleasure to write on with almost any type of pen. However, I would recommend staying away from this notebook if you plan on using fountain pens extensively.

The feel of the paper in the Apica notebook is unlike any of the other fifty notebooks I’ve tested. When writing, it almost feels like you’re gliding on top of plastic that has been specifically engineered to feel good when putting pen to paper. I noticed immediately that the Apica notebook, which lays flat quite nicely, shows ink colours better than almost any other notebook. It’s truly in a league of its own when it comes to making colours pop on the page.

Unlike the Midori or Leuchtturm, the Apica notebook features a slightly off-white colour and is not nearly as creamy as those aforementioned notebooks. The retro cover design is perhaps where the Apica gets its lowest marks from me as it’s simply not a style I’d normally want on a notebook like this. Some may disagree and find it classy, but I would prefer something more modern.

Featuring a light grey ruling, this Japanese-made notebook includes an option for numbering your pages and a date field at the top of the page, thus making it a great choice for daily note-keeping or for students who want to note class dates at the start of each note.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringExtremely low – Nearly undetectable ink bleeding from the edges of letters or lines.

BleedingVery low – The Apica Notebook CD 15 shows only the slightest amount of bleed-through.

GhostingVery low – Only the heaviest of ink laydowns would show slightly through each page.

Ruling options: Lined, Graph, Blank

Technical Specifications

  • Binding: Glue and thread
  • GSM = 80
  • 33 pages
  • Available in 3 colours

DINGBATS Wildlife A5 Notebook

The DingBats Wildlife A5 Notebook has been my daily driver for years. It’s an excellent notebook in almost every respect, and I’m happy to see that the company continues to offer it in 13 different colour options. Each version of the notebook features a different animal or wildlife scene. And that’s part of a broader schtick the company runs with as it donates 2% of its revenue to WWF-UK (World Wildlife Fund), a noble cause to be sure.

Featuring a durable Polyurethane faux-leather cover with a nicely embossed animal or wildlife symbol, the DINGBATS notebook also sports well-rounded corners on the body and sheets. The built-in rubber band helps keep your notebook closed when not in use, and if you’re into a medium cream-coloured page, you’ve found the right notebook. The Dingbats offering is an excellent overall notebook as it features binding that allows the book to lay flat quite easily, and a myriad of other features justify its inclusion on this list of some of the world’s best notebooks:

  • Acid-free pages
  • One ribbon bookmark
  • All pages are perforated for easy removal
  • Includes an elastic pen loop which I always find extremely convenient for single pen storage. 
  • Has a pocket for loose notes on the inside of the back cover
  • Pages are NOT numbered

And as a final touch, the Dingbats notebook holds to its theme by including a cute animal footprint pattern on the inside of the cover. It also happens to feature superb quality paper that you’ll enjoy writing on for hours on end. 

Notebook Performance

FeatheringExtremely low – Nearly undetectable ink bleeding from the edges of letters or lines.

BleedingExtremely low – The Dingbats Wildlife A5 notebook shows nearly no visible bleeding. 

GhostingVery low – Only the heaviest of ink laydowns would show slightly through each page.

Ruling options: Lined, Blank, Dotted, Squared.

Specifications

  • GSM = 100
  • Size: A5
  • 192 pages
  • Weight: 15.8 oz.
  • 7mm lines, 5mm dot grid, 5mm squared graph

Traveler's Company Spiral Ring Note A5

Now we come to something a little bit different. If you’re looking for a great little travel notebook that will wind up looking like something Indiana Jones would keep notes in, you’ve found it! Made from brown craft paper, this spiral ring notebook feels solid, and the brass spiral rings feel like they could survive plenty of wear and tear.

Following our theme of Japanese notebooks, this notebook’s cover is made of thicker cardboard-like material infused with resin to add extra toughness. It also features a nicely embossed camel logo on the bottom right corner of the front cover—a nice subtle touch of design, to be sure.

Before deciding on this notebook, consider that it would serve nicely as a travel log, sketchbook or journal. Because of its spiral ring nature, it is easy to use both horizontally and vertically. The paper is relatively thin, but it has surprisingly good bleed-through qualities. That is, it barely shows any. Every sheet of the 160-page notebook has lovely rounded corners, and you can expect a relatively high level of toothiness from the paper. I should also mention that this notebook is also available in other paper colours if the brownish is not your style.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringLow – Some scarcely perceptible bleeding and lines from letters and other marks. 

