Review: Blackwing Notebooks

This spring, Blackwing added two additional notebook options to its line-up. Previously the only notebook they offered was their flagship Slate notebook ($22.95). Now joining The Slate is the Clutch pocket-sized notebooks ($14.95) selling in packs of three and the larger Summit notebook ($21.95). All three notebooks share the same 100gsm paper and all three are available in dot grid, ruled and plain paper.

However, each notebook has slightly different design elements. Theoretically, it make some sense to have simpler design elements in a pocket notebook than in a larger notebook but the inconsistencies seem a little strange. The Slate has an elastic band running horizontally around an exposed spine that holds a Blackwing 602. This design feature is unique to the Slate only and not on the larger Summit. Obviously, it wouldn’t work on the Clutch because a full-sized pencil would be too long but it might have worked on the Summit. Also, the Slate has a pocket in the back for loose paper where the Summit does not. The Summit is the most traditional “black book” but it features a flexible leatherette cover with a traditional binding rather than a more traditional hardcover like the Slate. The Clutch has a slightly more flexible, paper-wrapped, leatherette cover. They all appear to look similar and since the chances are good that most people will only be carrying or using one notebook at a time the differences won’t be glaring. Transitioning from a larger to a smaller notebook, or vice versa, might make these differences more apparent.

To make the aesthetic difference more clear, here’s a breakdown of the details:

Individual notebook details:

Clutch Notebooks:

  • Set of 3
  • 5.5×3.5″
  • 48 pages in each
  • 100gsm, natural white
  • 5mm dot grid (grey dots) (also available in lined and plain)
  • Sewn, flat binding
  • Flexible, paperboard cover

Slate Notebook:

  • 5×8.25″
  • Leatherette cover with exposed, sewn binding, hardcover
  • 100gsm paper, natural white
  • 160 pages
  • 5mm dot grid, grey dots (also available in lined and plain)
  • elastic on spine with Blackwing 602 pencil
  • black satin ribbon bookmark with finished end
  • gusseted pocket in back of notebook
  • notebook log on front flyleaf, notetaking ideas on back flyleaf
  • vertical elastic closure

Summit Notebook:

  • 7.5×10″
  • 160 pages
  • 6mm ruled, fine grey lines (also available in dot grid and plain)
  • flexible leatherette cover (heavier than Clucth covers, rounded finished corners)
  • standard covered spine
  • black satin ribbon bookmark with finished end
  • 100gsm paper, natural white
  • notebook log on front flyleaf

Technically, the only issue I had was, that for paper designed for pencils, the grey dots and lines are a bit dark. I found the printed grey a bit intrusive with all but the darkest graphite. This is why I tend to prefer plain paper best. Trying to find the perfect shade for lines or grid or graph is so challenging.

The paper, however, is very good. The 100gsm paper worked well with almost every tool I used.

I was pleased to discover the paper worked well with more than just the pencils that Palomino Blackwing  is so well known for.  The 100gsm paper works well with fine and medium fountain pens, gel pens, felt tips and quite a few brush pens and, of course, all sorts of pencils.

On the reverse of the paper, the fountain pens didn’t get any bleed through and very little show through either. I got a tiny bit of spreading on the KWZ Raspberry ink that may have been more a result of overall humidity in the air than the ink or the paper. Overall, I had decent ink performance – far better than I anticipated.

Even with brush pens, I had good results. The dots also did not seem to resist ink the way that the Baron Fig paper sometimes does.

I decided to take “the Ladies” (that would be the Lady Sheaffers) out for a spin on the paper as well since there is a full range of nib sizes and quite a few different ink colors as well. I even have pencils! So I glammed up the Clutch with a little Lady Sheaffer Skripsert action.

Some of my pencils have non-repro blue lead and some have regular  HB lead. All the pens have Sheaffer cartridge ink in them at the moment as I’m emptying cartridges to eventually  have cartridges to fill with ink.

Even from the back, there’s little evidence of show through and no bleed here either. Impressed? Me too. Enjoying a little close-up view of my Lady Sheaffers? Me too!

So, despite my fussiness about the product line quirkiness, the paper is awesome. I found the dot grid to be a little dark but not more so than Rhodia which is still the darkest. And the dots don’t resist ink like Baron Fig sometimes does. So, if you’re looking for a new or different notebook to try, the Blackwing options really are contenders. They have the full range of sizes and unless there’s a key feature that makes or breaks your notebook experience (i.e. must have a pocket in a larger than A5 size) than these notebooks really have a lot to offer.

