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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 Brand ECLECTIC SCRIBBLES
Model | Style Mandale Dot Grid Journal
Hardcover | Softcover Hardcover
Cover Options original artwork by maker
Sizes Available A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Type sewn binding
Paper Weight 160 gsm
Paper Color White
Paper Surface smooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blank dots
Dot Description tiny | very light (barely visible)
Grid or Line Spacing 5mm
Grid Count 39 x 28
Number of pages 160
Are pages numbered? No
Special pages No
Bookmarks 2 bookmarks
Back Pocket Yes
Elastic Closure Yes
Pen Loop Yes
Additional Features N/A
Purchase Location Eclectic 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 Brand ARCHER & OLIVE BUKE STATIONERY ECLECTIC SCRIBBLES QiHENG TEKUKOR SCRIBBLES THAT MATTER
Model | Style Signature Dotted Notebook Dotted Notebook Mandale Dot Grid Journal SeQeS Dotted Notebook Dotted Notebook Pro Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | Softcover Hardcover Hardcover Hardcover Hardcover Hardcover Hardcover
Cover Options fabric with gold embossed | various Hardcover | Softcover owl on front original artwork by maker linen fabric | faux leather linen fabric | 3 color PU leather | 8 color options
Sizes Available B5 | A5 | B6 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" A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Type sewn binding sewn binding sewn binding sewn binding sewn binding sewn binding
Paper Weight 160 gsm 160 gsm 160 gsm 160 gsm 160 gsm 160 gsm
Paper Color White Light Ivory White White White White
Paper Surface smooth smoth smooth smooth semi-smooth smooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blank dots dots dots dots dots dots
Dot Description small | light grey medium grey tiny | very light (barely visible) medium grey light grey medium grey
Grid or Line Spacing 5mm 5mm 5mm 5mm 5mm 5mm
Grid Count B5 ( ) A5 (26x38 ) B6 (33x23) 27 x 40 39 x 28 39 x 27 39 x 27 39 x 27
Number of pages B5 + A5 = 160 pages B6 = 112 pages 160 160 160 192 150+
Are pages numbered? No No No No Yes Yes
Special pages No No No No No Key, Index (3), Pen Test, Mindfulness
Bookmarks 2 bookmarks 1 bookmark 2 bookmarks 2 bookmarks 3 bookmarks 2 bookmarks
Back Pocket Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Elastic Closure Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes | extra wide elastic closure Yes
Pen Loop Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes - 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 Location Archer & Olive Website AliExpress - Buke Notebook Store Eclectic Scribbles Website Amazon Amazon Amazon
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 Brand SCRIBBLES THAT MATTER
Model | Style Pro Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | Softcover Hardcover
Cover Options PU leather | 8 color options
Sizes Available A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Type sewn binding
Paper Weight 160 gsm
Paper Color White
Paper Surface smooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blank dots
Dot Description medium grey
Grid or Line Spacing 5mm
Grid Count 39 x 27
Number of pages 150+
Are pages numbered? Yes
Special pages Key, Index (3), Pen Test, Mindfulness
Bookmarks 2 bookmarks
Back Pocket Yes
Elastic Closure Yes
Pen Loop Yes - held in place with metal rivet
Additional Features NA/
Purchase Location Amazon
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 Brand BUKE 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 Brand TEKUKOR
Model | Style Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | Softcover Hardcover
Cover Options linen fabric | 3 color
Sizes Available A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Type sewn binding
Paper Weight 160 gsm
Paper Color White
Paper Surface semi-smooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blank dots
Dot Description light grey
Grid or Line Spacing 5mm
Grid Count 39 x 27
Number of pages 192
Are pages numbered? Yes
Special pages No
Bookmarks 3 bookmarks
Back Pocket Yes
Elastic Closure Yes | extra wide elastic closure
Pen Loop Yes
Additional Features gold emblem on front | decorative endpapers
Purchase Location Amazon
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 Brand QiHENG
Model | Style SeQeS Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | Softcover Hardcover
Cover Options linen fabric | faux leather
Sizes Available A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Type sewn binding
Paper Weight 160 gsm
Paper Color White
Paper Surface smooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blank dots
Dot Description medium grey
Grid or Line Spacing 5mm
Grid Count 39 x 27
Number of pages 160
Are pages numbered? No
Special pages No
Bookmarks 2 bookmarks
Back Pocket Yes
Elastic Closure Yes
Pen Loop Yes
Additional Features silver emblem on front (hot-stamped)
Purchase Location Amazon
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 Brand ARCHER & OLIVE
Model | Style Signature Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | Softcover Hardcover
Cover Options fabric with gold embossed | various
Sizes Available B5 | A5 | B6
Binding Type sewn binding
Paper Weight 160 gsm
Paper Color White
Paper Surface smooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blank dots
Dot Description small | light grey
Grid or Line Spacing 5mm
Grid Count B5 ( ) A5 (26x38 ) B6 (33x23)
Number of pages B5 + A5 = 160 pages B6 = 112 pages
Are pages numbered? No
Special pages No
Bookmarks 2 bookmarks
Back Pocket Yes
Elastic Closure Yes
Pen Loop Yes
Additional Features N/A
Purchase Location Archer & 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.

Scrivwell Dotted Journal Review

When you first pick up a Scrivwell notebook it seems pretty unassuming. Nothing outstanding or spectacular about the dotted pages or construction of the journal. I mean… it’s good and all. The paper is smooth and a pleasure to write on. The dots are a nice medium gray color so they aren’t obtrusive on the page. The construction of the journal is solid and the cover feels nice (a smooth vegan leather in various fun colors). But there was something about this journal that I just didn’t love at first. 

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

Wait a minute…

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

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

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

And now for the review…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Let’s talk about coated paper

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

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

Scrivwell coated paper and ghosting

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

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

Scrivwell coated paper and bleed-through

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

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

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


Scrivwell Notebook Features and Specs

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

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

Dots are spaced 5mm apart and the gray dots are medium colored on the page. The dot grid is 40×24 in a true A5 size notebook (5.5” x 8.2”). There are 208 pages and paper is 120gsm and heavily coated to prevent bleed-through. (In the older version of Scrivwell, the paper is 100gsm and there are 240 pages.) Pages are not numbered and there are no additional special pages like an index or key page. 

Fountain Pens in Scrivwell

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

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

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

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

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

feathering in ScrivwellFeathering with some Fountain Pens

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

Watercoloring in Scrivwell

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

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

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

 


Pros & Cons of Scrivwell Notebook

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

Conclusion

Stationery Nerd Approved Seal

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

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

Scrivwell gets the official Stationery Nerd Seal of Approval. 


FEATURES & SPECS | Scrivwell Dotted Notebook

Notebook Brand Scrivwell
Model / Description Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | Softcover Hardcover
Cover Options 12 colors options | vegan leather
Sizes Available A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Type sewn binding
Paper Weight 120 gsm
Paper Color white
Paper Surface coated | smooth & soft
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blank dots
Grid or Line Spacing 5mm
Grid Count 40 x 27
Number of pages 208
Are pages numbered? no
Special pages no
Bookmarks 2 | satin ribbon to match cover
Back Pocket yes
Elastic Closure yes
Additional Features embossed branding on back cover

The post Scrivwell Dotted Journal Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Stationery Deals for Amazon Prime Day 2019

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is here! And the Stationery Nerd Herd has voted that you want deal updates throughout the two-day shopping event.  Amazon Prime Day runs for 36 hours. The official timeframe is:

12 am PT on Monday, July 15 to 11:59 PT on Tuesday, July 16

I’ll already be scouring Amazon for sales so I can buy fun stationery stuff to review here on the website. So while I’m at it, I might as well share the love. So here we go… let the shopping begin!

Prime Members Only

First things first. Amazon Prime Day is ONLY open to Prime Members. If you’re already a member, you’re all set. If you’re not yet a member, it’s OK, there’s still time to get involved. Even though Amazon Prime is a subscription service offering free two-day shipping and myriad benefits like free Prime video, Prime Music, and even some Kindle deals just for Prime Members – you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime and take advantage of the deals on July 15-16. Cancel before that first month is up and you won’t have to pay anything (but of course, once you get a taste of Amazon Prime, you’ll be hooked – just like me). 

To sign up, just click the box on the right (or below if you’re on mobile) and get signed up today. 

Walmart and Target and Others

You know that the other retailers of the world are not going to let Amazon have all the fun, right? So watch for deals from elsewhere too. I’ll do my best to wrangle all the deals I find on sites like Walmart and Target. If you see something hot, drop a comment below and share the love!

Visit Often

I’ll be updating this past over the next 36 hours so come back often. Bookmark the page (or just leave it open all day, I don’t mind). After Prime Day is over… these deals will be gone, and so will this page.

AFFILIATE ADVERTISING

Some links on this website may contain affiliate advertising. This means that if you purchase products using certain links, we will receive compensation on that purchase. There is never an additional cost to you for that purchase. For more information about sponsored content, affiliate links, and advertising on this website to read the full affiliate disclaimer policy.

Amazon Products & Services

General Stationery Supplies

 
AMAZON HANDMADE – Stationery Marketplace

Be sure to check out all the lovely stationery and party invitations by artisans on the Amazon Handmade Marketplace. Many shops have Prime Day sales! Save up to 30% on the Amazon Homemade Marketplace (lots of traveler’s notebooks & stationery here!)

 

Paper  |  Notebooks  |  Journals  |  Planners


 

LEATHER GOODS | TRAVELER’S NOTEBOOKS | JOURNAL COVERS

…because leather deserves it’s own separate category.

 

Pens  |  Markers  |  Fountain Pens  |  Writing Things

 

WALMART DEALS


 

Art Supplies  |  Stickers  |  Washi Tape  |  Mixed Media

TOOLS  |  GADGETS  |  NERDY STUFF

 

WALMART DEALS

The post Stationery Deals for Amazon Prime Day 2019 appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

KEY POINT | DOTTED NOTEBOOK

Several months ago the owner of Key Point notebook reached out to me to introduce himself and offer a notebook for review. I declined the freebie and opted instead to purchase it on my own. So in a continuing effort to be as real, raw, and honest about my reviews as possible, I didn’t want to be swayed one way or the other with a free notebook … so here we are to talk about a journal that I bought with my hard-earned moola. Not only did I like the specs on the notebook and unique design, but I also loved the story behind the brand. Before we jump into the guts of the Key Point Dotted Notebook review… let’s hear Ryan’s story.  

The Key Point Notebook Story

I’d love to share the story that Ryan, the owner of Key Point, shared with me. 

Key Point is a small company based in Denver, Colorado. I personally started the company out of necessity. I was going through a very tough point in my life, dealing with divorce, addictions, and many other issues. My brother reached out to me and told me I should start journaling. The next day I went looking for a journal that I could really connect with and enjoy. I had a hard time finding one on Amazon, so I went to Walgreens and settled on a Black n’ Red hardcover just to get started that day. Going that day and making the choice to start journaling was the “key point” in my life that started a tremendous turnaround. I started tracking my relationships, my health, my spirituality, my finances, and thoughts in general. 

Four months and five journals later, I decided to start a business. I decided to start selling journals and the brand Key Point came into existence. While doing research on the market I came across bullet journaling and I started using a dot grid notebook and fell in love with the versatility. So the very first journal is a dotted notebook. 

Key Point was created to help people make great changes in their lives through journaling. I wanted to create a professional feeling journal that anyone can use. Currently, we are small and just getting started so there is only one journal. I plan to develop many other journals and products in the future. I am so grateful that my brother reached out that day and got me hooked on journals.  

What I love most about this story is how closely it mirrors my own journaling journey. I won’t go into the details of my own life – that’s a story for another blog post – but I can affirm that when you really dedicate yourself to the practice of daily journaling, amazing things will happen in your life. So, of course, I wanted to support this small, local business and the great effort it takes to get something like this off the ground. I love Ryan’s story … but more than that, I also love his journal. 


Key Point Dotted Notebook Features & Specs

You can see the details specs below, so let’s just summarize things here. The Key Point Dotted Notebook is an A5 dotted notebook – measuring 5.8” x 8.3” and has a hardcover made of faux leather material with a leather-like texture. The journal only comes in a professional brown color option and the brand’s logo is stamped in gold in the corner of the front cover (I’d rather see this branding on the back cover instead).

PAPER

There are 200 pages – not-numbered – with no special pages like an index or contact information page. The paper is creamy white and the dots are small and light gray. The dots almost disappear into the paper color from afar but can be seen alright when you’re writing on the page. The paper is 100gsm.

With a slight coating on the paper, inks do not soak into the fibers of the paper unless the ink is extremely wet or it’s a broad nib pen (Jinhao X750 broad nib fountain pen, I’m looking at you!). Ghosting is minimal and really not even visible with many of the pens I tested. I’ll go into more detail about the pen tests below.

DOTS

These dots are by far some of the smallest and lightest I’ve seen in any notebook. If you’ve got bad eyesight and need darker dots, this might not be the one for you. But if you prefer dots to be unobtrusive so you can express your full creativity, then this is the perfect option for you. The dots go all the way to the edge of the paper and are spaced 5mm apart.  

