October 8th, 2020
Choosing a notebook to use for your bullet journal is a simple pleasure that us bullet journallers and stationary addicts look forward to every year.
There's nothing more joyful than opening up a fresh new notebook; touching the fresh new pages as you think about all of the beautiful moments waiting to fill your life and your journal.
Last year I did some intense research on which notebook to buy. I sat at my desk writing up pro's and cons, features, prices, durability... any information I could find. I ordered my chosen notebook and excitedly waited by the door for my Amazon delivery... thankfully we had Amazon prime. Sadly, as soon as I saw the front cover of the notebook I knew it wasn't for me. I refused to settle for something that didn't feel right in my hands so I sent it back and finally gave in to an Archer and Olive...the one I really wanted to try last year! It was Christmas by this point, UK suppliers were out of stock and I had to it order from the US. My heart sank when I realised it wouldn't arrive in time to set up for the new year.
Which is exactly why I decided to start early this year! I love my Archer and Olive journal but I love trying new notebooks and there is SO much choice now, it would be crazy not to try a new one! I kept my eyes peeled for new journal companies that were popping up all over instagram and also had some brands in mind that I'd wanted to try out for a while.
I reached out to these brands and I was lucky enough to be gifted 4 beautiful notebooks that I wanted to test out for this review. One of these is going to be my 2021 bullet journal. It's never an easy decision, so I've analysed every aspect of each notebook to help with the decision. I wanted something that feels as luxurious as my current journal - once you've had a taste of Archer and Olive you can't go back. So if you're looking to try out a premium notebook, these are going to be the options for you.
Some links are affiliate links. The cost to you for these products is the same (sometimes cheaper), but I earn a small commission that helps to keep my business alive :-)
The first journal I tested was the A5 Ink Pot journal, which is a UK based company. I was so happy to finally discover a company in the UK that provides premium dotted notebooks for bullet journalling.
It's an A5 hardcover notebook that comes in 9 different colours. I went for a beautiful navy with a gold foil hummingbird on the front. Yes that's right, you can choose the design that you want on the front. There's a great selection to choose on the website, and you can even choose the colour of the foil - gold, silver, copper, white or black. You can choose to have an acronym or small word instead if you prefer. You can also personalise it with your initials in the bottom right corner.
It's the same dimensions as the archer and olive journal and it has 176 pages.
It has an elastic closure to secure the notebook and one page marker.
Inside the notebook, there's a page for you to write your name and contact details if you lose it and then it goes straight into the dot grid pages. There aren't any page numbers and the dots are grey and clearly visible - very similar to the Archer and Olive journals. The journal lies flat and has crisp white pages. At the back there is an envelope for paper or stickers
The paper is 160gsm so I didn't expect to see any ghosting or bleeding from the pen test and I was right.
I tried out a sakura pigma micron fineliner, a faber castell fineliner, a tombow fudenosuke, a tombow brush pen, a sharpie, gel pens, a fountain pen. I also tested an Archer and Olive acrylograph paint pen and a water colour crayon to see how the page responds to water.
The sharpie is the only pen that really showed up behind the page but i've never found a notebook that can handle a sharpie... this held up pretty well.
There wasn't any wrinkling or warping from the water and no feathering around the fountain pen. A pretty successful pen test. The notebook felt incredibly similar to an Archer and Olive journal and comes at an amazing price. It's only £15 ($19) plus an extra £5 to customise it with a date or 4 letter word.
The next notebook I looked at was the Scribble and Dot. This felt like such a premium journal in my hands... I couldn't stop touching it when it first arrived!
It's an A5 dotted journal, with a pretty strong and sturdy hardcover. The covers are SO pretty and come in 5 different colours and designs. The Dachschund (in the photo above) and the Monstera lead are my personal favourites. Take a look at these and you'll immediately fall in love with them.
It's the same size as the Archer and Olive and Ink Pot journals. There's a pen holder, an elastic enclosure and then a page for your name and the date you're starting the journal.
The pages feel very soft and silky... again I just wanted to stroke them!
The first few pages are for a key and to write up an index, and the pages are numbered, which is really helpful if you use an index.
It lies flat and the pages are a nice ivory colour. The dots are light grey. They are very light, and just about visible. So if you don't like your dots too visible, this may be the notebook for you. There are 2 page markers and a pocket at the back.