BleedingExtremely low – The Traveler’s Company Spiral Ring Note A5 notebook shows nearly no visible bleeding. 

GhostingVery low – Only the heaviest of ink laydowns would show slightly through each page.

Ruling options: Blank

Specifications

  • Weight: 6.4 oz.
  • 160 pages
  • Available sizes: A6 Slim, A5 Slim, B6

Rhodia Webbie Hardcover dot Grid A6 Black Cover Notebook

This pocket-sized notebook immediately drew my attention due to its high-quality cover and ivory-brushed vellum paper colour. To say this notebook provides a sublime writing experience in a compact format is a gross understatement. Featuring a myriad of nice-to-have features such as a vegan leatherette cover, inner pocket for note storage, ribbon marker and elastic strap to keep the notebook closed is just the start.

Made in France, the Rhodia Webbie is available in blank, lined, and dot grid options and while I loved the overall construction of this notebook, don’t expect it to lay flat because that’s simply not in its wheelhouse. With what I would describe as a medium level of toothiness, the pages of this book, bound by thread and glue binding, were particularly receptive to rollerball, fountain and brush pens. I also enjoyed using various markers in this notebook which provided a great level of colour reproduction.

And if you care about how your notebooks are made, the Rhodia webbie notebooks feature PEFC environmental certification and feature acid-free and pH-neutral paper. The version I tested was the A6 size, but the notebook is available in various standard notebook size options.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringExtremely low – Nearly undetectable ink bleeding from the edges of letters or lines.

BleedingExtremely low – The Rhodia Webbie Hardcover notebook shows nearly no visible bleeding. 

GhostingVery low – Only the heaviest of ink laydowns would show slightly through each page.

Ruling options: Blank, lined, dot grid

Technical Specifications

  • Weight: 5.6 oz. 
  • Size: A6
  • Available sizes: 3.5″ x 5.5″ / 5.5″ x 8.25″ / 5.5″ x 8.3″ / 8.25″ x 5.5″
  • Dot grid size: 5 mm
  • 192 pages
  • GSM = 90

Guissi Classic Dotted Grid Bullet Notebook Journal A5

The Guissi Classic notebook features 144 thick pages with luxurious lay-flat threaded binding. The cover, available in ten gorgeous colour options, feels extremely elegant, but beyond that, the overall performance of this notebook was excellent under nearly any pen, pencil and marker stroke. The acid-free paper goes nicely with two ribbon markers and rounded corners to give each page a premium feel. Another notable feature of this A5-sized notebook is that it felt much lighter in my hand than many of the other notebooks on this list.

The paper is what I would consider being one of medium toothiness and makes for an ideal day-to-day notebook. Other features include a handy 12-month calendar index as well as a plan achievement table. These features add four pages each to the total of the notebook’s 144 included pages. While the pages are not perforated, they are relatively easy to rip out and store in the note pocket on the inside of the back cover. The only real drawback to this notebook that I could detect is that it appears to only be available in the dot grid ruling option.

Key Features

FeatheringExtremely low – Nearly undetectable ink bleeding from the edges of letters or lines.

BleedingMedium – Some noticeable ink comes through on heavier markers and strokes.

GhostingVery low – Only the heaviest of ink laydowns would show slightly through each page.

Ruling options: Dot grid

Specifications

  • Size: A5
  • Dot grid size: 5 mm
  • 144 pages
  • GSM = 80

Minimalism Art, Premium Hard Cover Notebook Journal

It’s hard to maintain a five-star rating on any product, but go ahead and look around. You’ll find that nearly anywhere this notebook from Minimalism Art is sold, it universally gets a five-star rating from reviewers and consumers who fall in love with this notebook. I’m not ashamed to say that I also did, and when my wife tried to steal it from me for her note-taking purposes, I was, let’s just say, less than pleased. 

Available in nine stunning colour covers, the Minimalism Art notebook features a thick and premium feeling leatherette hardcover with a nicely textured pattern throughout. The subtle lettering on the front cover completes a nice look for the body. Like many premium notebooks, the Minimalism Art notebook features a properly tensioned elastic attached to the cover to keep it closed while not in use. And while the thread and glue binding looks pretty solid and held up well with repeated use, it seems somewhat detached from the cover, which at first I thought was an odd design choice, but quickly grew to overlook it. 

