Notebook Review & Giveaway: TRU RED Notebooks and Pens

A few weeks ago we were contacted by Staples e-commerce team to see if we were interested in reviewing the TRU RED line of notebooks and pens. TRU RED is a brand developed and carried by, but you can also find TRU RED products at Target and Walmart.

The TRU RED Expert Notetaking Collection was designed to expand and enhance the process of note taking. Studies of all ages have shown that taking notes with pen and paper is often more effective than taking notes digitally. For some reason your brain seems to remember and retain more through the process of physically writing. Taking notes by hand also allows you to doodle, sketch and add a little more creativity to the process. When developing the TRU RED line, the development team spent two years studying note taking techniques used by thinkers like Leonard da Vinci, Charles Darwin and Richard Branson to incorporate the best practices into the notebooks. The result is a line including Pocket, Starter, Explore and Mastery options to help you map, chart, and take great notes. They’ve also added some rollerball and gel pens to help you in the process (and add a little color coding).

I was sent quite a few products to review, and some duplicates for giveaways, so away we go!

The TRU Red Mastery Journal + Pocket Journal ($19.49)

The Mastery Journal has been designed for the “experienced notetaker.” The notebook is a simple black canvas hard cover journal, measuring 8.5″ x 10.25″ (the paper is 8″ x 10″), has approximately 96 sheets/192 pages of narrow ruled white paper. The front inside cover has an envelope for holding loose leaf notes. The first full page outlines the features of the book including: elastic closure, room between the pages and the edges of the journal for a pen, and three different colored ribbons for marking your place (red, black and white). Pages in the journal are numbered and include an index at the front, highlighted top corners for easy bookmarking, small tick marks to aid in adding lines to a page (for creating easy columns), and handy reminder tips at the bottom of the pages. The last pages of the book include a wrap-up section to summarize the contents of the book and highlight anything you might want to explore further.

This package also included a small pocket journal, measuring 3.5″ x 5.5″. The pocket journal has a soft red canvas cover, and contains approximately 24 pages of the same white paper.

The verdict: This is a reasonably priced journal with lots of freedom for note taking, journaling and recording your ideas. If you’re interested in keeping your notebooks longer term (as opposed to taking notes and tossing when you’re done), this is a nice choice. The slim line will be easy to store on shelves and keep things neat and tidy. I do like the metal reinforcements where the elastic loop fits and think they add a nice design touch, as well as a way to keep the edges of the notebook from getting bent with use. The paper is these notebooks is not bad (no specifics – just labeled as white premium paper). The rollerballs and gel pens that are part of the collection worked well, as expected. The paper did handle some fountain pen inks as well though I noticed some feathering of the Colorverse ink. Overall not much bleed through on any of the options. I’d say if you’re a fine to medium nib user and have a light hand (which I do not), you’ll get away with using your fountain pens with this one.

TRU RED Starter Journal ($17.99)

The TRU RED Starter Journal is designed for the notetaker who wants to accomplish their goals. This is a  textured grey hard cover journal, measuring 8.25″ x 10.25″ (the paper is 8″ x 10″), and has approximately 96 sheets/192 pages of narrow ruled white paper. The front inside cover has an envelope for holding loose leaf notes as well as some tips on how to best use the book for note taking. Other features include an elastic closure at the bottom right corner and an elastic pen loop at the spine. Pages in the journal are numbered and come in a variety of formats: plain, narrow-ruled pages for note taking, and every 5 pages a perforated edge for to-do lists, or blank pages for idea sketching.

The verdict: This journal is kind of a mixed bag in terms of what you could use it for. If you find yourself needing to take notes, make to-do lists and occasionally sketching out creative ideas this book might be a good fit for you. The paper in this journal is the same as that up above, albeit with slightly different formatting. Rollerballs and gels work just fine, use some caution with your fountain pens.

TRU RED Graphed Journal ($13.99)

The TRU RED Graphed Journal is a journal for those who love graph paper! The synthetic leather cover is a cross between a soft and hard cover – it has definite form, but it doesn’t feel like there is a harder bit of cardboard inside. The inside front and back pages are a grey and black graph design, and the remainder of the pages are ivory. The book contains 128 sheets/256 pages. There is also an elastic loop for closure, and there are two ribbon bookmarks in black and grey.