The grid is 5mm between dots with a grid of 40 x 28 dots – but that last 28th dot is literally at the very edge of the page so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the notebooks don’t have that 28th dot (paper shifts during manufacturing so sometimes the trimming shifts the margins, this is normal).

In fact, when looking at the edge of the notebook you can see that some dots got slaughtered in the trimming process. You should not be able to see printed dots along the edges of the pages because that indicates that the dots weren’t printed perfectly square on the page and that when the pages were trimmed after printing that the misalignment caused some of the pages to have different dot grids than the others. However, in looking through the pages I did not notice that any of the lines of dots were misaligned across the two-page spread, so that’s a relief. 

SPECIAL FEATURES

You get one satin ribbon bookmark in brown to match the cover color but no back pocket. I love the way the elastic closure band is diagonal across the top right corner of the journal and not one that spans the entire height of the book. Not only is it unique and attractive, but it also serves the purpose of becoming a pen holder. Just lay your pen along the top of the journal, then stretch the elastic into place. It’s surprisingly secure and the pen stays put even when I put it through a “shake test” (yes, this is the first time I’ve ever done such a test on a notebook! LOL!).  

BINDING & CONSTRUCTION 

This is a sewn-binding notebook, it opens flat and stays put. I also find it interesting how compact the journal feels in my hand. With 200 pages at 100gsm, it’s thinner than other journals in its class making it an easy EDC (every day carry) type of companion. The construction is excellent and I’m sure it will hold up just fine to being opened and closed dozens of times per day.


Key Note Journal Pen Test & Paper Quality

It’s all about the paper, but it’s a huge part of the equation when evaluating the quality of a notebook. I’m happy to report that this journal passes the pen test with flying colors! 

GHOSTING |  BLEEDING  |  FEATHERING

As I’ve said many times before, it’s difficult to get a white paper that doesn’t have an issue with ghosting and see-through. A white paper is naturally less opaque than colored paper (which is why you often see journals with ivory or cream-colored paper). But Key Point stands up to this test beautifully. The paper in this journal is a very light cream (nearly white). None of the pens I tested showed any sort of ghosting on the backside of the page. In fact, the indentation of the pen was more prominent than the ghosting of the ink itself. I tend to be heavy handed so this wasn’t a surprise. 

Even with the wettest inks I’ve tried there were none with feathering problems. Feathering is when the ink seeps into the fibers of the paper and spreads like a spiderweb (or a feather) outside the line you just drew. Nope, none of that happening… which is a direct result of the coated paper used in the notebook.

FOUNTAIN PEN TEST

Because I’m currently hopping around the rabbit trail of fountain pens, and because I’ve gotten several requests for this test on journals…. there’s a page dedicated to just fountain pen ink testing. I used a variety of nib sizes and several different ink types. You’ll see in the photos below that the only pen with a major problem was the Jinhao X750 which has a broad nib and lays downs a LOT of ink. But the other pens and inks did pretty good. And no feathering either!

ALCOHOL MARKER TEST

I tested an alcohol-based Sharpie Marker just to see how the paper would stand up to the impossible test. (Don’t use Sharpie Markers in your journal! This never turns out well!) Yes, there’s bleeding with that marker, as expected, and definitely ghosting. But the paper held up better than most I’ve tested. I’m pretty impressed. 

PAPER COATING

The pages have a slight coated feeling to them. The writing experience is smooth and pleasant although I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as “buttery smooth.” That slight coating definitely contributes to the lack of bleed-through from the pens I tested. 

Pros & Cons of Key Point Dotted Notebook

PROS

  • I love the story from the owner and how the name of the notebook ties into the changes that journaling had on his life. It’s a notebook created by a journaler who understands what is important for fellow journalers
  • High-quality paper with no ghosting, bleed-through or feathering
  • The cool diagonal elastic band that doubles as a pen holder
  • The professional look of the journal that has the look and feel of leather on the cover
  • Super light dots that almost disappear into the page 

CONS

  • The lack of color options for the cover might be a deal-breaker for some
  • The lack of page numbers makes it necessary for bullet journalers to manually number the pages
  • The bold branding on the front cover is a bit intrusive
  • The page margins could be better thought out so as to avoid dots falling off the page when trimmed at the manufacturing stage
  • Super light dots might present a problem for those with low vision 

Conclusion

Stationery Nerd Approved SealI love this journal! I’m impressed with the quality of the paper and the feel of the journal in my hand. The construction is excellent and having a lay-flat spine makes life so much easier when I need to write for long periods of time. Even though the super light dots might be a deterrent for some, I personally love how light they are. 

And that diagonal elastic band … why don’t more notebook makers do that? It’s kind of brilliant! 

The Key Point Dotted Notebook is worthy of the Stationery Nerd Seal of Approval.

More Journal Reviews

Are you ready for more comprehensive notebook and journal reviews? Be sure to head over to the main journal review landing page to see what else we have in store for you!


FEATURES & SPECS | Key Point Dotted Notebook

Notebook Brand Key Point
Model / Description Dotted Notebook
Hardcover | Softcover Hardcover
Cover Options faux leather | 2 colors
Sizes Available A5 | 148 x 210 mm | 5.8" x 8.3"
Binding Type sewn binding
Paper Weight 100gsm
Paper Color light cream / whites
Paper Surface smooth
Dots | Lines | Grid | Blank dots
Grid or Line Spacing 5mm
Grid Count 40 x 28
Number of pages 200
Are pages numbered? no
Special pages no
Bookmarks 1 | satin ribbon
Back Pocket yes
Elastic Closure yes | diagonal corner strap
Additional Features gold embossed branding on front

Pin It!

Here’s a great image to use on Pinterest. 

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 KEY POINT | DOTTED NOTEBOOK appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Embrace the Joy of Creativity

It doesn’t matter what you’re creating, it only matters that you are creating.

Remember when we were children and we’d spend hours drawing the most epic piece of art? Oh, the pride we felt in presenting that artwork to our parents! And the elated joy at seeing that art hanging on the fridge – a place of honor for the entire family to see and admire.

Whatever happened to that sense of wonder? The pure joy of creating. Why do we judge ourselves so harshly or compare our creation to that of someone else? Why do we let comparison steal our joy?

Your sketchbook, journal, or planner is a place to express your own creativity. Maybe you’ve drawn an elaborate illustration that took you hours to complete. But it could just as easily be an idea you need to write down before you forget so you dash off a scribbled note at the bottom of your grocery list and stuff it in your pocket. Only to find that note weeks later … and it spurs inspiration anew.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how neat or sloppy your journal is. Maybe you use a ruler to draw a straight line. Maybe straight lines aren’t your thing and you like wobbly ones instead. Maybe your flowers look more like scarecrows or your calligraphy resembles the work of a 2nd grader. Maybe you don’t know the proper way to use watercolor, but you love the effect of plopping pools of color on your journaling page because it makes you happy to write on paper filled with color.

That joy you had as a child … it’s still inside you. Stop worrying so much about what others think. Silence the voices in your head that say you’re not good enough. It doesn’t matter if your lines are crooked or your handwriting is sloppy. It doesn’t matter if you voice trembles when you’re singing in front of an audience. It doesn’t matter if every photo you take isn’t perfect. What matters is that you are creating.

The tools we use are as varied as the types of creations we make. A pencil, marker, or paint brush. A camera, a hammer, or a computer mouse. It’s your voice, or words on the page or notes strummed on a guitar. Maybe your tool is your kindness, a smile for a stranger, a note of encouragement for a friend, or a bowl of soup for a hungry neighbor. The tool doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are making something. You’re making art. You’re making music. You’re making poetry and houses and films. You’re making a difference.

You are using your imagination, your heart, and soul, your own two hands … and you’re creating something that never existed before. There’s nothing small about that. You are no small creator. No! Creating is a huge thing! What you’re making is amazing!

We’re all in this together. It’s time to lift each other up and cheer each other on. Celebrate what your fellow creator is making. Rather than comparing ourselves to others … let’s stand in awe of the fact that we are all creators. We are not small. We are mighty. We are powerful. Joining together to make the world a more beautiful place to live.

I am no small creator.

You are no small creator.


💛💛💛

 

The post Embrace the Joy of Creativity appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

NEW Exceed Dot Journal at Walmart Review

Stationery Nerd Approved SealI can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am that this journal is in the world! No really… I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to write a product review than right this very minute! Humor me and go with it, ok? First, let me just get this part out of the way. I LOVE this journal.

Go buy it immediately! It’s in stores at Walmart all over the United States (and other countries?? not sure yet). And it’s only $8.64. If you need the whole story, fine… read on, my nerdy friend!

I didn’t use to love it…

Let’s take a step back in time to the olden days of Stationery Nerd (August 2017) when the original Exceed Dot Journal review was first published on this website. In fact, if you look back at my YouTube videos, the Exceed Journal review video was the second video I ever made. (Wait… don’t go look. That video is horrible. I had no idea what the heck I was doing!) To refresh your memory… I hated the Exceed Journal. It failed the pen tests, the bleeding and ghosting were horrible. And I pretty much told you not to buy that notebook.

But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve got big news to share first! 

I helped make the Exceed Journals better!

And a few months after I published my first Exceed review, I got an email from the folks at Exceed. It’s never a good sign when the vice president of a journal company wants to talk to you shortly after you publish a terrible review of their product. DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!

Imagine my surprise and delight when they asked me to help them improve their journals!

For the past year, I’ve been working with the fine folks at Exceed … I KNOW! I’ve been dying to tell you! I’m so sorry that I kept secrets from you. But let’s put that behind us, ok? Forgive me?

They asked me what the perfect journal would be – paper, construction, size, page configuration, everything – and then they went about making that dream come true. Bit-by-bit, we worked through the details of changing the paper, journal size, and page configuration. Over the past year I’ve received happy mail from Exceed – each box containing several journals to inspect, test, and give feedback on. Each new prototype was better than the last until finally we were happy with the new version of the journal and it officially went into manufacturing.

And now they are FINALLY in stores and ready to be loved by the journaling community. And if you don’t have a Walmart near you, don’t worry – you can buy the Exceed journals on the website. But before we go too much further, let me tell you about this amazing company.

Supporting a U.S.A. Company

The company that makes Exceed notebooks is called Norcom, Inc., located in Griffin, Georgia, a small town just south of Atlanta. Yes, folks, they are an American company, the largest paper manufacturing company in the United States, in fact. The Exceed journals are manufactured in China using socially conscious practices to choose responsible partners. From their website:

Norcom, founded in 1978, is committed to U. S. manufacturing and manufactures the majority of its products in its facility in Griffin, Georgia. For highly specialized items, or to supplement our domestic supply, we import products from countries and companies who have demonstrated sensitivity to human rights and environmental sustainability. 

We’ll dig into the details below, but if you’re impatient (like me) here are the links to the new 100gsm paper versions of the journals. There are more than just these three, but this should get you started, anyway.

Large Exceed Soft Cover Dotted Book

100gsm | 78gsm
Dotted | Ruled

A5 Exceed Hard Cover Dotted Journal

100gsm
Dotted

Medium Exceed Hard Cover Notebook

100gsm | 78gsm
Dotted | Ruled

Small Exceed Hard Cover Notebook

78gsm
Dotted | Ruled

.

New Exceed Dot Journal … the full review!

Let’s get into it! Below is everything I know about the new Exceed Dot Journals (yes there several) with as many photos as I could possibly share with you. Plus, all the nerdy specs you would expect from a girl who calls herself a stationery nerd.

4 Journal Sizes

Large – 7.5″ x 9.75″
Medium – 5.0″ x 8.25″
Small – 3.5” x 5.5”
True A5 – 8.3″ x 5.8″

2 Paper Weights

100 gsm – available in A5, medium and large
78 gsm – available in small, medium and large

4 Color Options

Black
White
Lavender
Blue

What is new vs. old?

PAPER – In the past, all the Exceed journals were 78gsm paper with no coating (just a matte finish). However, the paper stock has been upgraded in both the 78gsm and 100gsm variation to include a slight coating on both weights – this helps to prevent bleed-through from wet inks or fineliner markers. The old paper had major bleeding with many of the pens I tested. But with the new paper style, bleeding is no longer an issue with the 78gsm paper. And when you look at the 100gsm paper, not only do you not have any bleed-through, but you also have very minimal ghosting for any of the pens I’ve tested. More on this below.

SIZE – There’s a whole new size option in the Exceed journal lineup. The A5 Dot Journal is new! However, they have kept the old size – which is now called Medium and is the same size as the Moleskine notebooks – which is slightly narrower than A5. I’m so glad that I was able to stress the importance of competing in the A5 size category because I think the new journal in this size is absolutely beautiful.

PAGE DESIGN – You’ll notice the addition of page numbers in the A5 Dot Journal, as well as four new Index Pages in the front.

LABEL & BRANDING – You can tell the difference between the old Exceed journals and the new journals by the label. There are still plenty of the old notebooks on shelves in Walmart stores, so be sure you’re getting the new version. This photo below shows the new branding — big, bold “Exceed” name across the entire width of the notebook. You can also clearly see the paper weight (78gsm or 100gsm) on the front cover label (the old journals don’t mention paper weight at all).

