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Before yesterdayStationery Nerd

A Graphic Designer Working at Home – my bullet journal + project management system

Like many people all over the world… I’m stuck working at home during the global pandemic. I’m so glad I have a solid analog system that works for my situation. I’ve had to adapt my bullet journal and planning system to accommodate a whole different kind of workflow.

I am the sole in-house graphic designer serving many different departments and have found myself at the center of the response to serve the visual needs of the communications team. So it’s essential that I stay on top of the dozens of requests, tasks, and projects coming at me every day. Plus meetings! So many meetings!

I use a combination of digital and analog tools… let’s chat about them.

FIVE PART WORK ORGANIZING SYSTEM

  1. Digital Calendar – Outlook + Google
  2. Bullet Journal
  3. Meeting notes
  4. Digital planning – just a Microsoft Word doc, nothing fancy
  5. Whiteboard – 4′ x 8′ wall-size

Take a look at the video where I walk through my journal and meeting notes padfolio. I get a little long-winded but you’re used to that from me, right?

 

The post A Graphic Designer Working at Home – my bullet journal + project management system appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Tracking Daily Habits in my Bullet Journal

Daily Habits vs. Daily Intentions

The way I track habits in my bullet journal might be a bit different than what you normally see. I’ve tried all sorts of different habit trackers until I finally found what worked best for me. The monthly habit tracker charts would usually go ignored after the first couple of days of the month. I even tried a weekly habit tracker but that didn’t work for me either.

I’m such a non-conformist type of nerd that it wasn’t until I tried tracking my habits on my daily bullet journal page did I finally find a system that worked well for me. But it’s not just a typical habit tracker … in fact, I don’t even call these things habits. Instead, these are my daily intentions.


Let’s talk about habit tracking

So let me back up a bit before we dive too deep into how I track these things. It took me many years to figure out that I’m a rebel. I don’t like being told what to do … even if it’s me telling myself what to do. I know, I know, I know! You’re probably wondering how I ever get anything done with that kind of attitude, right? Yeah, me too!

I have a slightly different concept of what constitutes a habit and what actually needs to be tracked. I don’t track things in my life that are routine actions – things I do because it’s just what I do. I’m going to brush my teeth every day no matter what, so there’s no need to track that action. But if flossing isn’t an ingrained routine like brushing, I will begin tracking my daily flossing until that action becomes a routine and I no longer need to be reminded to do it.

Science tells us that the notion that it takes 21 days to build a habit is actually wrong. The average is more like 66 days. And you know what that means…. 66 days as an average means that half the people of the world can build a habit in less than 66 days but the other half of the world takes much longer than 66 days.

Setting new habits

The other thing that science tells us is that establishing new habits is frickin’ hard (I don’t think they actually use the word “frickin’” in scientific journals, though)! However, the process of setting a new habit is made easier by attaching that new habit to something that is already an ingrained routine and making that new action dependent on it.

Back to the flossing example … I’m absolutely going to brush my teeth every single day, right? So the best way to get into the habit of flossing is to set a rule that says you can’t brush your teeth until after you floss. This is the type of thing you would track in your habit tracker chart — either in your journal or whatever method works for you. It could be a calendar you hang on the wall next to the bathroom sink and cross off each day you floss.

Eventually, that action becomes a new habit and just part of your daily routine. Once it’s an automatic thing, then you can stop tracking it every day. Pick a new habit you want to establish and repeat.

Don’t try to set a whole bunch of new habits all at once. Go small! Don’t set yourself up for failure before you even begin. If you work on just one new habit every 66 days … that will be 5 or 6 new habits every year!

 

Breaking old habits

Those same nerdy scientists have also studied what it takes to break a bad habit. Quitting cold turkey rarely works, especially if that old habit is something truly ingrained in your routine. Instead, it’s more effective to replace that action with a different action. Routine actions are embedded in our subconscious and we do things without even thinking about the act of doing them.

How many times have you been driving to work in the morning and suddenly wonder if you actually brushed your teeth before you left? Or is that just me? I brush my teeth immediately after I wash my hands, which happens right after I apply makeup, which happens as soon as I put my brush and comb back in the vanity drawer, which happens just before I finish styling my hair…. everything happens in a specific order because I’ve done it every day in the same order for years. So it’s easy to do any one of those things without actually noticing that you’re doing it because your mind is free to wander and think about other things. So it’s not all unheard of that I might forget if I did one part of that routine or if I did it without remembering that I did it.

So we know that to effectively break a habit we need to replace one action with a different action. Disruption is the key here. As habit expert James Clear says:

“You don’t break a bad habit, you replace it.”

One of the habits I’m working to eliminate relates to my social media usage. Over the past several months I’ve noticed that I am mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram for no specific purpose. It’s a major time-waster and definitely isn’t contributing to my mental well-being. Instead, I want to use the time I’ve been using on browsing social media to do something more productive, like reading. I love to read! But I kept finding myself whining that I didn’t have enough time to read like I used to. Duh! That’s because I’m farting around on Facebook.

So in an attempt to curb my social media usage, I have removed the icons for Facebook and Instagram from my phone’s home screen. The apps are still on my phone, but they’re a few clicks and a scroll away inside the app drawer. No shortcuts within thumb’s reach. Instead, in the place where those shortcuts were on the home screen, I’ve placed my Kindle app and my Pocket app (Pocket is where I save articles I find online that I want to read later). So when my thumb habitually reaches for that Facebook, it lands on Kindle instead. Ha! Take that bad habit! You’ve been thwarted!

What are Daily Intentions?

As I mentioned above, the term “habit” riles up my rebellious nature. It’s such a buzz word that being overused in society today. The stigma of a “bad” habit and the exaltation of a “good” habit. And who gets to decide what is good vs. bad? In fact, who gets to decide what is a habit and what’s not a habit. OK…. let’s just leave that conversation for another day because I don’t need to get riled up and all soap-boxy on you.

SIDE NOTE: I’m sure you’re wondering why I used the term “habits” in the title of this blog post. Ha! Good catch! I use it because it’s what the search engines like and what you probably used in Google to find this page. So I’m bowing down to social norms in order to get you here so I can convert you to the dark side and start using new terms. Bwahahaha….

I prefer words like routine and intention. These terms are more personal and each person gets to decide for themselves what action is attached to those words. Yes, there’s the song that says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions…” (thank you, Randy Travis). But when I use that term I think of it as an action that I’ve made the decision to take for a specific reason.

Intention is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out a specific action or actions in the future. Intention involves mental activities such as planning and forethought.

I also don’t think of tasks that need to be accomplished in a day as a habit I need to establish or need to record in a habit tracker. For instance, I want to write every day. Whether that’s just my daily Morning Pages or if it’s something more – like a blog post or a book or a letter to a friend. Similar to my desire, above, of wanting to read more, I also want to write more. But rather than include this on a habit tracker, I include it in my daily lists of tasks. The task isn’t accomplished at the same time each day or attached to any other action in my day and it doesn’t even involve the same type of writing each time I sit down to write — so it goes against every typical definition of a habit.

Instead, this is more of a routine task. I have made a commitment to carry out an action and I want that action to happen as close to daily as possible. I want it to become part of my the routine part of my life.

You’re probably thinking by now that I’ve lost my mind and that splitting hairs with these terms is just nonsense. Meh. Maybe so. But I’m sharing it with you because I imagine there are others in the world who also have a negative attitude toward the word habit, or even just being told what to do because of some random chart in your bullet journal. Use whatever word you want to use, of course. But be thoughtful about the words you use in your life and don’t just follow the crowd because that’s what everyone else is doing.

What do my Daily Intentions Mean?

Obviously, I’ve given this a lot of thought and most of this has come out of my daily Morning Pages practice (it’s a good place to examine what’s in your head and figure out how to make those thoughts into reality). I’ve settled on 5 intentions because it seems like a realistic number of things I can accomplish in a day. I can only hold so many things in my head at a time and I only have so much willpower and energy to devote to these things. So 5 intentions work for me. Be deliberate about the number you choose, too.

My Daily Intentions

These five areas of my life represent a holistic approach to health and well-being. When I consistently achieve each of these, I feel better physically and mentally. 

  • Be present
  • Get good rest
  • Eat healthy food
  • Move my body
  • Take my vitamins
The first one, “Be present” is a bit ambiguous and can mean something different from day-to-day. I know myself well enough to know that I am healthier – both physically and mentally – if I can be intentional about my day and how I spend my internal energy. Being present in the moment and being mindful of my actions and the world around me is the most important action I can take each day.
  • Stress Management
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Writing
  • Mindfulness

Stress management is a tough one for me because I tend to take on more responsibility than I need to and that ends up causing stress. So being aware of that character trait in myself and doing what I can to combat it each day is a good way to keep stress under control.

Journaling and writing go hand-in-hand and help me to keep my mind clear of clutter, but also to get my creative thoughts down on paper so they can be sent out to the world. I think of “journaling” as personal reflection that is for my eyes only and nobody else will see what I write. I think of “writing” as a productive task where the words I craft are published somewhere (like here on Stationery Nerd or in a book I publish.)

Prayer and meditation help to keep me balanced and in tune with my spiritual life. Someone wise once said that prayer is when you talk to God and meditation is when you sit quietly and let God do the talking.

Getting good rest, eating healthy and moving my booty – those are all self-explanatory, of course. But knowing that if I achieve at least one of those things in a day that I can call it a success. Sometimes I fail at all three of those and I’m just a Netflix-bingeing-popcorn-eating slug on the couch all day. But hey, at least I’m mindful of the fact that I was a slug.

I would say that the last one on the list – “take your vitamins” – is the closest thing I have to a traditional habit tracker type of item. Back in 2007, I had bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) and part of the bargain of having that surgery is a very strict vitamin routine for the rest of my life. It’s not just a single multi-vitamin every morning with my coffee. It’s a regimen of vitamins and supplements that keep me alive and healthy with multiple doses throughout the day. I won’t bore you with all those details, but just know that this checkbox on my list is kind of essential to my well-being so I need it to be in my face every day as a reminder to stay on track.

My Morning Ritual

It’s not enough to simply check off boxes on a habit tracker. At least it’s not for me. I take seriously the fact that I consider these daily intentions. So each morning as I dive into my journal while enjoying that first glorious cup of coffee, I prepare for the day. I don’t plan ahead in my bullet journal. Each page is a new day and the tasks for that day are set down on paper that morning (sometimes it happens the night before, but that’s rarer). 

The daily structure of the page is the same, so I’ll often draw a few pages at a time to save time. But each morning I write the date at the top of the page and plan what needs to be accomplished. 

SIDE NOTE: This daily routine doesn’t actually happen every single day. There are plenty of days when I neglect my journal and don’t have a task list. It’s OK to skip days in your bullet journal. You are not a slave to that thing, do what works for you and the way you live your life.

On each day’s page, I draw 5 boxes. Then in the morning as I am filling out that day’s page, I fill in the boxes with the letter that represents the intentions I listed above. And while I write those letters I speak the intention out loud.

“Today I will be present. I will get good rest. I will choose healthy food. I will move my body. I will take my vitamins.”

Words have power. And when you hear your own voice verbalize the words you hold inside your mind the words become more powerful.

When was the last time you heard, in your own voice, something positive about yourself? How often do we utter self-defeating words like, “I am such a klutz!” or “I can never do anything right!” or “I’m not creative.” We say things about ourselves that we’d never say to our best friend or loved ones. So why do we say them to ourselves? We need to knock that off!

So by speaking my intentions out loud every morning, I am beginning my day by hearing, in my own voice, what is important to me and how I want to live my life.

I didn’t start these 5 daily intentions with speaking them out loud, like this. I began doing that a few months after I started including the 5 boxes on my planning page. I noticed a dramatic difference once I started speaking the words out loud! My success rate went from 30-40% up to around 80-90% (those are not scientific numbers, just a general guesstimate). Not only did I get to color in more boxes at the end of the day, but I also started to notice that I was feeling better and being more mindful of my actions.

How I Track my Daily Intentions

If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you know that I’m a highlighting-type of gal. I don’t use bullet points in my bullet journal <gasp> but instead, I just highlight a task to indicate if it’s done or not done. Green means the task is done. Gray means the task can be ignored — it was either not done and I don’t care about it anymore, or it was moved elsewhere to deal with on another day.

I use the same system for tracking my daily intentions. At the end of each day, I evaluate if I achieved the intention for each box. If I did, then it gets highlighted in green. If not, then it gets gray. Easy peasy!

Then I can leaf back through the pages to quickly assess if there is a pattern developing of not accomplishing the things I want to accomplish. Have I gone a whole week without moving my booty because I’ve been chained to my desk for too many hours in the day? Have I been neglecting my journaling habit or avoided meditation for several days? If I notice a pattern, I’ll make an extra effort to get myself back on track as quickly as I can.

Do you track habits?

I’d love to chat about how you track your habits. Drop a comment below and let’s start a conversation. Do you track habits on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis? Have you had success in establishing a new habit or breaking an old habit? What worked for you?

And most importantly… am I really the only one who has an aversion to the term “habits.” Please tell me I’m not alone!

The post Tracking Daily Habits in my Bullet Journal appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

My new book: 30 DAYS OF JOURNALING – peek inside and pen test

I wrote a book and I can’t wait to share it with you. I love having my physical books to touch and hold and when my package arrived in the mail I fell in love! The size is perfect as a “sidekick” journal that can be carried along with an A5 blank journal. It’s 5″ x 8″ and it’s adorable! With 30 individual journaling prompts, this is a great introduction to daily journaling.

30 Days of Journaling Prompts: An introduction to daily journaling

Let me take you on a little tour of what this book is all about and why you NEED it in your life.

Daily journaling changed my life and I’d love to introduce you to daily journaling too. The daily prompts will take you through a full 30 days and give you an introduction to a variety of styles of journaling. There are prompts for in-depth soul searching journaling sessions, mixed in with the fun and silly prompts that let you get creative with your journaling and everything in between.

There are three ways to get your copy of the book.

  1. Buy a printable PDF in the Stationery Nerd Shop
  2. Buy a printed book on Amazon
  3. Buy an ebook for Kindle

I’d love to hear what you think. Drop a comment below (and if you bought a copy on Amazon, could you give me a review on Amazon, too?)

 

The post My new book: 30 DAYS OF JOURNALING – peek inside and pen test appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

William Hannah – All my Discbound Planner Wishes Come True

William Hannah is my new true love

You’ve heard of all the big names in the discbound planner and notebook system, right? Happy Planner, Arc by Staples, Levenger Circa, Tul … and William Hannah. Wait. You haven’t heard of William Hannah? Oh no! Well, let me introduce you to my new best friend. Read on for a nerdy, in-depth review.

But first, let me jump back in history for a moment.

A mini timeline of Pam’s planners…

  • Pre-2012 – we’ll cover that another day (it was a mess!)
  • 2012 until 2015 – various leather traveler’s notebooks
  • 2014 until 2016 – Arc discbound notebook by Staples
  • 2016 to present – bullet journal notebook and leather TN

I’ve always had a love for leather. That’s what drew me to traveler’s notebooks in the first place. We’ll talk about my vast TN collection at another time, if you wish. It was during this era that I first published a blog post about how to make your own TN inserts (yes, I moved that old tutorial to the Stationery Nerd website, so it’s here for you to enjoy now). 

But it was my love of organization and a need to keep the different areas of my life compartmentalized that drew me to a discbound notebook system. Being able to move pages around, create sections within a single notebook, archive finished sections to make room for more pages, and the ability to make the notebook as fat or skinny as I wanted based on the size of discs I used. My lime green Arc was a workhorse for me and helped me stay organized as I grew a successful graphic design freelance business on the side while working a day job. 

But there was one major drawback of the Arc discbound notebook. It wasn’t leather. 

I looked around at the other brands to see if there was higher-quality options for covers. I did switch to aluminum rings from the plastic and that made a big difference. But no matter which notebook I looked at, it was all the same – it just didn’t feel comfortable. As awesome as the discbound system is for planning and staying organized, it was not a pleasure to carry.

If Midori and Arc had a baby…

Let’s pretend that the Traveler’s Company (formerly known as Midori) and Staples Arc notebook (or Happy Planner, Tul, Levenger) got together and made sweet stationery love. Taking the best part of traveler’s notebooks (the leather) and combining it with a discbound system to create a perfect love child where you get everything you love in a single notebook. And let’s also pretend that the stationery gods have blessed this baby with superior paper genes and it is a straight-A student, all-star athlete, and class president.

That stationery love child is not just a fantasy. It’s real! And it’s the notebook of my dreams!

William Hannah … my stationery love child

Before I dive straight off a cliff on this love child thing, let’s just step away from the stationery love child thing. LOL! William Hannah notebooks combine the discbound system that helps me stay hyper-organized with the luxury of fine Italian leather that is a joy to carry. And the paper by William Hannah is some of the best I’ve experienced in any notebook I’ve tested or reviewed here on Stationery Nerd (with more than 50 journals tested, that’s high praise from this nerd!). And to top it all off is the endless combinations you can create with the unique customization system they’ve built. It is truly a bespoke paper system.

The William Hannah brand was born in London in 2015 which was right in the middle of my love affair with discbound systems. As the new kid on the block, it took a little while for news of this notebook to reach me in Michigan, USA. It was just about the time when I had moved out of my Arc and into a new system that I first learned of William Hannah and realized that it was probably the perfect option for me – if I ever went back to discs again.

I have followed the William Hannah brand since that first discovery and have drooled from afar. But the time was never right to move back into a disc notebook … until now.

A few months ago, David, the owner of William Hannah, reached out to me as a fellow stationery nerd to introduce himself. He generously sent me a notebook to try. And now this notebook has become part of my daily routine and for the New Year, I’m moving in more fully as a way to keep my business organized and blog posts flowing here on the website.

Affiliate Disclaimer

Some of the links in this review are affiliate links to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate and if you make a purchase using one of the links in this review, 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 50-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.

OK – we’ve got a lot to cover with this notebook, so let’s just break it all down bit by bit.

William Hannah Customization

Let’s start with the fun part! Customizing the William Hannah notebook is just the first step in how you make it truly your own. The steps you take in the ordering will result in a notebook that’s uniquely yours.

  1. Choose the size of the notebook – A6 or A5
  2. Choose the “off the shelf” color combination you love most (If you need a specific color combination that’s not listed, you can choose the Bespoke version to build one that’s perfect for you.)
  3. Choose your personalization – up to 4 letters imprinted on the cover
  4. Choose your paper style – blank, lines, dots, grid, calendars, planners, trackers
  5. Choose your paper printing color – yes, you choose what color the dots, lines, or grid are printed in (this doesn’t apply to the calendar or planner type pages).
  6. Choose your accessories – pen loop, dividers, bookmarks

I chose an A5 notebook with Whiskey outer leather and Kingfisher inner suede. The color combination makes me so happy! When it came to picking the paper for my notebook I struggled with what to do so I just got a variety. The notebook comes with 60 sheets and you can customize in 20-sheet increments. I ordered 20 sheets of lined paper with blue lines; 20 sheets of dot grid paper with grey dots; and 20 sheets of square grid with grey grid lines. 

I decided that the grey grid paper was my favorite and I’ve filled up all of my pages already – so I’ve ordered more grey grid. Plus, I’ve also ordered calendar pages, dividers, and bookmarks. Yes, folks, I’m moving in!

THE WILLIAM HANNAH DISCS ARE DIFFERENT (but familiar)

Metal discs are a game changer for anyone who has ever used a discbound notebook. Once I switched to the higher quality discs in my Arc (back in about 2015) I knew I would never go back to plastic again. The paper glides smoothly when you turn the page without the “friction” you get with plastic discs. The stainless steel discs in the William Hannah notebook are the perfect solution for this system, too.

The way the discs work in William Hannah is different than any other notebook system I’ve seen. The discs are affixed to the notebook itself to create a spine. Each disc has a tiny hole and a metal rod is threaded through that hole then the rod is sewn into the spine as part of the construction of the notebook.

Not only do you get a more sturdy discbound system – no wobbling – but you also have the huge benefit of the discs being protected inside the leather notebook. The size of the disc is about a half-inch and you only get this one option. It comfortably fits the 60 pages that came with my first order and is now holding the annual calendar pages plus a couple dividers that I’ve just received.

You can order an archive system that comes with a set of larger rings that holds more than 120 sheets, so you can move used pages out of the notebook quickly and add new blank pages in.

The small size of the rings and small capacity of the notebook might be a problem for some people – I’m looking at you, chunky Happy Planner enthusiasts. This notebook is not designed to be chunky and to be crammed with every possible piece of paper or 20 different sections or a whole year of daily calendar pages. It’s designed to be portable and fit comfortably in your hand so you are naturally drawn to carrying it with you wherever you go.

In fact, I love how David from William Hannah has described his mission with the company:

What I’m trying to achieve with William Hannah as being the intersection between ‘notebooks that make you want to write’ and ‘inspiration people to make positive personal changes,’ hopefully helping others to become happier and more successful through writing things down. #BecauseWritingHelps

SAME SIZE AS OTHERS?

I know what you’re asking next …. Because it was a question that was burning in my mind too. Is the disc the same size as everyone else? Can I use all my previous discbound system accessories in this notebook too? YES! It’s the same! It’s beautifully the same! 

Back in my Arc days, I had invested in one of the big punches (if you’re serious about disc notebooks, get the big punch – skip those wimpy ones you get at the craft store, you’ll thank me). I also had a whole storage box filled with all these dividers and bookmarks and dashboards and… a lot of stuff. And it all fits! I resisted adding a million extra things (that sleek minimal design is one of the things I love so much about this notebook!). But I added a plastic ruler bookmark and also a sticky-note dashboard to the back.