What truly sets the Minimalism Art notebook apart from some of its counterparts is its absurdly thick, acid-free paper pages. How thick? How’s 120 GSM thick work for you? So what was it like to write in this notebook? In a word, supple. Ink laid down quite nicely, along with pencils going smoothly on the low-to-medium toothy pages. With its low-sheen paper, I found that the Minimalism Art pages were particularly adept at handling fountain pens. 

If you’re looking for a notebook with a paper colour that trends more white than creamy, the Minimalism Art notebook might be a strong contender for your note-taking needs. Other features of note include:

  • Two ribbon page markers
  • It lays flat quite nicely.
  • A two-page index at the start of the notebook
  • An expandable inner pocket on the back cover
  • The pages are numbered and nicely positioned with a dot missing in the bottom right or left corner to make space for page # – a very nice design touch. 
  • Extremely affordable for a notebook of this quality

And finally, I should mention that of all the notebooks that I came across, the Minimalism Art pages used a corner shape on the unique pages, not quite round and not quite square, almost Battlestar Galacticaesque in their appearance. 

Notebook Performance

FeatheringMedium – Some ink bleeding from the edges of letters or lines.

BleedingExtremely low – This notebook shows nearly no visible bleeding. 

GhostingVery low – Only the heaviest of ink laydowns would show slightly through each page.

Ruling options: Dot grid, blank, ruled.

Specifications

  • Available sizes: Master A4, Composition B5, A5, Classic, Pocket B6
  • Dot grid size: 5 mm
  • 122 pages
  • GSM = 120
  • Designed in San Francisco

A5 Dotted Journal (160gsm) by Scribbles That Matter

The Scribbles That Matter notebooks are perhaps the most controversial notebook on this list. Some buyers simply swear that it’s the best notebook they’ve ever owned, while others feel like the notebook is highly overpriced. Because of its inclusion on this list, you can probably guess what I think about it. Available in a wide variety of colours, designs and sizes, the Scribbles That Matter notebooks also come in different paper thickness ratings. The A5 notebook that I tested comes in at an absurdly thick 160 GSM. 

While that level of thickness certainly helps the notebook score highly in various performance categories, it does add to the heft and overall bulkiness of this 153-page book. But make no mistake about it, this is a super-premium journal, and the reality is that you will pay a premium price for it. This notebook ships with a hardcover slide-in box that you can use to store the notebook in a tidy manner on your shelf once you’re done with it. Each Scribbles That Matter notebook uses a nice interplay of contrasting colours for the varying notebook components. The colour contrasts are well thought out and generally make sense. 

Let’s talk about these 160 GSM thick pages. First, there’s no doubt that this notebook features some of the best acid-free paper I’ve written on with just the right balance of toothiness I usually like for my note keeping and sketching purposes. The pages tend to hew more white than creamy if you care about that sort of thing. The cover is made of silky-feeling faux leather and feels just as premium as the rest of the notebook. Renowned for its durability, I purposely gave this notebook a bit of a beating, and it’s held up incredibly well throughout months of heavy use. 

In my opinion, the higher price of the Scribbles That Matter notebooks is more than justified considering its plethora of features, including:

  • Numbered pages
  • Two colour coded ribbon bookmarks
  • Thread and glue binding
  • Lay-flat design
  • Three index pages at the start of the notebook
  • Expandable back pocket
  • Elastic closure
  • Key for bullet and colour codes
  • A page dedicated entirely to testing pens
  • Included pen loop

Great for nearly any pen type, including fountain, brush and gel, as well as watercolour paints, you can almost throw anything at this notebook, and it will perform marvellously. This notebook feels incredibly nice to write on and is quickly becoming one of my favourite notebooks. 

Oh, and while it’s sold out at the time of this writing, check out this incredibly cool BLACK PAPERED version of the notebook. 

Notebook Performance

FeatheringVery low – Almost no visible ink bleeding from the edges of letters of lines

BleedingAlmost non-existent – The thickness of the pages is responsible for this excellent performance. 