Exceed Journal Old vs New  

Exceed A5 Dotted Journal

KEY FEATURES:

  • Key Features: Great value for a quality journal
  • Size: True A5 – 8.3″ x 5.8″
  • CoverPU leatherette, hard
  • Bindingsewn binding
  • Lays Flat: Yes
  • Pages: 240 numbered pages + 4 index pages
  • Additional featuresbookmark (extra long), back pocket
  • Page styles availablelined | dotted | blank
  • Paper Quality: 100gsm | coated
  • Ghosting? Minimal
  • Bleeding? None
  • Feathering? None

This is a NEW size for the Exceed lineup of notebooks and the one I was most adamant about introducing. I’m glad they kept the narrower size but I’m super happy that we have a “true A5 size” journal with good quality paper …. and one that’s easily accessible in a local store at an amazing price. At only $8.64 for this one, you can’t beat the price.

This 100gsm paper is also available in the Large Soft Cover Notebook and the narrow Medium Hard Cover Notebook. The paper is the same and both sizes stand up to the full pen test in the same way as the A5. The photos below demonstrate the quality improvement of the paper. 

I’ve used a full range of pen types – fineliner markers, gel pens, ballpoint pens, fountain pen, water-based markers, highlighters … and just for fun, I even tested a Sharpie Marker! I fully expected the Sharpie to bleed through but I was surprised at how well it stood up to that tough test (Sharpies should NOT be used in these types of journals, they bleed through everything and you’ll be very sad if you use them in your journal). 

Exceed Hard Cover Dotted Notebooks 

Large | Medium | Small

KEY FEATURES:

  • Key Features: Great value for a quality journal
  • Size: 3 size options:
    Large – 7.5″ x 9.75″ (half-inch wider than B5)
    Medium – 5.0″ x 8.25″  (same as Moleskine)
    Small – 3.5” x 5.5” (same as Field Notes pocket notebooks)
  • CoverPU leatherette, hard (Large notebook is soft cover)
  • Bindingsewn binding
  • Lays Flat: Yes
  • Pages: 240 pages (not numbered)
  • Additional features: bookmark (extra long), back pocket
  • Page styles availablelined | dotted | blank
  • Paper Quality: 78gsm or 100gsm | coated
  • 78gsm Paper:
    – Ghosting? Yes
    – Bleeding? None
    – Feathering? None
  • 100gsm Paper:
     – Ghosting? Minimal
    – Bleeding?  None
    – Feathering? None

The photos below illustrate how the 78gsm paper stands up to the pen test. Even though this paper weight is the same as last year’s version of the Exceed Notebooks, the paper is SO MUCH BETTER!! It’s that slight coating they’ve added to the paper that makes all the difference.

Last year we had feathering, bleeding, and excessive ghosting – but this new paper is amazing! Yes, we have ghosting but not as bad as it used to be. And there is absolutely no bleed-through (except on the Sharpie, which we expected) and no feathering either. Wow! I’m seriously amazed by this paper. 

And the price is right! The prices are:

SMALL – 78gsm – $4.64
MEDIUM – 78gsm – $6.84 (for 100gsm it’s $2 more)
LARGE – 78gsm – $8.64 (for 100gsm it’s $2 more)

Let’s look at some pictures of the pen testing.

Hitting Stores Now!

The new Exceed Notebook line is hitting stores right now. My local Walmart only just got the full stock set up in the past couple days so you might need to check back over the next week or two if you don’t find it at your store yet. There appears to be limited stock available on the Walmart website, so grab it there if you can’t find the notebooks locally. Here are some photos from my local store (so you know what to look for). 

So what do you think?

Have you picked up your new notebooks from Walmart? Either in the store or online? I’d love to hear your impressions of the improvements. Do you have any other requests or ideas that I could pass along to my friends at Exceed that could make this lineup of notebooks even better?

The post NEW Exceed Dot Journal at Walmart Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Uniball Signo UM-151 Gel Pen Review

Uniball Signo UM-151 Gel Pen Review

Waterproof but not smudge proof? Buy on Amazon

I wish this pen didn’t smudge!

There are so many things to love about the Uni-ball Signo UM-151 gel pen. In fact, I’ve been using it lately and really do love it. But there’s one major drawback that bugs me… the smudging. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s now a huge problem because I don’t normally drag my hand through the ink I just laid down, but if you’re a lefty, this would definitely be a problem. 

However, I was shocked when I did the smudge test – the results were quite interesting. The highlighter test didn’t fair well and all the highlighters I used resulted in smudging. The water test happened on a different day (I think it was 3 days later) and there was absolutely no smudging or smearing when I ran a wet paintbrush across the written word. Whoa! I hadn’t expected that. 

But as I’m writing this I started to grow skeptical (of course!) so I did another water test. I waited 30 seconds for the ink to dry and then ran a wet paintbrush over the words. Oops! Smearing like crazy! So I guess the lesson here is that the ink is waterproof but you have to wait a couple of days. Which is fine if you want your writing preserved and safe for future generations (or for your notebooks to survive floods). But if you’re an art journaler and need to add watercolor or other mixed media on top of your written word… you’re outta luck. 

The writing is SMOOTH and the ink saturation is nice and dark – exactly what I want in a pen. Plus, it’s a pen with a cap – which is my personal preference. Normally I’m annoyed with finger grips but for some reason, I’m not bothered by this one. Maybe because it fits nicely in my elastic pen loop better than a retractable pen with a finger grip does?

So many tip sizes (and colors) for the Signo!

If you’re someone (like me) who loves a super fine tip on a pen, this one is for you. I have tested the .38mm but there’s also a .25mm option if you want to go even smaller. But if you like things a bit fatter, you’ve got the .5mm size, also. And let’s not forget the amazing array of vivid colors. There are 31 color options and I love how saturated each one of the colors is. That’s all because of the pigmented gel ink which gives us lots of color options. I also love that they’ve named the colors AND include that name right on the pen itself. (See the full list below.)

What’s the difference between Uniball Signo UM-151 and Signo DX?

It took me some digging to finally realize that the two different names are actually the same pen. In Japan, it’s referred to as Signo DX but in the rest of the world, it’s the Signo UM-151. (Thanks JetPens for enlightening me on that!) It’s important to know this info just in case you come across a super great bargain from a Japanese pen seller, right?!

Stationery Nerd (only 90%) Approved

Overall, I love this pen! It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a super smooth writing experience in a lightweight pen. I think you’re going to love it too. I’m reserving the full-blown Stationery Nerd Approval rating because of the smudging issue. But if you take out the smudging issue, this pen is perfect. So it’s getting a 90% Approval Rating. 

I’ve listed all the other specs for this pen below.  But if you have questions on anything I might have missed, hit me up in the comments below and we can chat about it. Do you love this pen? How many of the 31 colors do you have? (I only have 19 but I’m thinking the rest of the set is going on my shopping list!)

 

Pen Specifications

  • Ink – water-based pigmented gel ink
  • Water Resist/Proof – yes, after 24 hours. Not immediately.
  • Waterproof Test – Applying water after 30 seconds gives major smudging. But after 24 hours, no smudging and becomes totally waterproof.
  • Tip Size –  .28mm  | .38mm  | .5mm
  • Structure – stick pen with cap
  • Clip Style – plastic clip on cap
  • Finger Grip – dimpled rubber
  • Construction – plastic body with a metal head
  • Finger Smudge Test – 8 seconds dry-time to no-smudge
  • Highlighter Test – smudges with all tested
  • Refillable – yes  | UMR-1
  • Color Options – 31 colors total

Uni-Ball Signo UM-151 (DX) Color Options:

  • Red
  • Baby Pink
  • Pure Pink
  • Pink
  • Light Pink
  • Bordeaux Black
  • Mandarin Orange
  • Orange
  • Golden Yellow
  • Yellow
  • Apple Green
  • Lime Green
  • Green
  • Emerald
  • Green Black
  • Blue Green
  • Sky Blue
  • Light Blue
  • Blue
  • Prussian Blue
  • Blue Black
  • Purple 1
  • Purple 2
  • Lilac
  • Brown
  • Khaki
  • Beige
  • Brown Black
  • Dark Gray
  • Gray
  • Black

Uni-Ball Signo UM-151 (DX) Pen Photo Gallery

Click on an image below to enlarge it …. so you, too, can inspect the greatness of this pen!

The post Uniball Signo UM-151 Gel Pen Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Pilot Juice Pen Review

Pilot Juice Pen Review

Juicy smooth writing experience. Buy on Amazon

You’re going to love this pen!

Pilot did a great job of naming this pen … the writing experience really is “juice smooth” and it’s a joy to lay down ink on the page. And with 24 standard colors to choose from, plus another 18 specialty colors (metallic, pastel, fluorescent), you won’t need anything else to give you the array of color you need for your journal (Ha! yeah right, as if we’d only have one set of pens. Who am I trying to fool?) 

I purchased the 12-pack of standard color Pilot Juice Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens in .38mm tip size. The title of the pen is a bit confusing but let me break it down for you. “Gel Ink” refers to the type of ink being used in the pen itself, whereas “ballpoint pen” refers to the way that ink is delivered to the page when you write. Gel ink delivered with a ballpoint tip is thicker than gel ink delivered by a rollerball tip. Whoa! Nerdy, huh?

The ink in the Pilot Juice is a water-based pigmented gel ink. Because it’s a pigment ink you get a whopping 42 color options (dye-based inks are more limiting). I find that the inks are nicely saturated – not too light, not too dark. And the .38mm tip writes SO smoothly without any skipping or globbing (is that a word?).

I also do not have a problem with ghosting on any of the papers I’ve tried – 70gsm, 80gsm, 100gsm, Stalogy, and Tomoe River Paper. However, I’ve only tested the .38mm (so far) so if I get my hands on the 1.0mm or .7mm versions, I’ll do a test and update the results here. I suspect the larger tip size might be an issue on thinner paper. 

The ink dries quickly and after a second or two, there’s no smudging when I run my finger across the ink. However, this ink is not waterproof and doesn’t hold up to my water test (just a wet watercolor paintbrush), so if you plan to use this in a mixed media or art journal, keep that in mind before you add paint over your lettering. I’ve also tested the pen with various highlighters. It didn’t do well, unfortunately, and there’s a fair amount of smudging once you highlight over dried ink. 

Stationery Nerd ApprovedStationery Nerd Approved Seal

Overall, I love this pen! It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a super smooth writing experience in a lightweight pen. I think you’re going to love it too. It’s been researched, it’s been tested… it is Stationery Nerd Approved!

I’ve listed all the other specs for this pen below.  But if you have questions on anything I might have missed, hit me up in the comments below and we can chat about it. Do you love this pen? How many of the 42 colors do you have?

Pen Specifications

  • Ink – water-based pigmented gel ink
  • Water Resist/Proof – no
  • Tip Size –  .38mm  |  .5mm  |  .7mm  |  1.0mm
  • Structure – retractable / clicker
  • Clip Style – spring action
  • Finger Grip – dimpled rubber
  • Construction – plastic
  • Smudge Test – 2 seconds dry-time to no-smudge
  • Highlighter Test – smudges with all tested
  • Refillable – yes  |  LP2RF
  • Color Options – 42 colors total
    • 24 standard colors  – .38mm  |  .5mm
    • 21 standard colors –  .7mm
    • 8 standard colors –  1.0mm
    • 6 metallic colors – .5mm
    • 6 pastel colors – .5mm
    • 6 fluorescent colors – .5mm

 

Pilot Juice Pen Photo Gallery

Click on an image below to enlarge it …. so you, too, can inspect the greatness of this pen!

The post Pilot Juice Pen Review appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Year in Review – My Journaling was a Hot Mess in 2018

My journaling life was a hot mess in 2018. I started the year in a perfectly sane place but somewhere around April things went a little haywire. Let’s talk about it and I’ll show you a flip through.

As you know, I’m NOT a bullet journal purist and I don’t use my journal as my planner or calendar. The scheduled part of my life – work, business, personal – lives in Google Calendar and that’s where it will stay (probably forever). The analog part of my life is more about task management, project planning, tracking goals, and memory keeping.

If you’ve been around long enough, you also know that I have “shiny object syndrome” – which is a dangerous thing to have when you review stationery supplies. You don’t even know how many yummy journals and amazing pens I resist moving into every single day! So when I move into something new, you know it’s because I was weak and couldn’t resist the temptation.

All the Journals I Used in 2018

  1. A5 – Tekukor
  2. A6 – travelers notebook with Northbooks inserts
  3. B6 – Tekukor with Tomoe River paper
  4. B6 – Red Co. journal
  5. And I’ll tell you what’s happened so far in the first 20 days of 2019…

Mmm… that’s only four journals. That’s not so bad. Why does it feel so much worse?

Ha! I’ll tell you why. It’s because when I moved to a new journal, I didn’t fully leave the old journal. Granted, the list above only represents the journals that I actually moved into — not all the ones that were temptations or distractions along the way.

When you hear people talk about “Planner Peace” because they finally found their perfect planner/journal setup. Yeah, sounds like a dream come true, right? I can assure you that I do not have Planner Peace whatsoever.