REFILLS & ACCESSORIES

We’re going to talk about the paper in the next section so I won’t go into those details yet. The William Hannah brand has a ton of extras to choose from when you are putting your system together. Maybe you just want plain paper (dots, grid, lines, blank) or maybe you want a calendar (monthly, weekly, daily). Do you have a preference between horizontal weeks and vertical weeks? You’re covered with both options. There are trackers for habits and a 24-hour time tracker. Weekly planner pages (perfect for meal planning!) and task list pages. 

The divider pages and bookmarks are made of a luxurious, textured cardstock that comes in packs of 5 and you choose whatever combination of colors you want (choose from 12 different colors). Do you need a pen loop? You’re covered (and for a bargain price, too!).

Paper Quality and Pen Testing

I’ve hinted at it above, but now we’re going to go all-in on paper talk. David won’t tell me much about this paper (trade secrets!) but I can assure you that the quality of this paper reveals that he is just as much a paper nerd as I am. Quality counts and he’s chosen the best paper for this notebook. Here’s what he will tell us…

The paper is 115gsm and it is British-made. I have been to the mill to see the paper being made, and they test it themselves with a fountain pen and red Parker ink to make sure it performs well!

I can confirm that this paper is a JOY to write on with fountain pens. In fact, that’s what I have been using almost exclusively on the pages I’ve filled. The paper is smooth but not slippery. The ink dries quickly but doesn’t soak into the fibers of the paper to bleed through the page. Ghosting is not an issue and I haven’t had anything (except alcohol-ink Sharpie Marker) bleed through the page. 

I’ve tested all the usual pens and water-based markers and everything performed perfectly. There’s a tiny bit of ghosting when I make an overly dark mark but its so minimal that I’d count it as “no ghosting.” 

I love that the paper is sourced locally in England and close to the company and that he’s been to the mill to check on the quality of the paper before it goes into my notebook. The attention to detail and quality of the paper makes me a happy nerd. 

Features & Specs

Everything about the William Hannah notebook is top quality and feels luxurious. At first glance, the price tag that comes with this notebook might seem a bit steep. The notebook I ordered, with a pen loop and shipping from London to America, cost around $125 (which was a gift from the company owner – thank you, David!). I’ve also spent another $50-ish to replenish my supply of paper and get my notebook set up for the coming year with calendar pages, bookmarks, and dividers. And I can confidently say that this price is a bargain for the quality of this notebook and paper. 

Those who know me well, know that I love a bargain. I hate paying full price for anything and I will research a product to death before I open my wallet. That’s probably why I spent so many years just drooling over this notebook on Instagram instead of taking the leap and making a purchase. But now that I’ve held this notebook in my hands and filled it with pages and pages of journaling… I now consider the price tag to be a fair price for the level of quality you get. In fact, as I said above, it’s a bargain. 

SIZES & STYLES

You have three size choices. Two have discs and one is a pocket notebook folio. I am using the A5 size. But if you need something smaller, the A6 is ideal as an every day carry size. The pocket notebook cover will fit a standard Field Notes-size notebook. You can even order the pocket notebook refills that include the wonderful William Hannah paper. All of these notebook sizes are available in a variety of color combinations – leather on the outside, suede on the inside.

LEATHER

Oh leather, how I love you! This is buttery soft and supple Italian leather. It’s the kind of leather you’d expect from a high-end luxury designer handbag. The kind of leather you just want to hold in your hand. (Is it wrong to pet your notebook?) The inside is lined with a super soft suede leather and the color options are beautiful.

I asked David about the thickness of the leather and his answer was:

The leather and suede are Italian, and the combined thickness is around 3.2mm – it’s not an exact science as both the leather and suede are slightly variable in thickness.

Leather Combination Options

When you buy a William Hannah notebook, I think the most fun part of the entire buying experience is choosing your color combination. There are 7 leather colors and 8 suede colors. And you have eleven stock color combinations to choose from. If you want a combination that isn’t already available, you can choose the “bespoke” option and have a notebook custom made for you.  The combination I chose is Whiskey & Kingfisher. 

  • Leather colors – Dark Chocolate •  Black  •  Whiskey  •  Deep Purple  •  Bordeaux  •  Agave  •  Red Chili
  • Suede colors – Lime  •  Crimson  •  Kingfisher  •  Fuchsia  •  Orange  •  Petrol  •  Navy  •  Ultra Violet

BEAUTIFUL PATINA

One more thing about the leather (I know! I’m obsessed!). I’ve been using this notebook almost every day for the past 4 month, or so. Mine came with one of the removable pen loops that you can order as an additional accessory. I’ve found that I don’t actually use the pen loop since I tend to just carry a pen case with me – but I like the look of it, so I left it on.

But I was curious about how the leather had changed since I started using it. I took the pen loop off to peek underneath. Wow! I was surprised at how much the leather had developed a patina in just a short time. I have most definitely not babied this notebook at all. In fact, I’ve purposefully beaten it up. If you look closely at the photos, you’ll see some splatters of green fountain pen ink, some sun damage, plenty of scratches … and I may or may not have rolled the leather to give it a bit of a live-in look. (I couldn’t help myself!)

I am falling more and more in love with this leather every single day. And now that I know how the color has aged over the past several months, it makes me want to use it even more!

How I’m using it…

So what the heck am I doing with this notebook anyway? It’s not like I don’t already have a dozen (or so) journals going – why would I need something new? Honestly, I didn’t know what I was going to use it for when I first got it, but I knew I wanted to use it. Every day. Every single day. 

So what do I do every day that would require a journal that I love writing in? Morning Pages! Except I already had a system for my Morning Pages routine and didn’t want to start something new for that morning routine of journal writing. So I started a new version of “morning pages” – I’m using that term very loosely here. I’m using it for “Morning Pages for Business.” 

Morning Pages is a system developed by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist Way. The idea is to write three pages of long-hand journaling as the very first thing you do in the morning (ideally before you get out of bed). The goal is to dump out all the nonsense garbage from your brain before you get on with your day. That garbage starts to show your thought patterns and, over time, will start to change your life as you deal with that garbage by changing habits and behaviors. I’ve been doing Morning Pages since about 2016 and I can honestly say it has changed my life. 

So I decided to use this notebook as a way to write some stream of consciousness journaling that relates 100% to my business ventures. Not just here at Stationery Nerd, but also my freelance graphic design business.

This notebook has become a place for me to brainstorm ideas, plan priorities, look ahead for goal setting and get a handle on the million thoughts swirling in my head every day. I don’t actually write in the morning, though. My habit has become to write for 20 minutes or so as soon as I get home from the day job and before I start working on the business task list (usually while eating dinner on the couch). It gets me in the mindset to be creative and helps me accomplish what’s on the list with a clear and focused mind.

ALSO MY NEW EDITORIAL CALENDAR

I’ve added a William Hannah monthly calendar set for next year and a couple of dividers to the notebook already. Once I finish my current business planner for this year, I’ll move into the William Hannah for next year. This will be a place for me to plan out blog articles, reviews, lessons, products, … and all the things that go into making Stationery Nerd an amazing place on the interwebs.

WILLIAM HANNAH … IN THE WILD

Here are a few shots of where I’ve taken my journal while filling it up in the past several months.

Conclusion

One more tid-bit about the William Hannah company that I was curious about, so I asked. Where’d the name come from? Turns out David and his wife have two children – Hannah is the oldest, William the youngest. How awesome that the company is named for the kids! 

As you have probably guessed by now, I love this notebook! For me, there are no drawbacks whatsoever. But I’m not one who loves super chunky notebooks, stuffed with a million accessories and “pretties” – if you’re one of those people, this might not be the right system for you. But if you’re looking for a slim and minimal but luxurious and yummy notebook that you can’t take your hands off of, this is the right notebook for you!

Kitty Out Take

No blog post would be complete without a kitty!

The post William Hannah – All my Discbound Planner Wishes Come True appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Eclectic Scribbles 160gsm Mandala Notebook Review

Eclectic Scribbles 160gsm Mandala Notebook Review

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

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

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

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

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

Features & Specs

As I mentioned above, the cover design of the Eclectic Scribbles notebook is a unique feature. The mandala artwork is printed on a semi-glossy material that is then turned into the cover. It sort of feels like a cross between PU leather and high-quality vinyl with a printed designed on it.

Eclectic Scribbles dots and stitching

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

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

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

Let’s talk about the paper

My biggest concern with the construction of the Eclectic Scribbles notebook is actually the printing of the paper. The dots are SO tiny and such a light shade of gray that they are barely visible. Unless I am actually leaning over the notebook and writing on the page, the page looks blank from any distance. If you’ve got old eyes like mine, this is a major problem. I don’t know if this was a design decision or if this is a printing flaw at the manufacturing stage. 

The construction and durability of the Eclectic Scribbles notebook are pretty good. Bookmark durability is a concern and dot printing is a problem for anyone with any type of eyesight difficulty.


Other Features

You have all the usual features in this notebook that you’d expect. The elastic on this notebook is not super tight and has plenty of stretch to it. I imagine that when this notebook is filled up with fat pages of art journaling, notes and painting that the elastic will be the perfect amount of stretchiness for a filled-up notebook. There are two black satin ribbons but one of them has started to fray (I fixed that by trimming the end and hitting it with a quick flame). The back pocket and pen loop are secure and have typical construction. The notebook lays flat once you train the spine.

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

Styles & Sizes Available by Eclectic Scribbles

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

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

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

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Pen Test & Paper Quality 

I’ve tested 16-ish different normal writing pens in this journal. So before we dive into the test results, let me just list all the supplies I’ve used for the basic pen-testing. I’ve chosen a variety of pens and markers in different categories including fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint pens, fountain pen inks, and various highlighters and markers. I even threw a Sharpie Marker in the mix as the alcohol marker you should never use in a journal. And because this paper is supposed to be bleed-resistant and ghost-proof, I also grabbed an art marker (a generic version of Copic markers). Whenever possible I used a black pen because that is going to give us the darkest possible ink to test ghosting or show-through.

Below is the full list of pens along with links for each (just click the “+” button to open each tab and see the list of supplies). 

Normal Pen Test Results

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

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

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

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


Art Supplies & Paper Quality Archer & Olive Notebook

Art journaling is a huge consideration when it comes to a notebook that claims nothing will bleed through or ghosts on this paper. In fact, many of the videos you see in their marketing and advertising show heavily coated pages using various art supplies. One I recall seeing is where the entire page is painted in black paint then decorations are added on top of that paint. Very cool!  But is it true? Did I see the same results? Of course, I’m going to test it!

I’m a long-time crafter and scrapbooker so I’ve got a room full of art supplies (did you follow along with my Craft Room Cleanup last year?). I went on a treasure hunt to find as many different types of art supplies I could in a variety of different categories of media. These are all supplies I have used in my art journaling attempts in the past (“attempts” because no matter how much I try it just never looks all that great). Here’s a list of the supplies I’m testing:

Art Supply List

The list of goodies used for the art test

 

  1. Watercolor paint wet – a wet application of watercolor paint then letting the paint air dry 
  2. Watercolor paint dry-ishanother application of watercolor paint but with this time with less wet and I dabbed it with a paper towel to soak up any excess water and then let it air dry
  3. Tim Holtz Distress Paint  – this comes in a dabber bottle and is an acrylic-based paint
  4. Ranger Dylusions Distress Ink – full-strength – even though this is a spray bottle I used it with a small paintbrush instead (spraying this stuff makes a huge mess!) This test was the ink straight out of the bottle.
  5. Dylusions Distress Ink – diluted with water  – same as above, but this time I diluted it slightly with water to see if that made a difference.
  6. Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink – this ink is not really designed to be used on paper, it’s more for non-porous surfaces. But why not try and see what happens?
  7. Dye-based Ink – similar to the alcohol ink but there’s no alcohol in this version. It’s a water-based dye ink instead of being alcohol-based.
  8. Acrylic Ink – a thicker ink that is based on acrylic paint
  9. Copic-style Marker I tried the alcohol art marker again on this page
  10. Noodler’s Apache Sunset Fountain Pen Ink – Using a q-tip I applied a swatch of fountain pen ink to the page to see what would happen. Assuming fountain pen ink is normally used in a pen, this will test if you are using a broader pen like a Pilot Parallel or a glass dip pen.

Art Supply Test Results

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

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

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

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

 

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


Pros & Cons

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

PROS

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

CONS

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Stationery Nerd Kitty

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

Notebook BrandECLECTIC SCRIBBLES
Model | StyleMandale Dot Grid Journal
Hardcover | SoftcoverHardcover
Cover Optionsoriginal artwork by maker
Sizes AvailableA5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Typesewn binding
Paper Weight160 gsm
Paper ColorWhite
Paper Surfacesmooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blankdots
Dot Descriptiontiny | very light (barely visible)
Grid or Line Spacing5mm
Grid Count39 x 28
Number of pages160
Are pages numbered?No
Special pagesNo
Bookmarks2 bookmarks
Back PocketYes
Elastic ClosureYes
Pen LoopYes
Additional FeaturesN/A
Purchase LocationEclectic Scribbles Website
Price I paid (including shipping)$20.00

Journal & Notebook Review Rating Scale

Yes, I know that review up there is super long! You know me... I'm long winded and I think you might want to know every single teeny tiny thing about this product. Sometimes you just need the facts summarized in an easy chart. That's what this part is. Below you'll see my score for this notebook. I've based my score on the following criteria. Open each toggle box below to read more about the scoring system I use. 

Notebook Features & Specs

Evaluates the available features of the line of notebooks including special pages included (contact page, index pages, pen tests, perforated pages); special features (bookmarks, back pocket); and additional features (special elastic closure, stickers, tools, pen loop).

  • 20 points • PLAIN JANE - notebook includes paper (and probably a cover) but that’s about it
  • 40 points • PURELY BASIC - notebook includes one or two features but not anything outstanding
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook includes some of the typical features but is missing some
  • 80 points • FULLY LOADED  - notebook includes all the typical features you’d expect in a notebook
  • 100 points • LUXURY  - notebook includes every feature you can imagine plus more

Notebook Construction & Durability

Evaluates the overall construction and build of the notebook or journal. Factors considered are binding and lay-flat design; cover durability; bookmark and back pocket stability; paper performance; and the overall feel of quality.

  • 20 points • VERY POOR - notebook is not recommended due to poor construction, performance, and stability
  • 40 points • BELOW AVERAGE -  notebook shows poor construction and has many areas that need improvement
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook shows an expected level of construction and adequate performance or durability
  • 80 points • ABOVE AVERAGE -  notebook shows good construction and is durable in all areas
  • 100 points • LUXURY - notebook shows superior quality in construction and durability; feel luxurious

NORMAL WRITING PENS TESTING

I tested 16 different writing pens. These are the types of brands you’d expect to use in a normal bullet journal or standard long-form journaling notebook. Fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint, fountain pen inks, highlighters, and calligraphy brush markers. For this score I've based it on the level of ghosting and bleed-through of all the pens tested. 

  • 20 points • EXTREME - ghosting and bleed-through is so bad that you can’t write on the back of the page
  • 40 points • MAJOR - significant ghosting and bleed-through makes it difficult to write on the back of the page
  • 60 points • MODERATE - some ghosting and bleed-through is visible but writing over it is acceptable for some
  • 80 points • SLIGHT - barely visible ghosting or bleed-through and only with wet or heavy inks
  • 100 points • NO PROBLEMS - no visible ghosting or bleed-through at all

ART SUPPLY TEST RESULTS

I've thrown some tough art supplies at this notebook to see how far I could push the paper. I fully expected the alcohol-based materials to fail - there were 3 of the 10 that I expected all the notebooks in the 160gsm category to fail. Some surprised me and actually performed really well. The score in this category indicates how many art supplies PASSED the test. 

  • 10 art supplies were tested. Each supply is worth 10 points for a possible 100.
  • It is possible to be awarded partial points for a "nearly failed" or "nearly passed" supply test.

FEATHERING | CAPILLARY ACTION

Feathering is when the ink penetrates the fibers of the paper and spreads outward from the line just written. The feathering happens when ink from your pen is pulled into an absorbent paper via capillary action. Typically seen with uncoated or low-quality paper (i.e. newsprint or cheap school notebook paper) combined with wet ink or broad nib styles. 

  • 20 points  • EXTREME FEATHERING - the paper is so porous that ANY ink type feathers with every pen stroke. This is probably a paper towel or newsprint.
  • 40 points • MAJOR FEATHERING - any WET ink shows significant feathering with every pen stroke
  • 60 points • MODERATE FEATHERING - certain ink types show feathering but it’s not overly bothersome 
  • 80 points • SLIGHT FEATHERING - if you look closely you’ll see some periodic and insignificant feathering 
  • 100 points • NO FEATHERING - no feathering at all

The post Eclectic Scribbles 160gsm Mandala Notebook Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

The Ultimate Comparison of 160gsm Bullet Journal Notebooks

The 160gsm Journal Comparison – Introduction

The journaling community has lost its ever-loving mind over notebooks with 160gsm paper!

First, it was 100gsm paper, then it was 120gsm paper… and now everyone is going nuts over 160gsm paper. There are only a couple of the well-known brands who carry a notebook or journal with dotted 160gsm paper and those companies have gotten a LOT of coverage in the blogosphere. 

Archer & Olive and Scribbles That Matter are the two notebooks getting all the attention these days. Mostly A&O, right?!

We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the evangelism of these new thick-paper journals – followers are very vocal in their loyalty. Message boards and Facebook groups are filled with recommendations for Archer & Olive – even going to so far as to recommend that brand new baby journalers should dive headfirst into the most expensive journal on the market today as their very first purchase.

But you know me… I’m just a nerdy skeptic at heart. If too many people are all talking about the same brand of notebook, I tend to get very suspicious. Well, technically I first get annoyed, then I move into seriously pissed off… but then it usually settles down into suspicion. I’m a pretty even-tempered person but when I reach the end of my patience and I get fed up with the obsessive evangelizing, it usually results in a massive research project to uncover the truth.

Can you guess which stage of rage in at right now?

One day I stumbled across a Facebook group question from an uber newbie (literally it was the first journal purchase of her entire life). That question had close to 40 replies by the time I came across it and more than 80% of the replies were telling the original poster to buy an Archer & Olive notebook. The very first purchase of a journal to see if you even like journaling should NOT be a journal that costs $35!!! What are people even thinking?

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was finally ready to find out if Archer & Olive was everything the interwebs were saying it was … or if there were some other notebook brands that could knock it out of the ivory tower it was in.

Anger + Shopping = “Shopping Rage”  – similar to Road Rage, but without cars, and involves credit cards, retail outlets, and excessive nerdy research.

Within 20 minutes I had spent close to $150 on journals (many 120gsm journals jumped into my shopping cart too – those reviews will be coming soon)!

How many 160gsm paper notebooks are there anyway?

Comparing 160gsm notebooks

Based on all the chatter, you’d think there were only two notebooks in the whole wide world that have 160gsm dotted paper designed specifically for bullet journal enthusiasts. Those two would be Archer & Olive and Scribbles That Matter. But I was convinced that there had to be more than just those two. You know … brands without a massive marketing budget.

My research revealed that there were, in fact, many other notebook brands with 160gsm paper in a journal designed for the bullet journaling or art journaling community. 

I skipped the notebooks that were designed for artists since 160gsm paper is very common in sketchbooks and various forms of mixed media notebooks. Those types of notebooks have blank pages and won’t work well for bullet journaling.

My hunt revealed SIX notebook brands that fit the bill (if you know of any others, please let me know and I’ll look into them too). The brand I’ve purchased, tested, reviewed and compared here include (in alphabetical order):

  • Archer & Olive
  • Buke Notebooks
  • Eclectic Scribbles
  • QiHeng
  • Scribbles That Matter
  • Tekukor

You probably haven’t heard of half the names on this list. Yeah, me either. But now you know them and I’m about to tell you every single detail about each one so you can decide which notebook you want to buy. Hint – it’s not the one you’ve heard about a million times before.

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 to write nice things about them. Everything here is my honest personal opinion. I purchased these notebooks myself with my own hard earn (and quickly spent) money.

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 and supplies 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 50-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.

Individual Notebook Reviews

Even though I’m going to cover a lot of details about each of these journals and compare them to each other – you’ll probably want to head over to the more detailed review of each of these notebooks. I’ve done extensive testing and dug up as much information as I can about each.

Besides reviewing the notebook itself, I also think it’s important to understand how the company behind the notebook works. Are they trustworthy? Are they reliable? Will they be around for a long time? How often are they going to change their product materials or will they stand the test of time and not change?

Be sure to dig deeper into each notebook review once you’re finished reading this comparison. Here are some quick links to each review.

Criteria for reviewing all six 160gsm journals

I’ve run testing on all six notebooks and ranked them best-to-worst in a variety of categories. Interestingly, there wasn’t one brand that came in first place in all the categories. There are definitely clear winners and losers, but the standings on each competition are very interesting. Here are the categories I’m using to rank these brands.

  • Construction & Durability
  • Features & Specs
  • Normal writing pen test & paper quality
  • Art supply test & paper quality
  • Fountain pens & feathering test
  • Company trustworthiness

CONSTRUCTION & DURABILITY

Notebooks in this category should all have amazing construction and be ultra-durable. We paying a premium (in most cases) for these journals so we expect more from them. How did they stand up to my testing? I’m going to cover the general construction of the notebook – binding style; cover style; extra features such as elastic closures, bookmarks, document pockets; and special pages.