GhostingAlmost non-existent – The thickness of the pages is responsible for this excellent performance. 

Ruling options: Dot grid

Technical Specifications

  • Available sizes: A5, B6
  • 153 pages
  • GSM = 160
  • Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Dimensions: 5.71″ x 0.71″ x 8.27″ (A5 size)

Moleskine Cahier Journal

There’s been a lot of hate for the Moleskine brand in stationary fan land of late. Perhaps Moleskine became too mainstream for the hipster stationery nerds, but in my mind, there’s still plenty to admire about this company’s products. One such product is the Moleskine Cahier Journal soft-cover, a perfect short-form notebook for keeping notes.

In addition to being affordable, this notebook features ivory-coloured paper and includes a back cover with a relatively loose pocket for torn-out pages. The cardstock cover allows the notebook to remain flexible, while the thread binding is designed to match the colour of the cover. Available in many cover colours, the pages of this notebook feature rounded corners and the last 16 sheets are perforated for easy removal.

Packed in sets of 3, the notebook features visible stitching on the exterior of the spine, and while this notebook is relatively plain, it still feels quite premium. Overall, my favourite part of the Moleskine Cahier Journal notebooks is their literal and metaphorical flexibility. This notebook is simply a great size for pocketability in larger coats and pants pockets.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringLow to Medium – Very acceptable levels of performance for a very affordable notebook. 

BleedingLow – some minor bleeding is evident, but not enough to prevent you from using both sides of the paper. 

GhostingMedium – The thickness of the pages is responsible for this middling performance. 

Ruling options: Blank, dot grid, lined

Technical Specifications

  • 64 pages
  • GSM = 70
  • Dimensions: 3.5″ x 5.5″

Maruman MNEMOSYNE Notebook 9.92 x 7.05 Inches (B5) - N104

This large B5-sized notebook from Maruman is available in a wide variety of sizes which you can see under the technical specs below.
And if that doesn’t provide you with enough variety, this notebook series is also available in different binding versions, including the twin wire that I tested and a glue and staple version.

Made in Japan, these notebooks feature a blank header area with date, page #, and title space. Sporting an 80 GSM thick paper, the Maruman notebook’s paper is much higher sheen than most of the notebooks featured on this list. It’s essentially the opposite of matte and provides a very smooth feeling when putting pen to paper.

Additionally, each acid-free page is micro-perforated, making it easy and clean to tear out. The resin cover isn’t overly thick but still feels both firm and bendy with nicely rounded corners. It’s a relatively minimalist black cover that features a single model name “104” and “Mnemosyne” written in gold lettering, while the back cover is entirely blank in a matching black. One of the big advantages of the wire-binding version of this notebook is that it lays completely flat, something I always appreciate out of my notebooks. And because it’s a premium notebook, it also features premium double-wire binding providing extra stability while writing or sketching.

I was happiest with both fountain and gel pen results in all of my testing, as this notebook featured a very low level of toothiness, but I wouldn’t recommend it for pencilling or crayon sketching. Overall this is a well-built notebook, and even with heavier inks, it tended to dry quickly, which was a pleasant surprise given its high-sheen paper.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringVery low – Almost no visible ink bleeding from the edges of letters of lines

BleedingVery low – The Maruman MNEMOSYNE Notebook shows only the slightest amount of bleed-through.

GhostingLow – Some heavy ink laydowns show slightly through each page.

Ruling options: Dot grid, squared, ruled, blank

Technical Specifications

  • Available sizes: A4, Modified A7, Modified A8, Modified B7, A6, B6
  • GSM = 80
  • 5 mm dot grid
  • Dimensions: 9.92″ x 7.05″ (B5 size)
  • 80 sheets
  • Weight: 13.1 ounces

Elan Publishing - The Indestructible Field Book

If you’re going to include the word “indestructible” in your product name, you know that many people are going to do a lot of nasty things to said product and upload the videos to YouTube. And yes, there is no shortage of those uploads in which people just go absolutely to town on the Elan Publishing Indestructible Field book.

So, is this notebook indestructible? Obviously not. But it is one hell of a tough notebook that can withstand a beating like almost no other notebook on the market. Sold in numerous colours and packs of four, this waterproof, tearproof and all-around weatherproof notebook is made of some plastic paper coated with ink-receiving clay. Heavily influenced by the Field notes brand, it almost looks like a Fields Notes book if you squint.