The verdict: This is probably the best format for me, mostly because of size and flexibility in taking notes, although of course I’m a dot grid girl. To me this is the perfect book to throw into a purse or a bag; large enough to take decent notes and sketch a design idea, and small enough to be portable. The paper in this book is slightly different, and I found a lot of bleed through with both the Rollerballs and the fountain pen inks. This book might be best for gel pens and ball points.

TRU RED RollerBall Pen (Assorted Colors, 3-pack, $5.99)

These are pretty standard RollerBall pens with a 0.5mm tip, available in Red, Blue and Black. I got one of each in a three pack. The pens are marketed as airplane safe, and have a black matte finish with a steel clip. One bonus is that they do have a small ink window so you can see when you’re running out of ink!

TRU RED Gel Pen (Assorted Colors, 5-pack, $7.29)

These might have been my favorite part of the package because I’m a sucker for a gel pen in fun colors! All of these were 0.7mm and are available in the standard red/blue/black as well as assorted color packs. My 5 colors were red, orange, lime green, teal blue and purple. The green is a bit light, and I didn’t feel like it showed up as well on the ivory paper, but I enjoyed these and will definitely keep using them! They were included as part of this collection so you can color code your notes (I’m totally nerdy enough to love that).

Keep reading for the Giveaway!

So if you’ve read through the reviews, now it’s time for the giveaways. was generous enough to send us extras for two prize packages which are:

Prize Package 1 (above):

Prize Package 2 (above):

THE DETAILS: Two lucky winners will be selected from the comments on this post to win their choice of either of the above prize packages.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment below and tell us which prize you’d prefer to win and which journals/pens you find the most interesting in this review! Play along and type in something. It makes reading through entries more interesting for me, okay? One entry per person.

If you have never entered a giveaway or commented on the site before, your comment must be manually approved by our highly-trained staff of monkeys before it will appear on the site. Our monkeys are underpaid and under-caffeinated so don’t stress if your comment does not appear right away. Give the monkeys some time.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by midnight CST on Friday, May 21, 2021. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. Winners will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your actual 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 7 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 and APO/AFO only, sorry.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge for the purposes of this giveaway by Staples. Please see the About page for more details.

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51 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Prize #1 is very interesting to me. I will love to use the starter journal based on the description and the rollerball pens looks like fun.

  2. Nice review! I think I’d like # 2 for the graph paper journal and more pens, but it’s not like I’d say “never mind” if you said “hey, would you like #1?” LOL

  3. Hi Laura,
    I would take the second prize, as there are more pens.
    About the notebooks, I only use dotted or blank ones, and for journaling, I have my own template and I print it.
    I admit that I don’t like the blocks/diaries/journals that provide you with a predetermined template to use and follow. I have developed in the years some specific needs in terms of space, things I want to have, type of paper …

  4. Either package would be fun to win and use. But preference is for #1 because I think the format. Thanks.

  5. Most interested in prize pack #1. The starter journal is most interesting to me, first time seeing a diagonal elastic band.

  6. I’d prefer pkg #1 because I’m totally into p-a-p-e-r and I love graph. Thx for the giveaway offer.

  7. I am interested in prize package #1 so that i can use the journals. I liked your review and would like to try them out. I guess i could try the pens but my fountain pens would be mad so probably not. They don’t like to sit and not be used. Thanks for the post.

  8. I’m interested in pack #1 for the Starter Journal. I like the idea of pages with various layouts and I’m curious about detachable To-Dos in a bound journal.

  9. My first choice would be Set #2 as I don’t have many non-fountain pens, so the extra gel pens would be useful to me.

  10. I’m interested in pack #2. I would use the retractable colored gel pens for personal correspondence….especially for writing out the envelope. Nothing like opening the mailbox and finding an envelope addressed using colors of the rainbow.

  11. Prize pack #2 please! I love the colored pens and think the graph paper format would work better for me than the overly complicated starter journal.

  12. I’d be interested in Package #1. Now that we can finally start traveling again, we have planned several international trips starting at the end of the year. I’m a graphics paper kind of guy, as it seems less restrictive for just sketching out ideas and the graphics notebook looks great to have for travel, which the larger notebook would be great to use at my desk.

