Tag: notebook

Notebook Review: Moo Notebook


Moo-ve over, Moleskine. Moo is about to show you a thing or two about how notebooks are supposed to be done.

Moo Notebook presentation box

Moo Notebook

First. Let’s talk about presentation and packaging. Now, normally, I’m not much for a lot of packaging because its usually stuff I have to either store or throw away especially in regards to fountain pens and that tends to be a lot of material that is not reusable or recyclable. In regards to notebooks though, a nice presentation box is something that is both recyclable and reusable. Moo is notorious for packaging that often lives long after all the business cards, postcards, or other paper ephemera has been distributed. I still have my original business card box from my first order of business cards that I use to transport cards to and from events almost a decade later. So, yeah for an awesome box.

Moo flyleaf on notebook

Moo Notebook and Slipcase


Next, for about the same price as a Moleskine notebook, the Moo notebook ships with a notebook and a slipcase. Now your notebook will have some amazing presentation on the shelf after its filled with your thoughts and ideas. Will my scribbles be worthy of a slipcase still remains to be seen, but having that option is certainly something that makes the Moo notebook more valuable than the average notebook.

colored pages in Moo Notebook

colored pages in Moo Notebook

Then there’s the colored pages in the center of the Moo notebook that provides a visual division between the front and back half of the book as well as blank pages for drawing, collage, and other purposes I haven’t thought of yet.

Tear and remove bellyband on Moo Notebook

Upon removing the bellyband on the Moo Notebook, there is a self-adhesive pocket that can be adhered into the notebook for business cards and other small ephemera.

note on reverse of bellyband on Moo Notebook


moo notebook pocketMoo coptic binding

But wait, I haven’t talked about the wicked, coptic, lay-flat binding. The cover opens flat, away from the spine to show the exposed binding, which is both aesthetically cool and functionally useful allowing the cover to open more fully. In the marketing materials, Moo expressly states that this binding method makes the notebook lay flat more easily which is better for left-handed writers. You know how to win my heart, Moo.

colored pages in Moo Notebook

Ribbon bookmark Moo Notebook

Oh, wait. I forgot to mention, they even thought to finish the edge of the ribbon bookmark so it doesn’t fray. And at the bottom of the box is a coordinating pencil, pre-sharpened with an inspiring message to get you going. Yeah. They thought of everything.

Moo Pencil in box


Seriously, at this point, even if the book has paper as crappy as your average Moleskine, its still leaps and bounds better at $20 than a Moleskine. If you’re looking for a great gift idea for someone who likes to write, do a little doodling or just likes beautiful things, this would make a perfect holiday gift. Just go order one. Go on… I’ll wait.

Lined paper and lay-flat binding in Moo Notebook

Now, let me tell you about my pen and pencil tests.

Pen & Pencil tests Moo Notebook white paper

I tested both the writing paper and the green blank paper. The information about the papers on the website list the white paper as Swedish Munken Kristall paper. There’s 160 pages and its lightly lined.

I decided not to hold back. I figured I’d throw the kitchen sink at this notebook and then accept my fate. Would it stand up to a bevy of brush pens or an assortment of fountain pens? Yup. Gel pens, rollerballs and even pigment-based Faber-Castell brush tip permanent pens. Yeah, some of the brush pens showed through but I was asking a lot but the paper withstood a lot more than I thought it would. And there was very little bleed through. There was no feathering issues on the right side of the paper and most pens dried in a reasonable amount of time which meant I wasn’t smudging my writing. If you really want to use both sides of the paper, stick to fine line pens, gel pens, pencils and fountain pens with lighter, drier inks.

At first, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the lines but they are light enough enough that the fact that they didn’t bleed to the edge of the page of to the spine did not end up bothering me.

Pen & Pencil tests Moo Notebook white paper reverse of stock

Pen & Pencil tests Moo Notebook white paper reverse of stock

Then I decided I’d use the green G . F Smith’s Colorplan Park Green paper for drawing (as recommended by the web site) and it held up to an assortment of pens, pencils and markers with no issues. There’s some nice tooth to the paper which was nice with both graphite and colored pencils. Even my Copic Sketch markers worked well but they did bleed through but only to the back of the paper and not to the next sheet. There wasn’t even show through of any of the other tools. The colored paper also made it possible to use opaque white gel pens for accent which was fun. It definitely reminded of how much I enjoyed using the Field Notes Sweet Tooth editions this summer. I almost want a whole book full of the Colorplan paper not just 16 pages.

