Hello again! Welcome to part 2 of my Top 5 Series on my favourite sketchbooks and notebooks. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to check out my Top 5 Sketchbooks and now it’s time to reveal my top 5 notebooks! As I mentioned in my last post, I separated them because while I use both extensively for my art-ing and doodle-ventures, I do use each very differently! It’s taken me over half a year to compile this list. I’ve spent a lot of time (some way more than others) with these notebooks and can only say good things about many of them. I use them all for different things, but you’ll notice in this particular list, a lot of it is related to my planner-ing side passion, so I’m excited to share the beginnings of that journey as well as what I’ve learned from using each of these notebooks on a daily basis for many years!
Brace yourself for another long post (with lots of pictures!) Without further ado, here be the lists (in not specific order):
Top 5 Notebooks:
As mentioned above, I’ve been using notebooks for quite some time for my planner-ing adventure. The paper isn’t as thick or heavy duty as the sketchbooks in my other list, but the thinner but still high-quality paper serves me just as well for this use. I primarily use the notebooks to take notes, make lists and scattered with sketching and doodling. I wasn’t always a journaler or planner…so it had to start somewhere right?
Passion Planner/Passion Planner Daily
- A5 size 5.8″ x 8.3″ | 93 Undated layouts, 120gsm paper, 14 dotted pages, back pocket and elastic closure
- $39 USD (https://passionplanner.com/products/daily-undated-elite-black)
This is the book that started it all. My friend gifted me one of the original kick-starter-ed Passion Planners back in August of 2017 (pictured above). It started off with me doodling the lunch I ate everyday, and eventually, I started filling out whole days with events and things that I did.
It was an enjoyable side thing to doodle during lunch, and miraculously the owner and CEO of Passion Planner, Angelia, noticed my posts on instagram and re-shared my layouts. That was a big boost and really encouraging for something that I already enjoyed doing. I think there’s something nice about doodling what I’ve done over a week vs. just writing about it. In a way, I started using this notebook more as a visual journal instead of a planner.
Eventually I did actually start using the layout for the to-do lists, practicing calligraphy with the daily quotes and over time the weekly spreads got more and more ambitious and drawn out. It started taking a lot more time to draw out each of the spreads and despite the enjoyment, I think the busy life caught up to me and I started looking for ways to still doodle but not work towards spreads that were not so refined.
You can read more about my Passion Planner adventures in my mini review post!
I’ve now transitioned to using the Passion Planner Daily, where I can quickly jot out my daily todos and vertical timeline as I used to do in the weekly spread. It doesn’t afford me a cool culminating spread at the end of the week, but it does help me stay organized. I’m still trying to find a balance of keeping up the doodles but also still producing some nice art.
I think the number one reason I enjoyed using the PP so much is because of the paper. It’s a very impressive stark white paper that gives me the nicest clean lines when I use fountain pen ink as well as a solid uncompromising feel to the paper. The paper is so great that I actually enjoy drawing on it despite most of the layouts being words and lists. It’s also partly why the PPD has become somewhat of a daily driver for sketching too because it can double as my regular planner (with a fixed layout so I don’t have to constantly draw new layouts) as well as a quality canvas for art on the ‘Space of Infinite Possiblity’.
Dingbats* Wildlife – Dotgrid notebook
- A5+ (16 x 21.5cm) | 5mmx5mm Dot Grid 100gsm silk cream acid free w/ micro perforation, 96 sheets (192 pages). Inner pocket, bookmark, pen holder and elastic closure
- $27.95 USD (https://ca.dingbats-notebooks.com/collections/all-notebooks/products/dingbats-a5-wildlife-black-duck-notebook)
I have grown increasingly more excited about collecting Dingbats* notebooks over time and can only look back fondly at my time with the first one and where it took me on my planner journey so far. So much so that I am definitely considering coming back to it and revamping my ‘Gannechart’ weekly spreads which made their first appearance in a Dingbats*!
The A5+ size is quite wonderful. Sometimes I tell myself I like the smaller A5 size, but after going back and spending time with the A5+, the slightly larger size really makes a difference. It’s not quite as large as a B5 or those 8×10” sketchbooks I used to use in school, but that’s probably what I like most about it. There is enough canvas to doodle without feeling restricted, and yet I don’t feel like I have to carry around a huge sketchbook with me if I happened to need to bring it around.
