Reviews: Notebooks & Paper

One of the most common quests a Bullet Journalist undertakes is searching for the perfect notebook with the right paper.  You have a few choices you can make and it can be overwhelming! Let’s walk through some considerations and then a pen test on three common insert choices for bullet journaling in a traveler’s notebook.

I do a pen test and comparison across May Designs, Moleskine, and YellowPaperHouse inserts //
I do a pen test and comparison across May Designs, Moleskine, and YellowPaperHouse inserts //
  • Pattern. What works better for you, blank pages? Ruled? Dot grid? Grid? I personally love the freedom of a dot grid – just enough structure to give my pages order with freedom for drawing and representing my thoughts however works best.
  • Book size & thickness. Consider how much you want to change up your notebook – some swear by attempting to have just 1 or 2 a year, especially if you just carry one notebook. For traveler’s notebook (TN) users (like me!), I have a dedicated insert for planning and a separate one for collections so I care more about having thin and light inserts.
  • Paper. This is key for a lot of folks, especially those who use fountain pens or want to stamp.  On the back we hoping for very little “ghosting,” or bleed-through.  So I’ve experimented with planning in three different notebooks – here are a few of my thoughts below.  In all of them I’m using a Bic Triumph, a vibrant gel roller-ball in 0.5mm.

I bought these Cahier notebooks in a 3-pack readily available at Target and have heard good things about them. I tried a grid notebook for my collections.  The book has a kraft paper cover which is lovely and ready to be decorated, and the binding is sewn which means the spine is perfectly straight. There are about 72 pages (front and back) of ivory colored paper, not white, with somewhat of a sheen to it – it’s hard to describe but the pages are very smooth.  You can see there’s quite a bit of ghosting on the back.  Personally, this is very annoying because it deters me from being able to use the backside (which may mean I only get utility from half the pages… grumble grumble).


May Designs. I ordered several of these in various covers and page patterns during a sale and used this for my Daily Log. Like the Moleskine they are 72 pages with a sewn spine.  Unlike the Moleskine these notebooks have beautiful sturdy covers that are a plastic-like material that is water resistant. Part of the joy and pitfall is the endless combinations of covers with personalizations and page patterns!  As you can see, there is some ghosting but not as obvious as the Moleskine.  I tried watercolor on another page but that … didn’t work.  The pages got very wrinkled with the water.  They notebooks can take a few weeks to ship, and they retail at $20.  Personally, I think they get heavy as a planner insert.


YellowPaperHouse. This Etsy shop features a LOT of fun colored paper for your inserts. I’m boring and like to add color in other ways so I stuck with the white during one of their Friday sales featured on their Instagram. These little inserts are also in a Kraft paper cover, and are stapled at the spine rather than sewn, which means the pages may lay a touch off on certain pages.  There are about 40 pages in these notebooks.  These are meant for folks using the Traveler’s Notebook system.  You can see this paper features the least amount of ghosting – you can see a bit of the boxes and indications of the washi tape, but I can definitely use this side of the page.  These inserts do take up to 2 weeks to get to you but I love how light they are in my system.

My current verdict: I am eliminating Moleskine from my system.

  • The ghosting on the Moleskine drives me nuts, so although it is readily available it is going to retire for me
  • I will choose a notebook depending on the purpose of the insert.  I want to keep the collections for longer, so it makes sense to choose a notebook with more pages – in this case, a May Designs notebook.
  • With a TN system, my planning insert is the one that will be replaced the most often.  This YellowPaperHouse insert has lasted me for October and November for my weekly layouts, a few monthly pages, and weekend pages.  It is unlikely that I will need to reference anything farther back than 2 months, so it will shed some unnecessary bulk and weight to go with a slimmer planning insert.

Future experiments: There are obviously many different inserts out there! I have yet to try them all.  The Tomoe River paper comes highly recommended so I may look for those… but what about you? What inserts do you love? I’d love to give them a shot!

Until next time – when we launch December’s #PlanWithMeChallenge with a surprise!


10 thoughts on “Reviews: Notebooks & Paper

  1. I just happened upon you on Instagram and just in the nick of time! Thank you so very much for this review, it was exactly what I needed! Look forward to following you and reading as much as possible! Have a great day!


  2. I got a new moleskine for 2016 and I agree that the ghosting is driving me a bit nuts. Do you think I should continue to use it for the rest of the year or buy another planner notebook?


    1. I usually like to encourage people to use up their stuff before going to a new thing, but if it’s so bad it discourages you from using it, you could use it as a Planning notebook and get a new notebook – so you could be sketching out different layouts in the Moleskine and actually using the new book. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m super excited to jump into bullet journaling… in my true Type A/OCD personality I want to know how to do it EXACTLY RIGHT, haha. Can I ask what you mean by “insert” or “traveler notebook”. Are these separate mini books that live within a jacket or folder of sorts??


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