Moo Notebook paper tests Color Plan Park green stock

I did some snooping and the Colorplan paper is either the 80#/120gsm or 91#/135gsm, in case you are curious about the specifics. I couldn’t narrow down exactly the weight of the Munken Kristall paper other than to establish its the Arctic line and its probably the 120gsm.

Moo Notebook paper tests Color Plan Park green reverse of stock

What’s the downside? The Moo notebooks are covered with grey fabric book cloth which look fabulous but, in my world, is a cat hair magnet of epic proportions. And it will probably have coffee and tea stains on in a New York minute. And ink stains. And a bit of mustard, at least I think that’s mustard. Best not to ask. Maybe I’m just accident prone and messy but if you’ve met me at a pen show, my fingers are perpetually ink-stained so its not a stretch to think my notebooks aren’t also likely to suffer a similar fate. The Moo notebook also does not have a big secretary pocket for holding larger ephemera like postcards, mail and meeting notes.

These are not make-or-break issues for me but I would like to see Moo add an option for an edition of the notebook with the same exterior material as is used on the slipcase as an option and I’d love an add-on adhesive pocket like the business card pocket that is larger and could be added onto orders for other ephemera. I love that Moo is moving into notebooks and I look forward to seeing what else they will do, especially after seeing how exceptional this notebook is.

The Moo Notebook is available directly from Moo for $19.99.

CLARIFICATION: The special black box packaging with the pencil is for the MOO notebook launch ONLY. Any notebooks purchased from the website will not include the pencil and outer black box. MOO includes just the hardcover notebook and the slipcover. I apologize for any confusion. It’s still an awesome product and far and away a better deal at $19.99 than other similarly-sized and priced notebooks.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Moo for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

15 Things to Do with An Empty Sketchbook

I got to thinking, with Inktober here and a whole pile of empty sketchbooks staring at me, I thought I’d compile a list of ideas to help you fill up one or more of those many empty sketchbooks you might have as well.


I wrote about important people in my life and drew their shoes for Uppercase Magazine! So much fun.