The one thing that stood out for me when I first started using this notebook was the cream coloured paper. I was very used to enjoying the stark white paper of my Passion Planner and Leuchtturm1917 sketchbooks, so the switch took some getting used to. It’s not that I haven’t used cream coloured paper in the past, in fact I used to use Moleskine sketchbooks and Leuchtturm1917 notebooks a lot which are all cream coloured. Ultimately, it isn’t even that much less white and holds up to fountain pen ink and colour alike with no visual issue. I also used light washes of watercolour throughout, and the paper holds up very well.
The notebooks themselves are well built with durable vegan hardcovers. At first, I didn’t know if I would like the more pebbly texture of the hardcover notebook, but I actually find the texture really comfortable and unique. I think the cutest feature is the inside cover that reflects a patterned footprint of the animal on the cover. My first notebook was a duck, and inside I got cute little webbed feet 🙂
Like I mentioned earlier, this was my first time using a dotgrid notebook as some form of planner. I was determined to at least give bullet journaling a try. It didn’t last too long because I found I didn’t quite enjoy the process of creating layouts. Sometime towards the end of 2018, I created a ‘Daily routine’ spread that documented what a typical week for me would be in a four-month period (pictured above). I enjoyed making this layout a lot, and it has since inspired the now dubbed ‘Gannechart’, a Gant chart in illustration format which was a cross between my weekly spreads in my Passion Planner and this routine spread I created.
This new layout style took me through a better part of 2019 until I ran out of space and transitioned into the Ferris Wheel Press Always Right (see below!). While I decided to give another notebook a try, I have to say I enjoyed scribbling through this notebook thoroughly and look forward to when I crack open the next cute animal adorned Dingbats* treasure.
Mossery Co. – Multi-media & Dotted refill
- Mixed Media ver: 193 x 146 x 16mm | 224gsm / 35 sheets (70 pages)
- $22 CAD (https://www.mossery.co/collections/refills/products/mixed-media-224gsm-regular-threadbound-sketchbook-refill)
- Dotted paper ver: 193 x 146 x 16mm | 100gsm acid-free bright white / 96 sheets (192 pages) 5mmx5mm dot grid
- $16 CAD (https://www.mossery.co/collections/refills/products/regular-dotted-notebook-refill)
As I reached the end of my first Passion Planner Daily, as much as I really loved using it, I also tend to have an itch to try new things. I discovered this notebook/sketchbook company via instagram (of course) and decided to pick a few up to try. The shipping is from Malaysia, so it’s not the easiest shipping cost to swallow everytime I want to buy something. However, the silver lining of course is that it’s a great notebook!
I started doing my own ‘layout’ inspired by the PPD, with my todo lists and schedule on the left spread and an open page for whatever on the right. I really liked using this notebook too! The paper is a little thinner, but it holds up to fountain pen ink perfectly as well as the tombow markers I like to do brush lettering with.
The size of these notebooks is small, so, unlike the Dingbats* A5+ size, I find I’m drawing and writing everything smaller simply to fit the same amount of stuff as I used to onto a single spread. The paper is very white and on the smoother side with less tooth. Fountain pens glide over this very nicely and I haven’t had much issue with feathering or bleed – except when I spill or glob ink on the surface.
The sketchbook versions have thicker paper as well as watercolour paper options. The ones I picked up weren’t 100% cotton, so I didn’t get the same results as I did with the Etchr. Once I realized they weren’t really comparable, I switched to using it primarily with fountain pen ink and it’s been great since.
The great thing about these notebooks is the refill option. Ever since the first set I got, I’ve just been getting the refill versions of both the notebook and sketchbook. While I can appreciate the artwork cover options that Mossery offers, I think I actually just enjoy using the refill notebook on its own without the cover. Maybe it’s just my way of trying to ‘declutter’ my excessive notebook collection.
I use the mixed-media refill for – as you may recall – my fountain pen reviews! The paper is nice and toothy and I like how ink looks on it, so I enjoy doing my pen review doodles in it 🙂
The last thing I’ll mention is that the dot grid in this notebook is quite subtle and light, which means it does feel more like I’m using blank pages when I’m drawing, but the underlay of a grid helps keep the work structured or organized when I need to use it for lists.