THE GIVEAWAY: So… what’s in this for you? How about three (3) chances to win your own Blackwing notebook. I’d like to giveaway one (1) 3-pack of Clutch dot grid, one (1) Slate dot grid and one (1) Summit lined notebook.

THE RULES: In the comments, tell me which notebook (the Clutch, the Slate or the Summit) you would like and why. One entry per person. Play by the rules. Thanks.

THE FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, June 12, 2017. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 10 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US residents only please.

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

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105 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Clutch would be…clutch…? 🙂 I like sewn, flat bindings in pocket notebooks and would like to find an option that is good with FPs.

  2. The Summit would work best for me because my writing is so large. Smaller notebooks just don’t work well for me.

  3. I would love the Summit notebook to use as a diary. I’ve been meaning to get back into writing in my diary every day 🙂

  4. I’ve found the A5-ish size of the Slate is the right balance of compactness/portability and broad usable space.

  5. Thank for the review and all of the others!

    I would love the Slate notebook as I have researched to death the many spreads for a Bullet Journal and especially want a journal with paper that I can use my inked fountain pens with!

  6. I’d prefer the Summit with plain paper.
    I don’t have a notebook that size and without ruling I’d be less timid about doodling and drawing.

  7. The slate would be my choice as A5 tends to be my main go-to, but all 3 would get used, if I won a different size! 🙂 I carry some form of a pocket book daily, and I have used larger books in the past as a desk book. A5 just seems to be a better fit for me, though. Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. The Slate would be my heart’s desire for reflecting on my summer adventures using shimmer inks. It’s just the right size. The paper sounds dreamy. Dots are a must for me too. Thanks!

  9. Have never used a Blackwing paper product and Summit is my usual daily journal dimension so would no doubt use it plus the 6mm line spacing is as small as I can go for my hand writing size (the other blackings are 5mm). Would be my first giveaway win!

  10. I would love the Clutch set. My EDC is a TN in field notes sizes and I’m a notebook hoarder in this size now for that reason. Also I would love something in my EDC that I didn’t have to make that is fountain pen friendly. Plus new paper.

  11. I’d like to win the Clutch notebook. I keep small notebooks as pocket reference guides filled with samples of journal icons, border and frame designs and lettering styles so this would be perfect. Most of my reference books are either ruled or blank so a dot grid would be a nice compliment to the collection. Thanks for the great review and giveaway.

  12. The size of the Slate would be perfect because of the size and the closure seems more lefty friendly than the others.

  13. I have to be honest: I had no idea that Blackwing made notebooks! I only know them from their excellent line of pencils. I’d love to see what the Slate notebook is all about. That’s my preferred size and I love the idea of the exposed spine with the built-in pencil holder.

  14. Should I win, I would choose the Slate. This size works well for me. I also like the elastic band and gusseted pocket. I have not used a dot grid and would like to try that. I usually use the regular grid and prefer that to lined notebooks since I set up blocks and columns in my notebooks. It would be fun to try something new and Blackwing is a great brand.

  15. The Summit would be my pick. A new project I am undertaking requires a new notebook, and this one would be a lovely size.

  16. Summit for me, would be most useful in my workplace setting where I need lots of real estate and pocketability isn’t important. Thanks for the chance to win!

  17. Slate dot grid – I love dot grid notebooks. I’d prefer the Summit size, though, but generally don’t use lined notebooks

  18. Hi Ana
    Thanks for doing the giveaway. I’d prefer the slate. Why? Because of the size. Perfect for my journaling.

  19. I’m not a US resident but I do have a US shipping address so I hope that’s acceptable? I’d love to win the pocket size notebooks. Bleed through and even show through annoy me extremely and this paper sounds like it would make me happy in that regard 🙂

  20. I would love to win the Clutch notebooks. I recently purchased a Galen Leather Traveler’s Notebook that holds exactly this size, and am always looking for refills in dot grid style!

  21. The Slate is the perfect size for me. I like to use a medium/junior sized notebook for meetings. It leaves me room at the conference table for my laptop and my coffee!

  22. Probably the Clutch. I don’t need something as big as the Summit, and I already have my next Slate-sized notebook picked out. But I can always use more smaller notebooks.

  23. I think I would get the most use out of the clutch size notebooks. I always carry a pocket notebook with me (a leuchtturm1917) but it’s a little too bulky to be comfortable in every situation and I think the clutch size notebooks would work well anywhere I had to take them.

  24. I would like to try the Slate since I’m a fan of larger notebooks like B5 vs pocket notebooks. Thanks.

  25. That Summit is calling name. I do love a substantial notebook, because I have so very many clever thoughts to write down (and later cross out)!

  26. I’d love to try the slate. Since starting to bullet journal I’ve tried a few other A5ish notebooks and haven’t settled on a favorite. Hoping the slate will be The One. Thanks!

  27. I would love to try the Slate! A5 is the best size for my writing style, and I’d like to try out the Blackwing paper.

  28. I would love the Slate: it’s the right size, it’s got the pencil, and it’s lefty friendly. Of course I would be perfectly happy with any of them.

  29. I would go for the Summit. A size I don’t have readily available on my bookshelf. The larger grid size for use with my stubs, 1.1 and 1.2.

  30. The Summit – for it is of the right size for long text writing, sketching, and it will be an ideal companion to a wet fountain pen. Many thanks for the review and the giveaway!

  31. Slate looks to be the most ideal. I have used grided note books for years but have started to find they get in the way with business notes, dot grid could be perfect option.

  32. I think I would prefer the Summit, since I typically use larger notebooks. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the smaller sizes, but I think I’d get more use out of a larger one. Thanks for the offer!

  33. Summit. I like the larger size, and would use either for bullet journaling, or to organize the prayers of the church I serve.

  34. i’d usually go for the slate size, but i need to push myself out of my comfort zone; the summit would be lovely. thank you for sharing and offering the giveaway!

  35. I’d love the Slate–the size works best for my writing habits and I haven’t tried dot grid before. Thank you for doing the giveaway!

  36. I need a medium sized-notebook and the Slate would be perfect. Big enough to keep substantial notes in, small enough to keep in my bag. I like the elastic strap, too.

  37. I would totally dig the Summit. I have a Clutch from the BW Jade box and wasn’t really impressed, and I have too many A5 sized books to get through…and I love lined! Looking to do more longform journaling and that size and ruling seems ideal.

  38. The Summit would work best because the size matches a sketchbook I always carry.I always wanted a dedicated journal along side this sketchbook. Thank you for the presentation of this possibility.

  39. Like everyone else, I’d prefer the Slate dot grid because that’s the perfect size notebook for me. I write out my daily to-do list + daily meetings every day and the A5 size has always been just perfect for that task. These Blackwing notebooks look really nice and I’d love to be able to try one!

  40. I would like to try the Slate dot grid as well. It looks portable and I would take it with me on my travelling adventures for journaling.

  41. Ohhh, the Slate would be lovely! I’ve always wanted to try this notebook. Excellent review! I didn’t know the Summit didn’t have a pocket or the pencil loop. Odd for sure.

  42. Ohhhhh, The Clutch. I love-love-love the “clamshell” aspect, especially in the lined version. I prefer this size notebook for its portability. I’ve incorporated into my minimalist EDC with FNs in a fauxdori, but I’ve always felt cramped. Why did I never think of turning them sideways?! I carry a multi-pen and Pentel 8-color lead holder, and am curious about the difference between FN, Word and now Blackwing notebooks for the colored pencil.

    Even if I don’t win, I must thank you for the opportunity to shift the perspective and improve my daily experience with grid, dot grid and plain notebooks. (I am sure this has always been an obvious option to others, but I genuinely had a lightbulb moment when I saw the layout at Blackwing’s website.

  43. The simple truth is the Slate dot grid as I crave a much needed reprieve from the Rhodia line of wonderful paper!

  44. Thank you for doing a giveaway! I could really use The Summit. I am in need of a new notebook for work to take meeting notes and I think it would fantastic with my Blackwing pencil – Vol. 24 if you are curious.


    Have a great weekend!

  45. I would love the Summit. I use a notebook that size on my desk every day and it works perfectly for me as a to-do list and semi-bullet journal. Thank you for your review and give-away.

  46. I would like a chance to win the Summit notebook. It appeals to me because it is a bit larger than the notebooks I typically use and would come in handy for meetings where I have to take more than very brief notes.

  47. Thanks for the giveaway. My top choice would be the Slate, with the Clutch a close second. I run a medical program and have a ton to keep track of, so I always have a notebook at hand to make sure I’m getting everything done. These notebooks are the ideal size for that.

  48. I’d like to try out the Slate – that size notebook works well for me and I’m intrigued by some of the design details. I’m a Blackwings subscriber so I got one of the Clutch notebooks with my last set of pencils and have really enjoyed using it.

  49. The Summit sounds a little larger than I’d need, so it would have to be the Slate or Clutch for me. Okay, okay, if I have to choose, I think I’d pick the Clutch–these little pocket notebooks are just so handy to keep around!

  50. Slate notebook please; notebooks with pencils are the best. Just right to sketch and write.

  51. The Slate…anything smaller is too small for my pitiful drawing skills and anything larger can get to be too much to carry around.

    Love the Link Love!!

  52. I think I’d prefer the Slate, A5 is a good size for me. Thanks for the giveaway ———- and excuse me while I wipe the drool off my face from ooooooh’ing and aaaaah’ing over those “Ladies!” What a gorgeous collection!

  53. I would go for the Slate. Then I would have a place to put my Blackwing pencil! Thanks for the chance to win.

  54. I would like the Summit. My journal sits on my desk, and I don’t need a pocket in the back. The size would be great for my purposes. Thanks for the chance.

  55. I would love to get the slate. It’s the perfect size for work. Even though I work in tech, I write everything manually.

  56. the summit would be great and will fit in my backpack! I take a train to the office and walk 5 miles round trip for my commute. Train time is prefect time to write/doodle in the notebook
    thank you for the wonderful review

  57. Preferably the slate! That penciled holder is perfect to keep track of my writing apparatus. I enjoyed medium size notebooks and this perfect on the go for work school and play!

  58. The Slate would be perfect for my personal bullet journal especially as I’ve been using my newest fountain pen — a Cross Botanical Purple Orchid.

  59. Thank you for the giveaway. I’d like the Summit notebook because I enjoy large notebooks with plenty of room for doodles.

  60. Love Blackwings everything! I am smitten with the Slate Notebook. I am an A5 gal and seem to write more (and more legibly) when I’m working in that size. I am looking for a new bullet-journalesque notebook to plan a small arts-related business venture for when I retire in a few years.

  61. Hello and thank you for offering this give-away! I am interested in the Summit because I like the larger format. Turning 50 this month and my eyes are going so I am starting to need the larger size;)

  62. I can’t decide but the Slate is gorgeous: love the dot grid, the elastic and just the look of it. It inspired me to write and draw. Thanks.

  63. The Summet book would be perfect for me because I keep track of life as well as crafting ideas and projects, so I need the larger pages to put down all the different subjects I track. Thank you so much for giving everyone the opportunity to win one of these great notebooks!!!

  64. My ideal notebook would have a sewn binding, dot grid, fit in my pocket, and not bleed with roller balls and fountain pens. It’s gotta be the Clutch for me.

    I do like the Slate and everything it offers too.

  65. I would like the summit notebook. As a teacher, I use a larger notebook for keeping track of attendance and my to do list for each day. Thanks!

  66. For me, the Clutch would be most practical. I carry around a shoulder bag with my wallet, zippered container of three fountain pens, an iPad and some sort of notebooks for jotting down ideas and things I want to remember. The flex cover sounds appealing, too. I usually write on blank paper, but I am not fussy.

  67. For my needs, I would prefer the Clutch. I am currently toting around a shoulder bag with my wallet, iPad, container of three fountain pens and some sort of notebook. The Clutch with its flex cover would be great!

  68. I would really like the Slate. I find that size is perfect for me. I have carried smaller notebooks, such as the clutch, and the size is convenient. However, the pages are just enough smaller I can’t do much more than a list. And while I work with larger paper on a daily basis, I won’t carry a larger notebook out of the office. I have had a couple different notebooks the size of the Slate and found it to be the perfect mix for me.

  69. Thanks for the giveaway. I would like to win the Summit. I like larger notebooks; more room to write.

  70. The Slate dot grid would be my first pick, but heck they’re all neato, so I’d be happy with any of them! Thanks for the chance to win.

  71. Thanks for doing the giveaway! I’d prefer the Clutch if I won, mostly because I am always in need of new pocket notebooks at work.

  72. Awesome giveaway! I prefer the Slate, because of its size, the unique soft binding with a hard cover, and the dot grid.

  73. I’d love to win the Summit. I’m going to college in three months, and I think it’d be an awesome notebook to do all of my creative writing stuff in. It’s definitely big enough!

  74. Thanks for the giveaway! I would like the Slate Notebook. The features make it a great size for a journal and I am in need of a new one soon!

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