A photo posted by juliarothman (@juliarothman) on

  • Illustrate your favorite recipes (inspired by They Draw And Cook)
  • Draw your outfit, maybe what you’re wearing today, or your favorite outfit or what your kids are wearing. Document your shoe, bag or jewelry collection with notes about the who, whats and whys of the items. (Originally inspired by Julia Rothman’s Kind Soles piece that appeared in Uppercase Magazine #16)
  • Are you an avid reader or music collector? Draw the covers of your favorite books or albums or illustrate scenes based on the stories or lyrics. (inspired by the book, My Ideal Bookshelf)
  • Alphabet project: “A is for ….” This is another idea inspired by Uppercase Magazine. Each issue they do a themed alphabet around their issue theme and provide a word for each letter of the alphabet to that theme, like ceramics, stitchery, pattern & decoration and so forth. Then they provide a definition or visual representation of each term in the alphabet. For example in the Pattern & Decoration issue #21, “C is for Calico” and “W is for William Morris”. For whatever subject you have a particular interest in, you could do an alphabet project and try to think up terms, people or elements and illustrate each of them. In some cases you might have many to choose from and could do more than one.
  • Speaking of pattern: why not turn a sketchbook into a pattern book? Geometrics, repeating, linear, nonlinear, one-color, multi-color, representational, natural, textural… so many to choose from! Check out Uppercase Magazine Issue #21 (now sold out but the Surface Design Guide will be included in the upcoming issue #32), or artists like Lotta Jansdotter, Orla Kiely, Marimekko to get started with pattern design.
  • Attend figure drawing events, or other activities that allow you the opportunity to regularly draw from life be it your local coffee shop, your kids’ playground playdate or your long-suffering partner, pet or child enduring being the subject of yet another portrait drawing. Dedicate one sketchbook or notebook for this purpose. (Inspired by Ladies Drawing Night, Hallmark’s Noon Sketch Group and Roz Stendahl)
  • Collage. If the paper in a particular sketchbook or noteook is not sturdy enough for your favorite drawing or painting materials, use the book to collage in scraps of found materials like labels, stickers, menus, ticket stubs and other ephemera. Gesso the pages to add strength and let the book become a waffle-paged beast. Create an artist’s journal that documents your life events through drawings, photos and ephemera. (Inspired by Make Your Own Ideabook with Arne & Carlos: Create Handmade Art Journals and Bound Keepsakes to Store Inspiration and Memories)
  • Draw your breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or coffee. (inspired by Danny Gregory and Liz Steel)
  • Lettering practice. Sounds simple but using one book for a 15-minute-a-day practice doing lettering drills, writing a quote, the #rockyourhandwritingchallenge or some other specific task will help improve your lettering skills.
  • Dedicate one sketchbook to be your color key. Use this book to test, document and list all the pens, pencils, paints, inks and other art materials your own. Figure out which colors and brands you like, you think mix or blend well and keep them all in one book to use as your giant reference guide. Be sure this book is one with your favorite type of paper and has lots of pages as you will want to continue to update and reference it. A good rule of thumb is to use one side of the book to do swatch tests and then the other side to do a drawing with the materials to see how they perform in “real world” tests. (inspired by Jane Davenport)
  • Draw from old photographs. Go through your family photos or visit the local antique shops or thrift stores and use the old photos as points of reference for your drawings. (inspired by Maira Kalman’s book Girls Standing on Lawns)
  • Draw what you’re watching on television. Or YouTube. If you can’t get out to draw from life, draw the folks on TV. They can be just as interesting. And you can pause them mid-expression. Or rewind. Talking heads from newscast, vlogs or political debates are great for this.
  • While we are on the subject of television, why not draw some of your favorite characters from your favorite shows or movies? There have been lots of wonderful fan art circulating recently from Netflix’s Stranger Things and there’s always a plethora of Star Wars fan art. Embrace your inner geek and draw your favorite scenes from your favorite shows or movies, or create new scenarios. Didn’t like the ending of LOST, fix it. What’ really happened at the end of X-Files? You can draw it.
  • Document the news in illustrations. Be it good or bad, use your drawing skills to capture the moments in time.
  • Collaborative Sketchbook: You can create a shared sketchbook between a friend or loved one be it one other person or a group of people or a whole heap of strangers. (inspired by 3191milesapart.com , Dana Barbieri and Anne Butera from Uppercase Magazine #29 and 1000journals.com)

But really though, what about Barb? . . . . . . #strangerthings #barb #illustration

A photo posted by Mariya Pilipenko (@mariya.pilipenko) on

Need more ideas? Check out the book Playing With Sketches: 50 Creative Exercises for Designers and Artists.

Do you have ideas for things to do with sketchbooks that are piling up? Please leave your ideas in the comments!


Review: Denik Sketchbooks & Notebooks

Denik Notebooks 2

Denik Notebooks 1

Denik Love Sketchbook Denik Love Sketchbook inside


Denik is an artist-designed notebook company that’s mission is to change the world with art. It’s doing this by contributing part of their profits to education and by paying the artists that create the cover designs a royalty fee for their designs.

Last year, they helped to build the Denik Middle School in Zambougou, Mali. They are currently working on funding a school in Laos and are working with Pencils of Promise, to build a school in Guatemala which will start in the Spring of 2017.

In their spirit of generosity, they sent me a huge stack of notebooks to review. So many, that I enlisted the help of friends in order to test all the notebooks in a timely fashion. Jordan, Marcos, Allyson, Kim, Terence, Bob, and Meshelle all pitched in to provide feedback and assistance in reviewing these notebooks and sketchbooks. For all of them, it was their first outings reviewing a notebook so I’m pooling their comments and opinions to streamline this review. Otherwise this would have had to be an ebook.