The pages are again 160gsm, and there are a couple of dedicated pages for pen tests, which I liked! The pens write wrote really smoothly and there was no feathering from the fountain pen. I checked for ghosting and bleeding behind the page and found the pens were barely visible from behind, with the sharpie showing up more, as expected. All of the pens showed up just a touch more than on the Ink Pot and Archer and Olive journals, but not significantly. The paper held up pretty well with water. There was a tiny bit of wrinkling where I applied the water, so I wouldn't want to use too much water on the pages.
This one is also £15 ($19), which is such a good price considering how premium it feels.
Up next we have the dotted Baron Fig Confidant notebook. The Baron Fig brand really appealed to me because of the clean minimal aesthetic and the motto: Tools for Thinkers.
The stationary is beautiful and I personally love using the Dotted Mastermind Deskpad for brainstorming and mind maps and the dotted sticky notes. So of course I had to try out the signature notebook. It's a clothbound hardcover notebook that comes in 6 different colours.
I got the flagship size, which is smaller than the journals we've looked at so far. It's a great size to throw into your bag and take around with you. If I don't use it as my bullet journal, I'd definitely have it as a notebook that I take everywhere with me. It seems perfect for jotting down important thoughts throughout daily life.
There isn't an elastic band with this one and it has one page marker. It lies flat and the dots are a light grey and are quite thick.
The pages are 90gsm, an off-white colour and there aren't any page numbers. Although the pages are thinner than the other notebooks I looked at, they still seem durable and luxurious.
The pages at the back are perforated so you can rip them out if you want to. That could be handy if you don't want to keep pen tests in your journal.
There wasn't any feathering when writing.. and i noticed that the dots are quite visible through the pens, especially the coloured tombow brush pen. It was almost as if the pens and markers were underneath the dots.
The pen tests results showed that the pens did show up slightly from behind, but surpisingly not as much you'd expect, considering how thin the paper is. This is excluding the sharpie of course, which shows up on everything. The paper also held up pretty well with water on it, I didn't notice any significant warping.
This one is priced at £14 ($18).
Finally we have the Maisie Lane A5 dot grid journal. I love the beautiful vegan faux leather covers, they feel so luxurious. There are 5 elegant colour options and a gold foil doodle on the spine which makes the journal feel really unique.
You can have some text printed on front in white or matte gold and there are some beautiful fonts to choose from. I went for the dainty font in matte gold. I think it would be great to have a word for the year printed on the front (e.g. Flourish, Grow or Gratitude). I wish I did that now!
It's the same size as the Archer and Olive and Ink Pot journals, and it has 192 pages
it has a matching elastic band to hold it together and the front page says: "This journal is loved by..." Simple touches like that make me so happy, because our journals really are precious things that we love... so it's just perfect.
The journal lays flat even more-so than the others did and the pages are pure white.
There aren't any page numbers, there are 2 page markers and there's a pocket at the back.
The pages are 160gsm so again I expected good results from the pen test. The pens write really smoothly on the page, including the fountain pen, which I really enjoyed, and they showed up really well. There was no ghosting behind the page, and even the sharpie was quite faint too. The paper responded very well to water, I actually didn't notice any wrinkling or warping.
This notebook is £18 ($24) and an extra $5 for personalisation.
Finally I had a quick look to see if my Archer and Olive kraft notepad paper would fit in these notebooks, because I like that when I use the kraft notepad paper I don't have to do much trimming for it to fit well in my journal. The notepad paper fit best in the Maisie Lane and the Ink Pot, with just a small gap near the binding (similar to when it's in an Archer and Olive). It fit reasonably well in the Scribble and Dot but there was a bit of a gap near the binding and at also at the bottom of the page. The notepad paper is much too big for the Baron Fig, but the curved edges fit, which is handy for most spreads, when you don't plan to stick down the full length of the notepad paper.
I honestly love all 4 of these notebooks and I will definitely use them all whether or not they end up being my chosen bullet journal.
I've put together a comparison table with more detail about each of the notebooks here. So if you're as geeky as I am, be sure to check that out below.
Also, if you have your heart set on either a Maisie Lane or Archer and Olive, my affiliate links will give you an extra 10% off Archer and Olive or 15% off Maisie Lane:
15% OFF MAISIE LANE (use code RAKSHA15)
10% OFF ARCHER AND OLIVE (use code RAKSHA10)
I also have a video on my YouTube channel showing you all of the features and pen tests in these notebooks, so take a look at this if you want to see it all come to life: