Turn a Blank Notebook into a Lined Notebook

Updated: September 24, 2017

H. C. Marks (@HCMarks) on Twitter asked “do you know of any stencils with which to draw ruled lines in blank notebooks?”

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I have something so much better, at least in my humble opinion. I use a sheet of lined paper that I tuck under my blank page to create perfectly straight lines that are there. But not. Using a guide sheet does not require any prep time. Just slide the sheet behind your current page and start writing.

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And his request could not have been more timely as I’ve been planning to make up a few different line widths to share with readers so that you too can try this. The sheets have pretty thick dark lines that can be seen through most standard writing paper. I’ve tested these sheets in my Rhodia Uni Blank for several weeks.

Guide Sheet, 6mm
With Guide Sheet under Rhodia Paper, 6mm rules
Writing after guide sheet
With Guide Sheet removed.

I have created lined paper guides in 6mm, 7mm, 8mm and 10mm spacing. Each .pdf file includes a full 8.5×11 US Letter sized guide and a smaller 5×7″ guide that you can trim to fit in the average A5-sized notebook. Print out your favorite line width spacing on a laser or ink jet printer. One copy of the guide sheet can be kept in each of your favorite notebooks and should last for a long time. The guide sheet often doubles as a blotter sheet, pen primer or to protect the next sheet from pesky bleed through.

guide sheets screen shot

US Letter Size (8.5″x11″):

A4 Size (210 x 297mm or 8.3″ x 11.7″) ADDED Feb. 3, 2015:

A5 Sizes (148 x 210mm or 5.83×8.27″):

Field Notes Sized (3.25″x5.5″) UPDATED Feb. 3, 2015:

These new sizes have been trimmed down width-wise so there’s no overhang in your pocket notebooks. I’ve also added 3-up layout on a US letter sized sheet.

Field Notes “Dime Novel” Edition

Tips for printing guide sheets:

When printing, be sure that you choose to print at 100% (or “actual size”), do not choose the “fit to paper” option. I ran the lines to the end of the template to maximize guides. Let your printer trim them where it must. For the smaller sizes, just trim it out. The Field Notes sized sheets can be printed 4-up on a sheet but be sure to set your printer to 100% (actual size) and then tile. If your favorite notebook is smaller, just trim it as needed.

Using a guide sheet with a blank notebook gives a lot more flexibility. You can sketch and free form on some pages and then use the guide sheets when you want to write. Guide sheets are great with letter-writing pads too.

If there’s interest, I can make up other sizes as well. Just let me know in the comments what you prefer.

Other Options:

Journal guide: the middle way (via Leigh Reyes, My Life As A Verb)
Journal guide: the middle way (via Leigh Reyes, My Life As A Verb)

Leigh Reyes of My Life As A Verb has created her own A5-sized Journal Guide templates which feature some various custom page layouts . She offers four different formats to download and hopes to make plastic versions in the future.

Dotted/Lined Templates from Ink Journal
Dotted/Lined Templates from Ink Journal

Ink Journal offers some additional downloadable guide sheets to fit Field Notes-sized and standard Midori Traveler’s Notebooks. They offer bullet journal templates, lined, dot grid and script practice sheets as well as their ink collecting template. These work great with their Tomoe River paper journals.


  1. 11/9/14 Added 5mm and 10mm grid and true A5-sized.
  2. 2/3/15 Added A4 and revised Field Notes sizes, added 3-up layout for Field Notes.
  3. 8/23/2016 Added links to Leigh Reyes A5 Journal Guides and Ink Journal’s Free Resources
  4.  9/24/2017 Added FN Dime Novel Edition formats


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85 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thanks for the guides! I love college-rule, so I’m going with the 7mm.

    I love graph paper, but I’m thinking that it is better for me to go ahead and buy graph paper, rather than use a graph paper guide. Just my humble opinion.

    Thanks again. Superb!

  2. Thanks for these guides. My handwriting is all over the paper without lines. The 8mm is lacking the smaller version, though.

  3. I’ve been doing this for years, when I used to hand-write homework solutions for my students. I would scan them from copy paper to PDF. I hated how line rules would clutter the page, so I just wrote on blank paper over a (heavily ruled) guide. Thanks for making the various sizes available.

  4. Ooh, excellent! And just in time — I got an order of Tomoe River correspondence pads and ransacked my notebooks for the perfectly spaced (i.e. 6mm) lined sheet for a guide — alas, unsuccessfully. I’ll ask the huz to print out a few sheets of this for me at work on Monday! Thanks for all your effort in making these!

  5. I print my own guide sheets on Kokuyo 20 hole A5 removable sheets. I stick a half-dozen guides in my snap ring binder each behind a blank writing sheet so the guides are there and ready to go held in place and aligned properly by the binder rings. When I get to the last sheet with a guide behind it, I just move all the guides along in the binder – which takes less than a minute.

  6. Very much appreciated. Do you by chance have an 11 x 8-1/2 / 7×5 6mm (landscape aspect rather than portrait) template lurking anywhere? Most of my art is longer on the wide edge, so of course my notebooks are, too.

  7. Thank you! We homeschool and one for one of our classes the answers have to be written in a workbook. One of my teens inevitably writes “downhill” 🙂 Printed out one of the above lined papers and he is very grateful…as am I!

    Thanks again.

      1. Thank you Ana, I wanted 4 of the same field notes but I figured it out.

        What would be the easiest way (using a Mac) to get different ones on the same page?

        1. I’m not sure. I have a lot of Adobe pro software that let’s me do all sorts of things but I’m not sure the best way to do it without investing in the whole Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. I can create a new document with the Field Notes sheets 4-up in an array of formats in the next few days, if that is the easiest thing?