I’ve gone into a lot more detail for each of these journals in their individual full reviews so you can head over to each one for more info. But here I’m going to give you an overview of each.

Click the + button on each tab below to open the box and read my nerdy rambling comments. (Listed in alphabetical order.)

Archer & Olive

ARCHER & OLIVE – construction and durability

This notebook feels luxurious in my hand. With a price point of $35 for my B6 version of the notebook, I was expecting a lot from this brand. The linen cover and gold hot-stamp emblem give a classy look to this journal. 

The hot-stamp gold emblem held up just fine to my fingernail scratch test. Like most hardcover books, you need to break in the spine in order to make the notebook lay flat when open. The elastic closure is firm and the bookmarks are securely in place and don’t look like they will fray over time. The back pocket is pretty standard and looks good to me. One big concern is the pen loop. The loop is attached to the back cover between the back cover and the document pocket and there’s a sizeable gap that’s not well sealed. The pen loop seems to be securely in place (and I haven’t heard of any reports that the elastic falls off) but I worry about the durability of this part. 

Overall, the construction and durability of Archer & Olive look great and the reputation of this brand holds up to the reality of my testing.

Buke Notebooks

Buke Notebooks – construction and durability

I was most skeptical about the Buke Notebooks notebook. I mean… I bought it on AliExpress for around $12, so I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. However, I needed to judge this notebook against the others in its class and determine if it could compete against brands that cost three times as much. But I got a pleasant surprise when the package arrived. 

The cover is PU leather with a gold embossed owl on the front. The embossing is crisp and beautifully done – not that I love the design, but the workmanship on that part is very good. The leatherette cover is very soft and entices me to stroke it because it feels so good. There’s one bookmark – made of grosgrain ribbon (which is my favorite style of bookmark) and there’s no sign of fraying at the end after I’ve put this one through the review process. The elastic closure is firm and looks well secured to the back cover. The document pocket is standard construction with ribbon-like gusset – my only concern is that the pocket is pretty tall and the opening is almost all the way at the spine of the back cover so it’s not easily accessible. Usually, the pockets are a bit shorter so you can grab the edge easier. There’s nothing wrong with the pocket, it’s just constructed differently than normal. The elastic pen loop is also attached securely between the back cover and document pocket with no concern that it will fall out of fail. 

For a $12 notebook, I’m highly impressed with this one. It’s on par with notebooks in the luxury category for sure. 

Eclectic Scribbles

ECLECTIC SCRIBBLES – construction and durability

The notebook by Eclectic Scribbles stands out as different than the rest of the notebooks in this review. We’re going to talk about cover design in the next section but I need to mention it here for Eclectic Scribbles (we really need a nickname for this brand – do we call it ES or EcSr or something more clever?). The cover of this journal is a print of original artwork by Amanda who is the (amazing) artist over at Eclectic Scribbles. The artwork is printed on a semi-glossy material that is then turned into the cover. It sort of feels like a cross between PU leather and high-quality paper.

The elastic on this notebook is not as strong others in the competition and is actually the narrowest of the bunch. There are two satin ribbons but one of them has started to fray (I’ll fix that by trimming the end and hitting it with a quick flame). The back pocket and pen loop are secure and have typical construction. The notebook lays flat once you train the spine. 

My biggest concern with the construction of the Eclectic Scribbles notebook is actually the printing of the paper. The dots are SO tiny and such a light shade of gray that they are barely visible. Unless I am actually leaning over the notebook and writing on the page, the page looks blank from any distance. If you’ve got old eyes like mine, this is a major problem. I don’t know if this was a design decision or if this is a printing flaw at the manufacturing stage. 

The construction and durability of the Eclectic Scribbles notebook are pretty good. Bookmark durability is a concern and dot printing is a problem for anyone with any type of eyesight difficulty. 

QiHeng

QIHENG – construction and durability

This QiHeng has the same luxurious feeling of Archer & Olive and Tekukor with the linen cover and metal hot-stamped emblem. It’s a notebook that costs half the price of the most expensive options in this review but the quality is equal when it comes to the actual construction of the notebook. The hot-stamp emblem on the front is durable and holds up to my fingernail scratch test. There’s also no problem with the notebook lying flat when open. 

The elastic closure band is secure and strong. The satin ribbon bookmarks are well seated and show no sign of frayed ends – I like that the ribbons are two different colors in dark grey and light grey to match the cover color. The elastic pen loop – which matches the color of the elastic closure and ribbons, is secure and well-positioned between the back cover and document pocket with no major gap. The back pocket is constructed well with ribbon-like gussets and heavy paper body. However, like the Buke notebook, the top of the pocket is really tall and butts right into the spine of the back cover. 

There is also an option for PU leather covers with various emblems on the front – I haven’t tested the durability of this other style but I am going to assume it’s the same as the linen cover version.

TIP: When searching for this notebook on Amazon, I find it easiest to search for the name of the seller’s storefront. The search term I use is “SeQeS Notebook.” They also sell a 100gsm version.

I’m really impressed with the construction and durability of this QiHeng notebook. And the more I see that ant on the cover, the more I love him.

Scribbles That Matter

SCRIBBLES THAT MATTER  – construction and durability

The folks at Scribbles That Matter have developed their line of notebooks specifically for bullet journalers which is why you see so many features built into their books. They have also spent a lot of time and energy listening to their community about problems with construction and correcting them as they continue to develop their journals. In some instances, this is a great practice because we see some good quality features – such as the pen loop that is riveted directly to the back cover so it doesn’t fall out after extensive use.  

I won’t go into my feelings about the practice the STM brand has of listening so intently to their social media audience and how it makes the notebook construction inconsistent. You really never know if the notebook you order next will be the same as the notebook you just finished using because they’re constantly changing their product. You can read all about how I think they have “jumped the shark” in the full review (I get into a bit of a rant, so be warned). 

I chose the Pro version which means the PU leather cover does not have the all-over embossed doodle design of the other STM notebooks. The leatherette cover is soft to the touch – similar to the feeling of Buke’s notebook.

The Scribbles That Matter journal lays flat, as you’d expect. Two grosgrain bookmarks (in grey and black to match the charcoal cover) are secure and show no sign of fraying. The back pocket is well constructed with ribbon gussets, but again, the pocket is tall and too close to the spine. The elastic closure band is strong and the pen loop is secured into place with a metal rivet. 

Overall the STM journal is well constructed and well thought out from a design and production standpoint. No worries here.

Tekukor

TEKUKOR  – construction and durability

Even though Tekukor has the same look and feel of other linen-covered notebooks, there’s something different… actually a few somethings. Let’s explore why. 

If you’ve read the full review of Tekukor, you know that they asked me specifically to test the durability of the hot-stamped gold fern leaf on the front of the notebook. I put it through a brutal fingernail scratch test and it held up beautifully. The extra-wide elastic closure is one of my favorite things about all of the Tekukor notebooks – it’s strong and at least twice as wide as other notebooks. There are three color-coordinating grosgrain bookmarks that show no sign of frayed ends. The back pocket is well constructed and gives you just enough space at the top to open easily. And yes, it also lies flat when open. 

The most notable difference is the thickness of Tekukor compared to every other journal here. The other version of Tekukor – their 100gsm notebook – has 192 pages. I’m so happy that they decided to keep that same page count in this 160gsm notebook, too. This makes the notebook thicker and feels more robust – robust in a delicate type of way because of the luxurious feel of the materials used. 

You all know how much I love everything Tekukor does and this new notebook in their product line is not a disappointment. This notebook is well-constructed and extremely durable. 

DESIGN & COVER OPTIONS

Have you ever bought something that you don’t need but you needed to have it because it was beautiful or cool? No? Just me? I’m a graphic designer as my day job – which extends to the rest of my life, of course. Design thinking is part of my DNA and I notice the way things are created, decorated, and presented So I notice the way notebooks are designed and also the design options of covers. 

In the next section, there’s a line on the chart that talks about the cover options, but I wanted to mention that in more detail here.

Archer & Olive – cover design is the strongest feature of Archer & Olive notebooks. I chose to purchase a linen-cover version with the gold hot-stamped bee on the front. There are several different emblem options in the linen line. There’s also another line of options where the cover is PU leather and has a beautifully printed pattern. They specialize in floral or nature-inspired designs. There are lots of options from Archer & Olive.

Buke Notebooks – this is the only notebook brand in this review that has an option both hardcover and softcover versions. All of the covers have the embossed gold owl on the front and you have several color options to choose from. 

Eclectic Scribbles – this notebook comes in three design options – Mandala (the one I bought), Zentangle, and Steampunk Cat – all of which were designed by Amanda. Her artwork is beautiful and being able to see it on a journal is a great bonus. 

QiHeng – this line of journals have both linen and PU leather options for the cover. Each one has an emblem on the front. The linen-cover options are a bit creepy-crawly, right? You choose between an ant and a spider. The PU leather options have more emblems to choose from – owl, fox, bear, or squirrel, each with their own color choice. 

Scribbles That Matter – with STM you can choose from either the Iconic or Pro cover options – Iconic has icons, Pro does not. At any given time there are about 4 to 8 different color options, but that selection is constantly changing so you never really know what will be available. Their standard notebook color is teal with yellow accents so you can usually find that one in stock. 

Tekukor – this notebook line has three cover options – blue, burgundy, olive green. Each cover has a gold hot-stamped emblem that is inspired by nature – fern, palm leaf, or lotus leaf.

FEATURES & SPECS

The data below allows you to compare each brand side by side. I won’t bore you with written commentary about all these specs (hey! I heard that sigh of relief!). 

Also – this is the first time I’m using a comparison table like this. Let me know if it works on your device or if anything looks wonky.

Notebook BrandARCHER & OLIVEBUKE STATIONERYECLECTIC SCRIBBLESQiHENGTEKUKORSCRIBBLES THAT MATTER
Model | StyleSignature Dotted NotebookDotted NotebookMandale Dot Grid JournalSeQeS Dotted Notebook Dotted NotebookPro Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | SoftcoverHardcoverHardcoverHardcoverHardcoverHardcoverHardcover
Cover Optionsfabric with gold embossed | variousHardcover | Softcover owl on frontoriginal artwork by makerlinen fabric | faux leather linen fabric | 3 color PU leather | 8 color options
Sizes AvailableB5 | A5 | B6A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Typesewn bindingsewn bindingsewn bindingsewn bindingsewn bindingsewn binding
Paper Weight160 gsm160 gsm160 gsm160 gsm160 gsm160 gsm
Paper ColorWhiteLight IvoryWhiteWhiteWhiteWhite
Paper Surfacesmoothsmothsmoothsmoothsemi-smoothsmooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blankdotsdotsdotsdotsdotsdots
Dot Descriptionsmall | light greymedium greytiny | very light (barely visible)medium greylight greymedium grey
Grid or Line Spacing5mm5mm5mm5mm5mm5mm
Grid CountB5 ( ) A5 (26x38 ) B6 (33x23)27 x 4039 x 2839 x 2739 x 2739 x 27
Number of pagesB5 + A5 = 160 pages B6 = 112 pages160160160192150+
Are pages numbered?NoNoNoNoYesYes
Special pagesNoNoNoNoNoKey, Index (3), Pen Test, Mindfulness
Bookmarks2 bookmarks1 bookmark2 bookmarks2 bookmarks3 bookmarks 2 bookmarks
Back PocketYesYesYesYesYesYes
Elastic ClosureYesYesYesYesYes | extra wide elastic closureYes
Pen LoopYesYesYesYesYesYes - held in place with metal rivet
Additional Features-Includes: Stencil, file sticker, ref.sheet-silver emblem on front (hot-stamped)gold emblem on front | decorative endpapers-
Purchase LocationArcher & Olive WebsiteAliExpress - Buke Notebook StoreEclectic Scribbles WebsiteAmazonAmazonAmazon
Price I paid $35.00$11 (13 days for shipping)$20.00$15.99$26.95$20.99

NORMAL WRITING PEN TEST & PAPER QUALITY

Here is where we begin the rating portion of this comparison. In each notebook, I tested 16 different writing pens. These are the types of brands you’d expect to use in a normal bullet journal or standard long-form journaling notebook. Fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint, fountain pen inks, highlighters, and calligraphy brush markers. Here’s the list.

SUPPLY LIST

First, let me just list all the supplies I’ve used for the basic pen-testing. I’ve chosen a variety of pens and markers in different categories. I’m testing fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint pens, fountain pen inks, and various highlighters and markers. I even threw a Sharpie Marker in the mix as the alcohol marker you should never use in a journal. And because this paper is supposed to be bleed-resistant and ghost-proof, I also grabbed an art marker (a generic version of Copic markers). Whenever possible I used a black pen because that is going to give us the darkest possible ink to test ghosting or show-through.

On those pages, I also put a few swipes of Sharpie Marker and Copic-style Marker, but I also used those alcohol markers on the art supply page. At first, I was going to just ignore those two markers because they’re covered in the next section with art supply testing. BUT… I’ve got a problem. 

See, if I take out the 2 alcohol markers from the list then there’s nothing left to “compare” because all these notebooks did just fine with all these pens. There’s virtually no ghosting in any of the notebooks. 

Then there’s the one really tough fountain pen ink I threw into the testing mix that half of the notebooks failed. Except when I say “fail” I really just mean they got an A- instead of an A.  

So the only way I was able to rate these notebooks from best to worst in this category was to take into account the two alcohol markers and the Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts fountain pen ink. We’ll judge those markers again in the art supply section.

PEN TEST WINNER

One notebook was far and away better than the others – I say that because the Sharpie Marker was barely visible, the fountain pen ink doesn’t show through, and the paper held up to Copic-style marker pretty well. QiHeng Stationery’s Notebook wins this round, hands down. Even though I’ve ranked the journals in order of performance, I gotta say that this was nearly impossible to do right. I’ve seriously wavered a dozen times about the difference between Tekukor and Eclectic Scribbles. And I’ve wavered a dozen more times about the difference between Scribbles That Matter and Archer & Olive. Buke Notebooks were definitely in last place, though (more on that in a minute). 

QiHeng Stationery

The QiHeng notebook was far and away the Gold Medal winner in the pen test. The paper stood up to two touch alcohol-based markers!

Tekukor &
Eclectic Scribbles

The Tekukor and Eclectic Scribbles performed almost identical and share the Silver Medal for pen testing.

Scribbles That Matter
+ Archer & Olive

Tied for last place the Scribbles That Matter and Archer & Olive notebooks did not perform well in the pen testing.

no medal for Buke Notebook

I was pretty surprised about the performance of Buke Notebooks’s notebook. The ghosting in Buke is similar to what I’d see in a good quality 100gsm notebook with all the normal writing pens. However, look at the results of the art marker. If I were only looking at that one result, Buke would be in first place. I suspect that Buke has a heavier coating on their paper which could mean they started with thinner, less opaque paper so when the weight is measured at the end of the manufacturing process, it comes out to 160gsm and the coating contributes significantly to that weight. That’s just a guess because I don’t have any additional details on the paper outside what is on the packaging. The paper in Buke is not slick as you’d expect with a coated paper so it doesn’t prevent ink from drying (smudging isn’t an issue). This theory will hold true when we get to the part of about how each notebook stands up to the Feathering Test below.

Alright… let’s move on. I’ve spent way too much time talking about the most boring part of this whole notebook comparison!
QiHeng art supply test page

I was extra tough on this notebook, noticed how much watercolor I put on that bottom right corner!

ART SUPPLY TEST & PAPER QUALITY​

Ahhh… art supplies! This is where things get real! You know that a major part of the marketing efforts from these companies claim that 160gsm paper in their notebooks stands up to the “no bleed” test with all sorts of pens and art supplies. Hold on there, cowboy! This nerd doesn’t believe your hype!

So I dug through my craft room (remember the huge Craft Room Cleanup from last spring?) and pulled out art supplies that should work in these journals …. Along with a few supplies that I knew were going to likely fail. Needless to say, I was pretty surprised at the results.

There are 10 different art supplies on the list. I will be grading each notebook on the pass or failure of each art media. We’ll look to see if the paper itself held and then evaluate how the paper performed. We’ll look at ghosting, bleeding, and feathering as well as the crinkliness of the paper (yes that’s a word, I just made it up!). There are a possible 100 points in this test – each art supply worth 10 points. In some instances, I’ve given partial points if that seemed fair.

First, let’s look at the art supplies I used.

Art Supply List

The list of goodies used for the art test

  1. Watercolor paint wet – a wet application of watercolor paint then letting the paint air dry 
  2. Watercolor paint dry-ishanother application of watercolor paint but with this time with less wet and I dabbed it with a paper towel to soak up any excess water and then let it air dry
  3. Tim Holtz Distress Paint  – this comes in a dabber bottle and is an acrylic-based paint
  4. Ranger Dylusions Distress Ink – full-strength – even though this is a spray bottle I used it with a small paintbrush instead (spraying this stuff makes a huge mess!) This test was the ink straight out of the bottle.
  5. Dylusions Distress Ink – diluted with water  – same as above, but this time I diluted it slightly with water to see if that made a difference.
  6. Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink – this ink is not really designed to be used on paper, it’s more for non-porous surfaces. But why not try and see what happens?
  7. Dye-based Ink – similar to the alcohol ink but there’s no alcohol in this version. It’s a water-based dye ink instead of being alcohol-based.
  8. Acrylic Ink – a thicker ink that is based on acrylic paint
  9. Copic-style Marker I tried the alcohol art marker again on this page
  10. Noodler’s Apache Sunset Fountain Pen Ink – Using a q-tip I applied a swatch of fountain pen ink to the page to see what would happen. Assuming fountain pen ink is normally used in a pen, this will test if you are using a broader pen like a Pilot Parallel or a glass dip pen.
My favorite part of this whole thing was this part! I love getting my fingers all messy with paint and ink – it felt more like playing than working. Although, is reviewing stationery supplies really “work” …. Ha! Probably not. 

ART SUPPLY TEST WINNERS

So this was an interesting experiment for sure. Let’s first give each of these notebooks a failure-rate number to put things in order. 

  • QiHeng – 3 failures 
  • Tekukor – 3.5 failures 
  • Buke Notebooks – 4 failures
  • Eclectic Scribbles – 4.5 failures
  • Archer & Olive – 6+ failures
  • Scribbles That Matter – 7+ failures

NOTE – I gave two of them a half point (Tekukor at 3.5 and Eclectic Scribbles at 4.5). What this means is that 1 of the supplies “sorta” bled through but it was closer to ghosting than it was a full-blown failure. And then two notebooks received a “+” which means not only did the medium fail but it also soaked into and through the following page of the notebook. 

Let’s evaluate these test results and look at all 10 of the art supplies I used.

There are two main categories of results. Pass or Fail. Four of the notebooks pass and actually performed pretty well. Two of the notebooks not only failed, but they failed really, really badly. Yep, you guessed it… Archer & Olive and Scribbles That Matter failed hard!

So this process was really difficult for me. Once I finished the testing and evaluated the results and gave each one their score, I needed to rank them from best to worst. In looking at the art supplies that failed and figured out that there were two that didn’t perform well in any of the books – both were the heavy alcohol-based supplies. 

I knew that the Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink was the toughest medium in the entire list and all of the paper succumbed to that abuse – I decided to throw that one out and not use it to consider the winners. Also, the alcohol art marker was pretty equal across most of the journals so I threw that one out too. So I decided to just cover those things up in all the journals with little Post-It notes. 

QiHeng &
Tekukor

QiHeng and Tekukor share the Gold Medal for their outstanding performance in the art supply testing.

Buke Notebooks
& Eclectic Scribbles

Both Buke and Eclectic Scribbles would be excellent notebooks to use as an art journal.

Archer & Olive

The Archer & Olive notebook just barely made it to the Bronze Medal winner’s circle.

Once I had those two art supply results covered up, the judging was a lot easier. What I came up with was Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners. Two equal winners in Gold and SIlver, one winner in Bronze.  

Gold Medal Winners – both QiHeng and Tekukor ended up with one art medium that bled through in addition to the two alcohol-based supplies. QiHeng failed with dye ink and Tekukor failed with a Sharpie Marker and both of them had a little bit of trouble with the swatch of fountain pen ink. I would give QiHeng a slight edge over Tekukor because of the way the paper performed with watercolor (Tekukor got more crinkled). 

Silver Medal WinnersBuke Notebooks and Eclectic Scribbles did very well too. Besides the two art supplies that were thrown out, each only had two major problems with bleed-through. Buke failed with dye ink and Sharpie Marker, Eclectic Scribbles failed with Sharpie Marker, fountain pen ink and a little bit of the Dylusions Distress Ink. Buke performed a tiny bit better than Eclectic Scribbles. 

Bronze Medal Winner – Yep, I basically gave Archer & Olive a consolation prize. In addition to the two alcohol-based art supplies that were thrown out, there are another four supplies that failed (watercolor, distress ink, fountain pen ink, and Sharpie). The Dylusions Distress Ink and the alcohol ink both seeped into the next page of the notebook, too (major point deduction!). Amazingly the dye ink barely soaked through the page – and this is why A&O got a medal. 

No Medal for Scribbles That Matter

Oh STM, you’re a hot mess! Your paper is so porous that everything just seeps through the page. As you look at the pictures, just ignore that big blue splotch on the upper left of the page (I spilled acrylic paint and made a massive mess!). Once I covered up the two alcohol-based art supplies that were thrown out, we still have a disaster. Dylusions Distress Ink, dye ink, fountain pen ink, Sharpie, and watercolor all failed (and some soaked into the next page, too) – that’s a tally of five failures in addition to the two that were thrown out. 