Featuring 48 pages, these pocket-sized notebooks are ideal for anyone that requires the ability to keep notes in the field without worrying too much about environmental hazards. Using heavy thread as its binding, the drying time for many pens is relatively high, which means I experienced some smudging. If you’re going to pick some of these notebooks, I’d suggest pairing them with a quick-drying pen to minimize smudging. This notebook is ideal for use when you don’t care too much about penmanship but still need a reliable notebook in tough environments. The Elan Publishing notebook includes a 5-inch ruler on the inside back cover.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringVery low – Almost no visible ink bleeding from the edges of letters of lines

BleedingVery low – This notebook shows only the slightest amount of bleed-through.

GhostingVery low – Only the heaviest of ink laydowns would show slightly through each page.

Ruling options: Ruled

Technical Specifications

  • 48 pages
  • Available sizes: 3.5″ x 5.5″ & 5″ x 8″

MUJI Notebook B5 6mm Rule

I find it fascinating how some countries grab on to certain cultural traditions and then grow an entire industry around them. Such seems to be the case with premium notebook production from the land of the rising sun. The Muji Notebook B5 is sold in a pack of five gorgeously made lay flat notebooks featuring a relatively low toothiness paper. With straight corners and a cardstock cover, the set of five comes with an exterior binding colour with each notebook being different: red, yellow, green, grey and navy.

Using a glue binding system, these notebooks are quite thin at only 30 pages each, but I love their unassuming nature and slim profiles. If you’re looking for a larger-sized but minimalist notebook, the MUJI B5 notebook is a fantastic choice. Pages are smooth to write on, featuring a relatively high sheen and ideal for fountain or gel pens. Perhaps my favourite part of this notebook is that although the ruling options are limited to ruled and grid, the spacing (6mm) is quite small, which is ideal for those of us who like to keep our hand-writing on the small size.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringAlmost none – You’d have to bust out a magnifying glass and look real hard to find any feathering in the lines and pen strokes. 

BleedingExtremely low – This notebook shows nearly no visible bleeding. 

GhostingVery low – Oddly enough, despite featuring pages that are only 60 GSM in thickness, the MUJI notebook performed exceptionally well under examination for ghosting.

Ruling options: Ruled, Grid

Technical Specifications

  • Available sizes: A6, B5
  • GSM = 60
  • Pages = 30

RocketBook Mini

And now for something a little bit different. The Rocketbook Mini has been designed to bring together the best of both the digital and analog note-taking world and fuse them in a single handy product that should last for years to come.

Designed to be written on and erased with a damp cloth, the Rocketbook Mini is a reusable notebook that allows you to quickly shoot the notes you’ve made to Google Drive, Dropbox or a myriad of other file storage solutions. It does this through the companion Rocketbook app for iOS or Android. It also comes with a Pilot Frixion pen, which is the only recommended pen to use with this notebook if you want to keep erasing and re-using its pages.

While the version I tested is the smallest book that RocketBook offers, they produce notebooks in various sizes, ruling options and cover colours, all designed to be reusable. The Rocketbook Mini also shops with a microfiber cloth that can be used for wiping your writing. It’s hard to say exactly how well this notebook will fare over the coming years with extensive use and dozens if not hundreds of erasings.

Packaged in a neatly sealed bag, the RocketBook Mini is waterproof and features a dotted grid. Remember that you should never keep this notebook in direct sunlight as the ink from the Frixion pen will turn clear. And because it is so different, none of the usual ways I’ve been using to judge other notebooks apply to the RocketBook. Perhaps my only minor annoyance with it was that it was a touch prone to smudging during writing, so make sure to give yours 10-15 seconds to dry before you put your palms on top of your writing.

In the end, I like to think of the RocketBook mini as a portable, digital whiteboard that doesn’t require any batteries to work. It’s a terrific bridge for us who like old-school note-taking but want the ability to digitize our work quickly and on-demand.

