Notebook Comparison: 120gsm and 180gsm Paper

If you’ve been into stationery for awhile, you start talking about paper in gsm. Most folks learned about gsm from Tomoe River and it’s paper weight is a light, delicate 52gsm and 68gsm respectively. Non-Tomoe River paper weights that are suitable for fountain pens or making art are often 80gsm or 100gsm.

I stumbled across two notebooks with paper weights at 120gsm and a whopping 160gsm, I had to try them.

The only other papers of such heavy weight in gsm, is the Stillman & Birn line of art drawing papers.

First up is the 120gsm, ridiculously cheap STATIONERY ISLAND Bullet Journal Dot Grid Notebook (120gsm, 180 Pages, A5 Hardcover, $9.99 on Amazon). It features 120gsm dot grid paper, comparable to the Leuchtturm1917 120gsm notebook which sells for considerably more at $27.50. Both feature ribbon bookmarks, gusseted pocket in the back and the classic vertical elastic closure. I’ve reviewed the Leuchtturm1917 120gsm in the past and quite liked the paper. The Leuchtturm1917 120gsm does offer a few more pages at 203 pages but a 23-page difference doesn’t seem like a huge difference.

The Stationery Island notebook has a white and black ribbon bookmark to mark your place.

A close-up of the Stationery Island paper and dots.

The paper in the Stationery Island journal is a warm ivory color and the paper is pretty smooth. The dots are a darker grey and a bit larger than I would prefer. I really like it if the dots are tiny and very pale so as not to overpower inks or pencil marks. Honestly, for this notebook, the darkness of the dots is the only mark against it I have.

Overall, in writing tests, the Stationery Island notebook performed very well. There was no feathering or splining of the ink. The paper did not absorb the inks making the strokes look wider or anything like that either.

Reverse side of the Tombow Dual Brush pen tests
Reverse side of the fountain pen, brush pen and gel and rollerbal pen tests

BUKE Dotted Journal Dot Grid (180gsm, 160 Pages, A5 Hardcover, Bamboo Paper with Silver Foil Edges, $18.59 on Amazon). There is definitely more to the BUKE journal when compared to the Stationery Island journal beyond just the paper weight. The call out to the bamboo paper is a big difference. I was curious how the bamboo paper would perform.

The journal shipped in a gold foil stamped ivory box inside, the notebook was wrapped in a waxed paper which was sort of fancy and made it feel like a gift.

Inside, the journal had a belly band with more foil stamping and all the pertinent information about the notebook.

The journal features silver iridescent foiled edges, three ribbon bookmarks and a foil stamp design on the cover. To be honest, I would have preferred a plain black cover on the notebook. Generally speaking I prefer plain journal covers. If I want to customize it with stickers or other embellishments, I can but if I want a stealth notebook, I prefer them to start out that way.  BUKE featured several other stamped designs and different colored PU leather options but this design was one of the few available on a black cover and the design is small enough I can cover it with a sticker if I want to.

Inside the box was also a set of copper foil-stamped, diecut stickers and a self-adhesive elastic pen loop that can be added to the journal.

The paper is a bright white and the dots on the paper are much smaller and lighter than those on the Stationery Island journal.

There is a nice little bookpate on the inside of the BUKE journal for adding your personal information.

In writing tests, I found the paper performed very well with, again, no feathering or other aberrant behavior. There was zero show through either. I would say, that when compared to the Stationery Island journal, the BUKE paper is a bit toothier so there may be more friction or feedback when using it. I don’t know if this is a result of the bamboo fiber content or if the paper was processed in more of a “cold press” method. Needless to say, if you like super smooth, silky paper, the BUKE journal will not be for you.

Becuase the paper is a true white, all inks colors show true. I even noticed a bit of color variation in the fountain pen inks where there was multi-chromatic effects or sheening which is a plus. Its not Tomoe River or Cosmo Air Light levels of sheening and such but it does retain some of those ink characteristics.

Reverse side of the Tombow Brush writing sample.
Reverse of the fountain pen, brush pen and gel/rollerball pen tests.

Comparison between the Stationery Island and BUKE Journals

The BUKE journal on top of the Stationery Island journal

One of the most notable differences between the two books is that the BUKE journal with the 160gsm paper is much thicker. It makes for a chonky notebook even before it is filled with stickers and washi tape and whatnot.

As mentioned earlier the Stationery Island features two ribbon bookmarks to the BUKE’s three.

The Stationery Island paper is visibly more ivory than the BUKE as show in the photo above and the one below. And the photo below shows how much more visible the dots are on the Stationery Island paper compared to the BUKE journal.

Final Thoughts

I know its probably unfair to compare these two notebooks since they are pretty distinctively different. When I purchased them, I didn’t realize how different they would be. I was really hoping the only real difference was going to be the paper weight. But I came to realize that its not just the paper weight that can be the deciding factor when choosing a new journal. There’s paper color, dot size and color, paper texture and so much more.

From an overall presentation and packaging standpoint, the BUKE journal clicks all the boxes. For less than $20, it would be a great starter kit for anyone wanting to try bullet journaling or art journaling.

The price on the Stationery Island journal is ridiculously low so if you’re looking for a budget alternative to the Leuchtturm1917 120gsm journal, its a solid alternative.

Unfortunately for me, neither notebook ticked every box. However, I think the BUKE was closer. I don’t know that I would have noticed the toothiness of the paper if I wasn’t testing the Stationery Island notebook right next to it.

Would you consider trying either of these notebooks? If so, which one and why?

DISCLAIMER: The item in this review include affiliate links. The Well-Appointed Desk is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Please see the About page for more details.

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11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Hi,

    I draw in my notebooks so am concerned about acidity and archival rating for the paper. Any information on these two notebooks?

    Also is there a smaller notebook — say something like 3.5-4″ x 6″ in soft cover that you know of with 120 gsm or 180 gsm paper of archival quality?

  2. The Buke journals design look like knock-offs of the Archer and Olive 160gsm notebooks. Similar box, similar wrap around the notebooks, similar graphics. I had to check to see if Archer and Olive was still in business and they are.

    1. I thought the same! I started thinking is A&O now making 180gsm notebooks? But then the logo did not show up. I find it sad that companies make such knock-offs just to participate from the success of others. They should create their own style.

  3. I’m using a Tomoe River 52 gsm journal now, and I find the dots difficult to see, particularly when writing on the back side of a page. The difficulty has gotten to the point now that I’m considering moving to graph or even – gasp – lined pages next time. As much as I like the idea of dots being pale enough to “disappear” behind the writing, these tired old eyes appreciate a dot journal where the dots are easier to actually see.

  4. I ordered the Stationary Island notebook from Amazon on Monday. Received it today. Took it for a spin. Liked it. Went to order another as backup. SOLD OUT! Wow! People listen to you!

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