Bullet journals are quite possibly the niftiest old-fashioned new thing to grace us humans in an age of computerized text transmission. As you may have heard, experts have found that it’s easier to remember content when written out, and this owes to many reasons: tactile feedback, involvement, effort and so on. However, bullet journals are a testament to the idea that harder is sometimes smarter. We’d like to make the point that bullet journals may actually be easier on the whole, especially for creative individuals. Really, once you get in the habit of writing things down in a creative journal of your own construction, it’s something you find yourself doing for fun in your spare time.
As something of an almost steampunk-ish anachronism, bullet journals are nothing more simple or complex than journals where each page is a blank canvas for you to create the means of your organization through writing, sketching or other means. This allows for some pretty funky, sideways and downright amusing means of organizing information that other people might struggle to understand if they picked it up, but that’s the idea with these:
That’s why it’s important to choose the best bullet journal notebook that’s near and dear to you along with a nifty pen of your choosing. You’d be surprised at the factors that go into a proper bullet journal experience, and while there are some basic recommendations (different bullets for different notes, never strike through finished activities, always create a key), your experience could be molded by variables as simple as page size and weight, the hardness of the cover and even the color of the binding. At the end of the day, your bullet journal is all about you: your to-do lists, your brilliant ideas, your reminders and words to learn, a funny joke you heard, lyrics that spoke to you and more.
Here in this review, we’re going to check out some legendary notebooks from the likes of Leuchtturm1917 and Rhodia in addition to lesser-known books that you might never have known you needed most. We’ll dive into the consistency of the pages, weight, size and more when looking at each entry, so keep an eye out for recommendations: We make plenty.
Best Bullet Journal Notebook Comparison Table
|Product||Photo||Size (inches)||Cover||Number of Pages||Paper gsm||Elastic closure||Check Price|
|Leuchtturm1917||5.75 X 8.25||Hard (21 colors available)||249||80||Yes|
|Rhodia||5.5 X 8.25||Hard (3 colors available)||192||90||Yes|
|Moleskine||5.1 X 8.4||Soft||192||70||Yes|
|Scribbles That Matter||5.7 X 8.3||Hard (8 colors available)||190||100||Yes|
|Essentials||5.8 X 8.5||Hard||192||100||Yes|
|Minimalism Art||5 X 8.3||Hard (5 colors available)||192||100||Yes|
|Miliko||5.67 X 8.27||Transparent Hard||160||80||No|
|BooQool||5 X 8.25||Hard||120||120||Yes|
|Dingbats Wildlife||6.3 X 8.46||Hard (7 colors available)||192||100||Yes|
|Lemome Cork||5.7 X 8.4||Hard||180||120||Yes|
|Lemome||5.7 X 8.4||Hard||180||120||Yes|
|Northbooks||5 x 8||Hard||192||90||No|
Best in Category
Leuchtturm1917 — Editor’s Choice
As one of the most critically acclaimed bullet journals on the market, there’s very little to say about the much that’s offered here.
It does literally everything: perforated pages, stickers, an inbuilt folder and bookmark, elastic strap, high-quality pages, all of it. It’s functional and attractive, and millions of users can’t be wrong.
Dingbats Wildlife Medium — Best Hardcover Bullet Journal Notebook
A highly attractive front cover that feels wonderful to the touch and pages that feel “creamy” to write on are hard to pass up.
This journal does everything you need, and it does it in style and high function with virtually no issues to note. Also, it includes a pen loop — nifty.
Moleskine Classic Colored Softback — Best Softcover Bullet Journal Notebook
Sturdy, durable and rugged: That’s Moleskine’s softback solution. It includes ruled pages to guide your inputs, and the binding holds strong even months or years down the road.
This is a well-rounded option with no significant drawbacks worth mentioning, and you may even prefer this over the Leuchtturm1917.