Notebook Performance

Ruling options: Grid, Lined, Calendar, Graph

Technical Specifications

  • Available sizes: A5, Executive, Pocket, Letter
  • GSM = 60
  • Pages = 30

Moleskine Classic Notebook - Hard Cover

The classic pocket notebook from Moleskine with a hardcover still has plenty to offer that many customers like. First, the faux leather cover is available in ten colours and includes a handy “in case of loss” page. The Moleskin Classic Notebook features acid-free pages with nicely rounded corners and lies flat decently, though I wouldn’t describe it as entirely lay-flat.

Due to its 70 GSM rating, the pages in the Moleskine are not ideal for fountain pens but do quite well with all other pens I tested. The back cover has an inner pocket, and the entire notebook uses some pretty sturdy glue and thread binding. Moleskine is fairly well known for its ivory-coloured paper, and that’s also included in this notebook. The value for this notebook is pretty high as it comes with a whopping 192 pages. The Moleskine Classic Notebook also includes a nicely tensioned elastic closure and matching coloured ribbon bookmark to round out its feature set.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringLow – Some scarcely perceptible bleeding and lines from letters and other marks. 

BleedingLow – Some minor bleeding is evident, but not enough to prevent you from using both sides of the paper. 

GhostingHigh – A fairly high level of ghosting. This notebook is better served to be used with pencils or crayons, or if you’re totally fine with not using both sides of each page. 

Ruling options: Ruled, Dot grid, blank, Graph

Technical Specifications

  • Available sizes: Various
  • GSM = 70
  • Pages = 192
  • Dimensions: 3.38 x 0.63 x 5.63 inches (Pocket size)

Rite in the Rain Weatherproof Top-Spiral Notebook, 3" x 5"

Here we come to yet another non-traditional notebook. As you most likely already surmised, the Rite in the Rain spiral notebook is designed entirely to be written in under even heavy downpours. That means this notebook features waterproof paper with a top coil binding. It’s essentially a waterproof flip-notebook. The inside cover of this notebook features useful common measurement conversions, English linear measurements, map scales, and built-in rulers.

Built using wood-based paper (isn’t all paper wood-based in some way?), the Rite in the Rain notebook should be your go-to choice if you plan on doing a whole lot of bad-weather note keeping. Like with other waterproof notebooks, the Rite in the Rain doesn’t do great with fountain pens, and even though the company says it also doesn’t do well with gel pens, I found that it performed decently with the ones I used tried. The official recommendation is to use a regular pencil or an all-weather pen like a Fisher space pen to pair with this notebook.

The highly-rated Rite in the Rain notebook features a unique page pattern: solid rules lines with dashed vertical lines running up and down the length of each page. Made in the USA and with aggressively rounded corners, the Rite in the Rain is available in ten different colours and cover designs. Oh, and I should mention that its cover is also waterproof.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringLow – Some scarcely perceptible bleeding and lines from letters and other marks. 

BleedingExtremely low – This notebook shows nearly no visible bleeding. 

GhostingVery low – Only the heaviest of ink laydowns would show slightly through each page.

Ruling options: Unique pattern

Technical Specifications

  • Available sizes: Various
  • Pages = 50
  • Dimensions: 3.38 x 0.63 x 5.63 inches (Pocket size)

Elan Publishing - Field Book

Available in a decent variety of colours, the Elan Publishing Field Book is a fantastic value pocket notebook that’s versatile and simply fun to write on. Featuring uncoated paper, this very affordable notebook series is sold in packs of five. I wanted to include this notebook on this list, not because it’s the most premium of notebooks out there, but because it provides plenty of value.

The inside cover of the Field Book has space for “Property of” details as well as “Project details,” making it ideal for a notebook you take into the field while you try to keep your notes organized. Staple binding allows the Field Book to lay flat while the 48 pages are available in either lined, graph or dotted versions.

Notebook Performance

FeatheringLow – Some scarcely perceptible bleeding and lines from letters and other marks. 

BleedingLow – some minor bleeding is evident, but not enough to prevent you from using both sides of the paper. 

GhostingMedium – The thickness of the pages is responsible for this mediocre performance. 

Ruling options: Unique pattern

Technical Specifications

  • Available sizes: 3.5″ x 5.5″ & 5″ x 8″
  • Pages = 48
Sebastian Arciszewski

Sebastian Arciszewski

An enthusiast of all things minimalist. I love simple design and always look for an aesthetic that complements how an item works. Because after all, a design is how a thing works. You can find me on twitter: @sebastian_a