The notebooks that we had to review are:

  • Plaid Classic (5.25″ x 8.25″, hardcover with flannel fabric over board, 60 heavyweight pages, blank) $24.95
  • Granite Softcover (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, lined) $11.95
  • Drawing Mountains (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, blank) $11.95
  • Margerita Illustrated by Lisa Congdon (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, blank) $11.95
  • Hideaway (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, lined) $11.95
  • Floral Beauty (5.25″ x 8.25″ 150 pages acid-free, 75% recycled paper, blank) $11.95
  • Floral Love Sketchbook (8″ x 10.5″ 150 pages of acid free, 75% recycled paper, blank) $10.95
  • Crazy Ideas Sketchbook (9″ x 11″ 77# natural, 150 pages of acid free, 75% recycled paper, perforated) $14.95

The Plain Paper Notebooks:

For efficiency, I’m going to group all the plain paper notebooks together. These are the books that Bob, Marcos, and I tested. It includes the 150-page, 5.25″ x 8.5″ “Hideaway,” “Floral Beauty,” Margerita,’ “Drawing Mountains,” and the larger 8″ x 10.5″ “Floral Love” Sketchbook.

All the books have a “soft-touch” cover, rounded corners and a perfect bound spine. The sketchbook in the exception in that is has square corners.

Denik Tamale Illo 1

I used my Cross Century II with blue felt tip refill and colored pencils for my first page. I got some show through and a little bleed through where I had the most color coverage with the felt tip ink.

Denik Red pen test

Marco used a red felt tip pen with similar results to my page above. I think it was the Pentel Sign Pen or similar which would be similar to a Micron or a Multiliner. He got a bit a show through but no actual bleed through.

Denik Tamale illo 2

More tamale art with colored pencils, felt tip and a little bit of alcohol marker as well.

Denik microns

Bob did a light bit of sketching with a Copic Multiliner and there’s some evidence of the show through on the reverse side of his page. So we all got similar results and we all love to use felt tips!

Denik collage

Marco did some collage work with ink, and pasted papers which I absolutely love. He used foil papers, kraft, and card stocks. The glue caused the paper to buckle a little bit but the collage looks so cool, who cares?

Denik brush pen

More of Marco’s drawings, this time with a brush pen.

Denik Sakura Identipen

The Sakura IdentiPen is similar to a traditional Sharpie permanent marker so it had plenty of show through and some bleed through but the paper held up fine for doodling. You can also see some of the showthrough from the Pentel Finito Xtra Fine page on the lefthand side.

Denik Pentel finito Denik Sharpie

Sharpie permanent markers, like other alcohol-based markers bleed through the paper a lot and even on to the next page so if you’re planning to do note taking with a Sharpie, you may want to put a piece of cardstock under your page or a pencil board to protect the sheets below. Still looks pretty cool in Marco’s capable hands. (If he keeps this up, I might be out of a job!)

Denik Copic Fountain Pen

This page is a mix of Copic Drawing Fountain Pen and alcohol marker for the gray shading. The fountain pen has a little show through but not much bleed through. As you’ll see further down, Copics and other alcohol markers bleed through quite a lot.

Denik Colored Pencils 2

Bob sketched with colored pencils and liked the way the paper kept his colors bright and true on the crisp white paper. The smoothness was a plus too.

Denik Colored Pencils

Bob also experimented with laying down a thick layer of color to get a solid build up of pigment to see how the paper handled it. He was pleased with the results.

Denik Erasable Colored Pencils

I tested the paper with pencils and a much lighter hand with my sketch of 11 from Stranger Things. I used the Pilot Color Eno Neox erasable leads in my Cross Century. I agreed that the smooth paper was a good match for colored pencils.

Denik Gouache

I also tried some gouache on the paper. I got a little bit of buckling as the paper is not really designed to handle wet media but not so much that for a small sketch it would bother me. I wouldn’t recommend full on watercolor work though.

Denik Notebooks Copics

Denik Copic pen 3

Then we have our Copic and alcohol-marker tests. Both Marco and I had the same results. The colors bled to the back and some colors bled all the way to the next page and to the back side of that. Dark colors bled even further. So, proceed with caution, use a slip sheet or skip the Copics with the blank notebooks.