What shocked me the most about Archer & Olive and Scribbles That Matter was the watercolor. What the heck happened? They both did fine with watercolor that was applied in a much drier way and dabbed with a tissue to soak up any excess water. But when you add a bit more water and let it dry on its own it just soaks straight through the paper. The paper gets crinkled and starts to get fuzzy, too. With all the promotional videos I’ve seen from both of these companies, I would have expected watercolor (at the very least) to perform the best. I’m very disappointed. 

FOUNTAIN PEN & FEATHERING TEST

Whew! This showdown is getting massive! But hey, that’s what we nerds do – we research every single teeny tiny detail, analyze it, compare and test it and then figure out who is best. In the past, I’ve gotten several of you ask for more robust fountain pen-testing. So here we are. Robust fountain pen testing, coming up next!

Several months ago I jumped headfirst down a rabbit hole of fountain pens and ink. I have amassed more pens than we need to mention here – but to summarize, I’ve been exploring the world of Chinese pens. It’s like a huge game to find the best performing pen for the cheapest possible price. Yes, I’ve bought pens that were less than $2 and I keep discovering more brands to try out. 

Needless to say, I’ve got a bunch of pens inked up and ready to go. So the list of inks and pens for all these tests is pretty wide-ranging. But here’s what I’ve tested.

Fountain pens & inks

  • Platinum Preppy with Platinum cartridge ink – this is a safe choice, IMHO. I’ve never had this ink bleed through any of the notebooks I’ve used it in and the ink dries quickly. The dib is smooth and I love the way it writes. With a price point of around $7-9 this pen is a great starter pen. I chose this pen because the smoothness of the writing experience is reliable so it’ll be a good way to test how smooth the paper is.
  • Jinhao x750 with Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts ink – this pen has a medium nib, except it seems to lay down a much heavier line than other medium nibs I have tried. So add that heavy ink flow with an extra wet ink (Noodler’s has a reputation for being very wet) and you’ve got a combination set for disaster. Yep, I did that on purpose. 
  • Bamboo (no name) pen with J. Herbin Vert Reseda (turquoise) ink – I see this pen on eBay and Aliexpress quite often by a bunch of different makers/brands, so I’m going to just call it a pen without a brand name. I picked it because of the stub nib that lays down a wide flat line of ink and that’s the only pen I have with that kind of nib. 
This test includes two different factors. First I want to see how the pen glides along the surface of the paper. Is it smooth or does the tooth (texture) of the paper cause a rough writing experience? We’ve already covered the bleeding and ghosting side of things, so that’s not a factor here. 

The second test is to determine if the ink feathers on the paper. Feathering is when the line of ink you lay down on the page starts to spread out from that original line and creates a feather-like shape instead of a crisp line. Feathering is bad. We don’t like feathering at all. 

And this is where I get to play with toys! I dug out my magnifying glass, to begin with, but that just didn’t give me the amount of magnification I wanted to examine how the ink behaves on the paper. I’ve also got a jeweler’s loop that has 60x magnification. Wow! This thing is amazing and it lets me see clearly how the ink behaves with amazing detail. You should have seen me trying to finagle my camera to line up with that tiny eyepiece. But I did it! Anything for you guys!

FOUNTAIN PEN & FEATHERING TEST WINNER

This test was less about crowning a winner and more about finding out how the paper performs with fountain pens specifically. So in this test, the notebooks will get a pass or fail grade for the feathering test.  We’ll also go alphabetically, rather than order of performance. 

Archer & Olive – oh poor Archer & Olive, it just keeps failing at stuff. We’ve got feathering and we’ve got a rough writing surface. The paper is definitely not smooth to the touch and you can tell that there’s no coating on the paper during the manufacturing stage (or if there is a coating, it’s pretty slight). This is a direct contributor to the feathering we see on the page. 

Buke Notebooks – The paper in Buke is smooth and it’s a pleasure to write on. Plus it passes the feathering test. No problems at all here.

Eclectic Scribbles – No feathering problems here on the Eclectic Scribbles paper and the surface is smooth to write on.

QiHeng – Not only is QiHeng top of the heap on the other tests, but it performs really well here too. The paper is ultra-smooth and the pen just glides across the page. No feathering problems either.

Scribbles That Matter – The paper here is pretty smooth – maybe if there was a level of smoothness that fell between rough and smooth?? Smooth-ish? It’s not unpleasant to write on, but you feel the paper gives you a bit of feedback more than the others. There was no feathering on the page.

Tekukor – There is no feathering on the page and the paper feels smooth to write on. Good performance in the Tekukor.

To summarize…

  • QiHeng has the smoothest writing experience. 
  • Archer & Olive has the roughest surface. 
  • Archer & Olive is the only notebook that failed the feathering test.

QiHeng

With ultra smooth paper and no feathering at all, QiHeng takes the Gold Medal.

Buke Notebooks, Tekukor,
& Eclectic Scribbles

Buke, Tekukor, and Eclectic Scribbles take the Silver Medal for the fountain pen ink test.

Scribbles That Matter

The Scribbles That Matter paper is pretty smooth and does not show any feathering.

BRAND TRUSTWORTHINESS & LONGEVITY

I almost didn’t include this section because it’s more subjective than it is information based on hard-hitting research. But I’m going to chatter on anyway.

BRAND TRUSTWORTHINESS & LONGEVITY

I almost didn’t include this section because it’s more subjective than it is information based on hard-hitting research. But I’m going to chatter on anyway.

Archer & Olive

I think this brand is here to stay. Hopefully, they get their price under control eventually. I believe the notebooks are overpriced and once more and more notebooks start appearing on the market their sales are sure to suffer. They definitely have a strong creative team to keep their notebook cover options fresh and new. However, they’re often out of stock or sold out, so they are clearly still working on their inventory management skills.

Buke Notebooks

This review used to be based on five notebooks until I found this one at the very last minute while I was browsing AliExpress (like I do). When this notebook popped up in my suggestions I snatched it up. Thankfully it only took 13 days to arrive (which is super speedy for normal shipping from China). Looking closer at Buke Notebooks I see that they are actually the manufacturer of the notebooks, not just a company that buys notebooks from someone who makes them. This is why we have such a great price of around $10-12. Their main business is making notebooks for other companies. I worry that they’ll get so bogged down in making notebooks for other companies that they’ll suddenly decide not to sell direct to consumers any longer. But that’s probably borrowing worry. 

Eclectic Scribbles

This is the one I worry about the most. The longevity of this brand rests squarely on the shoulders of the artist. If she decides not to produce another run of notebooks with new artwork, then the entire line of notebooks goes away after the current stock is sold out. On her website, the price is shown as a sale price (normal price crossed off with the $20 price as the sale price) – which made me wonder if they were on clearance. I’ve asked her if she plans to continue selling the notebooks and she says yes, so again, maybe I’m borrowing worry.

QiHeng

This company is also the maker selling directly to consumers which is why the price is outstanding. I have the same concern as the Buke Notebooks brand above – will they get out of the consumer market in favor of focusing on their commercial customers. I’ve had an email conversation with them which is how I found out they own their own factories and take care of their own design and production. When I asked them about different emblems on the cover, here is their response: “We are new to the North American market, so we are still trying to figure out what styles/colours that American customers like.” This is so encouraging and I’m excited to see what else this company brings us.

Scribbles That Matter

Do I have to say it again? I’m worried about Scribbles That Matter and whether the company will survive their insistence on listening to the vocal few of their user base. Quite often users are not the right people to listen to when it comes to making major product development changes in your line of notebooks. Yes, some of the things they’ve changed are good, like the rivetted pen loop on the back cover. But the very fact that their current lineup of notebooks ONLY includes 160gsm paper is a testament to the fact that they aren’t making wise decisions. They changed the paper because their “vocal few” insisted that they get thicker paper so they abandoned their 100gsm option completely. Until that is, the outcry from those who didn’t want thicker paper convinced them that they needed to bring back the 100gsm paper. And if you’ve been following along on their social media, they’ve got a whole new version of their notebooks in development that is not actually a notebook at all (notebook covers with softcover paper inserts). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Scribbles That Matter has jumped the shark. Can they survive the jump? That remains to be seen.

Tekukor

These guys have done it exactly right. Tekukor started with a single notebook-style (dotted) in a single cover color (black). They produced the best product they could and offered it to the world. Only have they saw success with that one option did they expand their line to include more cover colors. Then they added another smaller size. Then experimented with Tomoe River paper (one of my favorites) and now the addition of 160gsm paper notebooks is a logical expansion. I think the owners of Tekukor are smart and being strategic with their growth. I’m excited to see what they do next.

Scribbles That Matter

Do I have to say it again? I’m worried about Scribbles That Matter and whether the company will survive their insistence on listening to the vocal few of their user base. Quite often users are not the right people to listen to when it comes to making major product development changes in your line of notebooks. Yes, some of the things they’ve changed are good, like the rivetted pen loop on the back cover. But the very fact that their current lineup of notebooks ONLY includes 160gsm paper is a testament to the fact that they aren’t making wise decisions. They changed the paper because their “vocal few” insisted that they get thicker paper so they abandoned their 100gsm option completely. Until that is, the outcry from those who didn’t want thicker paper convinced them that they needed to bring back the 100gsm paper. And if you’ve been following along on their social media, they’ve got a whole new version of their notebooks in development that is not actually a notebook at all (notebook covers with softcover paper inserts). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Scribbles That Matter has jumped the shark. Can they survive the jump? That remains to be seen.

Tekukor

These guys have done it exactly right. Tekukor started with a single notebook-style (dotted) in a single cover color (black). They produced the best product they could and offered it to the world. Only have they saw success with that one option did they expand their line to include more cover colors. Then they added another smaller size. Then experimented with Tomoe River paper (one of my favorites) and now the addition of 160gsm paper notebooks is a logical expansion. I think the owners of Tekukor are smart and being strategic with their growth. I’m excited to see what they do next.

THE WINNERS AND LOSERS

I’ve brought all of the test results together in a single list. We’ve got some patterns emerging, right?

Pen Test Standings

  • GOLD MEDAL – QiHeng
  • SILVER MEDAL – Eclectic Scribbles and Tekukor
  • BRONZE MEDAL – Scribbles That Matter and Archer & Olive
  • NO MEDAL – Buke Notebooks

Art Supply Test Standings

  • GOLD MEDAL – QiHeng and Tekukor
  • SILVER MEDAL – Buke Notebooks and Eclectic Scribbles
  • BRONZE MEDAL – Archer & Olive  (and they only got a medal because I felt sorry for them)
  • NO MEDAL – Scribbles That Matter

Fountain Pen & Feathering Test Standings

  • GOLD MEDAL – QiHeng
  • SILVER MEDAL – Eclectic Scribbles, Buke Notebooks and Tekukor
  • BRONZE MEDAL – Scribbles That Matter (due to smoothness of writing)
  • NO MEDAL – Archer & Olive

So far I haven’t mentioned the scoring system I used in the individual journal posts. You’ll want to head over to each one and see the details of each test and how the notebook scored out of a possible 100%. The medal standings above don’t tell the full story, so I want to include below the final scoring tally that each notebook received so you can see how far apart the performance was. 

WINNER & LOSERS REVIEW SCORES

QiHeng

90%

Overall Review Score

Tekukor

84%

Overall Review Score

Buke Notebooks

77%

Overall Review Score

Eclectic Scribbles

74%

Overall Review Score

Scribbles That Matter

67%

Overall Review Score

Archer & Olive

55%

Overall Review Score

CONCLUSION

Whew! We’ve made it to the end. This review was a monster to complete and took me months longer than I first thought it would take. 

This is also the most expensive review I’ve done so far. I purchased each one of these journals with my own hard-earned money – they were not given to for free from the companies. I prefer that method of acquiring journals because it ensures that I’m being 100% honest, transparent, and raw in my reviews. I don’t like being influenced, even subconsciously, by the fact that I’ve been given free stuff. 

By the time I finished buying all these journals, it came out to around $130. Ouch! Kind of pricey for a set of notebooks that I really don’t plan to use for any of my everyday journaling (I’ll need to figure out what to do with them in the future). 

NOTE: I’m not opposed to receiving free products for review, it’s just that those reviews are harder for me to write because of that potential for some level of subconscious bias. That’s why I always disclose how I acquired the products I share with you. 

It’s clear from the standings that QiHeng is the winner in the performance categories. The construction and durability of the QiHeng notebook are outstanding and the paper is better than any of the other options. 

Tekukor and Eclectic Scribbles are also at the top of the heap and either one would make a great choice. Of course, I’m partial to Tekukor but I’ll refrain from lobbying for my favorite brand (you can’t go wrong with Tekukor). But the artwork on Eclectic Scribbles is pretty cool and if you’re looking for a notebook that stands out from the crowd, this is the one to pick. 

LET’S CHAT

I’d love to know which notebook you love the most. Were you surprised by any of the test results? Do you know of any other 160gsm paper notebooks that I didn’t find in my digging? Let me know what it is so I can check it out too. 

Leave a comment below and we’ll continue this conversation.

Kitty Outtakes

No review is complete without kitties getting into a picture or two. Here’s Jack napping under the warm lights of the photo table. 

The post The Ultimate Comparison of 160gsm Bullet Journal Notebooks appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Scribbles That Matter 160gsm Journal Review

Scribbles That Matter 160gsm  notebook review | Introduction

Dear Scribbles That Matter, I’m not sure what you’re doing these days and it’s hard for me to write a review about your notebooks because I have no idea how long this particular version will last. This wishy-washy behavior is not becoming and it makes me sad. Things were going so good! What are you even doing?

Yes, I’ll probably get a bit of hate mail for this commentary but I feel like someone has to say this stuff out loud and I’m afraid that nobody else is going to do it. So it’s left to me to say.

Hey, Pam, what are you even talking about? Stop being so cryptic.

WARNING – I’m about to go on an extended rant. If you want to skip all the drama and go straight to the review, just click here to … uh… jump over the shark below. (Sorry, that was really corny.)

Has Scribbles That Matter Jumped the Shark?

I’ve been cutting them some slack for a long time now. And this rant really has nothing to do with the performance of the notebook with 160gsm paper. But I think it’s time to call them out for what’s been going wrong and why I am worried about the future success of this company.

Jumping the shark is the moment when something that was once popular that no longer warrants the attention it previously received makes an attempt at publicity, which only serves to highlight its irrelevance. Source: Wikipedia

Business decisions made based on user polls – it’s one thing to listen to the feedback of your customers and make adjustments to your products, it’s another thing entirely to make major business decisions based on that same feedback.

  • It all started when they removed the skull doodle from the cover of their first journal and replaced it with a hedgehog because the “skull offended people.”
  • Sales were SO good that they struggled hard with keeping notebooks in stock. It was always a constant battle to make a purchase because you never knew if there would be inventory to buy. I get it – their popularity was a surprise at the beginning and they were trying to figure out supply and demand. But it felt like it took them a really really long time to get a handle on how many notebooks to keep in stock and when to reorder so that they consistently had inventory to sell.
  • Then the color dance started … new colors, discontinued colors, lots of colors then only a handful of colors and those colors will change as new colors are introduced. The reason for reduced color options was the cost of warehousing multiple colors through Amazon. This is understandable, but the entire thing seemed random and poorly planned from the consumer side of things.
  • Then they introduced new sizes – B6 and A6 – but instead of understanding the market and choosing colors based on color trends, they only offered teal (their signature brand color at the time). And then when a second color was introduced it was red. I might not be an expert in which colors sell best in notebook covers, but I can’t see how teal and red are the hot color choices for the majority of people. Even Amy at Life in the Mitten made a video about her hatred of the red B6 notebook and how she covered it up.
Scribbles That Matter 100gsm

Notice the skull doodle at the top center. This indicates my journal is one of the first STMs produced because the skull was removed early in their production process.

  • Sometime in early spring or late winter of 2019 the paper fiasco began. As far as I can tell, it’s still going on now as we approach the fall of 2019.
    • Winter 2019 – they changed the paper in their 100gsm A5 notebook to be “new and improved” with 115gsm and a more heavily coated page (described by users as “waxy”) to presumably further reduce ghosting and bleed-through. Nice in theory. But did they actually test this paper before they put it in their notebooks? Because from what I can see from online discussions, smearing and smudging of all sorts of ink pens and markers was a major problem. Thankfully they saw this as an issue and quickly made another change…
    • But this new change went a little wrong too. Instead of going back to their original 100gsm paper, they chose 160gsm paper (we assume in an attempt to compete with the new hot notebook on the market – Archer & Olive). Such an extreme jump in paper weight – which always dramatically reduced the number of pages in the notebook. They reduced the number of pages by nearly 25%.
    • And because there was such an uproar about the heavy coating on the previous 115gsm paper, they went with a matte finish on the 160gsm paper. Oops! Now we have a bleeding problem (especially noticeable with watercolor paints).

The latest updated from Scribbles about their paper choice is the one I received when I asked them through a private message on Facebook if they had completely discontinued the 100gsm paper? Their response:

“We will have 2 options in the future. 100gsm and 160gsm”

OK… but when in the future? I asked that follow up question and didn’t receive a response. So should we assume that actually means: “…at some random point in the future.”

But wait… there’s more!

In the middle of my writing this journal review, a new poll is up on the STM social platforms asking for feedback on a product change. So the latest development in the Scribbles Saga is a new notebook system instead of their current hardcover journals. The current poll results (late summer 2019) are showing 85% of fans favor this change. What’s the system?

It’s akin to a traveler’s notebook-style system where you buy a folio-style cover in the color of your choice. Then you choose which “insert” you want inside – 100gsm, 160gsm, bullet planner, etc. – and when you run out of pages, you just buy a new insert for your cover. The insert is the size of a normal A5 notebook with 150-200 pages but without the hard bulk cover, instead, it would be some type of rigid cardboard material. If you want to see it for yourself, check out their pitch video below.

Public Opinion Polls don’t tell the whole story

The Scribble That Matter social media following is substantial. As of this writing, their combined social following on Facebook (11.6k) and Instagram (95k) is a bit more than 100,000 people (presumably with plenty of duplication). But they rely heavily on product changes based on opinion polls they publish on their social media channels.

Obviously, with the way the social media algorithms work, not 100% of their followers will even see those polls. In fact, the standard impression stats are around 1-2% of the business’ followers will actually be shown individual Facebook or Instagram posts (unless the business pays to boost those posts through paid advertising).

And it’s safe to assume that their social following is probably a tiny percentage of their actual notebook users. Maybe another 1% assumption? Which means if they sold 1 million journals and they’re listening to less than 1,000 of those users on social media to make major decisions about their product offerings … yeah, that’s not a good business move.

So why would a company rely so heavily on the opinion of such a tiny percentage of its users? Why wouldn’t they use the same types of tools that other corporations use when making decisions about product changes – especially when you have such a loyal following?

It seems as if they are whimsically chasing feathers in the wind rather than carefully laying bricks to form a strong foundation. It’s only after you have a strong foundation and a well-built house that you can start experimenting with crazy paint colors on your walls or funky cushions on your sofa.

Does this review even matter?

So here I am, in late August, about to write a comprehensive review of the 160gsm Scribbles That Matter notebook. And I wonder if I should even bother. Will this be the same paper they use in the next production run of the notebook? They seem to change their paper with each new run so I’m not sure I should have confidence that they’ll stick with one decision for the long term.

We can safely assume that the previous Scribbles That Matter review I published about the original 100gsm version is no longer valid because that version no longer exists. It makes me wonder how long THIS review will be valid or if I’ll need to add a disclaimer at the top saying it can be ignored now.

So as we go through this review, keep in mind that I don’t know what the future journals from Scribbles That Matter will look like. I’ll caution you to either buy a 160gsm journal right away before they change things again or just skip this one altogether and pick one of the other 160gsm options (Tekukor and QiHeng are both great options!)

So with ALL of that in mind … let’s jump into the review.

​Features & Specs of Scribbles That Matter 160gsm

The notebook is true A5 – measuring 5.8” x 8.3” or 148mm x 210mm. Each page is numbered and has light grey dots that go all the way to the edges of the paper but with a narrow margin equidistant all around the block of dots. The page number sits below the dot grid on the bottom corner of the page. The paper is bright white (although the product listing says it’s “light ivory”) and somewhat smooth with a bit of “tooth” to it. The excessive coated / waxy feeling of the previous paper is definitely no longer an issue as this paper feels more matte.

Typical for all Scribbles That Matter notebooks, you have many features including an attached pen loop, back document pocket, 2 bookmarks, and a fairly sturdy elastic closure band. Inside you receive several special pages:

  • Contact info page (includes a place to add the dates you start and end the journal)
  • Key page
  • Index pages (3)
  • Pen Test page
  • Mindfulness page

Number of Pages

The information band on the journal says there are 200 pages that are 115gsm – this is a misprint (or careless design work) because in the Amazon product listing you see this:

160gsm paper with 150+ numbered pages that are a dream to write on (please note that the packaging may have a typo that says 115gm with 200 pages)

So 150+ numbered pages is correct. The page numbers go up to 158. But the problem is that all those special pages are also numbered. Which means that 6 of the numbered pages are not useable for anything other than their special use. Which leaves you with 152 useable pages.

Let’s Talk about the Paper

In this version of Scribbles That Matter, we have 160gsm paper, as I’ve said a million times already. I’ve done a review on the old version of Scribbles with 100gsm paper – but that’s obsolete now.

This paper is thick! Definitely in the card stock category. The paper is matte without any substantial coating to protect it from bleed-through or feathering. The only reason we don’t see bleed-through with normal writing pens is due to the thickness of the paper. But once you start adding any significant ink or art supply we see that the paper starts to soak up that moisture and seeps through to the other side.