OK, let’s break it down one-by-one and I’ll try to figure out what keeps making me change from one journal to the next.

Shiny Object Syndrome for Journals

JANUARY – OLD A5 TEKUKOR TO NEW A5 TEKUKOR

I started 2018 perfectly content in my nearly-finished Tekukor from the previous year. I spent the first six weeks of 2018 finishing up the pages of that journal and moved into another Tekukor right afterward. That was around mid-February and I happily set up my new journal and jumped in with both feet.

http://videonitch.com/2017/12/13/36-mind-blowing-youtube-facts-figures-statistics-2017-re-post/

MID-MARCH – TRAVELER’S NOTEBOOK TEMPTATION

But it wasn’t even a month into the new journal when I fell in love with the leather of the Doc A6 traveler’s notebook from The Leather Quill Shoppe. I bought one near the end of March. The leather really is lovely and I adore the way it feels. But I never really moved into this one … you’ll understand why in a moment.

Leather Quill Shoppe Doc

LATE-MARCH – OH! LET’S MAKE A TRAVELER’S NOTEBOOK

While I was waiting for my new Leather Quill to arrive in the mail I decided to dig into my old leatherworking stash and make a little passport size TN. I was really just playing and had a lot of fun. I took an old stiff scrap piece of leather and worked it into a soft and supple piece worthy of being a traveler’s notebook. This involved rolling the leather, beating it up with a hammer, rubbing coffee grounds into it to add color variations, taking a bit of fire to it around the edges… and then I wanted to see what would happen if I added some dye or ink to the leather. Needless to say, I was having a ball! I love the green ink and the softness of this one. It’s passport size so I really didn’t have a use for it – too small for anything I use. But it was fun to make!

Homemade Traveler's Notebook

 

LATE-MARCH-ISH – MIGHT AS WELL GET ANOTHER ONE

It was about this time that my friend Amy from Tyrian Design was also playing with some new leather she had just purchased. She likes to play with leather as much as I do and she was experimenting with doing some stenciling on leather with StazeOn Inks. Of course, I wanted what she was making and I asked her to make one for me with just plain nude leather so I could play around with it to see how it patinas. It’s it adorable?!

Travelers Notebook by Tyrian Design

 

EARLY-APRIL – MORE TRAVELER’S NOTEBOOK TEMPTATION

Then one day in early-April I innocently commented on an Instagram post that had a beautiful leather traveler’s notebook in the photo. I wanted to know who the maker of the journal was so I could file away that information for another day. Except then Melissa at @readingandcreating did the one thing that she should never have done to a weak soul like me — she told me it was for sale. Oh No! I was doomed immediately. Of course, I bought it immediately. It’s a Foxy Fix Rustic Kodiak in A6.

 

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MID-APRIL – THREE IS NOT ENOUGH, LET’S BUY ANOTHER TN

In the time it took the new TN to arrive on my doorstep, I bought a new TN by October Day Creations. I have no explanation for this purchase other than it was pretty. I found it on Etsy and the price was great and I was tempted by the beautiful design and leather. I’m so weak. It took a while to arrive so by the time I received it, I was already moved into the Foxy Fix above. But it sure is pretty, isn’t it? (And Jack likes it too.)

October Day Travelers Notebook

LATE-APRIL – MOVING INTO THE FOXY FIX

Once the new Foxy Fix Rustic Kodiak arrived I was ready to move in and abandon the A5 system that I had been using for the past 2 years. I ordered a set of A6 Northbooks TN inserts, decorated the covers of each, and started using the new TN system right away.

Side Note:  We’ll talk about how I decorate TN insert covers in another blog post, but I know you’re going to ask – so I’ll answer before you have to. Most of the decorations I use on these covers are from a few Tim Holtz packs I have – plus a few things from AliExpress and plenty of scrapbook paper. 

I still had a bunch of collections and charts and project plans in the A5 but I stopped carrying it. Over time I came to realize I just needed to keep all those collections in the A5 but leave that journal at home and update things as I had to.

Decorating the covers of TN inserts

This new TN system was great! I hadn’t realized how much I missed being in a traveler’s notebook. Before I moved into a hardcover journal a few years ago, I had been a TN diehard fan. Back then it was the standard size for a long time. Then I moved into an A5 TN size for quite a while (a year or so?). The reason I moved to a hardcover journal was that I wanted my life to be housed in a more permanent-feeling book that could go on the bookcase shelf. TN inserts feel like ephemera – temporary or unimportant. Moving into a journal felt right when I did it a couple years ago.

But moving back into a traveler’s notebook made of gorgeous leather — have I mentioned how much I love the smell and feel of high-quality leather? — it just felts like coming home. I was happy. Life was grand.

Bullet journal in A6 travelers Notebook

EARLY-SEPTEMBER – I FELL IN LOVE WITH JAPANESE PAPER

It all happened on September 4, 2018, when I was innocently browsing Amazon and I came upon an amazing discovery. My beloved Tekukor notebook – still my favorite journal of all the journals I’ve reviewed – had a new brother. The Tekukor family was expanding and the newest member was a B6 Tekukor with Tomoe River paper.

It took me about 2.6 seconds to add the new Tekukor Tomoe to my cart and make the purchase. Two days later it arrived in the mail (thank you Amazon Prime) and it was love at first site. Or should I say love at first feel?Tekukor B6 Tomoe River Paper

I had always heard the raving reviews of the Tomoe River paper and how lovely it is. Fountain pen friendly, watercolor friendly, and when you write on it and paint on it or draw on it … it gets all crinkly and “lived in” feeling. The pages are delicate to the touch – similar to the paper you find in a Bible. But the Tomoe River paper is strong and resists any sort of bleeding and watercolor sits beautifully on the page without seeping through. Fountain pen ink sits on top of the page and creates the most amazing color variations with the ink that it just makes you want to write more and more and try all the different inks you own.

I started playing with watercolors and found it to be beautiful. And once there was some color on the page when you write over the color, there’s no longer ghosting from the writing.

Writing Scripture in Journal

Did I mention the ghosting of Tomoe River paper? It’s pretty bad. You know how much I hate ghosting. The paper is rated at 52gsm or 68gsm (the Tekukor journal has 52gsm). BUT – that weight isn’t really equal to normal paper because of the way this paper is made. I don’t know the science behind it. Just trust me that it’s different somehow. But I was living with it. I was surprised that I was OK with it, actually.

I started doing daily pages for task management, just like normal. But between the daily planning pages, I would want to write on the paper with my fountain pens. So I decided to start copying the Book of Proverbs from the Bible. I’d write a few pages, then I’d do a new planning page, then back to writing, etc. I would stay ahead of the days by adding watercolor to several pages at a time. It was my solution to better live with the ghosting. But also, the crinkly paper was addicting. I love the way the paper feels after it has watercolor on it.

Tomoe River Paper Ghosting

OK – so if I love this paper so much, why am I not using it anymore?

I haven’t mentioned the page count of this notebook, yet. There are 384 pages. Yes. You read that right. This thin notebook is packed with pages – enough that if I did nothing but do one page a day, it would last me the full year. The idea of that was enticing. But in the couple months, I was in this journal I had added a lot of bulk. A LOT of bulk. Those lovely crinkly pages were already making the book not close fully and I was pushing my artsy efforts just to see how much abuse this journal could take. It held up beautifully, actually. But in the 4 months I was using it I only made it through the first couple signatures of the book – barely scratching the surface of the full page count.

There was no way I would be able to make it the full year with all these watercolored crinkly pages. I considered tearing it apart, making TN inserts from the signatures and moving back into a traveler’s notebook. I considered skipping the watercolor and just going to plain gel ink pen. But the more I used it, the more I realized I didn’t think I could live with the ghosting if I stopped watercoloring the pages…. And I didn’t think the book would survive the whole year if I didn’t stop watercoloring.

Crinkly Watercolor Pages in Journal

So I made the hard decision to move to a new journal. I like the B6 size. I was actually surprised by that fact. So I went on a hunt for a new B6 journal.

LATE-DECEMBER – COMPARING SCRIBBLES TO RED

I actually bought two journals in B6 size. Scribbles That Matter teal B6 journal and the Ocean Wave Blue by Red Co. Based on the specs of each journal I was fully expecting to move into the Scribbles for the new year.

Scribbles That Matter – 201 pages with 100gsm paper

Red Co. Journal – 240 pages with 80gsm paper

B6 Journals Scribbles, Red Co, Tekukor

Three B6 journals: Tekukor (left), Red Co. Journal (center), Scribbles that Matter (right)

However, I think the description of the Red Co. journal listing was wrong because this is most definitely not 80gsm paper. It stands up just as well (or maybe better?) than the Scribbles paper. So then it came down to color preference and how each journal felt in my hand. The Ocean Wave Blue journal by Red Co. won that challenge. I also loved that this journal comes in a dozen colors and styles to choose from whereas the Scribbles B6 comes in red or teal (neither of which would be my first choice).

JANUARY 1 – MOVING INTO RED CO.

The journals arrived on January 2nd and I made the decision to use Red Co a day later. So I moved in and got settled into a comfortable routine. I like the B6 size – it’s slightly smaller than A5 but slightly bigger than A6. I also love the paper in this journal. It’s substantial without being too thick and the dots are a soft gray so they don’t stand out or get in the way. The only thing I didn’t like about the journal was the 240 pages – it’s pretty fat – but I could overlook that for all the other positive parts of the journal. I started the journal with my 2019 Word of the Year pages.

My Word is Pause

MID-JANUARY – THE WANDERING EYE…

As I’m writing this, it’s January 20. A week or so ago I was straightening my desk and put away my A6 Tekukor journal that I’ve been using as my swatching notebook. I set it aside to put on the other bookcase as I straightened some other papers on the desk. I just happened to set it down on top of my B6 Red Co notebook. A little while later I had them both in my hand and marveled at the difference in the feel of them. The smaller notebook was so comfortable and felt familiar again.

You can probably guess where this is going. Stay tuned…for the continuing saga of my elusive Planner Peace quest.


Cat + Journal Photo Outtakes

It’s always a battle with the kitties over who gets the photo table while I’m taking shots for these blog posts. Sometimes I win. Sometimes they win. Here’s Jack lording over the journals…

Cat with journals

 

 

The post Year in Review – My Journaling was a Hot Mess in 2018 appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Adding my 2019 Word of the Year to my Bullet Journal

I’ve chosen my 2019 Word of the Year and I want to make sure I display it in a place where I’ll see it often as a reminder throughout the year. Of course, my bullet journal is with me ALL the time and I’m “in it” dozens of times a day – so adding my Word of the Year to my bullet journal is the logical choice. So that’s what I did because that’s what nerds do… logical things.

Before we get into how I added my Word of the Year to my journal, let’s talk about which word I chose for 2019.

The last time we chatted about choosing a single word to guide your goals and actions for the year, I walked you through my process for how I pick the word. If you missed that article, go check it out here: “Choosing my Word of the Year

So I roughed out my goals for the year, brainstormed a list of possible words, lived with that list for a couple weeks … and now I’ve picked the word. The next step will be to finish setting those goals and action steps for the year, but that’ll come later since I do all that on my birthday instead of the start of the New Year (which means you can look forward to another article about that process in a month or so).

My Word for 2019 is…

One of my biggest goals for 2019 will be stress management and slowing down enough to catch my breath once in a while. I seem to have two modes: all-on or all-off. Or better known as full-on-hustle or drop-dead-exhaustion. There never seems to be a middle ground where I’m just coasting but still being productive. So that’s what I’m working on this year (and my chiropractor will be happy about that too).

PAUSE:

The intentional inaction between hustle and exhaustion.
A temporary break in action.
Rest in the moment.
To linger for a time.

This simply means that I need to stop and sit quietly without distractions or activities. Just to sit and be present in the moment. Sort of like meditation, but with less meditating. Can I just sit still for 20 minutes a day?

Over the couple weeks, I’ve been working to put this word into practice. The first step is to remember that I want to pause. I get so caught up in checking things off the task list that I find myself at the end of the day only to realize that I never took the time to relax for a moment. So if step one is to remember to pause, step two is to actually do the pause and not push it aside because “I don’t have the time to pause.” Ha! The struggle is real, people!

The next hurdle is being able to sit still for 20 minutes at a time. So far I can make it about 5 minutes before I get too restless and need to get up and do something. Who knew it would be so hard to just sit and not do anything. No phone, no book, no music, no TV, no plotting or planning… just sit and breath.

Once I master the 20-minute pause, I’ll work up to full-day pauses. I mean, I do that pretty well already with a day trip to the beach. But interestingly when I hit the beach I always take a book with me (or my journal for planning or writing).

How I added my Word of the Year to my Bullet Journal

Let’s just start with acknowledging that I don’t draw. Notice I didn’t say “can’t draw” because I’m sure if I practiced and really worked at learning how to draw then it would totally be possible. I truly believe anyone can learn how to draw and be good at it. But I’ve never taken the time to put in the practice to get to that point. And yes, I’m a graphic designer who doesn’t draw. So to compensate for that, I find other ways to be creative while still making my bullet journal beautiful.

Printables to the rescue!