The Lined Notebook:

The Hideaway and Granite notebooks are both lined and feature softcovers  and the same paper, page count and general configuration as the blank notebooks. They have the same rounded corners and soft touch covers as well. Allyson’s big complaint was that she was not a fan of the soft touch covers. They reminded her of nails on a chalkboard sensations. It is definitely not a sensation for everyone.

Denik Lined

The ruling inside is 7mm and the lines are a dark gray. There is additional space at the top of each space for a title. The lines could be a wee bit thinner or lighter for my taste but no one else complained about them so maybe I’m just super picky. Meshelle, Terence and Allyson were all under tight deadlines this past week so their comments were limited so I did standard pen tests on the lined notebooks. Felt tips pens and darker, juicier fountain pens left some dot bleed through. Rollerballs, like the Regal Alice, and particularly wet fountain pens like the Karas Kustoms with super-saturated Robert Oster Blue Sea ink (also the blob of ink in the top corner) left its mark on the reverse of the paper which you can see in the photo below. Overall, the results in the lined notebooks are consistent with the blank notebooks which lead me to believe its probably the same paper.

With gel pens like the Pilot Hi-Tec C, there was no show through or bleed though issue so that’s good. And pencils performed just fine. I particularly liked the  Mitsubishi Prussian Blue/Vermillion pencil. It was lush and dark on the paper.

I wish that Denik was less obscure with the actual weight of the paper in the notebooks. Its a very Moleskine-y thing to do. Denik is specific with the sketchbook paper weight, why not be specific with the notebooks too?

Denik Lined

The Sketchbook:

Denik Sketchbook

The Crazy Ideas Sketchbook  is a classic wire bound sketchbook and exactly the kind of sketchbook that Bob would gravitate towards. The large format 9″ x 11″ size and wire binding is his go-to format. The paper is a little lighter weight than his favored Canson XL Mix Media but its a little larger in size and the perforation means its a little cleaner and easier to remove pages for sharing and scanning.

Denik Sketchbook drawing tools 1

None of Bob’s regular drawing tools like felt tips, rollerballs, pencils or gel pens had any show through or bleed through and he liked the light tooth and weight of the paper. The paper was thick enough to feel substantial but not so thick as too take itself TOO seriously. He could doodle, sketch or take notes at will and not feel too precious about the paper. That’s just how he likes his sketchbooks.

Denik Sketchbook drawing tools 2

When it got into more marker territory, there was definite show through with those pesky Copics but not as bad as there was with the notebook paper and it certainly didn’t bleed to the next page. This is much better for drawing purposes. With watercolor brush markers, there was no show through at all. Even adding water to spread the color, there is only a little buckling. This is not really watercolor paper though. I did find that this paper was okay for a bit of gouache as well but again, it did pucker a bit. So, I’d rate it “light wash” and ink only and not full-on watercolor or wet media. It would do in a pinch but would cause some weird pooling due to the paper buckling.

Denik Sketchbook Fountain pens

As for fountain pens, I had really good luck with no feathering and little show through. I’d actually use it for calligraphy practice since the sheets are large, easy to remove and fairly smooth.

The Hardcover Notebook:

The hardcover notebook had a woolly flannel plaid cover with a leather tag debossed with the Denik logo on it. Very subtle. On the inside covers was a black and white mottled print that reminds me of a composition book. And the whole book reminded me of something Jordan would love and I was right. There is also a red satin ribbon bookmark inside this book. I wish the ribbon had been finished on the end to keep it from fraying but  some white glue or a FrayCheck should stop it. A flame might work as well but since I am letting Jordan keep this book since she tested it, I’m not going to set it on fire, just in case.

Denik Pencil and Sharpie

Jordan used some colored pencils and a Sharpie permanent marker too. We Hallmarkers are nothing if not consistent. She was overall really happy with the thicker paper though the Sharpie permanent markers did still bleed through. You can see the Sharpie show through on the photo below.

Denik Ink and more

Jordan found that pen and ink and felt tip was awesome on this smooth paper and had little to no issue with bleed through because it was thicker. The ink washes did not cause any warping or buckling. Jordan was able to get a range of blacks and grays which made for a happy lettering artist.

Denik Watercolor

Jordan also experimented with her Koi watercolors. She got some warping of the paper but was still able to produce some good color range. Once the paper was dry, the weight of the book itself flattened the paper back out to create satisfactory results for sketching and experimentation.