Styles & Sizes Available

There are two options for styles in this paper weight in the A5 size, which is normal for the Scribbles brand. The “iconic” version is the one with doodles debossed into the cover. The “pro” version is smooth with tiny versions of the doodles debossed on the back cover along the bottom. (Debossing is when the impressed image goes down into the surface of the materials – embossing is when the design is raised above the surface.)

I purchased the Pro version in Charcoal.

The cover is “responsibly sourced vegan leather” and is soft and smooth to the touch. Because the cover is a soft material it is possible to damage the surface if you are the type of person – like me – who tends to just toss your journal into your bag with everything else. So it is possible to mark up your journal if you’re not careful with it.

Looking at the rest of the Scribbles That Matter line you’ll also find B6 and A6-ish (I like to take credit for naming the A6-ish size since that was my suggestion way back when they were asking for suggestions on new sizes). There’s also the B5 Bullet Planner which is a pre-printed calendar and bullet journal version of the notebooks. 

Pen Test & Paper Quality 

First, let me just list all the supplies I’ve used for the basic pen-testing. I’ve chosen a variety of pens and markers in different categories including fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint pens, fountain pen inks, and various highlighters and markers. I even threw a Sharpie Marker in the mix as the alcohol marker you should never use in a journal. And because this paper is supposed to be bleed-resistant and ghost-proof, I also grabbed an art marker (a generic version of Copic markers). Whenever possible I used a black pen because that is going to give us the darkest possible ink to test ghosting or show-through.

Below is the full list of pens along with links for each.

Normal Pen Test Results

As expected, the normal writing pens did just fine on this paper. The only exception on the list above is the Jinhao X750 with Noodler’s 54th Massachseuttes ink – which has a bit of ghosting (which is expected, that ink and pen combination was thrown into the mix because it’s a tough one and usually ghosts or bleeds with all papers). However, I was pleasantly surprised that there isn’t a problem with feathering from fountain pen ink. The photos below show writing samples with Platinum Cool fountain pens.

The paper is not smooth so there’s a bit of drag when using some of the fine-tip pens. The paper has “tooth” – which means the surface is not coated so the paper grabs the ink and your pen doesn’t scroll across the page effortlessly. I guess this is probably fine if you’re just bullet journaling in this notebook. But if you’re doing journaling or long-form writing, it could get uncomfortable or annoying very quickly. I personally prefer smooth paper where my pen glides effortlessly across the page. However, I know that there are plenty of people who prefer paper with a bit of texture so that might actually be a plus for some folks.

 

Art Supplies & Paper Quality Archer & Olive Notebook

Art journaling is a huge consideration when it comes to a notebook that claims nothing will bleed through or ghosts on this paper. In fact, many of the videos you see in their marketing and advertising show heavily coated pages using various art supplies. One I recall seeing is where the entire page is painted in black paint then decorations are added on top of that paint. Very cool!  But is it true? Did I see the same results? Of course, I’m going to test it!

I’m a long-time crafter and scrapbooker so I’ve got a room full of art supplies (did you follow along with my Craft Room Cleanup last year?). I went on a treasure hunt to find as many different types of art supplies I could in a variety of different categories of media. These are all supplies I have used in my art journaling attempts in the past (“attempts” because no matter how much I try it just never looks all that great). Here’s a list of the supplies I’m testing:

Art Supply List

The list of goodies used for the art test

 

  1. Watercolor paint wet – a wet application of watercolor paint then letting the paint air dry 
  2. Watercolor paint dry-ishanother application of watercolor paint but with this time with less wet and I dabbed it with a paper towel to soak up any excess water and then let it air dry
  3. Tim Holtz Distress Paint  – this comes in a dabber bottle and is an acrylic-based paint
  4. Ranger Dylusions Distress Ink – full-strength – even though this is a spray bottle I used it with a small paintbrush instead (spraying this stuff makes a huge mess!) This test was the ink straight out of the bottle.
  5. Dylusions Distress Ink – diluted with water  – same as above, but this time I diluted it slightly with water to see if that made a difference.
  6. Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink – this ink is not really designed to be used on paper, it’s more for non-porous surfaces. But why not try and see what happens?
  7. Dye-based Ink – similar to the alcohol ink but there’s no alcohol in this version. It’s a water-based dye ink instead of being alcohol-based.
  8. Acrylic Ink – a thicker ink that is based on acrylic paint
  9. Copic-style Marker I tried the alcohol art marker again on this page
  10. Noodler’s Apache Sunset Fountain Pen Ink – Using a q-tip I applied a swatch of fountain pen ink to the page to see what would happen. Assuming fountain pen ink is normally used in a pen, this will test if you are using a broader pen like a Pilot Parallel or a glass dip pen.

Art Supply Test Results

Oh boy… here’s where things get interesting. Of the 10 art supplies that I tested, Scribbles That Matter failed at six of them. So a success rate of 40%. Let’s look closer at what failed and what didn’t.

The alcohol and dye-based inks and markers failed, as expected. However, two of the supplies (Dylusions Spray Ink and the Dye Ink) not only bled through to the back of the page, but they also soaked into the following page

I also tested fountain pen ink and applied it liberally with a q-tip to swatch the color. Now… that fountain pen ink test failed in all of the journals, right? But in Scribbles, it was among the worst performers of the 5 brands I tested. In fact, it was about the same amount of bleed-through as what we see in Archer & Olive journals.

What surprised me most is the watercolor. This is one of the big sales pitch lines for this paper. You can use paint – acrylic, and watercolor – without bleed through. I tested watercolor in two different ways. One method was to use a small amount of water to lay down the color, then blot it with a paper towel to soak up the excess water. Then let it air dry on the page.

The other method of watercolor is my normal method of using a more wet brush to blend color and then soak up that excess water with a clean brush, then let it dry on its own. Not only did the entire area soak up the watercolor, but it also bled through the page and warped the paper. That’s a pretty big failure, in my opinion.

​Pros & Cons

So let’s look at the good and the bad of the Scribbles That Matter 160gsm notebook and lay it all out.

PROS

  • The price is right at just $20.99. It performs the same as Archer & Olive but the price is about $10-15 less than A&O.
  • For normal writing pens like gel ink, ballpoint, or most fountain pen inks – the paper holds up just fine with no bleeding or ghosting.
  • Some art supplies work great on thick paper. If you plan to use acrylic paint or very-dry watercolor paints, you’ll be very happy with the results.

CONS

  • I have no faith whatsoever that this journal will be available long-term … and if they do keep this in the product line, who knows if the paper will be the same next time they print more journals.
  • The paper is uncoated and is not smooth for writing.
  • The bleed-through with the art supply test was definitely a failure. This is a direct result of the above – uncoated paper allows ink to soak into (and through) the fibers of the paper.

​Conclusion

I want to love this journal. I want to love Scribbles That Matter (in the way I used to love them). But their business model is broken. Their product development philosophy is broken and they are letting a small (but vocal) part of their customer-base make decisions about the direction of the company that should be left to product development managers who have training and expertise in these types of major business decisions. You can’t change your product at the random whim of an audience who has no vested interest in your business success or profit model.

There’s something to be said for consistency and providing your customers with a product they can rely on and know that from one journal to the next, they’ll still get the same one they ordered last time. I don’t know that if I ordered an STM notebook again today that I would get the same product I ordered a couple of months ago. Not knowing makes me decide to not order.

NOT Stationery Nerd Approved

I don’t give this failure rating very often and I hate giving it – especially when I’m rooting so hard for the company to succeed. But in this case, the Scribbles That Matter 160gsm Notebook FAILS the Stationery Nerd test. 

Notebook BrandSCRIBBLES THAT MATTER
Model | StylePro Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | SoftcoverHardcover
Cover OptionsPU leather | 8 color options
Sizes AvailableA5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Typesewn binding
Paper Weight160 gsm
Paper ColorWhite
Paper Surfacesmooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blankdots
Dot Descriptionmedium grey
Grid or Line Spacing5mm
Grid Count39 x 27
Number of pages150+
Are pages numbered?Yes
Special pagesKey, Index (3), Pen Test, Mindfulness
Bookmarks2 bookmarks
Back PocketYes
Elastic ClosureYes
Pen LoopYes - held in place with metal rivet
Additional FeaturesNA/
Purchase LocationAmazon
Price I paid (including shipping)$20.99

Journal & Notebook Review Rating Scale

Yes, I know that review up there is super long! You know me... I'm long winded and I think you might want to know every single teeny tiny thing about this product. Sometimes you just need the facts summarized in an easy chart. That's what this part is. Below you'll see my score for this notebook. I've based my score on the following criteria. Open each toggle box below to read more about the scoring system I use. 

Notebook Features & Specs

Evaluates the available features of the line of notebooks including special pages included (contact page, index pages, pen tests, perforated pages); special features (bookmarks, back pocket); and additional features (special elastic closure, stickers, tools, pen loop).

  • 20 points • PLAIN JANE - notebook includes paper (and probably a cover) but that’s about it
  • 40 points • PURELY BASIC - notebook includes one or two features but not anything outstanding
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook includes some of the typical features but is missing some
  • 80 points • FULLY LOADED  - notebook includes all the typical features you’d expect in a notebook
  • 100 points • LUXURY  - notebook includes every feature you can imagine plus more

Notebook Construction & Durability

Evaluates the overall construction and build of the notebook or journal. Factors considered are binding and lay-flat design; cover durability; bookmark and back pocket stability; paper performance; and the overall feel of quality.

  • 20 points • VERY POOR - notebook is not recommended due to poor construction, performance, and stability
  • 40 points • BELOW AVERAGE -  notebook shows poor construction and has many areas that need improvement
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook shows an expected level of construction and adequate performance or durability
  • 80 points • ABOVE AVERAGE -  notebook shows good construction and is durable in all areas
  • 100 points • LUXURY - notebook shows superior quality in construction and durability; feel luxurious

NORMAL WRITING PENS TESTING

I tested 16 different writing pens. These are the types of brands you’d expect to use in a normal bullet journal or standard long-form journaling notebook. Fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint, fountain pen inks, highlighters, and calligraphy brush markers. For this score I've based it on the level of ghosting and bleed-through of all the pens tested. 

  • 20 points • EXTREME - ghosting and bleed-through is so bad that you can’t write on the back of the page
  • 40 points • MAJOR - significant ghosting and bleed-through makes it difficult to write on the back of the page
  • 60 points • MODERATE - some ghosting and bleed-through is visible but writing over it is acceptable for some
  • 80 points • SLIGHT - barely visible ghosting or bleed-through and only with wet or heavy inks
  • 100 points • NO PROBLEMS - no visible ghosting or bleed-through at all

ART SUPPLY TEST RESULTS

I've thrown some tough art supplies at this notebook to see how far I could push the paper. I fully expected the alcohol-based materials to fail - there were 3 of the 10 that I expected all the notebooks in the 160gsm category to fail. Some surprised me and actually performed really well. The score in this category indicates how many art supplies PASSED the test. 

  • 10 art supplies were tested. Each supply is worth 10 points for a possible 100.
  • It is possible to be awarded partial points for a "nearly failed" or "nearly passed" supply test.

FEATHERING | CAPILLARY ACTION

Feathering is when the ink penetrates the fibers of the paper and spreads outward from the line just written. The feathering happens when ink from your pen is pulled into an absorbent paper via capillary action. Typically seen with uncoated or low-quality paper (i.e. newsprint or cheap school notebook paper) combined with wet ink or broad nib styles. 

  • 20 points  • EXTREME FEATHERING - the paper is so porous that ANY ink type feathers with every pen stroke. This is probably a paper towel or newsprint.
  • 40 points • MAJOR FEATHERING - any WET ink shows significant feathering with every pen stroke
  • 60 points • MODERATE FEATHERING - certain ink types show feathering but it’s not overly bothersome 
  • 80 points • SLIGHT FEATHERING - if you look closely you’ll see some periodic and insignificant feathering 
  • 100 points • NO FEATHERING - no feathering at all

The post Scribbles That Matter 160gsm Journal Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Buke Notebooks 160gsm Journal Review

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 you can get this notebook for less than $12.

Imagine my surprise when I was just browsing AliExpress for the latest stationery goodies (no, you’re not the only one who does that!) and the wise algorithm gremlins showed me this 160gsm paper dotted notebook. It caught my eye because the label looked suspiciously familiar and I was just curious enough to hit the Buy Now button. Then 13 days later it was in my hot little hands! (I love it when Aliexpress sellers have super fast shipping.)

What’s interesting about the Buke Notebooks brand is that they are the maker rather than just a company that has something manufactured. It’s a factory who is selling directly to consumers. That explains why the price is so low! From my research, it looks like this is the company that you’d go to if you want to buy a pallet of custom-designed notebooks to sell in your retail store or online shop.

Of course, when I saw the notebook and browsed through their store it made me wonder if this was a fly-by-night type of company. But Aliexpress does a really good job of vetting their store owners and giving buyers a ton of information to help us evaluate if a seller is trustworthy and has good ratings. The Buke Notebook Store has been open on Aliexpress for 5 years with a customer service rating of 99.2%.

But how is the notebook, Pam? Is it worth the wait? How did it perform in the tests? OK, OK, OK… I hear you. Let’s jump into this review.

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

Affiliate Advertising Disclosure

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 to write nice things about them. Everything here is my honest personal opinion. I purchased these notebooks myself with my own hard earn (and quickly spent) money.

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 and supplies 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 50-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.

Features & Specs

Before we get too far into this review, let’s talk about what this notebook is called and what’s available in their lineup. The name of the company is Buke Notebooks. It appears that the name of these notebooks is “Owl Bullet Journals.” So what do we call it? I’ve been calling it Buke but I wonder if I should actually call it Owl. What do you think? If we call it Owl, then the gold owl emblem on the front cover makes more sense. Buke Owl Journal? Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Thankfully, the description on their Aliexpress listing is very good. So we’ve got specs to look at – but also scroll down to the bottom if you want even more detailed nerdy data.

There’s one satin bookmark ribbon and the cover is PU leather. The back document pocket is well made with ribbon-like gussets and a double-thickness of heavy cardstock to form the pocket. The pocket itself is quite “tall” – meaning that the top edge of the pocket opening goes all the way to the edge of the paper and butts into the spine of the book (this makes it a little difficult to quickly grab that opening to open it).

We have a standard elastic closure that feels strong and tight. The matching elastic pen loop is adhered to the inside back cover and wedged between the cover and the back pocket. The construction shows that the pen loop is well placed and doesn’t look or feel like it will break or fall out – no gap where the loop is glued in.

Page Style

Hardcover and softcover options both have rounded corners and contain 160 dotted pages. The dot grid is 5mm and the dot count is 40×27. The dots are a medium grey but fairly small so they aren’t too obtrusive on the page.

As mentioned, the paper is 160gsm and they are calling it “ultra paper” in their description.

There are 160 pages in all varieties of the notebook, however, the pages are not numbered. Typically in a notebook like this you have an opening page for contact information in case you lose your journal. However, this one came with a sticker that has that information printed instead – you can stick it in yourself. I kind of like this option because I’ve always thought that the contact information section should be on the inside of the front cover, not on that first page. The first page is the perfect place to put an inspirational quote or poem since that’s the page you see most often when you open your book every day.

It comes with a stencil… and an owl!

The Buke journal also comes with a little stencil. It’s plastic and sort of flimsy, but not as flimsy as some of the stencils I’ve purchased in those big 20-piece packs. You’ve got the alphabet, arrows, and a few symbol stencils that would come in handy for bullet journaling.

On the front cover of the journal is a gold blind embossed logo – the owl is actually kind of cute and I like the script of their branding… so I don’t hate the logo itself. I just don’t really like where and how it’s placed. On the back cover is the Buke Notebooks logo, also embossed in gold. I think I’d like to see both of these logos on the back of the notebook instead, but for the price, I’m not going to whine too much.

But wait, there’s more! Once you remove the band from the journal cover you’ll find on the backside a handy measuring tool with lots of great info. Line weight, angles and mm diameter references – a great little bonus!

Styles & Sizes Available

So there are actually three different Buke journals to choose from with 160gsm paper.

I purchased the gray hardcover A5 notebook (I hadn’t noticed the black with gold pages version otherwise I probably would have bought that one for a couple of dollars more). Thankfully, the description on their Aliexpress listing is very good. So we’ve got specs to look at – but also scroll down to the bottom if you want even more detailed nerdy data. But here’s a summary from the website.

 

Hardcover & Softcover – same interior specs

  • ultra paper, 160 g/m²,
  • 160 pages
  • 5x5mm dot grid
  • 143×205 mm for inner pages size
  • matching ribbon bookmark
  • lies flat, opens at 180°
  • fine pu leather cover
  • foil stamping in the gold color – owl logo
  • expandable inner pocket in the back
  • pen loop holder

Pen Test & Paper Quality 

First, let me just list all the supplies I’ve used for the basic pen-testing. I’ve chosen a variety of pens and markers in different categories including fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint pens, fountain pen inks, and various highlighters and markers. I even threw a Sharpie Marker in the mix as the alcohol marker you should never use in a journal. And because this paper is supposed to be bleed-resistant and ghost-proof, I also grabbed an art marker (a generic version of Copic markers). Whenever possible I used a black pen because that is going to give us the darkest possible ink to test ghosting or show-through.

Below is the full list of pens along with links for each.

Normal Pen Test Results

I was pretty surprised about the performance of Buke Notebooks’ notebook. The ghosting on all pens is similar to what I’d see in a good quality 120gsm notebook with all the normal writing pens. In fact, I compared the ghosting results of Buke with the results of Scrivwell. They’re similar. Buke performs better than Scrivwell (120gsm paper). The ghosting isn’t horrible and in a normal review I’d consider this level of ghosting as “minimal” or “slight” at best. But I am expecting more from a notebook with 160gsm paper, right? However, look at the results of the art marker and Sharpie marker! There’s ghosting but no bleed-through! If I were only looking only those marker results, Buke would be in first place.

I suspect that Buke has a heavier coating on their paper which could mean they started with thinner, less opaque paper so when the weight is measured at the end of the manufacturing process, it comes out to 160gsm and the coating contributes significantly to that weight. The paper in Buke is not slick in such a way that it prevents ink from drying, though. This theory will hold true when we get to the part of about how each notebook stands up to the Feathering Test below.

It’s difficult to see the ghosting in the photos below because it’s so slight. But look at those markers! And also, the writing experience on this paper is outstanding! Gel pens are smooth … but then I grabbed a fountain pen to do a writing sample and I was blown away! This paper is SO SMOOTH… it’s buttery! And the shading of the fountain pen ink on this paper is similar to what I get with Tomoe River paper. This would make a great journal for those who love writing longhand diary entires because of how glorious it is to write on.

The scoring below (all the way at the very end of the page) has a section for the writing pen rating. If I were only rating the ghosting, this notebook would get about 25 points (out of 100). But taking into account the lack of bleed-through with alcohol markers and also the beautiful writing experience on the surface of the page, I’ve given Buke extra points.

Art Supplies & Paper Quality Archer & Olive Notebook

Art journaling is a huge consideration when it comes to a notebook that claims nothing will bleed through or ghosts on this paper. In fact, many of the videos you see in their marketing and advertising show heavily coated pages using various art supplies. One I recall seeing is where the entire page is painted in black paint then decorations are added on top of that paint. Very cool!  But is it true? Did I see the same results? Of course, I’m going to test it!

I’m a long-time crafter and scrapbooker so I’ve got a room full of art supplies (did you follow along with my Craft Room Cleanup last year?). I went on a treasure hunt to find as many different types of art supplies I could in a variety of different categories of media. These are all supplies I have used in my art journaling attempts in the past (“attempts” because no matter how much I try it just never looks all that great). Here’s a list of the supplies I’m testing:

Art Supply List

The list of goodies used for the art test

 

  1. Watercolor paint wet – a wet application of watercolor paint then letting the paint air dry 
  2. Watercolor paint dry-ishanother application of watercolor paint but with this time with less wet and I dabbed it with a paper towel to soak up any excess water and then let it air dry
  3. Tim Holtz Distress Paint  – this comes in a dabber bottle and is an acrylic-based paint
  4. Ranger Dylusions Distress Ink – full-strength – even though this is a spray bottle I used it with a small paintbrush instead (spraying this stuff makes a huge mess!) This test was the ink straight out of the bottle.
  5. Dylusions Distress Ink – diluted with water  – same as above, but this time I diluted it slightly with water to see if that made a difference.
  6. Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink – this ink is not really designed to be used on paper, it’s more for non-porous surfaces. But why not try and see what happens?
  7. Dye-based Ink – similar to the alcohol ink but there’s no alcohol in this version. It’s a water-based dye ink instead of being alcohol-based.
  8. Acrylic Ink – a thicker ink that is based on acrylic paint
  9. Copic-style Marker I tried the alcohol art marker again on this page
  10. Noodler’s Apache Sunset Fountain Pen Ink – Using a q-tip I applied a swatch of fountain pen ink to the page to see what would happen. Assuming fountain pen ink is normally used in a pen, this will test if you are using a broader pen like a Pilot Parallel or a glass dip pen.

Art Supply Test Results

Wow! This notebook is amazing when it comes to art journaling. Not only does the Sharpie marker and alcohol art marker perform well (hardly any bleed-through at all, just ghosting), the other supplies passed the test too. Yes, we’ve got bleed-through with the alcohol ink and dye ink, but we expected that, right? 

Of the 10 art supplies tested, Buke passed all but the 4 hardest supplies giving it a rating of 60% success. Even the heavy swatch of fountain pen ink that gave other notebooks a bit of trouble did not bleed through at all. 

