Maybe it’s just me, but there are way too many bullet journals to choose from these days. At least, more and more “best bullet journal” brands have been emerging and gaining popularity since the bullet journal method went viral. So how do you know which is the best of the best bullet journal notebook out there?
No other way but to try them all!
The fun part about bullet journaling, or the part that really gets your motivation going, is picking out a bullet journal to baptize next. I remember getting my very first bullet journal at a bookstore and rushing home to get started immediately on my bullet journal journey.
Several years and many tried and tested bullet journal notebooks later and I still don’t think I’ve found The One. But if anything, I’m better at discerning quality even if I’m just viewing a dotted journal online.
Here are some tips from a seasoned bullet journalist on how to find the best bullet journal notebook for you!
What journal should I use for bullet journaling?
TL;DR: The one you’ll use.
We’re here to give advice and suggestions on bullet journal features to look out for. Though, if you’re picking your first bullet journal, we have a solid recommendation below. Spoiler: It’s the ZenART journal.
You don’t need to get the official bullet journal notebook to start bullet journaling yourself. Personally, I’d choose a stylish notebook I know I’ll use regularly.
Go for acid-free, premium thick paper. And make your life easier with a bullet journal with numbered pages.
For beginners, I recommend dot grid pages over square grid pages—it’ll make your bullet journaling setup easier and more organized.
What should you look for in your next bullet journal?
The best bullet journals are the ones that are completely tailored to your needs. It’s up to your own personal preference, but here are some features you’ll come across.
How can you tell a good bullet journal from a bad one? Develop a preference and eye for quality in the following factors:
Nobody wants their bullet journal pages falling apart so easily. Know your options for bullet journal binding, know what they look like, and see if the option you’re eyeing fits the bill.
Overall my fave pick from the lot. These are journals with pages sewn together in sections and then glued to a cover. These journals are durable and look high-quality. Though they can be heavy and pricy.
These journals are bound by pasting sections of pages to cardstock or laminated cover. Also known as soft cover paperback binding.
Economic, quick, and common. Pages are stacked and then sewn or stapled together at certain points down the page. It’ll surely lay flat but overall, it feels cheap, flimsy, and a little less durable.
Thread binding or sewn bound
Same binding method as above. However, the threading runs down the whole spine. The firm, threaded binding ensures pages don’t tear or fly right out of your journal.
Overall, the best journals I’ve used are case-bound. It just depends on your preference if you’d like said case to be a hard cover or a more flexible soft cover.
Once you’ve picked binding type, it’s time to choose between soft cover vs. hardcover notebooks. If you like bullet journaling on the go, a hardcover journal can be bulky and heavy. Soft covers offer you better portability and flexibility—easier to lay flat this way.
Then, of course, you ought to choose a bullet journal in a color or design you like. Trust me, you’ll use it more.
I learned this the hard way. Thick paper doesn’t always equate to good-quality paper.
Don’t close the deal at paper thickness. Instead, aim for future inkproof paper and high ink compatibility. That way, your bullet journal can better handle any kind of pen you throw at it.
Make sure to look for acid-free paper. Your journal pages will last longer and keep a better archival quality—you know, for looking back a few years down the line.
Also, look at paper weight. For starters, don’t settle for anything less than 120 gsm. If you’re fond of fountain pens, aim for ultra-smooth, ink-proof paper. This is some seriously premium paper, in my opinion. By ink-proof, it means your pens or markers won’t smudge, ghost, bleed, or feather.
Dot grid, square grid, lined, or blank?
Ah, yes, the age-old debate amongst bullet journalists. What kind of layout would you like for your pages?
Purists will swear by dot grid paper. It’s minimal. In a good bullet journal, the dots should be printed lightly. Just enough to guide your eyes along gridlines. Not too dark to obstruct your page entirely. The traditional bullet journal setup by Ryder Carroll uses dotted pages.
Fans of traveler’s notebooks and more minimalist Japanese stationery (me), vote square grid. Personally, I like a faint square grid. Barely there. I love the straight lines. Others may find this structure too rigid, too evocative of high school math classes maybe.
If you write more than you draw, doodle, or dot your pages, you may prefer ruled journals. Not the most popular choice—you’re deprived of vertical gridlines. But ruled pages are definitely better for longhand note-taking. However, there are ruled notebooks and journals out there with subtle lines at the top and bottom of the page where you can form a vertical grid. They’re mostly Japan-made.