If you’ve been around here for any amount of time, you know that I love adding printed layouts to my bullet journal. I’ve used lots of different types of printables — ones I’ve designed myself, ones I’ve purchased from sellers on Etsy, and even things I clip from magazines and glue onto the pages of my journal.

Not long ago I launched the customizable Word of the Year printables in my shop so of course, I wanted to use one of those beautiful options. I picked the yellow watercolor mandala print and added my Word and what it means to me before printing. When I was ready to add it to my journal, I decided to use some watercolor paints and give the page a base of yellow to match the print. I’ve used scrapbook paper in the past and it works great, too.

Pause

To attach the printed page to my journal, I typically use double-sided craft tape, but glue sticks work great too. But my took of choice is a tape gun. At the start of my scrapbooking days, a dozen (or so) years ago, I bought a big 3M ATG 714 Industrial tape gun before they were even considered a crafting tool. I had to buy it from a warehouse supply company – you know, the types of business that sell pallet jacks and shipping boxes to warehouses who do mass shipping operations.

Nowadays you can get the same tape gun at every local craft store and it even comes in pretty colors – Scotch Tape Glider (such a friendlier name, too). My tape gun is probably the best crafting purchase I’ve ever made. I mean… it’s 12+ years later and I still use it almost every day.

One other big reason I love printables is the convenience of reprinting. A single notebook doesn’t last me the whole year of planning and it’s normal to move into a new journal 2 or 3 times during a single year. Each time I start a new journal, I reprint my Word of the Year page and add it to the beginning of the new journal. Not only does this save me from redrawing an elaborate illustration, but it’s also a way to bring consistency and familiarity into my new notebook.

This bright yellow print will follow me all year and become part of my life and mindset. I didn’t choose yellow lightly – it was a deliberate choice based on the mood I wanted that Word to bring to my journal. To me, yellow means happiness, a sense of peace and calm, sunshine and a bright sunny attitude. I’ll begin to associate this yellow print with my Word each time I flip by this page in my journal.

Keeping my Word of the Year front and center

By adding my Word of the Year print to my bullet journal I am able to keep that reminder front and center in my life all through the year. I carry my bullet journal with me everywhere I go. I open that notebook dozens of times during the day and flip by this page at least a couple times a day. This daily reminder helps to embed the word into my behavior and mindset even further.

Other options for keeping your Word of the Year at the forefront of your mind is to print it large and hang it in your home. You could add it to the living area of your home or near your desk or crafting area. The more you see it, the more fully it will become part of your mindset and daily intentions.

How do you honor your Word of the Year?

Do you have a page in your bullet journal or planner? Do you print it and hang it in a frame somewhere in your house? Do you have it tattooed or made into a t-shirt?

Share your experience with your Word of the Year in the comments. Let’s chat about ideas!

My Word is Pause

 

The post Adding my 2019 Word of the Year to my Bullet Journal appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Tracking a 30 Day No Spending Challenge in my Bullet Journal

Happy New Year! And welcome to January, the month when we all feel poor because of all the money we just spent on Christmas. It’s also the month when many bullet journalers and planners are starting a “No Spend” challenge to help get back on track with budgeting and wise financial decisions.

I admit that I treated myself to a few too many Christmas gifts — to me, from me. But I did a good job of sticking to my budget and only using cash for the holiday giving season. Cheers for leaving the credit card at home!

Last year was the first time I tried the No Spending Challenge in January and I admit it was pretty tough. I probably made it harder on myself because I threw in a few additional “challenges” alongside the no spending one. But at the end of it, I noticed a fresh new mindset about how I looked at money and impulse purchases (more on that in a moment). So I’m doing it again this January.

To be honest, I almost didn’t do it this year. I really only decided to jump on board the evening of December 30th … and promptly panicked about what I needed to buy before January 1st (like toilet paper and coffee). But even as I was out shopping for a few things yesterday, I realized that the no-spending mindset had already started to take root and I only bought the bare essentials.

Alright, enough jabbering about me, let’s talk about this challenge and what it all means… and how you can do it too.

30 Day No Spending Challenge

So how does this challenge work, anyway? Well…there’s the way everyone else does it, and then there’s the way that Pam does it. Honestly, there’s no right or wrong way to do this challenge.

These are the rules I’ve set for myself during the month-long No Spending Challenge.

It’s a very personal type of thing and you need to figure out what works for you, your family and your situation. Since I’m single and live alone (with two (needy) cats), my challenge will look a lot different than someone who has a large family. I’ve set some rules or general guidelines for myself – feel free to use any that might work for you too.

  • Track Everything

If it has anything to do with money, I’m tracking it. Even if it’s an allowable purchase, I want to keep track of everything penny that goes out of the bank account so I can evaluate my spending habits at the end of the challenge.

  • Essential Spending Only

This is where things can get muddy since “essential” is such a subjective word. For some people, the morning Starbucks run is essential. But for me, this means I’m only allowed to spend money on bills, gas/fuel, church donations, essential groceries, or emergency situations.

  • Pantry First & Grocery Guidelines

I tend to buy too many groceries for just one person so my pantry and freezer seem to be overflowing at times. It just so happens that right now it’s sort of ridiculous. So along with the spending freeze this month, I’m also doing a Pantry First Challenge. The only groceries I’ll buy are perishable healthy foods such as fruits, veggies, and dairy. Otherwise, it’s all from the pantry. However, if I happen to have at least half of the ingredients for a recipe in the pantry, I’m allowed to buy the other half from the store.

  • Track Resisted Temptations

The last time I did this no-spending challenge I was surprised at how often I was tempted by impulse purchases. So I started tracking “Resisted Temptations” and found it enlightening. I’ll do the same this time around. Anytime I almost accidentally buy something on Amazon – or even feel the need to “put it in my cart for later” but don’t buy the thing, it needs to go on the list.

  • Earn Extra Money

While I’m saving all this money by not buying stuff, why not work to make some extra money too? I have plenty of stuff in my house that I don’t use anymore but still has value and could bring in a few extra dollars (or hundreds). During the challenge, I’ll use eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace to bring in some extra money while getting rid of some clutter around the house.

  • Declutter & Donate

While I’m scavenging the house for stuff to sell, there will be plenty of stuff that’s not worth the effort of selling and just needs to be donated to charity. Whenever I make donations to a thrift shop, I keep a detailed log of what I donate and add it to my account at Itsdeductible.com — which interfaces with my tax filing software. Tax deductions are a great way to save money in the long run on taxes, so this decluttering effort fits right in with the spending freeze challenge.

  • Planned Purchases

There are already a few things on the calendar that I know will require me to spend money that would normally not be allowed during a no-spend challenge. I’ve identified those specific instances and listed them in my journal. These purchases will be allowed because they’ve been planned for ahead of time.

No spending temptation log

I decided to track the things I wanted to buy but didn’t. Keeping them on a log helps me see how good I did at the end of the month.

What will I do with all the extra money?

Having a specific purpose for the extra money saved and earned at the end of the challenge is important to keep me on track. One of my big goals for this year is to fully fund my emergency fund (6 months of expenses). So it’ll be nice to start the year off with a large deposit to that account.

How Long is the No-Spend Challenge?

Each person is different and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Some people do no-spend days once per week and amazingly, there are some people who are even doing a no-spend year! Most people tend to do a month or a week at a time.

You’ll notice in the photos that I have the dates set for my challenge as January 1 through February 6. So why did I pick 37 days? This represents the first 10% (the tithe) of the year. The word “tithe” literally means “tenth” – it doesn’t refer only to money, but rather a tenth of whatever the thing is. So in my case, I’m offering the first tenth of my year to financial fasting. It’s a way to focus on the spiritual discipline of fasting, quiet devotion, and responsible obedience.

Of course, it’s also a great way to get them excessive spending of the Christmas holiday under control and start the year off on the right foot.

Spending Log

Tracking exactly what I’ve spent money on is important. Even if it’s an allowed expense, it goes on the list.

More No-Spend Challenge Bullet Journal Ideas

I’ve scoured the internet (ok, really just Instagram) and found some great page ideas for tracking your progress with your No Spend Challenge. Don’t just look at the pretty pictures here, go check out the profiles for these journalers and follow them while you’re there.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BsDEcdQA_-l/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

https://www.instagram.com/p/BsCXocll9V-/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

 

Are you taking the No Spending Challenge, too?

I’d love to hear how you’re doing with your own No-Spend challenge. Do you have similar rules to mine? What else are you trying that I haven’t mentioned? I’m always eager to learn new things and try something different next year.

One last thing…

Just in case you thought my job of publishing a blog post was easy, I want to show you how difficult it is to get a decent photo. This is Pounce, she really likes the bright lights over my desk and enjoys lounging under them… even if it means she’s in the way of my photo.

Pounce watching over my progress and making sure I buy cat food this month.

The post Tracking a 30 Day No Spending Challenge in my Bullet Journal appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

How to choose your β€œWord of the Year”

Personalized Word of the Year Printables

I’m excited to announce that I’ve just launched a new product in the shop — these personalized printables will include YOUR word of the year and what it means to you. See examples at the bottom of this article, or hop on over to the shop to check them out.

Custom Word of the Year Printable


How to choose your “Word of the Year”

Choosing a single word to shape your entire year is a concept I first began in 2007 – way back when Ali Edwards was the only one talking about it and she called it her “One Little Word.” I was inspired by the idea of uniting all my New Year’s resolutions, annual goals, and big plans for the year into a single word that would give me focus and a clear direction. Nowadays the concept of “Word of the Year” the hot new buzzword (buzzphrase?) and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and I’m so excited! If this is your first time choosing a word, hold on tight! I truly believe this is going to change your life!

If you’re like me and have been choosing a word for many years, I’d love to hear your story and how this practice has impacted your life, your goals, and your well-being. I spent some time digging through my old journals and blog posts (I’ve had a bunch o’ blogs over the years).

I’ve tried to recreate a list of the words I’ve chosen over the years. Twelve years of journals, scrapbooks, art projects, and blog posts later, my Word list is incomplete, but here are some of the words I’ve chosen over the years:

Create • Believe • Action • Be • Finish • Fun • Growth • Explore & Be Present • Stewardship

I am so passionate about choosing a single word to guide my goals, actions, mindset, and decisions throughout an entire year and now I’m thrilled to be sharing that experience with you. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a routine for how I choose my word and I hope you might get some ideas for your method too. My method for choosing a new Word of the Year happens in roughly this order:

  1. Annual review of this year’s goals, actions, and achievements
  2. Create a rough outline of what next year’s goals will be
  3. Start compiling a list of words that seem to fit with the goals outline
  4. Think. Pray. Meditate. Journal. Generally “noodle” about the list for a week or so.
  5. Pick my Word of the Year
  6. Set my goals for next year

I typically start this process around mid-December and spend some quiet time over the holidays to work on the decision. Quite often there’s a large gap of time between steps 5 and 6 because I don’t actually set all my annual goals until my birthday in February (more on that later). Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail.

My Annual Review

I set goals in three areas of my life: personal, business, and career. So when it’s time to review the year and look back at how I did with those goals, I separate those three areas into their own review process. This is something I’ve tweaked and refined over the years and as you do it more often, you’ll figure out the best way to do it too. But here’s a quick overview.

> Personal Goals

My personal goals are exactly what you’d expect. Eat better, exercise more, learn new stuff, read more books, go on more vacations, and all the normal things we are continually improving in our lives year after year. And inevitably there are things that make the list that never gets done (like organizing my digital photo files) but often I’m pleased to look back and find how well I’ve done.

> Business Goals

Besides working my normal 9-5 job, I also run a small side business doing graphic design and brand management for small businesses. I’ve been downsizing this in the past year as I work to grow Stationery Nerd more and more (it’s so much more fun to play with paper and chat with all of you!). Because some of my past clients have needed help with general business coaching, I’ve had lots of practice helping others conduct an annual review of their businesses. I’ve been using this review process with clients (and myself) for the past several years, but last year I actually put it all together into an actual book and published it on Amazon. The Next 365: Annual Business Review and Planning Workbook.

> Career Goals

As much as I’d love to be a Stationery Nerd full time, that’s a long way off so every morning I clock into my 9-5 job as a graphic designer. As a designer, it’s important that I stay on top of the latest trends in design and keeping up with the new digital tools I use for my job. The goals on this list include a lot of educational or training types of goals, as well as always working to advance my career and remain a valuable part of my team.

 

Writing an Outline of your New Year Goals

The next step is starting an outline of my goals for the New Year. I never start with the detailed goals that I want to accomplish. Instead, I start with a rough outline. As I go through my annual review (above) it naturally becomes clear what I need to focus on for the next year so I jot down ideas throughout the process. I would guess I spend only 10-20 minutes on this step. Maybe less. Don’t over-analyze at this point. This outline is an important first step in figuring out what my Word of the Year will be. My outline might look something like this — just some thoughts scribbled down on paper to get my mind moving in the right direction. When I say rough, I mean rough. Don’t get carried away. The list you see below is my actual outline. And yes, I make little notes in the margins as I think through this list and need to add ideas or additional information to consider. 