          1. I have a very old version of Photoshop an a very old iMac (pre Sutite) and I could probably figure out a way to do that. But if you have a minute I think a single sheet with the 4 different line widths of Field Note size would be very useful.

            thanks, Rob

    1. The guide sheets might need to be trimmed down slightly to fit into the Freestyle Really Big Notebook. I’d recommend printing the US Letter or A4 size and then trim to fit.

        1. Feel free to download and use the templates but if you want to share them with friends or online, please link back to the site to download them. Thanks!

  8. I would love to have a line guide for Leuchtturm Pocket Plain notebook (size is 90 x 150mm or 3.5 x 6″ in archaic dimensions) in 3 mm line spacing. I write small. I guess this would also work in other pocket plain notebooks.

  9. Thank you so much for these templates. I bought an unlined Rhodia Webbook by mistake and had misgivings about being able to keep my writing in straight lines. Now I don’t have to worry!

  10. Is it possible to offer these (or at least the US letter size with 10mm lines) in bold, so it shows up even more. My elementary students could really use this, but the thin lines are hard for them to see. Thanks!

  11. Thank you so much for these beauties! I wonder if one day you’ll come out with seyes-lined sheets? Don’t think I’ve seen many of that floating around.

  12. Hi,

    Can anyone recommend a spiral bound, unruled A4 notebook –

    – with paper thin enough to use these line guides with?

    (I guess that would be in the area of 75gsm – 90gsm.)

    I’ve been looking around (here in England) but with no success!


    1. A good option for a blank notebook with a spiral binding or twin ring binding might be a student-quality or field art sketchbook. The paper in a sketch or field notebook is usually about 65 lb (96 gsm). Look for books specifically listed for drawing, dry materials, ink, or field sketchbooks at a local art supply or craft shop. Good luck!

      1. Thanks, Ana.

        I’ll try that.

        I think plan B is to buy some nice paper – maybe Rhodia or Fabriano – and get it spiral-bound by a nice person in a shop!

  13. I write a lot, and I have been wanting an 11 X 17 pad of writing paper. Properly lined, like a legal pad. Thus, my words will give me an idea of how they will look on a printed page. I prefer to compose with a pen rather than in the computer– I feel more creative that way. Also there should be some margins for corrections when proofing and about 40 lines or more per page. The lines should be wide enough to allow my handwriting to spread out but leave room for proofing and correcting. There is no pad like this. (There was something called an “Ampad 11 X 17 ruled tabloid” pad, but I’ve never seen one.)

    I have decided to buy 11 X 17 paper from Staples and improvise. I am making a large clipboard with clipping part salvaged from an old clipboard. I am going to cut a board out of Masonite (two pieces laminated back to back for rigidity). I am going to paint the face of the new clipboard brite white, rule the lines on with magic marker, mount the clip with rivets and start writing.

    I have done a smaller version of this with a regular clipboard, painted and ruled and it worked pretty well with standard 8 1z2 X 11 paper. I don’t see why they don’t make writing pads large size. I talked to a printer about making some pads for me, but they weren’t interested in a small thousand page run.

  14. any suggestions for places to find sources/job postings for people that help with filling out planners effectively so it actually does organize your info, schedule, STUDY PLAN FOR A BIG TEST… Is there a term to describe someone that does that?

  15. I printed out the A5 guide and cut it out to fit my traveler’s notebook. I then laminated it so it wouldn’t get destroyed. A very handy tool for my Tomoe River notebooks!

  16. Thank you for these handy guides. I appreciate your generosity in doing the work and sharing these for free. Years ago every pad of writing paper came with a line guide but no more. These will be a wonderful help to keep me from writing uphill.

  17. Hi! Thanks for this! but is there a way we can print the a5 guide on a legal size like what you did with the field note size? Thanks!

  18. These are great guide sheets, they are wonderful. Dark enough to be seen under most paper that’s 20# or 24#

    A thought: Has anyone thought of self-laminating them? It can help extend their life in active use!

  19. Thanks for the printable lined paper with many variatios.
    I have been searching for a notebook with one loned and on4e blank sheet alternately which I am sure I have seen in the past but cannot find anywhere.
    This is to allow writing and doodling or drawing at the same time.
    Something which allows more creativity.
    As I cant find this anywhere yor lined printable sheets are ideal to slip under th page of a blank notebook if the paper si not too thick.

    1. Jill, currently the Baron Fig Confidant Work/Play II is available with left hand dot grid and right hand blank. I’ll look for other options.

  20. Thanks a million for the guide sheets.
    These are so much nicer to use than the scrappy piece of paper I tore out of a cheap lined A4 notepad.
    As I new user of a Travellers Notebook I also printed out a 6mm & 7mm guide sheet in order to see what suits me best. These will be very handy to have 🙂

  21. Thank you so much for these! I have been using a dot grid Rhodia, and I think I want my next notebook to be blank – so this will be so helpful!!!

  22. Wow, this is exactly what I needed. I’m spastic without lines, and the notebook will be a Valentine’s Gift, once I fill it – so it needs to be neat. 🙂 Thank you SO much.

  23. This is common sense…you can’t do this with thick leather journals made of blank parchment. Which is what am looking for.

  24. Thank you so much for making these available Ana! I only use lined paper as a rule but just ordered some Tomoe River plain A4 and your templates will help enormously! Thanks again and have a wonderful weekend.

    A Canadian follower,

  25. hello and thank you for your guides. I was wondering if maybe you could add 12mm A4 Lined and 14mm A4 Lined. Thanks

  26. Ah man, I can’t believe I just found this. Such a simple, thing but so handy. I’ve just started getting into using fountain pens, and I can’t write in a straight line to save myself. hahah. Thanks for these.

  27. Wow, these guides are SO helpful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I appreciate the time you took to make this resource.

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