Ferris Wheel Press – Always Right Notebook
- 185mm x 185mm | 100gsm brilliant white acid-free dot grid paper, 176 pages
- $28 CAD (https://www.ferriswheelpress.ca/products/always-right-notebook)
Around the same time I started using the Mossery Co notebook to do my daily spreads, I started up a FWP Always Right notebook as my more ‘refined’ weekly spreads and bullet journal. I missed the Gannechart layouts and wanted to still maintain a nice spread on a weekly basis.
The paper is thinner than the Dingbats*, but there’s some magical way in which it takes my watercolour paint that made me enjoy using this notebook a lot! The square layout took some getting used to, and I couldn’t organize the Gannechart as spread out vertically as I liked it, but I somehow made it work, and just like that, I went through one and a half of these notebooks over a year and a bit.
Because I couldn’t quite come to terms with the awkward Gannechart layout on double square pages, this was also the notebook that marked the development of a new layout style that I’m still using today. A simple 7 block spread featuring a thing or two of activity/experience that I had per day, culminating in a weekly spread that is purely doodle art with little to no words. I started to really like doing layouts like this, pairing this no-word spread with my daily drive todo notebook. At some point I even tried to do some true bullet journal layouts like a monthly calendar! (pictured below)
It is a nice combo, but alas keeping up two notebooks on a daily basis is time-consuming and I simply don’t always have the energy to go full out on these layouts. So I started to slow it down a bit and enjoyed a nice break from doing weekly spreads for half a year before starting up again this year. I now do my block layout in a Mossery Co. multi-media sketchbook in hopes of maintaining my art skills while not forgetting about my planner-ing enjoyment.
I haven’t mentioned this yet, but one key factor of why I love this notebook is the SUPER SOFT vegan leather cover. It’s so hard to describe, but it’s simply just so soft to the touch and it’s great. Of course, the notebook is also graced with beautiful inside covers with FWP artwork. The bottom corner of each page also features a little illustrated animation when you flip through the book. Nice details.
- 5.12” x 8.15” | Dotted paper 100gsm Munken Kristall paper, 176 pages
- $30 CAD (https://www.moo.com/ca/notebooks-journals/hardcover)\
Finally, I will end this list with a notebook that is completely unrelated to my planner-ing life. I’m a note taker, and I always feel the need to write things down, especially for work. Since I’ve started working, I’ve probably gone through over 15 different notebooks (of varying page count) from that classic office black notebook (that I soon rid myself of) and leuchtturm1917 notebooks to baron fig notebooks to this Moo Notebook.
This isn’t the first time I’ve used the Moo Notebook – first being note taking when studying for my licensing exam. The paper isn’t perfect when it comes to taking fountain pen ink, but there’s something really lovely about this notebook that I keep coming back to. Whether it’s the stitch binding and absolute lay-flat feature to what’s probably the main reason – the coloured pages at the centre.
As an architect, I both take a lot of notes but I also have to draw. A lot of the work I do is all digital now, but because of my prehistoric training, I still love to sketch something out by hand before re-working it on the computer. So these coloured pages became my go-to for sketching out details!
I haven’t really seen this feature in many notebooks so it’s definitely unique and suitable for my needs of a work notebook. The mostly fountain pen friendly paper is acceptable given that I have these coloured pages in the middle for doing some neat sketches. Of course, I can always sketch on the dot-grid paper (probably easier to get things to scale), but I think the rareness of having a coloured paper sketchbook makes the feeling of using these spreads more fun.
The notetaking side of my work notes is a disaster and embarrassingly not nice to look at, so I will stick to sharing some architectural detail sketches for this post 🙂 Hey…who doesn’t have really messy notes when they have to take them on the fly!
So that concludes my Top 5…or Top 10 sketchbooks and notebooks! Thanks so much for reading and I hope that you can either relate to the wonderful aspects that I like about these sketchbooks and notebooks or inspired you to give some of them a try.
Let me know what you think and whether you have recommendations of other ones to try. I am, whether fortunate or unfortunately, an avid notebook collector.
I shall wrap up with sharing said notebook collection – organized on my Ikea shelf by COLOUR!
Hehe cheerio! 🙂