2018-Word_web

Writing a List of Possible Words

Once I have a general idea of what I want my goals to be for the next year, I start to brainstorm some words that might fit all of those goals. This list might take a week or two to compile. As I think of words I just add them to the list. Over time I’ll cross some off because they don’t feel right. Once I have a few solid possibilities it’s time to just go about my life for a couple weeks and let that list marinate in my head. I spend some time reviewing the list every couple of days (just a few minutes) and think about the words, cross some off, add some new ideas. I pray about it. Meditate or journal while I think about how each word might affect my year ahead. Some years it’s easier than others. There have been times when I knew my word without ever making a list but there have been times when I agonize over picking just the right word and it takes weeks. Because I know that choosing One Little Word that will guy my year that giving this step the thoughtful consideration it deserves is one of the most important parts of this process.

Time to Pick your Word of the Year

Once you have your word you’ll know it’s right because it feels right. But don’t worry about it being perfect. If you get to the middle of the year and that word you picked no longer applies to your life or goals – it’s perfectly alright to pick a different word. In fact, there are many people who choose a new word at the start of each new month. I have a friend who chooses a list of 12 words to guide her year – one for each month. They usually relate to each other or to the seasons of the year or to the things happening in her family’s life during each month. For instance, January might “renew” and June might be “play” and December might be “connection.”

Setting Goals for the Year Based on Your Word

The final step is to fill out the details of my goals on that initial outline. Each area of my life gets some dedicated time to solidify what I want to work on in the new year. Once my goals are set, I fill in “action items” for each goal. In fact, when my list is finished the list is literally called “Goals & Actions” and I refer to it often throughout the year. The goals on my list can be further broken down into monthly goals and then into action items (tasks) for each week.

One of the things that drive me to continue working on these big annual goals is this formula: 20 minutes every day on a single project equal 120 hours in a year.

20 minutes per day  X  365 days = 120 hours

Imagine how successful you will be at achieving your goals if you just commit to spending 20 minutes each day on that goal. As I’m writing my goals and creating my action list, I work hard to figure out how my Word of the Year relates to each goal on the list. Can I adjust my goal to more fully reflect my overall intent of what that word means to me? Or can I expand the meaning of my word to more closely reflect my goals?

Making Art out of my Word of the Year

For the past several years I’ve taken the time to create some type of art piece with my Word of the Year being the focal point. I like to include a definition of the word and what it means to me as well as a quote or saying. Whether I frame it and hang it in my home (usually near my desk) or print a copy to add to my journal or planner. It’s important to keep that word at the forefront of your routines. If you hide it away and forget about it, there’s no way it can have an impact on your life like what I have experienced. That’s why I’ve decided to offer Custom Word of the Year prints in my shop. By helping you create a piece of art using your word, your definition or meaning of that word, and a favorite quote – not only do I get to play with fun design projects, but I also love the idea of helping you achieve your goals. SLIDER

Need Ideas for your Word of the Year?

I’ll be adding to this list as I hear of more great ideas or examples of words and their meanings. Feel free to use any of these for your own word. Do you see that inspires you? I’d love to hear what your plans are this year. Leave a comment below and let’s chat.

Word of the Year

– ideas –

 

 If you like one of these and want it added to a design in the “Custom Word of the Year” designs, just make a note in your order that you want to use these words. Got an idea to add to the list? Drop me a comment below. 

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Abundance

There are no limits on the extraordinary life you desire. Acknowledging the good that you already have inside you is the foundation of abundance.

“Abundance is not something we acquire, it’s something we tun into.”
-Wayne Dyer

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brave

Courageous endurance. Warrior-like behavior. Feelings of courage in the face of difficult situations.

 “Bravery is the ability to look fear and hurt in the face and say move aside, you’re in my way.”

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Confidence

The faith in one’s own judgment, ability, and power. A secure hope and trust in myself.

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”

-Maya Angelou

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courage

Strength in the face of fear. An expression of boldness and confidence. The ability to do something that frightens you.

“All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to follow them.”

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Family

Life’s most precious gift. A group who dreams, laughs, plays, and loves together. The perfect mix
of chaos & love.

“Like branches on a tree, we grow in different directions, but our roots will always keep us together.”

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fierce

Showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity. And one day she discovered that she was fierce and strong, and full of fire. Her passion burned brighter than her fears.

“Her soul is fierce. Her heart is brave. Her mind is strong.”
– R.H. Sin

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focus

Directing my attention, effort, and energy toward a specific and clear goal. The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

“Where focus goes, energy flows.”
– Tony Robbins

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grace

I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection. The gift of kindness that is not earned or deserved. Courage is grace under pressure.

“Grace replaces the broken record of guilt with a new melody.”
– Rebecca Barlow Jordan

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grateful

Transforming myself through intentional action, love, creativity, and self-awareness.

“The tiny seed knew that in order to grow, it needed to be dropped in dirt, covered with darkness, and struggle to reach the light.”
-Sandra Kring

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happy

Happiness is a state of mind. The search stops the moment you decide to be happy and grateful for what you already have. Do more of what makes you happy.

“Surround yourself with people, color, sounds, and work that nourish you.”
– SARK

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hygge

The art of creating an atmosphere of intimacy, warmth, and coziness that creates a feeling of contentment. Early sunsets. Warm tea. Big Sweaters. Twinkling candles.

“Hygge was never meant to be translated, it was meant to be felt.”
– Tovemaren Stakkestad

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mindful

An awareness of the current moment without judgment. Being fully present. Mindfulness is being compassionate with yourself.

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.”
– Sharon Saltzberg

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play

Engage in creative activities for pure enjoyment. Run, jump & twirl. Relax, laugh, be silly & have fun.

“Play turns out to be so stunningly essential, it’s like love, sunshine & broccoli all juiced together.”

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shine

The display of brightness reflected from the light of another source. We are not meant to hide the
light that has been given to us.

“As we let our light shine, we give other people permission to do the same.”
– Nelson Mandela

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simplify

Eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may speak. Simplicity is not about having less. It’s about having more.

More…
FOCUS • ENERGY • PEACE • JOY • FREEDOM • TIME

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wander

Her heart belongs to the world. She loves and lives without borders. It is when she wanders that she is most at home.

“Never let your mind tell your heart not to wander.”

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wellness

Living a fulfilled life through positive change and dynamic growth.  Practice self-care. Pamper yourself.  Love the life you live.

“She made a promise to herself to hold her own well-being sacred.”

The post How to choose your “Word of the Year” appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

Using My Bullet Journal to do a Brain Dump

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Read Time: 30 minutes

This article covers a lot of information about various types of Brain Dump techniques. If you prefer to only read the sections that interest you, just click a link below to jump to the section you want to review. Then use the gray “back to top” arrow on the right side of your screen to come back to this Table of Contents to begin again.

 

When my brain gets cluttered and I start to feel overwhelmed and restless; when I have trouble focusing on today’s tasks because my brain keeps running through a list of all the other things I need to accomplish on other days; when I get grumpy and start to snap at people, I know it’s time for a brain dump. It’s time to declutter my brain so I can think clearly again.

I hear the term “brain dump” thrown around in the bullet journal community and I have a few observations from these discussions:

  • There are lots of people who have no idea what a brain dump even is
  • There seems to be angst around the term “dump” and people want a different term
  • There are dozens of different ways to do a brain dump

So in true nerdy fashion, we’re going to cover ALL the things and dig in deep into this whole brain dump topic. Ready? Let’s go!

What is a “Brain Dump?”

The Brain Dump is a process where you allow all the cluttered thoughts in your brain to be written down on paper – to get it out of your head and in some type of tangible form that can later be tackled as a task list.

I also like the definition I found on Wikipedia: The transfer of a large quantity of information from one place to another for future retrieval or reference.

Brain Dump vs Brainstorm

Let’s also cover the difference between a “brain dump” and “brainstorming.” I see these two terms used interchangeably but I believe they are two completely different concepts. We’re going to focus on the Brain Dump (if you want me to cover “Brainstorming in your Bullet Journal” – let me know in the comments and we can explore that another time).

Brain Dump is a list or other stream of consciousness collection of all the thoughts/ideas/tasks in your brain. It is designed to clear up that precious mental real estate.

Brainstorming is a focused exploration of a single idea/concept or ideas/concepts wherein you explore ideas from one topic or group of topics.

Your brain is a junk drawer

You know when you’re on a house cleaning rampage and you get to that one drawer in the kitchen. The junk drawer. The one drawer filled with crap that doesn’t have a home and you’re often afraid to even open it because you know stuff will start spilling out of it. You think about cleaning it but put it off until next time. Again. And again. And again.

Then one day you get brave (or fed up) and decide to pull the whole damn drawer out of the cabinet and just DUMP it upside down and all that clutter and crap is in a big pile on the floor.

You can’t even begin to start cleaning and organizing that drawer until you first dump it all out and get it all out into the open. There’s so much miscellaneous stuff that’s been hiding in the crevices for years. You can’t sort and clean what you can’t see.

The only way to get through all that mess is to first figure out what’s there and sort it all out. Then you’re able to throw out the stuff that’s junk and organize the stuff you need to keep. Maybe there is a pile of stuff that needs to go somewhere else, some stuff that needs action, some stuff needs to be cataloged and organized – each of those things needs to be sorted into different piles. Once the big messy pile of junk is sorted into piles, you start to take action on each of those piles.

Throw out the garbage. Take action on the things that need immediate attention. Store the rest in neat and orderly bins so you can find what you’re looking for next time you need to find it. It takes some work and some time, but once your junk drawer is clean and organized, it works so much better.

  • Replace “junk drawer” with brain.
  • Replace “junk” with thoughts, tasks, errands, worries, projects, etc.

junk drawer

David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, reminds us that “our brain is a thinking tool, not a storage device.” The human mind is terrible at storage. In fact, there are estimates from various scientific studies that the suggests the average adult has anywhere between 20,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. What?! No way can I keep track of all that!

Why do we need a Brain Dump?

Your brain is not meant to be a hard drive, it’s meant for processing information and then create an action based on that information. So we can’t expect it to hold all our to-do lists indefinitely and still be able to efficiently process the daily stuff the brain is responsible for (like keeping us alive and alert). Here’s a fascinating article written by Robert Epstein entitled “The Empty Brain: Your Brain is not a Computer.

I’m a list person. I write everything on a list or add it to my calendar. If it’s not written down, I forget it. But that only applies to things that I know I have to accomplish right away – like this week’s grocery shopping list or a reminder on my calendar to pick up the dry cleaning on Thursday. Stuff like that always gets put on the list. But it’s all the other “stuff” that accumulates and starts to add clutter that needs to be cleared out to keep my brain running at pique processing speed.

A Brain Dump is for those jumbled thoughts that aren’t really ready for a formal to-do list just yet but are getting too close to the surface of our mindfulness that they’re causing problems with focusing on today’s tasks. Or things that are so far buried in your consciousness that they just seem to live in a dark corner of your brain, but they need to be shaken free and released to give you some peace and also to give you a starting point for dealing with them.

A Brain Dump can be used in any number of ways:

  • To make a goal list -– or a bucket list – of things you want to accomplish.
  • To make a task list of how you’ll accomplish a specific goal.
  • To purge jumbled emotional thoughts that are causing mental stress.
  • For project planning that have many lists of tasks to juggle (great for event planning or vacations).
  • Or you can combine all the above (and whatever else you can think of) into one huge Brain Dump list that has no specific theme or purpose… but is a jumbled mess of items that are cluttering your mind and need to be released. This is the most common type of Brain Dump and the one I like the best.

Alternative terms for Brain Dump

I’m actually amazed at the number of possible alternative terms for “brain dump” – a lot of people have a problem with the word dump. Yes, kids on the playground in elementary school have long used the term to refer to poop, doo-doo, number-two, crap, poo-poo, sh*t …. ok, I’ll stop now. But if you really need to do some research into this topic, there are resources available (because you can find everything on the internet – and yes, I just did a Google search for synonyms for poop. SMH) Moving on…

I personally like the term brain dump. Maybe because the visual I have in my mind is that of a junk drawer being dumped out so the contents can be sorted. I’ll continue to use it throughout this article because I think it’s a great term. But…

In the bullet journal community it’s common to have long discussion threads with dozens (or hundreds) of ideas for what to call it besides brain dump. As I was working on this article, of course I started collecting a list of these terms. I’m happy to share the list with you.

  • Brain download
  • Brain backup
  • Brain drain
  • Brain spillage
  • Brain bucket
  • Brain attic
    as described in 
    Sherlock Holmes
  • Cerebral landfill
  • Cerebral unburdening
  • Cranial crap
  • Mind Sweep
    term used by 
    David Allen
  • Mind decluttering
  • Mind purge
  • Mind grapes
  • Mind musings
  • Mind overflow
  • Thought catcher
  • Thought garden
  • Thought purge
  • Thought map
  • Pensieve
    (for fans of
    Harry Potter)
  • RAM dump
  • External mind memory
  • File download
  • Blue screen of death
  • Emptying the trash
  • Madness management
  • Stuff list

A Brain Dump Page in your Bullet Journal

I have been doing some form of a brain dump for the past 20 years or so. In fact, I first learned the term from one of my former bosses. I was the secretary / office manager / chief cook and bottle washer – and he was the managing director. We were an office of two. He loved doing his brain dumps verbally while he was driving. This was back in the day when secretaries still typed dictation from a tape recorder. So I would transcribe his spoken brain dump into a big list of bullet points that he would sort and organize later. This would happen just two or three times a year.