  13. The Tru Red Mastery Journal looks the most interesting to me. Nice collection of features. If only the paper quality was just a bit better. But trying it with their quick dry jels would be interesting.
    I would prefer prize package #1
    Thanks for the review and the give-away.

  14. I would like PP #2. I am also a sucker for bright colors and dot grid. I don’t really need all the features of the other journals.

  15. Prize Package 1 as I like making to-do lists and sketching too. Thanks for offering this giveaway.

  16. I am fascinated by the Starter journal, so #1 for sure. I haven’t been in Staples since the pandemic started; this might make me brave enough to investigate!

  17. I am interested in package #1. The starter journal format gives so much freedom / creativity in the way to record information which is something I like. Thank you so much for doing this giveaway.

  18. I like that I was able to test the notebooks myself at the store. They have a few opened up for me to write on. I would go for prize package 1 because I need more notebooks not more pens!

  19. I love notebooks in any size or with any kind of pages. But my favorites are dot grid or graph. So it would be #2 for me. Thank you for the giveaway.

  20. Prize #1 looks the most interesting, I am also going to say–it’s kind of suspicious how much of the tips are similar to bullet journalling? are they trying to do their own little system of suggestions? especially the “expert note taking” description lol.

  21. I am interested in Prize #2 because I enjoy trying out new gel pens. I enjoyed your review of the graph journal. As much as I like those “dot grids”, graph paper is a fond reminder of my college days and that’s a good thing, right?

  22. Prize Pkg 2, please! I like rollerballs AND gel pens. Don’t really need more journals …

  23. I like prize pack #2 because there are more pens. I am most interested in the gel pens (always looking for new ones). But honestly, I’d take either one if it came down to it, because I love pens and notebooks! 🙂

  24. Thank you for the review! I don’t need either prize pack, but I love that I won’t walk by them and wonder about them at the store!
    I appreciate this post.

  25. Prize #2 would be great.
    Can’t wait to try out graphed journal and the roller ball pen

  26. I would go with prize 1 – the starter journal. It’s larger that I typically use but the different pages seem interesting

  27. If I won, I’d prefer prize package #2 for the fun colors of the pens. Thanks for having this giveaway!

  28. I would love the 1st package because of the starter journal as the format looks intriguing and I’d love to try it

  29. I’m more apt to use the first prize pack, mostly because I would get more use out of the journals. But new pens are always fun to try out, especially those roller balls because they make me think of the ones I liked in my youth. However, I just prefer my own pens and pretty much stick with fountain pens only.

  30. I love journals and am an avid user and collector. Package #1 would be a welcome addition!

  31. I like package 1. Among the notebooks I think the Mastery journal has a neat interesting design in the elastic.

  32. I’d have to go with the 2nd package if I won because…..COLORS! Who wouldn’t want to play with a colorful way to pretend to be organized? And they’d be easier to find when they get eaten by the sofa. Don’t judge….it happens.
    Either package would be great though. I’m a serial journal writer and love playing with notebooks.

  33. I think I would pick the first prize. I know I would make good use of the graphed journal and I would like to try the features of the starter journal to see what works.

  34. Definitely a fan of either of these, but the first one is the most appealing to me. Those pens also fit better with what I generally use my journals for.

  35. You state it like it’s easy “just tell me your favorite” haha! I like the starter journal because the layout looks really cool. But I’d end up ignoring the prompts like the one shown with the drawing. So instead the graph probably makes more sense to me. The gel pens look like fun!!!

  36. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a notebook with the elastic on the diagonal like that before. Is the pocket on the outside of the cover?? It looks like it.

  37. Great review — very detailed.
    I am interested in giveaway package # 1. I really have only two journals — an ink / pen journal that I started yesterday, and a daily journal that I’m terrible about writing in. And since I have plenty of pens, the first package would be right up my alley.
    I need to get better at journaling, and I need to experiment with different kind of journals, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed!
    Keep up the good work, and thanks for all you do for the this community!

  38. Very nice giveaway of some interesting items. I really like the graph notebook and colored gel pens

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