The Verdict:

I really like the cover designs of the notebooks and sketchbooks. The artwork is very cool and there are lots of options to choose from, designs ranging from inspirational quotes to textural patterns. Some covers even feature gold foil stamping for extra zing.

I thought I was going to love the softcover notebooks but I find that they don’t lay flat enough for me and I really have to work them to keep them open or roll the covers back on themselves. The fact the covers are fexible enough to fold back on themselves is a plus for some though. In general though, I’m more inclined to use the softcover notebooks for notetaking rather than art-making. The lined versions would be good for general writing, list-making, journaling and the like and the 7mm ruling is in that sweet spot of ruling being neither too wide nor too narrow.

While I was initially hesitant about the spiral bound sketchbooks, I have been won over to them. The paper is good quality for drawing, pen and ink and most markers as well as light gouache and water media making it good as a daily sketchbook. Having used the spiral bound for a couple weeks, I have been won over to the idea of a wirebound sketchbook in general. I like the lay-flat-ability and the perforation makes it easy to remove pages for scanning and other digital capture.

The Plaid Classic hardcover with the extra-heavyweight pages was also a huge hit and I hope that Denik will continue to produce this particular configuration because it was a clear winner. Jordan handed it over to me with a sheepish “I’m gonna get this back, right?”  look in her eye. It is being returned to her today as are all the other books that were tested as thanks to everyone who helped out on this epic notebook and sketchbook testing project.

For more information about Denik you can follow them on Instagram, Twitter or on Facebook

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Denik for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ask The Readers: B5 Hardcover Notebook

ask the readers header

Okay, gang, now I need your help! Sometimes, questions come into my inbox and I ponder and query and google and I come up with nothing. So, I’m hoping that the massive collective hive mind of stationery genius out there can help out. Maybe you use or have seen something to help Linda.


Linda is begging for help:
The notebook I have used since 2008 is now out of print. I bought all the stock I could find and am down to my last two. I need a suitable replacement but haven’t had much luck. Perhaps the Desk can advise?

What I Need:

  • Hardcover
  • B5 or a tad bigger, but not A4
  • White pages, not cream or ivory
  • Thick pages that do not bleed (Sharpies excluded, of course)
  • Dot grid, graph, etc. Even lined, maybe if the lines are unobtrusive
  • Smooth paper

I’m a fan of Apica, Kokuyo’s Campus notebooks, Rhodia dotgrid. But I can find nothing both hardcover and B5.
Any tips?
I’m getting stingy with my notetaking and brainstorming in order to make my current notebooks last.

I am at a loss to find a good replacement for you, Linda. B5 size is close to a US Composition notebook and, for some reason, this size notebook always seem to have a flexible cover, whether they are US, Japanese or European. Moleskine’s XL size is a B5 but the paper is warm white and not everyone’s favorite. The only bright white options I could find were Leucthtrum 1917 but I couldn’t find that they offered this particular size configuration in hardcover. Only softcover. So, I’m rallying the troops! Do you have a recommendation for Linda?

Ask The Desk: Notebooks (TN, XL and A5 Filo)


Matt writes:

Dear desk, My question is: I own two travelers Midori journals. One is the regular size while the other is the passport sized one. I am currently using the passport sized one for planning and bullet journaling/taking random notes in. I am not sure what to use the regular sized one for at this point. I was thinking as a daily journal. Any suggestions? P.S. — Do you use these too? Thank you. Matthew


The great thing about Traveler’s notebooks is that they can be used as you need them. So if you find that most of your needs are being served by the passport-sized cover right now, you can put aside the regular-sized one for awhile. However, I found that I loved the size of the regular sized Traveler’s notebook, even though it seems a little unusual. They are particularly good for journaling and traveloguing. I ended up using mine for planning too and the smaller sizes for note-taking and randomness. I don’t think I provided much clarity but the flexibility is the key to Traveler’s notebooks and the ability to use small booklets means you can try one method for awhile and see what works best for you. I’m excited to try my newest inserts, the Ink Journal with the Currently Inked card and the Inky Fingers Currently Inked Journal to help me keep track of what inks are in which pens.