After learning his method, I started doing it myself. But over the years I’ve refined my method by using bits and pieces of various techniques I read about or hear from other people. I’m going to teach my brain dump method to you today.

Weekly or Monthly Brain Dump Page

But first, I want to talk about what other people are doing in the bullet journaling and planning community. It’s normal for people to set up a “brain dump page” as part of their weekly or monthly planning. Just a title along the top and then space to write random thoughts, tasks or tidbits of information that happen over the course of that week or month.

I’ve collected a few images from Instagram to show you what other people are doing. I’d love to know if you use this method in your journal. Drop a comment below and let me know what you do.

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Morning Pages + Brain Dump

I can’t do a weekly or monthly brain dump page in my journal. In fact, I think of my daily task lists as the place where those random thoughts need to live. I keep a “Master Task List” page in my journal so I can write down the tasks that don’t have a specific deadline and can be done anytime.

I also do a lot of journaling to keep my brain clear and my emotional health in check. Specifically I do the Morning Pages method of journaling based on Julia Cameron’s method from The Artist Way book. The idea is that you write several pages every morning as your very first thing when you wake up. You clear all those random thoughts from your mind by using stream of consciousness writing to get stuff down on paper.

I started writing Morning Pages in July 2016 and it’s changed my life! I’m more self-aware, more emotionally and mentally healthy, more intuned with my inner voice, and more apt to take action on the dreams and passions that interest me. If you want me to talk more about my Morning Pages routine and how I use my journal for this type of writing, drop me a comment below and let me know if that’s something you’d like to hear about.

Because my Morning Pages takes care of most of the cluttered thoughts every day, I don’t need to do a brain dump as often as I used to. Two or three times a year is plenty for me. BUT… my method is different than many others, which is why a couple times a year is enough.

Pam’s Brain Dump Method

As of this writing, I just finished a brain dump that took me eight days to complete and now fills 10 pages of my bullet journal.

I’ll share some photos with you, but know that some of the things on this list are private and not intended for the entire world to see so you’ll see various things on the list covered up.

There are five steps in this method. It should take you about 7 to 10 days to complete. Don’t rush this process. The fact that this takes 7 to 10 days to complete is one of the most important parts of the method and why it works so well.

  • Preparation
  • Spend 1 week writing a list 
  • Close the book and don’t look at the list for 2-3 days.
  • Review the list.  Add to it if you need to.
  • Sort each bulleted item into a category.
  • Take action on the action items.

Step 0: Preparation is the Key to Success

That quote is attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, and it’s just as important now as it was in the late 1800’s. Before you even start this brain dump process, you need to get ready.

Because I only do one of these big brain dump sessions once or twice a year, I like to make sure I’m truly ready to begin. I don’t take this lightly because I know it’s going to be a lot of work and require a lot of mental energy. Once I begin, I can’t stop the train!

David Allen Trigger List

I underline the items on the Trigger List that reminds me I need to add these types of items to my Brain Dump list.

Here’s how I prepare:

  • Make sure I have enough time to complete the brain dump. I check my calendar and ensure I have a bit of time each day for the next 10 days clear so I can devote anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes a day on my list.
  • Decide where I’m going to be writing down the brain dump list. Will it be in a separate notebook? In my bullet journal or planner? Identify the location and then block off several pages (my last brain dump took up 10 pages … but I’ve had them take up twice that many at times). It’s best if you can keep an entire section blocked off and together for this rather than fitting it in between pages of other things in your bullet journal.
  • Mentally prepare yourself. I like to read through the “Incompletion Trigger List” developed by David Allen in his book “Getting Things Done.” Allen calls this process a Mind Sweet and gives you dozens of areas of your life to think about as you’re making your list. He separates the list by personal (your personal life) and professional (your job life).

    First I print a copy of his Trigger List (download it for free on his website) and just read through the list the evening before I start my brain dump. I say evening because if you input information into your brain just before you go to bed, your subconscious will take over and start prepping things for you. I don’t go off this list while I’m doing a brain dump, but I do keep a copy of it folded in the back cover of my notebook so I can look through the list over the next week (usually before bed) to refresh my memory of anything I need to deal with tomorrow. I go through and highlight or mark some of the items on the list that I know are on my mind.

And that’s it. Once you have those few things lined up and ready, you can go on to Step 1.

Step 1: Write the List (the actual brain dump)

You’ll need a notebook with several pages for this step. Some people prefer to dedicate a completely separate journal that is only used for this kind of a brain dump. I prefer to do it right inside my bullet journal. I just turned to the next available blank page and began. I knew I would need a dozen pages or more, so I just reserved that many pages all in a row because I wanted to keep it all together.

Now it’s time to write. The first day I like to set aside an hour total. I set a timer for 30 minutes and just start writing a list of stuff. Then later in the day or evening, I set the timer again for another 30 minutes. After that first day, I don’t set a timer for my brain dump session, but I tend to spend about 15-25 minutes each day after for the rest of the week.

The most important part of this step is the “dump” — visualize the jumbled mess of the junk drawer in your kitchen and what the contents would look like if you dumped the whole drawer onto the floor. It’s a pile of mismatched things that don’t go together and they certainly didn’t land on the floor in nice neat piles of like items. So your brain dump needs to look like this:

  • Bulleted List — two to five words or a short phrase for each bullet.
  • Jumbled List — don’t worry about sorting your thoughts, just write whatever comes to mind on the next line.
  • Uncensored List — write down EVERYTHING – do not censor yourself, don’t analyze what you’re writing, don’t judge yourself for what is on the list. Just write. Everything. Yes, every single thing that comes to your brain, write it down.
  • Long List — don’t worry about how many pages you’re using, just keep writing and writing and writing.

If you suddenly remember that you need to change the lightbulb in your closet in the middle of your Brain Dump list, write it down – because if you let it linger in your head it will just become a distraction, but writing it down removes it from your brain and lets you move on. Your list might have a series of tasks you need to do around the house, right next to a random thought about taking a bubble bath to relax, right next to a thought that you really want to try out the new Italian restaurant in town, right next to a grocery list. You’ll be sorting the list later, so don’t worry about what goes on the list right now. Just write.

Brain Dump List

This picture was taken after I categorized the list. During the Brain Dump, just “rapid log” things onto the list – no sorting yet.

During this step DO NOT read the list. Don’t go back and review what you did the day before. Just continue adding to the bottom of the list for the next several days. To recap:

  • One thought, task or idea per bullet point
  • Speed is essential. Write as fast as you can (but still be able to read your handwriting after this is done) and get as many thoughts out as possible.
  • Do not organize your thoughts. Bullet points should flow one right after another in no specific order. If thoughts are coming to you in random order, then write them down in random order.
  • Do not keep multiple lists for various thought processes. Just write everything down in one big long list down the page.
  • Write until your brain is clear and you can’t think of anything else to write down. You should sit quietly for several minutes after you think you’re done in case any additional thoughts come to mind. Do not rush this part… write for as long as it takes to clear your mind. Yes, it might take several hours or several days.

Step 2: Let the List Rest

So it’s been about a week and I know that I’m done writing when I start to repeat stuff. Not that I’m looking back at the previous parts of the list, but when I write something down and I think to myself … “I think I’ve written this four times now.” When you are no longer writing down new stuff, it’s time to call it done.

  • Then close the notebook and walk away.
  • Do not open the notebook again for the rest of the day. Leave it alone. Put it in a drawer if you must. Don’t you dare open that notebook!
  • Don’t open the notebook or look at the list for at least 24 hours (preferably 48 hours)
  • If you’ve used your everyday bullet journal for this list, just clip those pages together so you won’t be tempted to look through the list.
  • If you happen to think of other things that need to go on the Brain Dump list you should write it on a different piece of paper and add it to your notebook later.
  • Set a date with yourself to review your list. It should be no less than 24 hours after the final bullet point was written. Preferably you let it sit for several days.

After you finish the initial Brain Dumping process, something amazing happens.

You have peace. Suddenly your brain is not screaming at you with a million jumbled thoughts and ideas and goals and obligations. You’ve released all those thoughts and they are now down on paper – safely held within your notebook. You’re not going to forget any of the things that used to clutter up your brain, they’re all written down now. So take advantage of this peace you’ve given yourself. Be kind and pamper yourself with something nice (a bubble bath, a manicure, a new album by your favorite artist or do what I did and just sit and watch the sunset and enjoy the beauty of the day). Relax in the feeling of a clear mind.

Step 3: Sort and Organize

Now that you’ve got this big long list of stuff you’ve dumped out of your brain, it’s time to do something with all those bullet points. Yep, it’s time to analyze and sort the list and figure out which things need action and which can be trashed. There will be plenty of trash on this list. I find my list is about 70% trash and 30% action items. The only way to figure out which is which is to read through every line and code it in some way. You could create some type of symbol system for yourself, but I tend to just use colors.

Color code system

After reviewing the list, I created a color coding system based on the big categories I wrote down during the Brain Dump.

Taking out the trash. I go through with my gray highlighter (the color I use in my everyday planning for tasks I didn’t do or don’t need to pay attention to any longer) and cross off the things on the list that are trash. I mean, it’s not like my thoughts are all garbage, but there will be things on the list that don’t need an action, don’t need further introspection, and don’t need to be in my brain… so being able to cross them off the list is therapeutic.  

Find the tasks.  This is not a neat and tidy list of tasks already sorted into categories, so you’ll need to do that part next. I go through the list and get a sense of the general categories of the tasks I’ve written. There are usually about 5 or 6. Add a symbol or colored dot next to all tasks on the list (don’t worry about category just yet, just identify the items that need action). In my most recent brain dump, these are the categories I identified:

  • House
  • Health & Routine
  • Finances
  • Work (day job)
  • Stationery Nerd
  • Tremble Creative Services (my freelance biz)
  • Miscellaneous
  • Shopping list (this just goes onto my daily bullet journal shopping list)

Write task lists. On the next blank page after the big brain dump list, divide the two-page spread into boxes – one for each category. Give each box a title. Then start copying tasks off the big list and placing them into the box where they belong. You’ll find that you probably wrote the same task several times or at least in some variation of it.

For instance, I have some home repair projects on the list (leftover from the restoration project after major water damage in a part of the house). There are 3 rooms in the house that need some sort of trim work finished in each room. That single tasks – “finish trim work” – is on my list no less than 7 times in some way or another.

  • Finish crown molding in the bathroom (this was on the list 3 times!)
  • Reattach door molding on the patio door
  • Install baseboard in living room
  • Add corner molding to the hallway
  • Install corner round molding at kitchen cabinet base

So instead of writing all 7 of those individual tasks on my action list… I just added it as a single item of “finish trim work.”  Consolidating multiple related tasks from the brain dump page will streamline your action items on the categorized task list.

Identify the Angst. Don’t you just love the word “angst?” The definition of the word I hold on to has the addition of “hope” because it implies that the emotion is something that can be overcome.

ANGST: a persistent feeling of worry, about a seemingly impossible situation or struggle but there’s an underlying sense of hope of overcoming the situation. Without the important element of hope, the emotion becomes anxiety.

Inevitability as you write the brain dump list you’re going to have a number of emotional items on the list. These items aren’t garbage or tasks, so you can’t ignore them and you can’t move them to an action list. So you need to deal with them in some way. I like to create a separate list for this type of stuff. It essentially becomes a Journaling Prompt type of list. I’ll pull something off that Angst List and write about it during my Morning Pages routine. This type of stuff never gets solved in a single journaling session, so the stuff on this part of the list is an ongoing project of self-development and awareness.

Of course, if you discover that there are too many items on this Angst List and you are overwhelmed with the magnitude of the mental work you need to take to deal with it, it might be a good idea to seek professional help. Or even the help of a mentor or trusted friend could help you talk through some of these emotional burdens. Don’t bottle it up. Don’t leave it on the list unattended. Take action on these struggles and work through them one by one. You’ll be happier for it! I talk more about making a Targeted Brain Dump list for emotional journaling in a section below.

Everything Else: By this time your big brain dump list is probably 99% sorted. Maybe there are a few stragglers on the list that don’t exactly fit together in any way. Gather these up and make a new list of these items and work through them one by one. For instance, on my recent brain dump, I found a few things that I put on a “future journaling” list. See the section below about what it means to do an Emotional Brain Dump – that’s what these few journaling prompts were for me. 

Cross stuff off the Brain Dump list as you transfer them to the category lists and keep going until you are done.

How to get things done

Now that everything is categorized you have a working action list. I like to pull one or two things off this list and add them to my daily task list and cross them off of this master list as I complete them. It’s entirely possible that it’ll take months to get through everything on the list. But keep referring back to it each week so you can chip away at it. The more actively you work at finishing these things and give your brain a clean slate for new things, the more productive you’ll be overall. I find that a big brain dump like this every 6-8 months is enough to keep me on track.