Pros & Cons

Let’s compare the pros and cons of this notebook and see how it measures up. 

PROS

  • The price for this notebook can’t be beat. For less than $12 you’re getting an outstanding 160gsm journal.
  • Art supplies are perfect for the paper in Buke Notebooks. The pages hold a lot of wet media and would be excellent as an art journal. 
  • The cover is super soft and feels good in the hand – plus the more I look at that cute owl on the cover, the more I like it. 
  • With hardcover or softcover options – this is perfect for both sides of the fence.
  • Fountain pens perform beautifully on this paper! So buttery smooth!

CONS

  • Because this notebook comes from an international marketplace, shipping can take a bit of extra time. I got mine in 13 days, but depending on where you are in the world, it might be more.
  • The normal pen test was a bit disappointing. The coated page allows the ink to sit on the surface so no bleed-through, but the ghosting is really bad for this weight of paper.

Conclusion

I love this notebook! It was a fun find while browsing on Aliexpress and I’m so happy it popped up on my recommendations list. I also love that this is a “direct from the factory” type of brand. The makers of the notebook are the ones you’re buying from without any interference from a middle-man – which allows us to get such an outstanding price. For around $12 you can’t beat this notebook. (Plus it comes with a couple nice bonuses, like a stencils!)

I wish the pen test was more successful but in the grand skeme of things, that ghosting isn’t all that terrible. Not when you take into consideration how well it holds up to other art mediums. So yes, it gets a low score for that category, but it is still getting a high score with everything else. 

I’m proud to give Buke Notebooks 160gsm journal the Stationery Nerd Seal of Approval.

Specs & Ratings

Below is a detailed chart with all the specs for this notebook. Plus I explain my rating system and give you the breakdown of the score for this notebook. Scroll down for more info.

Notebook BrandBUKE STATIONERY
Model | Style
Hardcover | Softcover
Cover Options
Sizes Available
Binding Type
Paper Weight
Paper Color
Paper Surface
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blank
Dot Description
Grid or Line Spacing
Grid Count
Number of pages
Are pages numbered?
Special pages
Bookmarks
Back Pocket
Elastic Closure
Pen Loop
Additional Features
Purchase Location
Price I paid (including shipping)

Journal & Notebook Review Rating Scale

Yes, I know that review up there is super long! You know me... I'm long winded and I think you might want to know every single teeny tiny thing about this product. Sometimes you just need the facts summarized in an easy chart. That's what this part is. Below you'll see my score for this notebook. I've based my score on the following criteria. Open each toggle box below to read more about the scoring system I use. 

Notebook Features & Specs

Evaluates the available features of the line of notebooks including special pages included (contact page, index pages, pen tests, perforated pages); special features (bookmarks, back pocket); and additional features (special elastic closure, stickers, tools, pen loop).

  • 20 points • PLAIN JANE - notebook includes paper (and probably a cover) but that’s about it
  • 40 points • PURELY BASIC - notebook includes one or two features but not anything outstanding
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook includes some of the typical features but is missing some
  • 80 points • FULLY LOADED  - notebook includes all the typical features you’d expect in a notebook
  • 100 points • LUXURY  - notebook includes every feature you can imagine plus more

Notebook Construction & Durability

Evaluates the overall construction and build of the notebook or journal. Factors considered are binding and lay-flat design; cover durability; bookmark and back pocket stability; paper performance; and the overall feel of quality.

  • 20 points • VERY POOR - notebook is not recommended due to poor construction, performance, and stability
  • 40 points • BELOW AVERAGE -  notebook shows poor construction and has many areas that need improvement
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook shows an expected level of construction and adequate performance or durability
  • 80 points • ABOVE AVERAGE -  notebook shows good construction and is durable in all areas
  • 100 points • LUXURY - notebook shows superior quality in construction and durability; feel luxurious

NORMAL WRITING PENS TESTING

I tested 16 different writing pens. These are the types of brands you’d expect to use in a normal bullet journal or standard long-form journaling notebook. Fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint, fountain pen inks, highlighters, and calligraphy brush markers. For this score I've based it on the level of ghosting and bleed-through of all the pens tested. 

  • 20 points • EXTREME - ghosting and bleed-through is so bad that you can’t write on the back of the page
  • 40 points • MAJOR - significant ghosting and bleed-through makes it difficult to write on the back of the page
  • 60 points • MODERATE - some ghosting and bleed-through is visible but writing over it is acceptable for some
  • 80 points • SLIGHT - barely visible ghosting or bleed-through and only with wet or heavy inks
  • 100 points • NO PROBLEMS - no visible ghosting or bleed-through at all

ART SUPPLY TEST RESULTS

I've thrown some tough art supplies at this notebook to see how far I could push the paper. I fully expected the alcohol-based materials to fail - there were 3 of the 10 that I expected all the notebooks in the 160gsm category to fail. Some surprised me and actually performed really well. The score in this category indicates how many art supplies PASSED the test. 

  • 10 art supplies were tested. Each supply is worth 10 points for a possible 100.
  • It is possible to be awarded partial points for a "nearly failed" or "nearly passed" supply test.

FEATHERING | CAPILLARY ACTION

Feathering is when the ink penetrates the fibers of the paper and spreads outward from the line just written. The feathering happens when ink from your pen is pulled into an absorbent paper via capillary action. Typically seen with uncoated or low-quality paper (i.e. newsprint or cheap school notebook paper) combined with wet ink or broad nib styles. 

  • 20 points  • EXTREME FEATHERING - the paper is so porous that ANY ink type feathers with every pen stroke. This is probably a paper towel or newsprint.
  • 40 points • MAJOR FEATHERING - any WET ink shows significant feathering with every pen stroke
  • 60 points • MODERATE FEATHERING - certain ink types show feathering but it’s not overly bothersome 
  • 80 points • SLIGHT FEATHERING - if you look closely you’ll see some periodic and insignificant feathering 
  • 100 points • NO FEATHERING - no feathering at all

The post Buke Notebooks 160gsm Journal Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Tekukor 160gsm Dotted Notebook Review

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 option with ultra-thick 160 gsm paper that is perfect for those of us who like to use art supplies, paint, and inks to our bullet journals. I love these new notebooks and I’m sure you will too. 

 

Before we dive into learning about this new version of their notebook, let me just remind you how much I love the original notebook. After testing lots (and lots) of notebooks in my quest to find the perfect bullet journal I settled on Tekukor as my favorite. And no matter how many more brands I try, I keep coming back to Tekukor. Their notebooks have 100gsm paper that holds up to most any ink I throw at it with minimal ghosting (often no ghosting at all) and no bleed-through. 

This past winter my beloved Tekukor notebooks went out of stock on Amazon. Oh no!! They were gone for so long that I feared they would be gone forever. In fact, many of you reached out to me expressing about that same fear. So I reached out to my friends at Tekukor to find out what was going on! Turned out they were busy improving their product selection, expanding the line of notebooks, and then (unfortunately) waiting in line for production with their manufacturer. But when they finally came back on Amazon for sale, we were all delighted with the new color selection for covers and….. also the NEW 160 gsm notebook option. OMG! 

OK, enough rambling, Pam! Let’s get on with it already. 


Features & Specs

I’ll give a summary (and plenty of commentary) of the specs and features here, but if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, there’s a chart with every single detail along with the ratings they received for this review. 

Let’s talk about the paper

Before we dive into the features of the notebook, let’s evaluate the paper itself. Obviously we’re dealing with 160gsm paper, so it’s thick. It doesn’t feel any more or less thick than any of the other 160 notebooks we’re testing now. But the surface is a bit different. It’s not smooth. But it’s also not rough. I feel that there’s a slight coating to the paper which is evident in the way it performed in the pen and art supply tests that I talk about below. Feathering? Nope. Not at all. It’s smooth to write on with a fountain pen and feels good to touch.

Cover Color & Emblem Options

The cover is a linen fabric that feels luxurious. I feel fancy when I carry it. There are three color options (navy blue, olive green, wine burgundy) and each notebook has coordinating bookmark colors to match the cover. In all of them you get yellow and white bookmarks, but the third bookmark is the same color as the cover (blue, green, or burgundy). Also matching is the gusset on the back pocket which is a paper-backed satiny ribbon-type material to make it extra strong. 

On each cover is a gold hot-stamped emblem. The navy blue cover has a fern leaf; the olive green cover has lotus leaf; and the burgundy has a palm leaf (at least that seems to be the consensus of the nerds in the Stationery Nerd Herd Facebook group). 

Durability of Gold Hot-Stamp Emblem

When I emailed with the team at Tekukor, they asked me specifically to test the durability of that gold hot-stamped image. So of course, I’ve run my fingernail over the image to see how it holds up. I’m happy to report that it passed the Pam-abuse test. With a normal amount of scratching the gold didn’t flake off or rub away. 

But you know me… I always have to go one step further, right? So I scratched it hard (really hard!) and tried to actually make the gold come off on purpose. And yes, with major abuse the gold did start to come off a tiny bit… but not really “come off” so much as just rub away the top particles. You know that look you get with an old t-shirt that has a silk-screen image on the front and you’ve washed it 100 times and the image starts to fade and look all vintagey…. That’s what I mean when I say rub away. The gold is still there in the crevices but that top perfect layer came off when I really scrubbed my fingernail over it and tried to damage it. 

So that gold hot-stamp emblem – yeah, I’m pretty impressed. I deem that a success and it passed with an A+ for durability. 

Warning to all notebook makers – if you ask me to test one specific feature of your notebook, I’m going to be brutal with that feature and see how far I can take it! You can count on me to try to break things! 

Other Features

Of the possible features I’m judging notebooks on, the Tekukor has an average amount. We don’t see all the bells and whistles (or chutes and ladders?) of other brands, but we are not light on features. And the features we see are high quality and thoughtful.

Wide Elastic Closure

One of the features I love the most about Tekukor notebooks is the extra wide elastic closure. And I love that they’ve extended that feature across their entire line of notebooks. Not just this one, but also the 100gsm A5 dotted notebooks, and the A6 size too. Then there’s the beautiful B6 Tomoe River dotted notebook and they also used the wide elastic on that one. I know, I know, I know… seems like this wouldn’t be such a big deal, and it might not look all that impressive when you look at the photos of the notebook. But honestly, it’s one of my favorite things about this entire notebook line. It sets them apart and it makes the whole thing feel more high-end and luxurious. 

Numbered & Dotted Pages

We’ve got page numbers! Unlike the Archer & Olive notebooks, this one has numbered pages. For some this is a deal breaker because numbers are essential to their workflow. If you are the type of person who keeps an index / contents at the front or back of your journal, the numbers help, right? Even though there aren’t any extra pages set aside for an index like some other brand (like Scribbles That Matter), but that style of page is easy enough to create with a ruler and pen. 

The dots are small and a light grey. Not too light, but just light enough that they’ll disappear into the page once you start writing on it. The margins along the outside of the dot grid is even all the way around with no dots falling off the edge or creeping too close to the outside margin. The page number sits just below the bottom row of the grid, so it doesn’t get in the way of that bottom corner square. I’ve looked through the pages and it looks like all the dots line up across one page to the next, so the printing process was done in a quality way.

Decorative Endpaper

I’m not sure I’d call endpapers a feature, but let’s talk about it anyway. Endpapers are the pages you see when you open the front or back cover and are usually the page that holds the book together – adhering the inside block of pages to the actual front and back cover. It’s always nice when those pages are decorative because it adds a tiny bit of interest (sometimes an enormous bit of interest if you check out some of the examples from history). In Tekukor you have a pastel version of the gold emblem in a scatter/random pattern on the white page. It’s soothing and beautiful. You can peek at what that endpaper design is going to look like because the “belly band” (the label on the outside of the boom) shows that same design.

Storage Box

The Tekukor notebook comes to you in a sturdy storage box designed to protect your notebook while it’s on the bookshelf. The white box is constructed of a heavy chipboard material and has a cut-out along the edge where you can grab hold of the notebook to remove it from the sleeve. 

Bookmarks and Document Pocket

I already talked about the bookmarks and back document pocket above, but it’s worth mentioned again here (you know, for those skimmers among us who don’t actually read the stuff I write. LOL!). So if you skipped that part above, just go back and read about the amazing set of three bookmarks and the matching back pocket design. 


Styles & Sizes Available by Tekukor

Because Tekukor is my favorite notebook – and has been for the past two years – I’ve talked a lot about all the other notebooks they have in their product line. Here’s the lineup of the Tekukor brand:

Two years ago we had one choice. Just the 100gsm A5 notebook and now today we’ve got an entire line of beautiful notebooks. And yes. I have them all. I’m a stationery nerd so of course I have all of them. And yes, I’ve used them all…. Or I’m in the process of using them. I love that they started small and paid attention to what was working before they expanded to other notebook sizes and styles. It shows me they have a very smart business model and they’re doing what’s right for their company (rather than randomly listening to whoever has the loudest voice of opinion in their user-base…wink-wink). 

What I use my Tekukor notebooks for…

My A5 100gsm is my long-term collections notebook – it used to be my everyday bullet journal until I suddenly moved into the A6 100gsm notebook when I was halfway through the A5. I’ve just finished up my current A6 Tekukor and will be moving on to a new size and brand for my next bujo. 

I am currently using my B6 Tomoe River as a “whatever” notebook. I’m in the process of copying books of the Bible – I’ve started with Proverbs – so I’m using this B6 for that project. But in between those pages I use this notebook for project planning or journaling or memory keeping. Pretty much anytime I have an urge to write on Tomoe River paper, I pick up my Tekukor B6. 

Pen Test & Paper Quality 

First, let me just list all the supplies I’ve used for the basic pen-testing. I’ve chosen a variety of pens and markers in different categories including fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint pens, fountain pen inks, and various highlighters and markers. I even threw a Sharpie Marker in the mix as the alcohol marker you should never use in a journal. And because this paper is supposed to be bleed-resistant and ghost-proof, I also grabbed an art marker (a generic version of Copic markers). Whenever possible I used a black pen because that is going to give us the darkest possible ink to test ghosting or show-through.

Below is the full list of pens along with links for each.

Normal Writing Pen Test Results

There are really no surprises here. Everything was just fine – no ghosting, no bleeding – just as you’d expect with paper this thick. The only issue was with Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts fountain pen ink – which is the one that’s been giving all these notebooks problem. In fact, the more I learn about Noodler’s inks, the more I realize that this brand seems to perform differently than many other brands of fountain pen ink – it’s extra wet. In fact, a quote from JetPens says:

When thinking about wet inks, Noodler’s is, by-and-large, most people’s first answer. Nathan Tardif creates his stunning inks with a healthy dose of lubrication and pigment, resulting in a wet, juicy flow.

Because that ink is such a troublesome one for bleed-through and excessive ghosting on normal paper, I picked a Noodler’s ink to see how well the paper stands up to this tough one. But even with this tough ink, Tekukor performed really well. But also look at the photos below for the feathing tests. Ink loves this paper! No feathering at all and the paper is so smooth that the pen just glides across the page. 

So there’s not really much to talk about here, right? It’s a no-brainer that most normal ink pens are going to work just fine on this thick paper. When we get to the art supplies test… that’s where the real competition begins. 

Art Supplies & Paper Quality Archer & Olive Notebook

Art journaling is a huge consideration when it comes to a notebook that claims nothing will bleed through or ghosts on this paper. In fact, many of the videos you see in their marketing and advertising show heavily coated pages using various art supplies. One I recall seeing is where the entire page is painted in black paint then decorations are added on top of that paint. Very cool!  But is it true? Did I see the same results? Of course, I’m going to test it!

I’m a long-time crafter and scrapbooker so I’ve got a room full of art supplies (did you follow along with my Craft Room Cleanup last year?). I went on a treasure hunt to find as many different types of art supplies I could in a variety of different categories of media. These are all supplies I have used in my art journaling attempts in the past (“attempts” because no matter how much I try it just never looks all that great). Here’s a list of the supplies I’m testing:

Art Supply List

The list of goodies used for the art test

 

  1. Watercolor paint wet – a wet application of watercolor paint then letting the paint air dry 
  2. Watercolor paint dry-ishanother application of watercolor paint but with this time with less wet and I dabbed it with a paper towel to soak up any excess water and then let it air dry
  3. Tim Holtz Distress Paint  – this comes in a dabber bottle and is an acrylic-based paint
  4. Ranger Dylusions Distress Ink – full-strength – even though this is a spray bottle I used it with a small paintbrush instead (spraying this stuff makes a huge mess!) This test was the ink straight out of the bottle.
  5. Dylusions Distress Ink – diluted with water  – same as above, but this time I diluted it slightly with water to see if that made a difference.
  6. Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink – this ink is not really designed to be used on paper, it’s more for non-porous surfaces. But why not try and see what happens?
  7. Dye-based Ink – similar to the alcohol ink but there’s no alcohol in this version. It’s a water-based dye ink instead of being alcohol-based.
  8. Acrylic Ink – a thicker ink that is based on acrylic paint
  9. Copic-style Marker I tried the alcohol art marker again on this page
  10. Noodler’s Apache Sunset Fountain Pen Ink – Using a q-tip I applied a swatch of fountain pen ink to the page to see what would happen. Assuming fountain pen ink is normally used in a pen, this will test if you are using a broader pen like a Pilot Parallel or a glass dip pen.

Art Supply Test Results

Well, well, well… look at this! Of the 10 art supplies that I tested, the Tekukor notebook stood strong for 6 (almost 7) of the bunch. I say “almost 7” because the fountain pen ink is almost a success. Yes there’s a tiny bit of bleed-through, but far and away better than the results in other notebooks. Only the QiHeng performed better with that ink. So I’m going to rate this at 65% success. But let’s take a closer look at which things failed and which didn’t. 

Failures include the alcohol ink, copic marker and sharpie marker — so all of the alcohol-based art supplies. Which is to be expected. Alcohol ink and paper are not friends – even when that paper is 160gsm. However, if you look closely at the Sharpie Marker you’ll see that the show-through is more ghosting than it is bleeding. Sharpie didn’t actually saturate through the page as much as it did in other notebooks.

So moving on to the success in the bunch. Watercolor did not seep through the page even though I added plenty of water while testing. Once the watercolor dried, though, there was some buckling and crinkling of the paper. Obviously this can be avoided by not letting the water sit on the page until it dried .. instead soak up that water with a dry brush or a piece of paper towel. 

Overall I’m very impressed with the performance of this paper with the art supplies I tested. Clearly you aren’t going to use alcohol-based supplies in a paper journal, but it’s nice to know how they’ll perform if you want to give it a try. 

Pros & Cons

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

PROS

  • The construction of this notebook is outstanding. It feels solid in my hand and the spin seems sturdy and can withstand some abuse. Even the gold stamped emblem on the front cover stood up to the Pam test.
  • The features we see in Tekukor notebooks are thoughtful and feel luxurious. The extra wide elastic, the decorative endpapers, the color coordinated bookmarks and document pocket gusset are done with class. 
  • Page numbers
  • Competitively priced against Archer & Olive

CONS

  • It would be nice to have a few extra pages at the front for an index – something designed for that type of use.
  • Price is lower than Archer & Olive, but higher than Scribbles That Matter. So this might be a deterrent for the budget conscious.

Conclusion

Honestly, this review was a bit harder than I expected. Not because the product is bad (it’s definitely not) but because I came into it with a biase. I already love this brand and all the other notebooks they make. So I had to work extra hard to stay neutral as I was testing and reviewing this new product line. I wanted to love it from the moment I knew they were going to be produced so I had to work extra hard to test this notebook the same as I tested all the other notebooks in this class. 

Stationery Nerd Approved Seal

With that in mind, I think I might have actually been harder on this notebook than I was on the others. Maybe I was more heavy handed on the art supplies here than I was with other brands? Maybe not? Maybe that biase crept in even though I tried hard to squash it. But all in all, I love this notebook. Yes there are a few shortcomings (the price being the chief among them), but for the quality of this journal, I think the price is fair.

You know what I wish? I wish this notebook – the cover, gold emblem, luxurious feel of the construction… I wish it came with 100gsm paper. I know! I know! I know! But I just don’t think I’m the type of person who will ever use a notebook with 160gsm paper – at least not on a regular basis for my everyday journal. Don’t worry, I’ll find a use for it though – some form of art journaling, I’m sure.

But in the end, I’m proud to say that this 160 gsm Tekukor dotted notebook is officially Stationery Nerd Approved.

Specs & Ratings for Tekukor

Scroll down the rest of the way on this page for a detailed chart of all the specs for Tekukor as well as my scoring system and rating for each feature of the notebook. 


Notebook BrandTEKUKOR
Model | Style Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | SoftcoverHardcover
Cover Optionslinen fabric | 3 color
Sizes AvailableA5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Typesewn binding
Paper Weight160 gsm
Paper ColorWhite
Paper Surfacesemi-smooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blankdots
Dot Descriptionlight grey
Grid or Line Spacing5mm
Grid Count39 x 27
Number of pages192
Are pages numbered?Yes
Special pagesNo
Bookmarks3 bookmarks
Back PocketYes
Elastic ClosureYes | extra wide elastic closure
Pen LoopYes
Additional Featuresgold emblem on front | decorative endpapers
Purchase LocationAmazon
Price I paid (including shipping)$26.95

Journal & Notebook Review Rating Scale

Yes, I know that review up there is super long! You know me... I'm long winded and I think you might want to know every single teeny tiny thing about this product. Sometimes you just need the facts summarized in an easy chart. That's what this part is. Below you'll see my score for this notebook. I've based my score on the following criteria. Open each toggle box below to read more about the scoring system I use. 

