A world class dancer needs a partner of equal measure to perform at the highest level, and a fountain pen deserves no less in the notebook it is paired with. In this post, we’ll cover the things to consider when choosing a notebook for use with your fountain pen and provide some specific recommendations that will bring out its very best.
(For a more in-depth guide to what makes paper good or bad for fountain pen use, check out our Fountain Pen Paper Recommendations.)
Characteristics to Consider
Notebooks come in all shapes and sizes, but most fit into one of these five types.
These are the most common notebooks, generally featuring a soft cover and either stitched, glued, or stapled binding. They are versatile, easy to stuff into a bag or backpack, and available in a wide range of sizes and paper types.
These notebooks have either spiral or twin ring binding, making it easy to tear out pages without disturbing the rest of the notebook. They can be folded back to take up less space than a standard notebook, and they typically feature plastic or cardstock covers, making them rigid enough to write on without a desk or other supporting surface.
Elastic Closure Notebook
These stylish notebooks feature a convenient elastic band to hold them closed when they are not in use. They often have a durable hard cover that protects the pages from getting bent or crumpled, a small pocket on the inside back cover, and high-quality binding that lets them lie flat when opened.
Some notebooks are designed to be refillable, either with loose-leaf filler paper or replacement notebook inserts. Loose-leaf refillable notebooks allow adding or swapping pages on the fly, and notebooks that use replaceable inserts often have high-quality covers, pen pockets, and other useful features not typically found on single-use notebooks.
Pocket notebooks are small (around 3.5″ x 5.5″ or less) and typically have a simple cardstock cover and staple binding—perfect for carrying in a back pocket or purse and pulling out to jot down ideas wherever they strike.
Most notebooks have either white or cream-colored paper. White papers are more common and do a great job of showing off ink colors, but they can also be tiring to read for long stretches. Cream-colored paper is easier on the eyes and can give your writing a more refined feel, but it will also give inks a yellowish tint.
Some people prefer glassy smooth paper, while others enjoy paper with a little bit of “tooth.” Super smooth papers can be a joy to write on, but they do have a couple downsides. It typically take longer for ink to dry on smoother papers. They are also more easily affected by hand oils, which can build up on the surface of the paper and cause inks to feather or bleed through. If you notice the pages in your notebook becoming less fountain pen friendly as you move down the page, consider using a small sheet of paper or plastic as a buffer so that your hand doesn’t rest directly on the page.
Show-through, also known as “ghosting,” happens when paper is thin or translucent enough for writing on one side of the page to be visible on the other. Thinner pages allow notebooks to be more compact, but can also make show-through more noticeable.
Here are some of our favorite notebooks from each form factor, all of which handle fountain pen ink exceptionally well and will work with almost any pen and ink combination. The Broad/Wet samples below were done with a TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen and Sailor Yama-dori Jentle Ink and the Fine/Dry samples were done with a Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen and Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue Ink.
Top Choice: Kokuyo Campus High Grade MIO
The Kokuyo Campus High Grade MIO uses super-smooth, lightweight paper that makes it remarkably thin for the number of pages it holds. The textured glossy cover and metallic binding strip add a nice touch of visual and tactile interest. It is available in A5 and B5 sizes.
Also Consider: Tsubame Fools
Tsubame Fools notebooks have slightly toothier paper than the Kokuyo Campus High Grade MIO, as well as a choice of white or cream-colored paper. A subtle, ingrained lattice pattern of vertical and horizontal lines can be seen when holding the paper up to the light. The simple cardstock cover gives the notebook a vintage, minimalist appeal. They are available in A5 and B5 sizes.
Top Choice: Maruman Mnemosyne
Named after the Greek goddess of memory, Maruman Mnemosyne notebooks feature twin ring bind and thick black plastic covers that give them a sleek and refined appearance. The paper has a nice balance of smoothness and texture. The lined paper versions feature dotted lines, with two solid lines creating subtle divisions that can be used to mark the beginning of a new section. They are available in A5, B5, and A4 sizes.
Also Consider: Maruman Eco Spiral
The Maruman Eco Spiral looks like a cheap, run-of-the-mill spiral notebook, but that is where the similarities end. Its smooth paper comes from responsibly harvested forests, and eco-friendly ink is used to print the ruling on each page. Even the white coating on the spiral binding wire is biodegradable! With a rainbow of cover colors to choose from, The Eco Spiral is a perfect back-to-school choice for students with multiple classes. It is available in B5 size.
