Paper Review: Composition Notebooks

Composition Book Round-Up

Partially inspired by Les’ Composition Book posts and her conversation a few weeks ago with Brad and my own back-to-school nostalgia, I purchased a handful of composition books and decided to test drive them myself.

I stopped at CVS and grabbed a full-sized UStyle Colllection ($3.49) and a smaller pocket-sized version as well ($1.99, not shown) and then went to Target and got a couple Green Room composition books, Gartner brand and Mead (fancy with gold foil) composition books. Unfortunately, I misplaced my reciept from Target but the prices for the composition books from Target ranged between $1.75 and $3.99 if I remember correctly, obviously prices will vary depending on sales. These were not the $0.50 a piece versions, so my expectations were pretty high.

All the ones I chose had fancy foil on the cover and modern designs — no simple, black splotchy covers!

UStyle Collections Composition Book

U-Style Composition Book

First up is the UStyle Collections from CVS. To be honest, my expectations for this one was the lowest. I purchased it at a drugstore in the aisle between the bulk candy and the sunscreen so I wasn’t expecting much. I like the gold metallic tape and the color block design on the cover was nice. The ruling inside was college but a bit wider and darker than I prefer but I hoped for the best.

U-Style Composition Book

I went ahead and hit it with my Sailor music nib first. I figured I’d hit it with the widest pen I had first and get it out of the way. Lo and behold, it didn’t feather! So I kept going. And going….

U-Style Composition Book

Even after all the pens and pencils, there was no bleed through and very little show through. This paper was quite the champ!

U-Style Composition Book

So I hit it with my favorite modified Pilot Parallel folded nib pen and had no issues. The lines resisted a bit of ink but not too badly. This would be fine practice paper for calligraphy.

U-Style Composition Book

There’s a little show through but nothing terrible. I would give the UStyle Collections Composition Book an A-! I’m only marking it down for the dark lines.

Mead (Fancy) Composition Book

Mead Composition Book

Next up is the Mead (fancy) Composition Book that I bought at Target. It featured gold foil details on the cover and light blue college ruling. The cover artwork was a little preppy but not the worst I’ve seen. I liked some of the other covers better but it could have been worse.

Mead Composition Book

The paper inside though more than made up for the blah covers. The light lines and great quality paper got big thumbs up from me.

Mead Composition Book

There was no bleed or show through with any of my fountain pens.

Mead Composition Book

Mead Composition Book

I also tested a whole array of rollerball, felt tip and miscellaneous pens as well with equally good results.

Mead Composition Book

I did some preliminary pencil tests for my Baron Fig pencil review here as well and the Mead is great for pencil too. The Mead (fancy) composition book also rates an A- from me and the mark down is only for the meh cover.

Gartner Composition Book

The Gartner Composition Book was also purchased at Target. The bright paint splotched cover is quite appealing. Inside, the book has blue college-rule and a red margin rule.

Gartner Composition Book

This paper has almost NOTHING to recommend itself if you use any kind of liquid ink. Fountain pens, felt tip, and rollerball ink all bled and feathered on this paper. If you strictly use ballpoint or pencil, then go crazy. But otherwise, take a hard pass.

Gartner Composition Book

Gartner Composition Book

This is a fright show.

Gartner Composition Book

Gartner paper even made a Precise V5 feather. However, a Field Notes Ballpoint felt right at home. And graphite performed well.

Gartner Composition Book

My rating for the Gartner Composition Book? C-. The cover is cute and if you are a pencil loyalist, this is a fine notebook but it should come with a warning: “ink is not welcome.”

Greenroom Composition Book

Green Room Composition Book

The Greenroom brand composition books from Target get me everytime. I want them to be awesome because they have the warm white paper and a cool, recycled vibe. I fall for it every. Single. Time.  You see where this is going, don’t you?

Green Room Composition Book

Yep. Not fountain pen friendly paper. It’s not even very liquid ink-friendly paper. So, like the Gartner composition book, the Greenroom composition book is really only good for ballpoint and pencil.

Green Room Composition Book

Look at that bleed through! For shame! Don’t fall for it. Rating for the Greenroom Comp book? D. Marked down for selling “recycled lifestyle” with a non-recyclable cover. Foil is not recyclable. Ask me how I know?


The moral of my composition expedition? Schlep yourself to your local CVS and buy some UStyle Ccollections composition books. Stand between the bulk candy and sunblock and let people stare as you decide between the gold flamingos, gold elephants and gold paint splatters. Or fight those back-to-school crowds and buy the last gold anchor Mead book. You deserve it.

 

 

 

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9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I actually heavily recommend composition notebooks every time someone is new to the fountain pen hobby–specifically mentioning that they might need to be careful about which brand they get/try but…like, several of these are cheaper than 1 rhodia pad, and easier for a newbie to justify buying a few of to use for work notes, or journalling, or similar.
    I have a few rhodia pads but I still find myself preferring composition notebooks, and I actually use a leather cover to hold mine in, so none of these covers matter(luckily). They’re much friendlier budget-wise and if you’ve had someone else try them out and know they’ll take fountain pens, then it’s a much easier purchase on the wallet than say, Tomoe River Paper or the like.

  2. Great and timely – I heard Les’ and Brad’s conversation and did start to look around for a comp book to try out. Very helpful!

  3. Hooray! Now I know what a composition book is! Known as exercise books down here, with paper and layout very much like the last two in your review. If I had a blog suitable for it I’d do a review of the local options just for comparison.

  4. Thanks for the reviews – I prefer the preppy Mead cover to the abstract(?) UStyle – but good to know that both are good options. I’ve been impressed with Mead paper as a whole lately and picked up a few of their notebooks at the back to school sales.

  5. New subscriber here. Having so much fun! ( My wallet may disagree…but I never listen to it anyway). I’d love to know the name of that gorgeous green-blue ink in the modified Pilot Parallel? Thanks!

    1. My best guess on the ink is probably de Atramentis Petrol. I recall filling it up at work and that’s the bottle on my desk.

  6. I’m always scared to pick up these really cheap notebooks, even though I know I wouldn’t be out much money if one didn’t work out. Thanks for taking away some of my fears. Heading out to CVS now!

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