Scribbles That Matter (Iconic Version) — Best Dot-Grid Bullet Journal Notebook
True to the name, this is a notebook that handles inputs like a champ, especially drawings. Perhaps it’s a biased assessment because of that artsy front cover, but when you pick this sucker up, you can’t help but put the high-quality paper to good use in creative fashion. It’s hard to pick a best journal in this category, but at the very least, Scribbles That Matter deserved an honorable mention.
Best Bullet Journal Notebook Reviews
Coming as one of the most well-known and functional bullet journals, Leuchtturm1917’s hardcover, medium-dotted notebook stands as a legendary example of a proper bullet journal format.
The pages are numbered on the bottom outer corners, and along the inside edges of eight pages, you can tear them from the perforated lines for pinning and sharing freely. This also means that you can cleanly remove pages with your sketches and ideas for photocopying.
However, having only eight of them with this benefit seems limiting for a notebook that’s 257 pages thick. On the other hand, you have to give them credit for bothering add a perforated option in the first place, so we don’t see this as a drawback. After all, you probably wouldn’t want every page to be perforated or you’d have them falling out like autumn leaves after a few months.
There’s also a fabric bookmark built in, a binding strap to keep the notebook closed while not in use, an inbuilt folder in the very back where you can store torn-out pages or other items, and dotted matrices in the pages for gently guided drawing and writing. There’s a strictly defined table of contents section if you want something not-so-bullet-journal-like to help you stay organized. So Leuchtturm1917 went out of their way to ensure that you had a little bit of everything here. Topping it all off is the middle-of-the-road sizing, which allows you to fit it into large pockets or stuff it in bags with ease.
Now, it’s worth noting that this is neither the most expensive nor the most feature-rich offering from the famous journal company, but conversely, this particular journal is incredibly affordable for what you’re getting. In this way, we honestly can’t complain about any limitations that it brings because any features that are limited to begin with simply exist to begin with, which in itself is remarkable.
This is another exceptional entry into the list of bullet journals that we’re looking at today. Rhodia is another well-known company for its notebooks, and the Black Webnotebook is another legendary product among bullet journalists everywhere.
It shares some of the same features that make the Leuchtturm1917 great: expandable pocket in the back, inbuilt bookmark and an option between a dot grid and a blank variety of your choosing. While not important, you may enjoy the rounded edges of the pages as they offer a nice touch both on the fingertips and to the eyes. A leatherette hard cover keeps the journal slightly flexible while maintaining sturdiness and a pleasing aesthetic.
Important technical details include acid-free and pH-neutral pages from Clairefontaine, which should be a given for such a high-profile bullet journal.
The only possible issue to keep in mind here is the smooth paper, which is in fact so smooth that is can produce the glossy “nails on a chalkboard” effect while dragging the pen head over it.
Moleskine is another legendary example in its field, and here you’re looking at a colorful entry to the series with a flexible cover that doesn’t sacrifice durability in the process.
Rounded edges grace every thread-bound sheet in this journal, and as you’d expect, the pages are all acid-free for long-term preservation of notes. You also get a bookmark ribbon attached inside, so you never need to worry about using your own and then losing it when it falls out. A folder pocket is also included in Moleskine’s notebook, so you can include extra writing instruments or note pages on the fly.
The paper comes in ruled format at 5×8-1/4, and there were 192 pages total, which is a solid figure that offers plenty of writing space while keeping the profile down to a minimum. Overall, there’s very little to complain about here: It’s a straightforward offering that adds a handful of fun extras for convenient journaling on the go, but the real differentiating factor here from the other famous journals that we’re reviewing is the flexible cover, which should make travel and storage interesting for you.
Do your scribbles matter? They do with the Scribbles That Matter dotted bullet journal, which slides in at a formidable A5 with an elastic band built in and, most importantly, a fancy cover that screams “artist’s journal”.
A sister offering enters the picture with B5 sizing, a plain-Jane cover and a completed undated planner built in. These siblings are practically the same aside from these differences, but they’re worth mentioning together for those who don’t find quite what they needed in one or the other.