Finally, blank pages. Not for the faint of heart. Great for the artistically inclined. I’ve seen painters and illustrators use blank bullet journal notebooks. It’s easier to plan freehand and doodle or paint around your more planner-y pages.
Small details that matter
These little tidbits aren’t deal breakers but are nice to have nonetheless. It shows how much detail went into the brand’s design process when creating its line of bullet journals.
Elastic closure. For keeping your bullet journals closed, neat, and tight. No ephemera fallout here. Can also work as a makeshift pen holder.
Key code page. You could manually create your own key code on the first page of your bullet journal. But for beginners or people getting used to the system, it’s nice to have a premade key code page as a guideline.
Inner pocket. A must-have for hoarders (like me). Great for storing stickers, receipts, loose notes, and memorabilia. For the obsessively organized, a pocket at the back of your journal is a handy spot for a mini ruler.
Pen holder or pen loop. You could DIY or buy, or you could just get a bullet journal with a pen holder built in already. Handy for travelers, so your pen and journal are always at the same place at the same time.
Ribbon bookmark. Better than a cardstock bookmark or sticky tab. Bonus points if your bullet journal has two of these. A must-have for keeping your last page saved and ready for next use.
Pen test page. Not all bullet journals have this. It’s more of a bullet journal spread idea. Pretty straightforward: a log for testing pens to see if there’s ghosting or bleeding.
Built-in index pages. This blank table at the start of your bullet journal will be its backbone. Never lose a page or note again. Never forget to use your index pages.
Numbered pages. Because going through your bullet journal pages and numbering them individually is a pain.
What size bullet journal is best?
The one that makes note-taking and bullet journaling most comfortable for you. Try out different sizes of bullet journals to find the one that you prefer most.
It’s usually up to your lifestyle. Some people in the bullet journal community swear by A5 size. Others opt for bigger bullet journals.
Look: Our best bullet journal yet
The best bullet journals are also the ones that invite you to use them. So if I were you, go grab the prettiest design.
And there’s no other way to go than the ZenART Dotted Journal (wink, wink).
If you ask me, it’s the official notebook to beat all notebooks! Mindfully designed without scrimping on premium paper quality. Truly, one of the only notebooks with the highest quality writing paper I’ve seen, at a solid price point.
This here is literally a multi-faceted journal. From the get-go, you have a color selection that’s vibrant whilst being easy on the eyes. Now turn the dotted journal to the side and you’ll find its page edges printed with Japanese-inspired patterns.
ZenART has bullet journals in several colorways: Turquoise with kitsune edging, Vermillion Orange with sea wave edging; Zesty Lime with crane edging; French Rose with chidori edging; and Lavender Blue with dragonfly edging.
Its lay-flat binding makes bullet journaling and note-taking easy even on the go. The elastic closure band keeps your journal shut and safe. Here’s one stylish notebook you can bring anywhere.
Did we mention it’s a vegan leather cover?
The design alone is what sets this one apart from most other bullet journals. Talk about modern and zen!
The printed edges don’t even seep into the paper inside. I love the look of these dotted, numbered pages on ivory paper. It doesn’t glare at you.
This bullet journal notebook ticks off all the boxes for me. Acid-free paper, dotted and pre-numbered pages, plus index pages at the start of the bullet journal. It has not just one ribbon bookmark but two—in colors that match your bullet journal’s design.
Also guaranteed friendly toward fountain pens. See my handy pen test page for proof.
It also has an expandable inner pocket. In it, I’ve placed the complimentary archival sticker labels that come with the bullet journal.
We’d love to hear from you!
Do you like your bullet journals with blank, lined, or dotted paper? Have you tried out our journals or sketchbooks previously? What do you think about them?
If not, time to overcome your fear of blank pages with us here on ZenART! Find the best bullet journal notebooks you’ll ever use at a solid price in our shop.
What would you like to read from us next? Stay tuned to our blog, and keep reading our Toolkit section for more art guides!
- MEET THE AUTHOR-
Belle O. Mapa is a writer and artist based in Manila, Philippines. She believes that everyone is born with an inner creative spirit—we just need to nurture and discover it on the blank page. Currently, she lives out her passion: writing stories, hosting journaling workshops, and advocating for mental health awareness.