Bullet Journaling 101: Choosing Your Journal
Okay, so you’re ready to start bullet journaling, but you want to make sure you get the best journal possible. With so many on the market, where do you even begin? What’s best for someone else isn’t necessarily best for you, and so there are many different factors to consider. What will you be using your journal for? What kind of budget are you on? Do you prefer to use a plain pen, or a variety of supplies? Do you care more about value or quality?
The number one thing that you absolutely need in order to do bullet journaling is a journal. That’s a non-negotiable. No matter what you intend to use your journal for, no matter what stationery you plan on using with it, you will need some kind of notebook to put everything in. However, it’s not necessarily as simple as just walking into any shop and grabbing the first notebook you see. There are many factors to consider when picking the perfect journal.
So, there are 4 main types of paper that can come in a journal, and each can be useful depending on what you’re planning to use your journal for. These types are plain paper, lined paper, gridded paper, and dot grid paper.
Plain paper is most useful if you plan to have lots of art spreads in your journal. Art journals are used when you want to express your emotions and thoughts through drawings instead of words. Plain paper can also be useful if you don’t have any need for organisation on the page, and instead prefer the creative freedom to be able to write anywhere on the page, at any angle, without it looking unintentional.
Lined paper is the best if your journal will have lots of pages with blocks of writing. Maybe you intend to use your journal mainly as a diary, and so you like the convenience of having the lines. However, lined paper isn’t ideal if you’re planning on doing art pages, or including doodles on your diary pages. The thick lines will detract from any aesthetic features you include, and it can also make trackers look messy, especially if you’re making titles that are more than 1 line tall.
Gridded paper is rarely used for journaling, as just like lined paper, the thick grids will detract from any drawings you include. Gridded paper also has the added detriment that any writing you do will also look messy because there will be lines going down through it. Gridded paper is only really useful if you want to plan out patterns for projects, or if you’re doing math equations.
Dot grid paper is by far the most popular choice when it comes to bullet journaling. The dots are a great reference on the page, without being as harsh as lined or gridded paper. They aren’t intrusive when making art spreads, and they’re really useful when making trackers. Some people prefer lighter dots, and some prefer darker dots, so it’s about going with your personal preference.
Once you’ve decided what type of paper is going to be best for your bullet journaling needs, the next thing you need to consider is the thickness of the paper. Again, this will depend very much on your needs, and the stationery supplies that you’ll be using. Thicker paper tends to be a bit more expensive, and may have less pages than journals with thinner paper. However, if you use thinner paper, then your pens may bleed through to the other side, making your pages look messy.
If you’re mainly planning on using the journal for diary style purposes, or using very plain trackers, then you can probably get away with thinner paper. However, you don’t want to go below 110gsm paper, as paper thinner than that will likely have issues with bleeding no matter what supplies you’ll be using. You will still probably see some ghosting (where the pen marks show through faintly on the other side), but as long as you don’t use a pen with heavy ink flow, then it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Thinner paper might also work if you’re planning to use stencils, or cut out printables to stick in your journal. These can be useful if your hand lettering isn’t great, and you can find a font that really speaks to you. There are an excellent range of fonts available on the Creative Fabrica website, such as this one which could be used for big, bold title pages.
If you want to avoid any ghosting, or if you’ll be using pens with a heavier ink flow, then your best bet is to go with thicker paper. The most popular thickness for journals is 160gsm, as this is thick enough that most pens won’t even ghost. There are many companies that produce 160gsm paper, and so it’s good to have a look online to find styles that appeal to you. Some companies, such as Mindful Giraffe, even go up to 170gsm thickness. The extra thickness means that even pens with a heavy ink flow don’t ghost through, and 170gsm is useful if you’re planning to include a lot of art throughout your journal.
It’s important to be aware that alcohol markers will ghost through pretty much any paper. This is to do with the way that the ink permeates the page. Only specialist marker papers are able to withstand ghosting from alcohol markers, but marker paper isn’t really suited to general journaling.
You can find journals in a multitude of sizes, and so it’s important to consider your own preferences. The most common sizes for journals are B6, A5, B5, and A4.
B6 journals are handy if you’ll be doing journaling on the go. They’re small enough to fit comfortably into your handbag, and so you can take it with you without having to bring a tote bag or backpack. However, due to their limited size, you can’t fit as much content on the page, and so you may find yourself struggling for space.
A5 journals offer a good balance between convenience and practicality. Their pages are compact without being too limiting, and you can fit a good amount of content on to each page. A5 journals are particularly good for beginners, as they’re not as intimidating as one of the larger sizes.
B5 journals are another very popular size for those who bullet journal. Whilst they’re too large to conveniently take around with you, they’re great if you’ll be doing your journaling in one place. They have larger page sizes than A5, so you can fit more on, however they can seem a bit overwhelming if you’re new to journaling. B5 journals are excellent for people who are confident about the content they want to include.
A4 journals are probably the least commonly used, because their size can be very intimidating. They’re also quite bulky, which means they’ll take up a lot of space on your desk. These are probably best to use if you like making long diary entries, or you want to make complex notes about a topic.
Whilst we’ve covered the basics of the differences between journals, there are still going to be other things that will matter to you when you’re choosing. Firstly, you need to make sure you choose a design that appeals to you. You’ll be looking at it every time you get your journal, so it’s important that the cover makes you feel happy and inspired. There are some beautiful designs out there, so take your time to search through the available options once you’ve decided on the specifics of what you want from the paper.
You also want to think about whether you’d prefer pages that are stuck together, or ring bound. Ring bound journals can be useful to save space as you can just fold them down the middle and work on pages one at a time. However, it also creates a disconnect between pages, and means you can’t do two-page spreads. You can also find disc bound journals, which have the same pros and cons as ring bound ones, except you can also open them up to add/ take away pages. These can be useful if you’d prefer to buy paper refills rather than a new journal once you run out of pages.
Whichever journal you decide to go with, hopefully it’ll be one that works for your needs. Have fun searching!