The binding is specifically designed to lay perfectly flat on whatever surface you’re setting the notebook, allowing easy and consistent writing whereas other notebooks here — notably the Moleskine Classic Color series — tend to bulge out in the back, which would rock the book while entering information. You’re not experiencing that here with Scribbles That Matter. Also included is a series of pre-structured pages for the inner not-so-bullet-journal you, which include an index and planning sections.
This bullet journal emphasizes a “getting it done” attitude with 192 premium sheets at 100gsm, all in acid-free, archival quality for long-term storage of your precious memories.
Included is an elastic band to hold everything shut while you’re traveling, a dotted matrix to gently guide your inputs, and a hardcover to take on the world and keep your contents safe inside. This is an incredibly straightforward offering that gets right to the point of bullet journaling and doesn’t try to sell itself on extras that might not interest you.
Many users feel that Essential’s offering is basically a more affordable version of the Leuchtturm1917, and for that reason, people end up picking this over the more well-known version simply to save a few coins while getting the basics that they care about most: high-quality paper inside a durable binding with a closure strap and the promise of long-term storage.
This is a straight-to-the-point offering that gives you 192 pages of acid-free goodness, archival quality and an inner pocket to store a few extras on the run.
Coming in at 100gsm, you’re getting a premium journaling experience with writing and sketching on the whole. The hardcover is faux leather but tastefully so, and there’s an elastic strap to hold everything together. Overall, this is a solid A5 journal without any glaring issues from the outside.
The only issue to take note of is the quality of the journal on arrival if you had it ordered online. Some of these tend to come with dents, bruises, scratches, and residue. We don’t think these are issues to be attributed to the craftsmanship of the journal itself, but regardless, that means little if you can’t get your hands on one in good condition.
Believe it or not, some bullet journals would rather stick by the old-fashioned spiral-bound philosophy instead of the newfangled “perfect bind” trend that everyone’s hot about.
We all remember these from our school days, and they were always fun to stick pens and pencils inside of. They are, in ways, more reliable for holding paper because perfect-bind solutions tend to fall out like autumn leaves while spiral-bound journals can have pages installed into them with relative ease.
Nonetheless, this is an easygoing option with very little to say but a whole lot to do. You’re getting a dotted matrix in A5 size with a hardcover holding it all in, and there are two of these notebooks in a single purchase.
They’re not fancy, but they provide the most important feature of any bullet journal: blank or mostly blanks pages for storing your sketches, plans and lists.
If BooQool seems like a strange brand name to you, you’re not alone. However, that’s not the point here — well, unless you dislike pronouncing the name every time someone asks where you got such a great journal from.
In truth, it’s not too fancy: You have a bookmark built in with a dotted grid and a smooth hard cover to protect everything.
The paper comes in a staggering 120gsm for tear-free, bleed-free sketching and writing, and there’s even a pocket included for storing paperwork and other documents. This is a cool cat that does a little bit of everything at an astonishingly low price, and that’s backed up with a lifetime guarantee on top. Oh, and did we mention that you get two of them for that price?
The only problem that some people has was the spine collapsing after a few weeks of use, but a very small handful have had this issue.
The first impression that should strike you is how beautiful the cover is. It does indeed come in faux leather, and it’s hardcover to the core, but it’s still a head-turner.
However, it’s not all about aesthetics: Expect high-quality, 100gsm paper with the expected closure band and a bookmark built in. The one unique point of this binder that we wish we’d see more is the inclusion of a pen holder, so you can tuck your best bullet journal pen right with your notebook without clipping it to the binding or the pages and ruining them.
The cover is said to feel marvelous to the touch, and the paper even more so. In fact, the texture of writing over it is said to feel “creamy” and not in a bad way. Some of the glossier options out there can squeak and squeal when you write over them, but Dingbats equipped this journal with a divine solution to that problem while keeping it smooth.
The cover is made from cork, which is as unique as it is fun and safe, and it feels soft while remaining firm against abusing elements.
Engineered for laying flat, this journal should work well on almost any surface you set it, but even more impressive is the 120gsm paper that’s included, which ensures a rich writing experience. See, eco-friendly doesn’t have to be flimsy!
As with most bullet journals, you’re getting an expandable pocket inside, a ribbon bookmark built in and a closure strap. The biggest complaint is the cover’s tendency to fall apart quickly — we’re talking minutes to weeks at most for many.
This is an interesting entry for its inclusion of page dividers, which is seldom seen in bullet journals.
Regardless, you have them here with Lemome’s offering: an A5 hardcover notebook with a pen loop included and some seriously thick 120gsm paper. As expected on Lemome, you also have the lay-flat engineering included, an elastic closure strap and a dotted matrix to guide your art and writing. Of course, as Lemome would have it, you’re also getting an eco-friendly solution for your journaling needs.
The main issue to look out for here is the stitching on the pages, which can cause them to come loose from the binding. If you’re okay with this caveat, the next question is, can we recommend it?
Northbooks has only one entry on the list today, and it doesn’t disappoint.
In fact, despite the 90gsm pages, this might be one of the best that we’ve reviewed. Coming in at an affordable dollar cost, you have a few standard numbers that you’re looking at: 192 pages of feather- and bleed-resistant paper, archival in quality and acid-free to boot.
The aesthetic isn’t anything to write home about, but in the manufacturer’s own words, “we put function first”, and that seems to be the case here. Still, it’s not an unattractive option at all. You’ll feel good carrying this footed journal with you.
We need to point out that despite the bleed resistance, you may still see some bleeding through the pages with heavy ink, but this is a minority observation. The binding is also said to be weak, causing papers to fall out over time. While the pages themselves are as sturdy as the cover, Northbooks’ offering seems to be its own worst enemy by means of manufacturing flaws. Outside of these observations, you may not have these troubles at all, and most actually have no complaints about it.
Best Bullet Journal Notebook Buyer’s Guide
Difference Between Bullet Journal and Any Other Journal
Physically speaking, the only difference is that bullet journals usually don’t have any hard-structured elements pre-inked into the pages. These elements would, in a typical journal, manifest as hard lines or premade calendars, pre-bulleted lists and defined boxes or other spaces that provide useful limitations in a journal. Bullet journals are most typically devoid of these elements, replacing them with a dot matrix, ghost lines or other forms of subtle guidance that don’t interfere with freeform sketching or writing. Some bullet journals are just completely blank on every page.
The bottom line with bullet journals is that they’re free and open for the user to apply their own system of organization. This allows ample room for creative construction in whatever manner the user sees fit. While it sounds oddly counterproductive at first — “Why would anyone want to physically draw a calendar into their journal instead of having it pre-printed?” — the reality is that you have the option to do it differently without the hard boundaries. Nothing says you have to do it the same way each time, either. You could write everything sideways one day; the next, you might decide to write everything in cursive, maybe do it in neon colors, perhaps with a sketch or on the side to assist in driving home a specific context.
Are there Specific Guidelines to Follow to Keep a Bullet Journal?
There are recommendations for effective bullet journaling, but there are never essential rules. If there were, that would defeat the spirit of keeping a bullet journal, to begin with. They’re so-named because they typically use a creative bullet system of your own deciding in order to organize information in a free form. As such, you’re recommended to keep everything — every idea, to-do task, grocery list item and so forth — on the same aggregate list while using different symbols as bullets to separate them by category. For example, all events might have a solid black dot while pending tasks are a black circle, ideas are a light bulb icon, lyrics you heard are a music note in green while ones that you developed are in blue instead.