Color code system

This is what my sorted and organized list looks like once I transfer everything from the main list.

Targeted Brain Dump Method

Sometimes a big, all-inclusive brain dump is not what you need. Sometimes a more targeted brain dump is what will help you clear all that mental clutter. I’m just going to cover the two most common that I know about, but the possibilities here are endless. These two methods sort of dip their toe into the “brainstorming” waters and might actually be called a combination of a brain dump and brainstorming. In my mind, it makes sense to cover these here, so… well, here they are!

The Project Planning Brain Dump

When you’re planning a big event, a whole business strategy, vacation, or project … you’ll likely need to do a brain dump that’s more targeted at project planning that all relate to that single big thing. You’ll follow the steps in “Pam’s Brain Dump Method” to create a big jumbled list of things that all relate to that project over the course of several days. Then when you finish writing the initial list, you’ll go through the list and identify key tasks or actions, and then all the sub-tasks that help you complete that item.

For example, if you’re planning a wedding, one task might be “buy wedding dress” but the sub-tasks in that category might include:

BUY WEDDING DRESS

  • Research dress shops to visit
  • Make dress shopping appointments
  • Invite Mom and bridesmaids to shopping appointments
  • Try on dresses
  • Find the perfect dress
  • Arrange alterations and fittings schedule
  • Arrange dress storage until the week of the wedding
  • Arrange final fitting and dress pickup week of the wedding
  • Store dress at Mom’s house
  • Wear the dress and get married!

But as you’re making the initial brain dump list, that organized list of tasks that fall perfectly in the order that things need to be done will likely be scattered over several pages in a jumbled mess of random thoughts. You don’t need to organize the individual tasks and subtasks until you get all the clutter out of your brain first. Then as you start to create these types of mini-project lists, you’ll begin to think about which order tasks need to be done in and fill in the blanks for anything you might have missed initially.

You can organize the tasks on each list in priority order or in groups of like tasks. It might also be a good idea to decide which items need to be done right away and which things can be put off for several weeks or longer.

Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to do them all at once – that would defeat the purpose of the Brain Dump process. Instead, determine which things are most important and start there. You might want to mark priority tasks with a red star or something that works for you.

The Emotional Turmoil Brain Dump List

When there’s a lot of emotional crap rolling around in my head, it’s time to dump all that clutter out and onto paper. This type of list usually ends up being journaling prompts – either for my Morning Pages (as I talked about above) or in my normal diary-style journal. When I do this kind of brain dump, it’s usually because doing a full blown brain dump is just too overwhelming. Most of the time once I finish with an emotional dump, I have enough clear space to do a normal brain dump.

So these are never easy because I have to actually face the things that I’m normally avoiding. Big worries, big philosophical topics, big life decisions, big goals or big pivots in my goals or some other type of big change that needs to be made in my life. I still use the same method of making the list as I do with a normal brain dump, but with one big twist.

I normally find that I will write down a big worry or problem. Like “am I happy?” But that topic is too big, right? So it just stay on that topic for a few minutes and start writing a list of bullet points under that big topic. Just a few words per bullet point, but the point is to explore that main topic and break it down into smaller worries. So that list might look like this:

AM I HAPPY?

  • What does happiness mean to me?
  • Am I happy with my relationships?
  • Do I enjoy my job?
  • Am I happy with my health?
  • What do I cherish most?
  • Do I laugh enough?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • Do I have a trusted confidante?

As you can see, the key is to explore some of the things that lead up to the initial question. You aren’t looking for answers right now, you’re just looking for which questions to ask to help you discover the answer later. Don’t spend too long brainstorming areas to explore for each big question or worry. Just spend a few minutes, then move on to the next thing that’s on your mind.

You’ll likely need to come back to this list several times over the next week before you can feel like it’s ready for action. Once you have a finished list, it’s time to deal with the items on the list one by one.

And this is where I do something different once the list is finished.

DO NOT rearrange the list or try to organize it in any way. In fact, don’t even read the list. Just let it live on paper the way it was created. The order doesn’t matter. When you’re ready for your first journaling session, just take the first item on the list and write it down on a new sheet of paper or a new page in your journal. Then close the original list and don’t look at it again. Right now your only concern is that single item.

Set a timeframe for you to work on this single item. It could be a day or two or it could be a week or more – depending on the nature of that item and how much time you’ll devote to this process each day. Explore your thoughts and feelings about this single item and journal as much as you need to. Meditate on the solution, write out your feelings, talk about it with a loved one if that’s appropriate. Do whatever you need to do in order to get this one single issue resolved or at least resolved enough that you feel like it’s no longer a heavy weight on your shoulders that’s keeping you from living the life you want.

Once you are “finished” with that single item – end it. If you literally need to write “The End” after your journal entry, then do it. Cross the item off the original brain dump list to signify it is complete for now. Or if it’s just a mental acknowledgement that the topic is closed and you feel like it’s resolved, then just make that mental note. But make a formal END to the single item you’ve just worked through.

Now take a day off. Consciously allow your mind to be clear and take an emotional vacation day from the work you’ve just put in. Because tomorrow, you do the whole process over again with the second thing on your list.

Yes, this is a long process and it could take months or even years to work all the way through the list. Some items on the list might only need a couple hours before you feel you’ve resolved it. Some might takes several days or longer. As you think of new things to add to the list, you’ll just write them to the end of the current list and deal with them in order. The key is to keep your brain free of the emotional turmoil so you can continue to work on one small issue at a time and grow little by little along the way.

Side Note: If you find that the problem is too big for you to handle on your own, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist, counselor, clergy, or medical professional can help you work through any of the problems on your list that you feel too overwhelmed to handle by yourself.

How do you feel?

So now that you’ve got a perfectly clear brain, how does it feel? Have you learned anything about yourself along the way? Do you have a new world domination plan? New goals? Have you added anything to the process that’s helped you – that might also help someone else? Please share it with us all by leaving a comment below.

The post Using My Bullet Journal to do a Brain Dump appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

How to Distress and Age a Leather Traveler’s Notebook

I received this adorable traveler’s notebook from Unique HM & LN – they asked me to take a look at it and give my thoughts. But this isn’t just a standard product review. Nope. I took it one giant step beyond just a review. You see, this little passport size traveler’s notebook needed some TLC – some special love to break it in properly. So today I’m going to show you how I took a new traveler’s notebook and beat it up, roughed it up, rolled it, washed it, scraped it, and used a couple scary ingredients to turn it into a gorgeous TN I love.

This passport size traveler’s notebook is a great starter option for those who want to try out the system but still get a quality leather journal cover. It’s an all-in-one package because not only do you get the high-quality leather cover, it also comes with three notebook inserts and a pocket folder, a brass pen clip, and feather bookmark. With four colors to choose from – blue, pink, green, brown – there’s something for everyone.

What makes this traveler’s notebook unique is the waxy coating on the leather. It is 100% genuine leather and called “fog wax cowhide.” I’ve never seen this type of treatment on a TN before and I was intrigued to get my hands on it. I wondered if it would still smell like leather – it does – and if it felt like leather or had a strange feeling because of the waxy coating. I admit that the finish felt a bit strange but not unpleasant. The waxy finish gives the leather a soft cloudy/foggy look that is unique and kind of cool. I was told that the coating will wear off with use and will achieve a patina in a few months. Just carry it around with you and let the oils in your hands wear the waxy coating off gradually.

But you know me. I can’t leave well enough alone, right? I’m also not very patient. I didn’t want to wait for a few months while the patina came through. I wanted to know what it was like right away. So I took matters into my own hands … literally.

If you’ve ever had a beautiful piece of leather — whether it’s a bag like my beloved tote, a pair of quality leather shoes, or a traveler’s notebook – you know that the more you beat up a piece of leather, the more beautiful it becomes. I love rustic leather. Give me ripples, creases, scars, color variations, and a buttery smooth feeling and I’m in love. There are ways to speed up that process, of course. Usually, I just let nature take its course and let the leather age as I use it. But not this time.

Two Things Happened

I’ve been playing with this notebook for a while now so this aging process actually happened in two phase. The first phase was to literally beat up the leather by roughing it up, rolling it, and getting violent with the notebook. The second phase happened the night before I was finishing up this article. I was Googling around (cuz that’s what nerds do) and came across a tip list on a leather website. I won’t ruin the surprise, but let’s just say that the end result is amazing!

But first, let’s take a quick look at the before-and-after.

distressed leather before after

Pictures on the left are from the Amazon listing. The first image shows the waxy cloudiness of the leather finish.

 

Aging and Distressing my Leather Traveler’s Notebook

I learned about this rolling technique from the internet (of course). Since then I’ve broken in several TNs and even my leather tote bag. If you are one of those people who love their leather in pristine condition with no marks or wear and tear… you might want to look away. When I say “beat up” that’s what I mean. Let’s get started…

First, you need to remove the notebook inserts and any accessories. If you plan to change out the elastic bands at the spine, now is a good time to remove those too. I didn’t plan to change those out so I left them in. Lots of people like to personalize their TN by adding various colors of elastic. Or if you’ve been using your notebook for a while, the elastics wear out over time so it’s not unusual to remove them and put in new. But we’re not doing that today.

Once you have your leather stripped naked, it’s time to put it through its paces. There are really no rules here. You can start by literally rolling the leather into a cigar-shaped tube – starting at one end of the notebook and rolling to the other. Then unroll and roll the other way. Roll diagonally in both directions. Roll inwards and outwards – meaning turn the leather over and roll with the finished side out, then flip it and roll with the finished side in.

You’ll begin to notice that the leather will get softer and there will be ripples and texture appearing in the leather. For some people, this is enough. For me – I want more. So I fold the leather onto itself and use the palm of my hand to roll each part of the leather. I’m being very aggressive at this point. Using force and lots of erratic motion. I just keep rolling and moving the leather until I feel like I’m “done.”

The main purpose of the rolling effort on this TN was to see if I could speed up the process of the waxy coating being worn off the leather. It worked a bit, but not completely. I wonder if it needs to literally be held in your hand to fully wear it off. But I wanted to try one more thing…

I grabbed a terry cloth towel and got it wet with plain old water. Then I started scrubbing the surface of the leather …. just to see what would happen. At the time I didn’t have any leather conditioner or leather soap, so water was my only option. It worked a bit. It definitely evened out the appearance of the leather and give it a more uniform look once the leather dried.

Side note – don’t panic if you get water on your leather. I learned from a leather craftsman that if you get leather wet in one spot that you should just get the rest of it wet. Not wet like dipping it in water – but use a soft cloth and apply an even coat of water across the entire piece. Then when it dries you’ll have a more uniform appearance. It might be slightly discolored but at least the discoloration will be the same everywhere.

At this point, I was pretty happy with the result. The leather was soft and pliable and most of the waxy stuff was gone. I figured I’d just use it for a while and the rest of the waxy stuff would come off on its own. But apparently, I wasn’t done yet…

blue leather travelers notebook

Now the surprise ending

I should probably start this section with a word of caution. DO NOT try this on your expensive traveler’s notebook – at least not until you’ve tested it on some cheaper leather. This notebook costs around $15, so I was pretty adventurous with this step.

As I was wrapping up the writing of this review, I wanted to see if there were other ways to distress leather that I hadn’t talked about. Oh boy, was there!

I found an article on Buffalo Jackson’s website – they sell handcrafted leather bags (which are AMAZING) and various leather accessories including leather portfolio binders that I’m already in love with. OK, back to the article. They have some tips on how to distress your new leather bag and make it look old. How to Distress Leather in 5 Steps. I admit that I was shocked at the first suggestion – the rest I had heard of or tried before.

Apply rubbing alcohol. Using a spray bottle, lightly mist the leather with rubbing alcohol. You may also apply it with a cloth or even a toothbrush. Be sure to not drench your bag – you just want to dampen it with the rubbing alcohol, which will then dry out the leather and begin producing a weathered look.

What?! Really? I was so intrigued that I went immediately to the bathroom closet to find my rubbing alcohol. Except… I couldn’t find it! Do I even have any? Dang it! What could I use instead? Mmm… I bet fingernail polish remover is the same as rubbing alcohol, right? Sure, why not!

nail polish remover on leather

So I grabbed an old rag and the nail polish remover, I dove in to see what would happen. I know the instructions said to lightly mist the leather using a spray bottle and not to drench it. Oops! I must have forgotten that part because I used the dampened cloth and rubbed it all over the surface of the leather. OMG! The wax was coming off! So I did the back and edges and let it dry.

It only took a moment to realize how GORGEOUS this leather really was. The rolling and creasing I had done in the first steps were now shining through and there was so much detail and character to the leather. The leather still smells like leather.  The leather was shiny and textured. Wow! I know I should have grabbed the video camera and filmed all that – but it was 11:30 p.m. and I was in my pajamas and … well, honestly I didn’t even think about it in my enthusiasm to give it a try. Next time, OK?

What do you think?

Have you ever purposefully distressed or aged leather to get a certain look and feel? Was it a traveler’s notebook or something else made of leather. Did you like the results? What else have you tried that I should do?

The post How to Distress and Age a Leather Traveler’s Notebook appeared first on Stationery Nerd.

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