Thomas asks:

I start law school in a few weeks, and I’m looking for a nice notebook to use for class notes. I just moved into my first house, and found my notes from undergraduate and and a masters program. They’re spread across lots of spiral notebooks that are looking as ratty as ever. I know that my notes for law school will be even more important, so I’d like to make sure they have a good home. In reading through your reviews, it seems most of the notebooks you look at are the A5 size–I carry (and love) a Moleskine A5 for meeting notes, ideas, and to-do lists–but for class notes I need something bigger, in the neighborhood of 8×10 or 8.5×11. I really like the classic look of Moleskine, but was also intrigued by the hardcovers from Baron Fig–only to be dismayed to find that they don’t make a larger version. So I’m wondering if you have a sense of who makes lined books that are little bigger, and that are affordable enough that I can buy a dozen or so over time without taking out a second mortgage. I’m also left handed, so that means that smearing is my worst enemy. I write everyday with a Uniball Vision Needle pen, which usually dries very quickly for me, but sometimes it has trouble on the Moleskine paper. And if anyone has done enough paper tests, its you! I would be extremely grateful for any thoughts you might have. Thanks for your time! Cheers, -Thomas


The first notebook I thought of was the Leuchtturm1917 Master series (A4 measures 9″ x 12.5″ – 225 x 315 mm – 121 pages in the Slim and 223 in the standard Master), which I suspect might be second mortgage requiring at around $27 per book for the Slim and $30 for the regular Master. Jenni Bick stocks both in a variety of colors and all the paper configurations (plain, ruled, graph or dot grid). The paper quality is good and the books hold up well but they are pricey.

So, I went digging for other options.

Still a bit pricey, the Blackwing Luxury Large Soft Cover Notebook (7.5 x 10) offers 160 pages of 100 gsm paper in plain, lined or graph and will fit into the Blackwing Large Folio. European Paper sells the books for $21.95 each but offers volume discount pricing so if you decide this is the notebook for you, you might save a few pennies ordering in bulk.

The Fabriano EcoQua Notebooks are available in 8×12″ size in either staplebound booklets with 38 sheets ($4.79) or gluebound with 90 sheets ($8.35) from Dick Blick. Its smooth 85gsm soft white paper that should work well with your Uniball Vision and available in lined or dot gird. The covers are cardstock, however, so its not as durable as a hardcover notebook but definitely easier on the wallet.

If anyone has other A4-ish sized notebook recommendations for Thomas, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Emily asks:

I’m looking for an A5 notebook that comes pre-punched with filofax-esque holes. I would like to use my A5 filo as the “home” for all the notes I take in meetings without actually taking my filo with me to meetings. Ideally it would also have perforated pages. Am I asking too much of the notebook world for such a thing? Thanks!!!

I have not seen any A5 notebooks that are pre-punched with holes for Filofax and that’s most distressing! I noticed that Michael’s was stocking pre-punched Personal-sized paper (not perforated) recently for their Recollections “Creative Year” planner lines but not A5. They had a custom larger-sized binder with four holes. So odd and unhelpful.

Readers, if you can help Emily, please leave a note in the comments. Thanks!

Notebook Review: Story Supply Co. Working Artists’ Series Mike Hawthorne Edition

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

Story Supply Co. released their first Working Artist Series Sketchbook — The Mike Hawthorne Edition this month and its notable for a lot of reasons. First, the 2-pack volume is an oversized booklet at 5.25″x 7.5″ inches. Its also filled with thicker 70# Cougar natural smooth paper. Third, the covers are wraparound illustrations by the awesomely talented Marvel Comics artist, Mike Hawthorne and feature two unique storied illustrations on the covers. On one is characters prepared to go into battle and the other, the same characters celebrating symbolic of the phases of creativity. Oh, and the last… its costs just $14 for the pack.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

The covers are printed on a classic 100# kraft stock and Mike signed and dated the covers in white pen as this series is limited to 5000 packs. Sales of each of these packs allows one sketchbook to be donated to a young artist in York, PA with his or her own story to be told.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