Elastic Closure Notebook
Top Choice: Rhodia Webnotebook
The Rhodia Webnotebook is a favorite among fountain pen users. It features smooth, cream-colored paper and a variety of sheet styles to choose from, including the innovative dot grid style, which provides the benefits of grid paper without the distraction of solid lines. While the “Webbie” is great for the majority of fountain pen users, we did spot a few hints of bleed-through when using a wet ink in a broad pen. It is available in both pocket and A5 sizes.
Also Consider: Quo Vadis ME
The 4″ x 6″, the Quo Vadis ME (“Multimedia Enhanced”) journal is slightly larger than the pocket-sized Rhodia Webnotebook, providing a bit more writing space while still retaining a compact size. It features super-smooth, cream-colored paper, as well as special QR codes on each page that can be used with the free ME Journal app to connect the page with up to 50 MB of media files, documents, and more, which can then be accessed at any time by simply scanning the QR code again with the smartphone app.
Top Choice: Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring
The Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring combines the convenience of a notebook with the versatility of a binder. The ring binding unlocks and opens up, letting you reorganize or swap out your notes on the fly. It is compatible with a variety of high-quality loose-leaf filler papers, and you can even make your own using a 26-hole punch. It is available in A5 and B5 sizes.
Also Consider: Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover
The Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover comes with a great notebook already installed, but it can also be used with virtually any standard-type notebook of the same paper size. The cover can hold two different notebooks, one tucked into each side, or a single notebook up to 1.7 cm thick (measured using the A5 model). It also includes ribbon markers for keeping your place in two notebooks, as well as pouches on the outside covers for carrying pens, notepads, and other small items. It is available in A6, A5, and B5 sizes.
Top Choice: Midori Traveler’s Notebook Refill – Passport Size
Despite being made for use with the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, these refills work just as well on their own as individual memo books. Perforations on each page make it easy to jot down a name or email address and tear it out to give to someone else. The paper is thin and slightly toothy, with the downside of having relatively low show-through resistance.
Also Consider: Rhodia Pocket Size Notebook
At just 3″ x 4.8″, the Rhodia Pocket Size notebook is slightly smaller than the average memo book, making it easier to tuck into a shirt or front pants pocket. It uses smooth, white paper with a light violet grid print. Unlike Webnotebook, we did not experience any hints of bleed-through with the Rhodia pocket notebook, even using a wet ink with a broad nib.
These are our favorite notebooks to use with fountain pens, but there are plenty of other great options available, too. Below is a detailed list of all the notebooks that we found to perform well even with a broad nib and wet ink. For those who prefer sticking to fine nibs and drier inks, almost any of our notebooks can be a viable option. Have fun and experiment to find your favorite notebook!
Do you already have a favorite notebook? Tell us about it in in the comments below!
|Notebooks||Form Factor||Paper Color||Smoothness||Show-through Resistance||Size|
|Apica CD||Standard||White||Smooth||Good||A5, B5|
|Apica Blank Cover||Ring||White||Slight Tooth||Good||B5|
|Clairefontaine Collection 1951||Standard||White||Super Smooth||Good||A5|
|Kokuyo Campus High Grade MIO||Standard||White||Super Smooth||Moderate||A5, B5|
|Kokuyo Campus Smart Ring||Refillable||White||Super Smooth||Good||A5, B5|
|Kokuyo Campus Twin Ring||Ring||White||Super Smooth||Moderate||B5|
|Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook||Refillable||White||Slight Tooth||Good||A6, A5, B5|
|Life Noble||Standard||Cream||Smooth||Moderate||A5, A4|
|Maruman Eco Spiral||Ring||White||Smooth||Good||B5|
|Maruman Mnemosyne||Ring||White||Smooth||Good||A5, B5, A4|
|Maruman Sept Couleur||Ring||White||Smooth||Good||B7, A5, A4|
|Midori MD||Standard||Cream||Slight Tooth||Poor||Pocket, A5|
|Midori Travler’s Notebook Refill – Passport Size||Pocket Notebook||White||Slight Tooth||Poor|
|Quo Vadis ME||Elastic Closure||Cream||Super Smooth||Good|
|Rhodia Pocket Size Notebook||Pocket Notebook||White||Smooth||Good|
|Rhodia Webnotebook||Elastic Closure||Cream||Smooth||Moderate||A6, A5|
|Tsubame Fools||Standard||Cream, White||Slight Tooth||Good||A5, B5|