Notebook Features & Specs

Evaluates the available features of the line of notebooks including special pages included (contact page, index pages, pen tests, perforated pages); special features (bookmarks, back pocket); and additional features (special elastic closure, stickers, tools, pen loop).

  • 20 points • PLAIN JANE - notebook includes paper (and probably a cover) but that’s about it
  • 40 points • PURELY BASIC - notebook includes one or two features but not anything outstanding
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook includes some of the typical features but is missing some
  • 80 points • FULLY LOADED  - notebook includes all the typical features you’d expect in a notebook
  • 100 points • LUXURY  - notebook includes every feature you can imagine plus more

Notebook Construction & Durability

Evaluates the overall construction and build of the notebook or journal. Factors considered are binding and lay-flat design; cover durability; bookmark and back pocket stability; paper performance; and the overall feel of quality.

  • 20 points • VERY POOR - notebook is not recommended due to poor construction, performance, and stability
  • 40 points • BELOW AVERAGE -  notebook shows poor construction and has many areas that need improvement
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook shows an expected level of construction and adequate performance or durability
  • 80 points • ABOVE AVERAGE -  notebook shows good construction and is durable in all areas
  • 100 points • LUXURY - notebook shows superior quality in construction and durability; feel luxurious

NORMAL WRITING PENS TESTING

I tested 16 different writing pens. These are the types of brands you’d expect to use in a normal bullet journal or standard long-form journaling notebook. Fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint, fountain pen inks, highlighters, and calligraphy brush markers. For this score I've based it on the level of ghosting and bleed-through of all the pens tested. 

  • 20 points • EXTREME - ghosting and bleed-through is so bad that you can’t write on the back of the page
  • 40 points • MAJOR - significant ghosting and bleed-through makes it difficult to write on the back of the page
  • 60 points • MODERATE - some ghosting and bleed-through is visible but writing over it is acceptable for some
  • 80 points • SLIGHT - barely visible ghosting or bleed-through and only with wet or heavy inks
  • 100 points • NO PROBLEMS - no visible ghosting or bleed-through at all

ART SUPPLY TEST RESULTS

I've thrown some tough art supplies at this notebook to see how far I could push the paper. I fully expected the alcohol-based materials to fail - there were 3 of the 10 that I expected all the notebooks in the 160gsm category to fail. Some surprised me and actually performed really well. The score in this category indicates how many art supplies PASSED the test. 

  • 10 art supplies were tested. Each supply is worth 10 points for a possible 100.
  • It is possible to be awarded partial points for a "nearly failed" or "nearly passed" supply test.

FEATHERING | CAPILLARY ACTION

Feathering is when the ink penetrates the fibers of the paper and spreads outward from the line just written. The feathering happens when ink from your pen is pulled into an absorbent paper via capillary action. Typically seen with uncoated or low-quality paper (i.e. newsprint or cheap school notebook paper) combined with wet ink or broad nib styles. 

  • 20 points  • EXTREME FEATHERING - the paper is so porous that ANY ink type feathers with every pen stroke. This is probably a paper towel or newsprint.
  • 40 points • MAJOR FEATHERING - any WET ink shows significant feathering with every pen stroke
  • 60 points • MODERATE FEATHERING - certain ink types show feathering but it’s not overly bothersome 
  • 80 points • SLIGHT FEATHERING - if you look closely you’ll see some periodic and insignificant feathering 
  • 100 points • NO FEATHERING - no feathering at all

The post Tekukor 160gsm Dotted Notebook Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

QiHeng 160gsm Journal Review

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 their product listing. But looking at their listing, it seemed like the notebook had all the same features as Archer & Olive but at half the price.

 

But what happens when I test the paper? Can it stand up to the same supplies I used in Archer & Olive, Scribbles That Matter, and Tekukor? Is it better? Is it worse? Read on, my nerdy friend…. We’re about to explore this amazing notebook and I’m going to tell you why I love it so much.

First, let’s just say it again… I paid $15.99 for this notebook (other designs in the notebook line have slightly different prices, up to $17-ish). This is an A5 sized notebook with 160 pages. If you remember in the Archer & Olive review, that same notebook would have been $35 (now $36 with the recent price increase). So this is a bargain, for sure!

Before we dive into the details of the review, I want to share a bit of the story of this brand. You know me, I’m always reaching out to stationery brands to see what insider information I can learn (and share with you). So I did the same with QiHeng (pronounced key-heng). I wanted to make sure they weren’t some fly-by-night company who would disappear as soon as I told you guys about their notebook. As it turns out, this is a unique situation.

Most notebook companies in the industry these days are actually resellers – which means they find a manufacturer to make the notebook they want to sell. The company works with the manufacturer to figure out the specs of a notebook – cover design, paper weight, construction quality, page style, packaging, etc. But QiHeng Stationery is different. They ARE the manufacturer. There’s no middleman who is telling the manufacturer what to make, the manufacturer makes their own decisions and then sells their product directly to the consumers (through their Amazon seller account).

This explains why they can sell their notebook for less than $17! They have cut out the middleman and pass those savings along to you and me. Lucky us!

The big question I wanted to know when I reached out to them was is they were going to continue making this notebook and if they were bringing more options to their product line. Here’s what they said:

Thanks for your support of our products. We have our own factories, we do the design and producing ourselves. We are new to the North American market, so we are still trying to figure out what styles/colours that American customers like. We are designing more colors/styles, if you have any ideas about it, please let us know.

So it looks like we have the opportunity to share some ideas with the company. Feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try to compile some of the best ideas to send along to the QiHeng team. (Let’s not creep into the Scribbles That Matter style of special product requests… but if you’ve got cover color requests or ideas for different embossed emblems on the front, that’s a great place to start.)

But there’s an ant on the cover! Ewww!!QiHeng 160gsm ant cover

I know, I know, I know… ants are annoying and kinda gross. They invade picnics to sample our yummy food… and when you find them in the house, we work hard to kill every last one of them. But if you set those yucky things aside, there’s some pretty amazing things to know about ants. 

Let’s take a look at fun facts and fascinating characteristics of ants …. Characteristics that we, as humans, could learn from and apply to our own lives. 

  • Ants are strong and can carry 20-50 times their body weight (usually in their jaws, while walking). Ants are loyal, not only to their queen but also to the rest of the family (colony) they live with and work alongside of. The type of family environment makes the social creatures who rely on each other for survival.  
  • Ants are industrious and known as the hardest working insect of the animal kingdom. When it comes to finding the sugary sweet nectar of plants or food that will nourish the colony, they band together to get the work done for the good of the whole. Did you know that the worker ants of the colony are all female? The male ant is only responsible for taking in enough nutrition to survive and to mate with the queen (figures that male ants only think about food and sex, huh?). 
  • Ants don’t have ears, instead they “hear” through vibrations they feel around them. This reminds me that it’s important to be aware of the world around me. Be present. Be mindful. Pay attention to what’s happening but do it with your whole self, not just one part of who you are. 
  • Ants don’t let obstacles stop them. One of the traits I like most about ants is their determination to overcome obstacles. As a group of ants is marching toward a goal, if something is set before them to block the way (rock, twig, cliff) they will explore left and right, up and down, and all-around (is that a song?) until they find a way around or through that obstacle. Nothing will stop them in their quest to achieve a goal or get where they need to go. 

Take those traits and apply them to our human life and we are reminded to be loyal to family and friends; don’t be afraid to carry more than you think you can bear; be present and enjoy the world around you; be creative to solve problems and ensure survival; and don’t let obstacles get in the way of your goals. 

Add an ant symbol to the cover of your bullet journal and it becomes a visual reminder of how to live a life you’ll be proud of. 

OK, now that we know more about the company and why I picked the ant cover, let’s dive into the journal and see how they stand up to the other notebooks with 160gsm paper.


Features & Specs 

The QiHeng 160gsm dotted notebook comes in A5 size – measuring 5.7” x 8.27” (slightly less than true A5, but close enough to count). We have 160 pages, not numbered (and they said there is currently no plan for them to add page numbers). The paper has a slight coating on it so the pages are smooth and silky. It’s a pleasure to write on the page and my pen glides effortlessly. 

The inside cover starts with an “In Case of Loss” contact section, but then goes straight into the dotted pages right afterward. There are no extra pages like an index or pen test page, just 100% dotted pages. The paper is bright white and the dots are a light (or medium-ish) gray in color. Not too dark, not too light. 

You’ve got the standard elastic closure band and a back document pocket. There’s also an elastic pen loop that holds up to my tugging-test. 

The cover I chose was the gray linen cover with the silver hot-stamped ant on the front. There are other cover options including a blue linen with a spider or faux leather covers with embossed animals (fox, bear, owl, squirrel). Don’t worry… one of the things I requested when talking to the company was some different cover emblems. Not sure what’s up with the spider but maybe that has some significance that I’m not understanding? Or maybe there’s a lot of people who actually like spiders. 

The construction of the journal is strong. At least it has held up to my testing even though I haven’t actually used the journal on a day-to-day basis yet. The binding is sewn and the notebook lays flat when open. 

Page Style

Dots on the page are light-to-medium gray. We have 39 x 27 dots in the grid and the dots go all the way to the edge of the paper with about ⅛” side margin but a 1⁄4” top and bottom margin. The dots line up perfectly from one page to the next. 

As mentioned above the pages do not have page numbers. I understand that adding page numbers adds a whole layer of complexity to the manufacturing process and would add to the cost of production. I’m fine with the lack of numbers because I don’t index my pages (I’m a flipper). But for some this is a deal breaker. But for the quality of this journal, it might be worth the effort to manually number the pages.

Right now the only page style choice you have with this brand is dots. Which is fine because for a new product line, you want to start small and see what the consumers demand. It’s better to start with a single product option and see how it sells before putting a ton of money into a bunch of different options that might not be as well received. I’d love to see a square grid and a narrow lined option (I like the line spacing in Moleskine which is 6mm). 

Let’s Talk about the Paper

Because of the coating on the page, there’s no feathering when I use fountain pens or wet gel ink pens. And that same coating helps to prevent bleed-through of some of the most troublesome art supplies. We’ll get into those details below. But let’s just say that the paper performs VERY well. 

I’ve pitted this notebook against 4 other brands in the same 160gsm class. Of all the notebooks tested, this one is tied for the best performing paper. Yes, nerds… I LOVE this notebook. The other brand at the top of the heap is my beloved Tekukor. 

Let’s dive into the pen tests and the art supply testing and see how things shake out.

Styles & Sizes Available

The only option for size is A5 (a tiny bit smaller than true A5). But you’ve got two choices for paper quality. The one that I bought is the 160gsm (yes, this review here) but there’s also an option for 100gsm paper. But that other notebook only comes with blank or ruled pages, not dotted. You have 6 different cover color options in the 100gsm bullet journal notebooks, too. 

I look forward to watching this brand and see what new products they come out with. I’d love to see A6 and B6 options, wouldn’t you?


Pen Test & Paper Quality 

First, let me just list all the supplies I’ve used for the basic pen-testing. I’ve chosen a variety of pens and markers in different categories including fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint pens, fountain pen inks, and various highlighters and markers. I even threw a Sharpie Marker in the mix as the alcohol marker you should never use in a journal. And because this paper is supposed to be bleed-resistant and ghost-proof, I also grabbed an art marker (a generic version of Copic markers). Whenever possible I used a black pen because that is going to give us the darkest possible ink to test ghosting or show-through.

Below is the full list of pens along with links for each.

NORMAL WRITING PEN TEST RESULTS

The pen test results are about what you’d expect with paper this thick. However, it actually performs better than Archer & Olive and Scribbles That Matter paper. There is virtually no ghosting at all and even that troublesome fountain pen combination I’ve been testing didn’t even give us any problems. (That combination is the Jinhao X750 with Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts ink.) 

But take a look at how the Copic-style marker and the Sharpie Marker held up. Both of these are really part of the art supply list, but I also tested them alongside the normal writing pens, too. The Sharpie didn’t bleed through!  What?!?! Yes, we’ve got some minor ghosting, but absolutely no bleeding at all. That never happens with Sharpie. Even the alcohol ink art marker performed really well. Yes, a bit of bleed-through and plenty of ghosting … but when you look closely at the bleeding, it isn’t the entire swipe of the marker, it’s only the parts where I start and end the line or overlap with another line of the marker. 

Really impressive! Gotta love coated paper, right?

Speaking of coated paper, sometimes that can actually be a problem when it comes to dry-time with inks. Especially fountain pen inks. But the ones I’ve tested are just fine. Noodler’s seems to be the worse culprit for wet smudgy ink (at least in my limited experience with inks) and the smudge test I did with Noodler’s Lexington Grey ink did just fine. Fast drying, no smudging and no ghosting or bleed-through at all. 

Art Supplies & Paper Quality Archer & Olive Notebook

Art journaling is a huge consideration when it comes to a notebook that claims nothing will bleed through or ghosts on this paper. In fact, many of the videos you see in their marketing and advertising show heavily coated pages using various art supplies. One I recall seeing is where the entire page is painted in black paint then decorations are added on top of that paint. Very cool!  But is it true? Did I see the same results? Of course, I’m going to test it!

I’m a long-time crafter and scrapbooker so I’ve got a room full of art supplies (did you follow along with my Craft Room Cleanup last year?). I went on a treasure hunt to find as many different types of art supplies I could in a variety of different categories of media. These are all supplies I have used in my art journaling attempts in the past (“attempts” because no matter how much I try it just never looks all that great). Here’s a list of the supplies I’m testing:

Art Supply List

The list of goodies used for the art test

 

  1. Watercolor paint wet – a wet application of watercolor paint then letting the paint air dry 
  2. Watercolor paint dry-ishanother application of watercolor paint but with this time with less wet and I dabbed it with a paper towel to soak up any excess water and then let it air dry
  3. Tim Holtz Distress Paint  – this comes in a dabber bottle and is an acrylic-based paint
  4. Ranger Dylusions Distress Ink – full-strength – even though this is a spray bottle I used it with a small paintbrush instead (spraying this stuff makes a huge mess!) This test was the ink straight out of the bottle.
  5. Dylusions Distress Ink – diluted with water  – same as above, but this time I diluted it slightly with water to see if that made a difference.
  6. Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink – this ink is not really designed to be used on paper, it’s more for non-porous surfaces. But why not try and see what happens?
  7. Dye-based Ink – similar to the alcohol ink but there’s no alcohol in this version. It’s a water-based dye ink instead of being alcohol-based.
  8. Acrylic Ink – a thicker ink that is based on acrylic paint
  9. Copic-style Marker I tried the alcohol art marker again on this page
  10. Noodler’s Apache Sunset Fountain Pen Ink – Using a q-tip I applied a swatch of fountain pen ink to the page to see what would happen. Assuming fountain pen ink is normally used in a pen, this will test if you are using a broader pen like a Pilot Parallel or a glass dip pen.

ART SUPPLY TEST RESULTS

And this is where things get interesting. Of the 10 art supplies I tested, only 3 failed. That’s a 70% success rate! (If you’re keeping score, that puts QiHeng in first place of all the 160gsm notebooks I’ve tested.) The supplies that failed include the ones you’d expect to fail – alcohol ink, dye-based ink, and the Copic alcohol marker. The cotton swag test of fountain pen ink almost failed with a teeny tiny bit of orange peeking through the page but I’m going to rate that as a success for how well the paper stood up to a heavy swatch of ink in that area. 

Let’s talk about the successes. The Dylusions ink spray was a surprise for me – so many others failed miserably on that one. Scribbles That Matter not only bled through, but it also seeped into the following page. But QiHeng stood up and didn’t even ghost with that one. The acrylic ink and paint was just fine so dig out your paint palettes and have fun! 

I was most impressed with the way the paper stood up to watercolor. Not only did it not seep through the page, but also the paper didn’t crinkle or buckle at all when subjected to a very wet paintbrush. You can see from the photos that I was not gentle with the water on this one. I put 3 layers of watercolor on that wet test and it held up just fine. Wow!

This notebook could easily be an art journal and you’d be free to use almost any art supply you wanted to play with. Let the games begin!

​Pros & Cons

PROS

  • The price of this journal can’t be beat! By cutting out the middleman and getting a product directly from the manufacturer, you’re getting the best of both worlds… not only do you know the quality is going to be top notch because you know who the maker is, but also you get a bargain price because there are fewer hands in your wallet. 
  • The construction of this journal is excellent. I love the linen covers – and even though I haven’t tested the faux leather version, I’m sure the quality is equally as good. 
  • The paper is amazing! Not only does it hold up to normal pen testing but also the art supply test – which is brutal by design – turned out to be no problem for this paper.
  • Did I mention the price?

CONS

  • The cover design options are limited. I wish some of the cute animal emblems on the faux leather journals were also available on the linen covers. That fox is adorable and I’d love to see it in a silver hot-stamp on a khaki colored linen cover. 
  • Lack of page numbers might be a deal breaker for some people.
  • Lack of special pages might be an issue for some people who really need index pages and prefer them to be printed on the front of the notebook. 

Conclusion

Stationery Nerd Approved Seal

So what’s the verdict? Yep, you guessed it. The QiHeng 160gsm Dotted Notebook is Stationery Nerd Approved. I love this notebook and love even more that it’s such a high-quality brand at su

ch a bargain price. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. Don’t stop scrolling yet, though…. Below you’ll find the chart of specs for this journal as well as the performance rating scale for the 5 areas of testing.

I’m happy to give QiHeng Stationery notebook the Stationery Nerd Seal of Approval! Not only do they get my approval, but they have also earned first place among all the 160gsm notebooks I’ve tested. Go buy this notebooks. Do it… you won’t regret it!

Let’s chat. 

How would you use a journal with 160gsm paper? Which cover design did you like best? Do you have a color or emblem suggestion for future journal designs? 


Notebook BrandQiHENG
Model | StyleSeQeS Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | SoftcoverHardcover
Cover Optionslinen fabric | faux leather
Sizes AvailableA5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Typesewn binding
Paper Weight160 gsm
Paper ColorWhite
Paper Surfacesmooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blankdots
Dot Descriptionmedium grey
Grid or Line Spacing5mm
Grid Count39 x 27
Number of pages160
Are pages numbered?No
Special pagesNo
Bookmarks2 bookmarks
Back PocketYes
Elastic ClosureYes
Pen LoopYes
Additional Featuressilver emblem on front (hot-stamped)
Purchase LocationAmazon
Price I paid (including shipping)$15.99

Journal & Notebook Review Rating Scale

Yes, I know that review up there is super long! You know me... I'm long winded and I think you might want to know every single teeny tiny thing about this product. Sometimes you just need to facts summarized in an easy chart. That's what this part is. Below you'll see my score for this notebook. I've based my score on the following criteria. Open each toggle box below to read more about the scoring system I use. 

 

Notebook Features & Specs

Evaluates the available features of the line of notebooks including special pages included (contact page, index pages, pen tests, perforated pages); special features (bookmarks, back pocket); and additional features (special elastic closure, stickers, tools, pen loop).

  • 20 points • PLAIN JANE - notebook includes paper (and probably a cover) but that’s about it
  • 40 points • PURELY BASIC - notebook includes one or two features but not anything outstanding
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook includes some of the typical features but is missing some
  • 80 points • FULLY LOADED  - notebook includes all the typical features you’d expect in a notebook
  • 100 points • LUXURY  - notebook includes every feature you can imagine plus more
Notebook Construction & Durability

Evaluates the overall construction and build of the notebook or journal. Factors considered are binding and lay-flat design; cover durability; bookmark and back pocket stability; paper performance; and the overall feel of quality.

  • 20 points • VERY POOR - notebook is not recommended due to poor construction, performance, and stability
  • 40 points • BELOW AVERAGE -  notebook shows poor construction and has many areas that need improvement
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook shows an expected level of construction and adequate performance or durability
  • 80 points • ABOVE AVERAGE -  notebook shows good construction and is durable in all areas
  • 100 points • LUXURY - notebook shows superior quality in construction and durability; feel luxurious
GHOSTING | SHOW-THROUGH | SHADOWING

Ghosting is when your pen strokes show through on the backside of your page and you can clearly see what you’ve written or drawn on the previous page. The combination of paper, ink wetness, and pen nib style contribute to ghosting or show-through. 

  • 20 points •  EXTREME GHOSTING - see-through is so bad that you can’t write on the back of the page
  • 40 points  • MAJOR GHOSTING - significant ghosting making it difficult to write on the back of the page
  • 60 points  • MODERATE GHOSTING - some ghosting is visible but writing over it is acceptable for some
  • 80 points  • SLIGHT GHOSTING - barely visible ghosting and only with wet or heavy inks
  • 100 points  • NO GHOSTING - no visible ghosting at all
BLEEDING | BLEED-THROUGH

Bleeding is when ink penetrates the fibers of the paper and soaks through to the other side of the page.  The combination of paper, ink wetness, and pen nib style contribute to bleed-through.

  • 20 points EXTREME BLEEDING - ink bleeds through the page and soaks into the following page of the journal 
  • 40 points • MAJOR BLEEDING - significant bleeding making it difficult to write on the back of the page
  • 60 points • MODERATE BLEEDING - some bleeding of full words or extra wet ink pen strokes
  • 80 points • SLIGHT BLEEDING - minor bleeding when a pen is left on the page for too long or at the end of a line but not visible during normal writing strokes
  • 100 points • NO BLEEDING - no bleeding at all
FEATHERING | CAPILLARY ACTION

Feathering is when the ink penetrates the fibers of the paper and spreads outward from the line just written. The feathering happens when ink from your pen is pulled into an absorbent paper via capillary action. Typically seen with uncoated or low-quality paper (i.e. newsprint or cheap school notebook paper) combined with wet ink or broad nib styles. 