You’re also recommended to not strike through tasks that are finished. Instead, X out the bullet itself. This way, you can look back on your journal in the future and reflect on memories with loved ones or just in the company of your own nostalgic solitude. Additionally, people commonly break up their bullet journals into short-, medium- and long-term sections, applying the various bullet categories in each to dictate events, tasks and other items as separated by how large they are or how far they’ll take place in the future. This can also be used to set priorities, reflect birthdays and holidays, and more. However, whether you choose to do it the way anyone else recommends is purely up to you, and that’s one of the many ways that a bullet journal is set apart from standard journals.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Best Bullet Journal Notebook
We won’t repeat ourselves about the “personal customization” bit: We’re sure that you get it by now. What you might want to know is where to start since you might not know what experienced bullet journalists instinctively look for. It’s a perfectly valid and natural question to ask, and to be honest with you, there are a few metrics to look for if you’re just starting out. Keep in mind that these may not satisfy your specific requirements in time; only you can figure it out with testing.
However, generally speaking, this is what you’ll want:
- Higher grams per square meter (gsm) is generally considered positive. This figure dictates how dense the paper is, and a higher number will usually result in heavier paper although it may not necessarily be any thicker as a result. This figure helps prevent tearing and bleeding while providing a heavier, more solid feel to the pages while turning and writing. To give a reference of scale, flyers are usually around 150gsm while business cards are around 400gsm. Copy paper is often around 80gsm while poster paper is normally 150 and 200gsm. With bullet journals, 100gsm is considered average; 120 is considered good while 80gsm is acceptable.
- Medium journal sizes are usually the most popular because, of course, they combine the take-anywhere qualities of a smaller journal with the spaciousness of larger ones.
- Look for journals with a binding element such as a strap or magnetic clip; these will stay shut if you handle them awkwardly or drop them. Also, pen loops on the binding are a plus, and a “perfect binding” spine is considered preferable due to its cleanness and spatial economy. However, ring binders are sometimes preferred for the ability to flip the front pages around to the back, folding the profile in half for portable or space-saving functionality.
- Covers that are structured but not entirely stiff are often favorable. Stiff covers can snap while soft covers can be creased in a storage accident, but a compromise between the two offers the sturdiness of a hardback with the flexibility of a softback.
One of the greatest difficulties that we face when reviewing products that are designed for such personal use is being objective while observing the subjective half of the equation as well. This is all-important because there’s truthfully more to the concept of personal expression than the hard edges — the 0’s and 1’s of straight-lined, left-brained thought — of what you see on the paper. Little details right down to the weight of the notebook in your hands, the sound it makes when you drop it on the table, the distinctive flopping or plugging sound of pages flipping over by few or many — these matter. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that despite the indirect impact these features have on the user’s ability to flatly write in the journal, they can make or break the user’s willingness to ever write in them to begin with. There is, in this, a regard for the emotional and creative capacity of an individual.
We think it’s a wonderful irony that bullet journals have exploded in a time when technology continues to explode at increasingly quickening paces, accelerating the shift away from pen and paper for day-to-day applications. Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with this from the perspective of running a business since it is a more efficient means of recording and retrieving data, but as life is a fine balance of two complementary halves, it’s essential to recognize that this way of thinking — the economical, efficiency-driven, input-output, profit margin-centric ethos — isn’t important everywhere. When you understand what makes a bullet journal so cool and why it could reconstruct your life from the ground up, you’ll develop a certain peerless respect for the visceral reality of it. Without a doubt, it’s one of the coolest feelings in the world that also brings an undeniable itch of inimitably detailed requirement.
Having waxed all due poetic, we’d like to point out that while our conclusions usually include some insight into the future development of a product, bullet journals are an ironic situation of taking one step back to move two steps forward. While you could achieve similar results by using a Wacom pen setup on your smartphone or tablet, some of the tangible pen-and-paper experience is lost on the smooth glass and computerized switching of writing modes. For some, this is too great a loss overall; for others, there’s no bargain great enough to entice them off digital recording and retention media. There’s nothing wrong with this. Bullet journals can take whatever form you’re most comfortable with. As Bob Ross would say, it’s your own little world; make it your happy place. As intellectual beings, it’s an essential requirement that we humans find well-rounded means of expressing our minds.