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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82 comments / Add your comment below

  1. 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!!!

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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,

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

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