On the inside covers, Mike included his tutorials on how to draw a face. I used the steps to draw my own face. Not quite up to Mike’s graceful line quality but the tutorial is a classic that any fledgling artist should try.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

I tested out a lot of different tools on the paper which is super smooth. Brush pens, markers, fineliners and pencils seem best suited to the paper. I definitely treated it like a sketchbook on these tests using materials I’d use for drawing. In other words, I totally forgot to test out my arsenal of fountain pens! But I will put some photos on Instagram later with some fountain pen tests soon.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

I could certainly apply watercolor but the paper was not really designed for it as it did cause the paper to curl quite a bit. I used the Sailor Fude fountain pen to create the pattern along the side and my Platinum Maki-e for the lettering and neither feathered, Both pens dried quickly as well.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

From the reverse, there was a little showthrough but minimal. I do stuff like this to purposely test paper limitations. You can clearly see ho much the watercolor curled the paper so I wouldn’t have wanted to draw on the reverse of this page anyway. My instinct is to recommend using watercolor pencils to add color with a semi-dry waterbrush or using watercolor markers if you want to add color to black line art on this paper. I think the effects would be pretty good with a lot less curl. Plus, colored pencil looks great on this smooth stock.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

I really enjoyed using this paper for mark making. I’ve been playing with patterns and the smoothness of the paper lends itself to a black pen, pencil, colored pencils. Its definitely smoother paper than you’ll find in most commercial sketchbooks so it creates a different experience. The size is perfectly portable and not so large as to be intimidating or overwhelming. Mike’s awesome cover art, however, is a lot to live up to!

Overall, I love this book. I love the size, the heavier weight paper and I love that Story Supply Co. is exploring a working artists series. And as a comic book geek, I love that they are working with Mike Hawthorne. I can’t wait to see who they will work with next. Not to sway Story Supply Co., but I’d love to see them work with a female artist — young girls need heroes too. Keep up the great work!

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Story Supply Co. for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

One Book July: Halfway Point

One Book July Halfway

I have to admit that after more than two weeks of One Book July, I’m about to lose my mind. I already fell off the bandwagon by putting a pocket-sized Moleskine sketchbook in my purse so that I have a portable-sized notebook for jotting notes on the go.

So my first downside to One Book July is not  always having a book that fits in my bag or pocket.

One Book July Halfway

Then, there’s the issue of the whole Bullet Journaling system… its not been my strong suit. I have been planning several trips that are coming up in August and October. Normally, I’d write all the details down in my Filofax which I keep a whole year in the binder at a time. With a Bullet Journal, there’s the need to write and re-write things in sections like “Forward Planning” and a monthly list and then later in the weekly pages. With my Filofax, I only have to write it down once in the weekly page and maybe on the monthly pages if its an all-day event or something that extends several days. So, that’s the next issue I’ve faced – I miss my Filofax.

I don’t really like keeping my personal notes in the same book with my work notes either. I seldom need my work notes once I’ve gotten home. I do tend to think of things I want to do when I get home or over the weekend while I’m at work so I do tend to carry my personal notebook back and forth with me. So its been weird to try to keep all the notes in one notebook. I’ve ended up cheating and keeping a lot of work notes on 3x5s and sticky notes rather than in my notebook just so I don’t have to keep the notes in my One Book July. So, its another fail for me.

One Book July Halfway

I know I need to continue for another two weeks to be true to the One Book July challenge but I’m not sure I can handle the compromises for two more weeks. I know it sounds ridiculous to need more than one notebook to survive but I’m that OCD.

On the plus side, I really like the the Midori MD notebook ($16) I’ve been using. The paper quality i excellent and has held up to all the pens and pencils I’ve used with it. I purchased the plastic cover ($3.80) for it which has made it feel much more durable and provided pockets to stash loose paper and keep the cream paperboard cover from getting dirty. I will certainly continue to use the Midori MD notebooks in the future. It’s some of the best paper I’ve used yet if you don’t mind the ivory cream stock.

One Book July Halfway

I wonder if I had chosen a Traveler’s Notebook with multiple booklets, if that would have more easily fulfilled my need for work, personal and calendar needs as well as being able to pull out a booklet for portability sake? It’s something to consider for next year.