  • 20 points  • EXTREME FEATHERING - the paper is so porous that ANY ink type feathers with every pen stroke. This is probably a paper towel or newsprint.
  • 40 points • MAJOR FEATHERING - any WET ink shows significant feathering with every pen stroke
  • 60 points • MODERATE FEATHERING - certain ink types show feathering but it’s not overly bothersome 
  • 80 points • SLIGHT FEATHERING - if you look closely you’ll see some periodic and insignificant feathering 
  • 100 points • NO FEATHERING - no feathering at all

The post QiHeng 160gsm Journal Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Archer & Olive 160gsm Dotted Notebook Review

Archer & Olive Notebook Review  | Introduction

The Archer & Olive brand of notebooks and their ultra-thick, no-ghosting, no-bleeding, 160gsm paper, has taken the bullet journaling community by storm. Every time I turn around someone else is singing the praises of this notebook. Superfans are everywhere and it seems as if it’s the best notebook to ever be created. And you know what that means, right? It means THIS stationery nerd becomes highly suspicious of all overly-enthusiastic attention and it’s time to do a deep dive and comprehensive review of the Archer & Olive notebook. 

Why I hesitated doing this review

To be honest, I held off on this review for a very long time. It’s been a hot topic in the journaling forums for about a year now and I remember when my YouTube feed and blog feed was suddenly taken over by reviews and unboxing videos by all the top planner gurus. Some bought the notebook themselves, but overwhelmingly those notebooks were sent to the reviewers for free in exchange for a review. 

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know how I feel about free journals in exchange for reviews – especially when bloggers and YouTubers don’t disclose that they’ve received the notebook for free in exchange for a glowing review. In short… I don’t like them very much. Which is why I buy the vast majority of the stationery I review on my own. There are some exceptions, of course, but I’m 100% open and honest about when that happens. That’s not always the case with many reviewers online and during the A&O flurry of reviews, I saw that a lot. 

Price was a hinderance for me

So back to why I waited so long to take the leap and buy an Archer & Olive notebook. Quite honestly… I didn’t want to spend the money. With their notebooks ranging in price from $28 to $38 plus shipping fees … I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that kind of money on what I assumed was an over-hyped product. 

Yes, I’m totally going into this review as a skeptic. Because of the price and my current level of annoyance, I know I’m going to be extra tough in my testing and I’m going to expect a lot out of this notebook. But as always, I’m going to be fair and honest in my findings.

But I love you guys and it’s so important to me that you have all the facts in a raw and honest review. So I decided to finally order the notebook. Except I couldn’t bring myself to spend any more than absolutely necessary, which means I skipped the A5 version and went for a B6 because it was the cheapest option at $28 plus $5 shipping. (The A5 version is currently priced at $31 plus shipping.)

I bought the B6 notebook called “Vintage Bee” – it’s a soft blue/green color with a gold embossed bee on the front. It’s cute and it feels like a good quality notebook. There are fewer pages in the B6 Archer & Olive (only 112) than you’ll find in the A5 or B5 versions (those have 160 pages) so this notebook feels … I was about to type “cute.” LOL! Can a notebook feel cute? It’s petite and slim and feels like a sidekick-sized journal. 

A sidekick journal is one that you bring along with you, in addition to your normal, usually larger, journal. It’s part of your EDC Kit (EDC = everyday carry).

And honestly, the more I get acquainted with the B6 size of notebooks the more I’m falling in love with that size (but that’s a discussion for another day). It’s time to get into the guts of this review… 


Features & Specs

All the details about specs are in the chart at the end of this article, but let’s do a summary anyway. As I mentioned above, I’m reviewing the B6 Vintage Bee Archer & Olive Dotted Notebook. B6 measures 4.92” x 6.92” (125mm x 176mm) – for those not familiar with the size, it might be easiest to just imagine a 5×7 photograph. Mmm… or maybe that’s not easier since “kids nowadays” don’t even know what it means to print photos and that there used to be a thing called film cameras and photo developing labs. OK nevermind, just scratch that whole thing.

The B6 notebook has 112 pages (not numbered) but the A5 and B5 versions have 160 pages (also not numbered). When you open the cover there is the “This book belongs to” contact information page but beyond that, there are no special pages included – you go straight into the dotted pages of the journal. There are no index pages, key pages, or pen test pages (which you see in the Scribbles That Matter notebooks). You get two satin ribbon bookmarks, a back document pocket, elastic closure loop and an elastic pen loop (which is black elastic and does not match the color of the notebook or the closure loop).

PAGE STYLE

The notebook I bought is a dot-grid and the grid size is 5mm – which is the standard grid size for these types of journals. The dot count is 23 horizontal X 33 vertical. The dots don’t go all the way to the very edge of the paper, which is a bonus! There’s a perfect size of margin of about 5mm on all 4 sides of the grid. There was definitely care taken with laying out the page so that the dot grid lays perfectly centered on the page. As a graphic designer, I notice this type of stuff and appreciate when it’s done right.

For those who prefer lined journals or square grid pages, those are also available. It looks like the notebooks they call Sketchbooks are the same paper as all the rest, but it’s just got blank pages. There’s even a Black Out Journal with all-black pages.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE PAPER

The paper in Archer & Olive is decidedly uncoated and has a dull matte finish to it. It’s not smooth and the page has a bit of “tooth” to it.

The paper is thick. Obviously, at 160gsm it’s going to be pretty substantial. Some people have described it as “card stock” – but being the paper nerd that I am, I wouldn’t classify it as cardstock exactly. Although technically the weight of cardstock can vary a lot depending on what type of cardstock you’re talking about. According to the definition below from Wikipedia, the paper in Archer & Olive would qualify as cardstock – 135gsm to 300gsm is officially considered cardstock. But all that to say, the paper in this notebook doesn’t feel terrible or “too thick” or like I’m writing on cardboard (which are some of the things I’ve heard others say about the paper).

The term card stock is used to describe paper with weights from 50 lb to 110 lb (about 135 to 300 g/m2). Source: Wikipedia

We’re paying a premium for this paper so we expect it to stand up to all sorts of pen tests, fountain pen ink tests, and art supply tests. Let’s see how it performed.


Styles & Sizes Available

The big bonus of Archer & Olive is that you have lots of beautiful journals to choose from. And they also have 3 different sizes so your perfect notebook size is probably available. There’s also a 12-month planner option besides the standard dotted notebook options. A quick rundown of what is available for sale on the A&O website:

  • B6 Signature – has fabric cover and standard dot-grid pages – $28
  • A5 Signature Series – has a fabric cover and standard dot-grid pages – $31
  • A5 Gilded Edges Series – same as Signature Series but with gold page edges – $36
  • A5 Limited Edition Series – same as the Gilded Edges Series but with limited quantity – $36
  • B5 Signature Series – fabric cover and standard dot-grid pages – $35
  • A5 Black Out Journal – all-black pages with fabric cover – $38
  • Daily Agenda Monthly Planners – yes, there are even pre-printed planners available
  • Watercolor / Art Journals – these are spiral bound journals with watercolor paper inside

There are also options in the A5 notebooks for pages with lines for journaling or a square grid for those who prefer that style. You can also get a sketchbook with blank pages. 

I’m quite impressed with the vast array of options in the Archer & Olive line of notebooks. There’s something for everyone. Plus the designs are all elegant and the notebooks are beautiful and feel luxurious.  The Instagram post below is from the Archer & Olive account and shows the three sizes stacked on top of each other to give you a sense of scale for each size. 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Archer And Olive (@archerandolive) on

 

Pen Test & Paper Quality 

No matter how beautiful the notebook looks, it’s the paper inside that counts the most. So let’s take a close look at how the paper in Archer & Olive stood up to my usual assortment of pens as well as a few extra tough pens and markers … just to see how far I could push the paper. I’m here for you, nerds! I’m going to put this notebook through its paces and we’ll see if it’s really worth the money I paid for it.

Below is the full list of pens along with links for each.

 

Normal Pen Test Results

The results of the pen test are promising and about what I expected with this portion of the test. There is essentially no ghosting on all the normal pens on the list. Good job! But there are a few issues with some of the pens I knew were going to be tough on any paper. Let’s go over those.

FOUNTAIN PEN INK TEST

Jinhao X750 is a fountain pen with a medium nib that lays down a lot of ink with each stroke. Pair that with Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts ink and we’ve got a bit of an issue. To be fair, this combination doesn’t usually fair this well on paper that doesn’t have a heavy coating on it. This pen and ink combo only works well on heavily coated paper or some of the Japanese papers like Tomoe River. As you can see in the pictures, the show through and almost-bleed through isn’t super noticeable but it’s there and I wasn’t expecting it to be since this paper is supposed to be so amazing. 

FEATHERING IS AN ISSUE

This is where things got very interesting – and not in a good way. I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised because this paper is not coated so the ink is going to soak into the fibers of the paper and then it spreads out beyond the line that you just drew. I notice this mostly with fountain pens and not so much with normal writing pens. What surprised me was my Platinum Preppy (purple ink below) shows feathering. That pen and ink are usually one that gives me the least amount of issues on any paper. But the feathering is very noticeable. Also the Platinum Desk Pen and a snub-nib with J. Herbin Emerald ink show feathering. Needless to say, I’m disappointed.

ALCOHOL MARKER TESTS

Now let’s talk about Sharpie and Copic (yes, I’m just going to call it Copic even though it’s not technically a Copic brand marker, it’s just a generic version of the same style art marker). So we know that alcohol markers are not paper friendly unless you’re using a specific marker paper. I wasn’t expecting these to perform well but I guess with all the hype I was expecting them to perform better than they did. 

The Copic definitely bleeds through and in the art supplies test below you’ll see that it actually bleeds through to the next page (not just the back of the page). The Sharpie ghosts pretty badly and along the edges has a bit of bleed-through. What’s interesting to me, though, is that the ghosting/bleeding of the Sharpie is actually about the same as the ghosting/bleeding that I saw in the Scrivwell 120gsm paper. Scrivwell paper is coated to protect against bleed-through. Archer & Olive paper is NOT coated so the ink will naturally soak into the fibers of the paper and bleed through to the back of the page if the ink is heavy enough. 

Good for journaling – but ink feathers badly

Overall, Archer & Olive performed pretty well on the pen test. If you plan to just use normal journaling pens, you’ll be very happy with the paper in this notebook. BUT, if you plan to use your fountain pens on this paper… you might want to think again. The feathering is problematic and could easily ruin the page. 

Art Supplies & Paper Quality Archer & Olive Notebook

Art journaling is a huge consideration when it comes to a notebook that claims nothing will bleed through or ghosts on this paper. In fact, many of the videos you see in their marketing and advertising show heavily coated pages using various art supplies. One I recall seeing is where the entire page is painted in black paint then decorations are added on top of that paint. Very cool!  But is it true? Did I see the same results? Of course, I’m going to test it!

I’m a long-time crafter and scrapbooker so I’ve got a room full of art supplies (did you follow along with my Craft Room Cleanup last year?). I went on a treasure hunt to find as many different types of art supplies I could in a variety of different categories of media. These are all supplies I have used in my art journaling attempts in the past (“attempts” because no matter how much I try it just never looks all that great). Here’s a list of the supplies I’m testing:

Art Supply List

The list of goodies used for the art test

 

  1. Watercolor paint wet – a wet application of watercolor paint then letting the paint air dry 
  2. Watercolor paint dry-ishanother application of watercolor paint but with this time with less wet and I dabbed it with a paper towel to soak up any excess water and then let it air dry
  3. Tim Holtz Distress Paint  – this comes in a dabber bottle and is an acrylic-based paint
  4. Ranger Dylusions Distress Ink – full-strength – even though this is a spray bottle I used it with a small paintbrush instead (spraying this stuff makes a huge mess!) This test was the ink straight out of the bottle.
  5. Dylusions Distress Ink – diluted with water  – same as above, but this time I diluted it slightly with water to see if that made a difference.
  6. Tim Holtz Alcohol Ink – this ink is not really designed to be used on paper, it’s more for non-porous surfaces. But why not try and see what happens?
  7. Dye-based Ink – similar to the alcohol ink but there’s no alcohol in this version. It’s a water-based dye ink instead of being alcohol-based.
  8. Acrylic Ink – a thicker ink that is based on acrylic paint
  9. Copic-style Marker I tried the alcohol art marker again on this page
  10. Noodler’s Apache Sunset Fountain Pen Ink – Using a q-tip I applied a swatch of fountain pen ink to the page to see what would happen. Assuming fountain pen ink is normally used in a pen, this will test if you are using a broader pen like a Pilot Parallel or a glass dip pen.

ART SUPPLY TEST RESULTS

Of the 10 art supply tested only 4 of them passed the test. Which means we have 6 things that failed. And a couple that surprised me, actually. Let’s discuss.

WATERCOLOR TEST

Really? I’m surprised that watercolor soaked through the paper especially since so many of the promotional materials claim this notebook is great for watercoloring. In fact, many of the reviewers even did watercoloring in their videos or blog reviews. Maybe they used a very dry application of watercolor (because that test came out just fine). But in the test with a bit more water on my brush, the watercolor soaked completely through the paper. 

WATER-BASED ART SUPPLIES

Again, I’m surprised about the water-based supplies that didn’t fair well. The Ranger Dylusions Spray Ink and Noodler’s Apache Sunset Fountain Pen ink are both water-based medium and should not have soaked through the paper. In fact, the Dylusions Spray is designed specifically to work on paper but it soaked through to the back of the page and also soaked into the following page. Also the dye-based ink bleeds through the page and that’s a water-based ink, too. 

ALCOHOL-BASED ART SUPPLIES

We kind of expected this result, right? Alcohol ink wasn’t messing around – it soaked through exactly as we would think it should. And we’ve also talked about the alcohol art marker and that bled through the page again here. 

6/10 art supplies failed the paper test. I truly expected it to do much better than this. 

Pros & Cons of Archer & Olive Notebook

Let’s compare the pros and cons of this notebook and see how it measures up. 

PROS

  • It’s cute. I like the designs Archer & Olive offers on the covers of their notebooks. There are many botanical designs with leaves and flowers along with some other fun designs like crystals, star constellations, and the one I chose, the Vintage Bee. The gold embossing on the cover is beautiful and gives this a luxurious look. 
  • There are many sizes to choose from including B6, A5, and B5. 
  • There are many styles to choose from including their Signature collection which is the base style or add gilded page edges to the standard notebook for an elegant feel. You can even choose the Black Out Journal where all the pages are black with white dot-grid design on the page.
  • The construction of this notebook is very good. It feels solid when you open it and gives you a sense of confidence that it will hold up to everyday use.
  • The Archer & Olive community is passionate about their journals so you’ll be surrounded by many like-minded journalers. 

CONS

  • The price is an issue. A big issue, in my humble opinion. I truly have a problem justifying paying $35 for a journal with only 160 pages (or 112 pages in the B6). Maybe if the art supply testing had been better I could see a premium price. 
  • International shipping is a major hindrance and some people have reported that the cost to buy this notebook and have it shipped to another country (outside the USA) can cost upwards of $60. Ouch!
  • Failed Art Supply tests. With only 4 of the 10 art supplies successfully passing this test, it’s disappointing that the paper didn’t hold up better.
  • The paper is not smooth and allows inks to soak into the fibers of the paper – this is because the paper is not coated. For fountain pen users, feathering is a deal-breaker.
  • Pages are missing page numbers – this is a deal-breaker for some people.

Conclusion

So what do I think? This is a hard one for me. I know that Archer & Olive is a company owned by a small business owner, just like me, and I hate the idea of giving a product a bad review when I know how hard she worked to bring this dream project to reality. I love her story (and I love that Archer and Olive are the names of her kitties – and you know we love kitties around here!) and how she came from the wedding invitation industry (another connection we have as I used to be a wedding planner). So please know that just because I don’t love the journal doesn’t mean that I don’t respect Bonnie, the owner, and how hard she has worked to bring a high-end journal to the journaling community.

In all honesty, I can’t recommend this journal to my fellow stationery nerds. Yes, the price is a huge hurdle but with that kind of price tag, I expect a lot out of this journal. Yes, I’m holding this journal to a higher standard than I would hold a journal that costs less than $10. But wouldn’t you do that too? 

If I hadn’t just reviewed the Scrivwell Notebook and seen how well the Sharpie held up to that 120gsm paper and then the very next journal is this one where the Sharpie performed exactly the same on 160gsm paper. And also, at the same time I’m testing this journal, I’m also testing four other journals with 160gsm paper and the results of Archer & Olive show it’s one of the worst-performing notebooks of its direct competitors. 

I’m sorry. I wish I had better news. But unfortunately, I can not give this journal the seal of approval. 

Stationery Nerd Kitty Tested

No Stationery Nerd review would be complete without some kitty antics. Here’s Pounce inspecting the ribbon bookmarks.


SPECS & RATINGS FOR ARCHER & OLIVE

See the charts below for details on specs and category ratings for this notebook. 

Notebook BrandARCHER & OLIVE
Model | StyleSignature Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | SoftcoverHardcover
Cover Optionsfabric with gold embossed | various
Sizes AvailableB5 | A5 | B6
Binding Typesewn binding
Paper Weight160 gsm
Paper ColorWhite
Paper Surfacesmooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blankdots
Dot Descriptionsmall | light grey
Grid or Line Spacing5mm
Grid CountB5 ( ) A5 (26x38 ) B6 (33x23)
Number of pagesB5 + A5 = 160 pages B6 = 112 pages
Are pages numbered?No
Special pagesNo
Bookmarks2 bookmarks
Back PocketYes
Elastic ClosureYes
Pen LoopYes
Additional FeaturesN/A
Purchase LocationArcher & Olive Website
Price I paid (including shipping)$35.00

Journal & Notebook Review Rating Scale

Yes, I know that review up there is super long! You know me... I'm long winded and I think you might want to know every single teeny tiny thing about this product. Sometimes you just need the facts summarized in an easy chart. That's what this part is. Below you'll see my score for this notebook. I've based my score on the following criteria. Open each toggle box below to read more about the scoring system I use. 

Notebook Features & Specs

Evaluates the available features of the line of notebooks including special pages included (contact page, index pages, pen tests, perforated pages); special features (bookmarks, back pocket); and additional features (special elastic closure, stickers, tools, pen loop).

  • 20 points • PLAIN JANE - notebook includes paper (and probably a cover) but that’s about it
  • 40 points • PURELY BASIC - notebook includes one or two features but not anything outstanding
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook includes some of the typical features but is missing some
  • 80 points • FULLY LOADED  - notebook includes all the typical features you’d expect in a notebook
  • 100 points • LUXURY  - notebook includes every feature you can imagine plus more

Notebook Construction & Durability

Evaluates the overall construction and build of the notebook or journal. Factors considered are binding and lay-flat design; cover durability; bookmark and back pocket stability; paper performance; and the overall feel of quality.

  • 20 points • VERY POOR - notebook is not recommended due to poor construction, performance, and stability
  • 40 points • BELOW AVERAGE -  notebook shows poor construction and has many areas that need improvement
  • 60 points • JUST AVERAGE - notebook shows an expected level of construction and adequate performance or durability
  • 80 points • ABOVE AVERAGE -  notebook shows good construction and is durable in all areas
  • 100 points • LUXURY - notebook shows superior quality in construction and durability; feel luxurious

NORMAL WRITING PENS TESTING

I tested 16 different writing pens. These are the types of brands you’d expect to use in a normal bullet journal or standard long-form journaling notebook. Fineliners, gel pens, ballpoint, fountain pen inks, highlighters, and calligraphy brush markers. For this score I've based it on the level of ghosting and bleed-through of all the pens tested. 

  • 20 points • EXTREME - ghosting and bleed-through is so bad that you can’t write on the back of the page
  • 40 points • MAJOR - significant ghosting and bleed-through makes it difficult to write on the back of the page
  • 60 points • MODERATE - some ghosting and bleed-through is visible but writing over it is acceptable for some
  • 80 points • SLIGHT - barely visible ghosting or bleed-through and only with wet or heavy inks
  • 100 points • NO PROBLEMS - no visible ghosting or bleed-through at all

ART SUPPLY TEST RESULTS

I've thrown some tough art supplies at this notebook to see how far I could push the paper. I fully expected the alcohol-based materials to fail - there were 3 of the 10 that I expected all the notebooks in the 160gsm category to fail. Some surprised me and actually performed really well. The score in this category indicates how many art supplies PASSED the test. 

  • 10 art supplies were tested. Each supply is worth 10 points for a possible 100.
  • It is possible to be awarded partial points for a "nearly failed" or "nearly passed" supply test.

FEATHERING | CAPILLARY ACTION

Feathering is when the ink penetrates the fibers of the paper and spreads outward from the line just written. The feathering happens when ink from your pen is pulled into an absorbent paper via capillary action. Typically seen with uncoated or low-quality paper (i.e. newsprint or cheap school notebook paper) combined with wet ink or broad nib styles. 

  • 20 points  • EXTREME FEATHERING - the paper is so porous that ANY ink type feathers with every pen stroke. This is probably a paper towel or newsprint.
  • 40 points • MAJOR FEATHERING - any WET ink shows significant feathering with every pen stroke
  • 60 points • MODERATE FEATHERING - certain ink types show feathering but it’s not overly bothersome 
  • 80 points • SLIGHT FEATHERING - if you look closely you’ll see some periodic and insignificant feathering 
  • 100 points • NO FEATHERING - no feathering at all

The post Archer & Olive 160gsm Dotted Notebook Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

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