In a lot of planner communities, especially Bullet Journal communities, the first question people ask is “I’ve got the notebook everyone loves, what’s the first thing I should do?” Well, my answer is always “make a pen test page at the back of your notebook”. It’s probably *the* most important thing to do when you buy any new notebook, but especially one where you may want to use different types of pens in. I’ll explain why, with pictures!
So, my pen journey started way back when I was young. I’ve always loved pens and since I have quite small handwriting and I’ve got a habit of both writing fast and accidentally leaning my pen on the paper as I think… Paper quality is pretty important. For years I didn’t use fountain pens, mainly because they always leaked in my bag during high school, but also because I didn’t realise that there are different nib sizes. The ones I’ve used were always size M, which is definitely too large for my handwriting. This meant that, for most of my education I’ve used balpoint pens (fineliners and gel pens just weren’t for me), and after a couple of years I found the perfect set. They were a store own branded set and sadly enough, the store no longer exists… I still do regularly use the pens though, even if I’m scared I’ll run out of ink and won’t be able to replace them.
Anyway, coming back to the present and the task at hand. Last year, around this time, I learned about Bullet Journaling (which is a topic for another post, honestly), and it fit me so well. I naturally use lists, and I had a love for notebooks and good pens. So yeah, I had to do this.
My first choice, both because of availability and because people raved about them was a dotted Moleskine in Orchid Purple, people seemed so happy with it. This was before large parts of the community switched over to Leuchtturms, so Moleskines were still largely *the* notebook everyone talked about. As I waited for it to arrive I first worked in a notebook I already used for all sorts of reasons (you can see my current creative notebook in an earlier post, I had one similar before, as I’ve had for years). And at the same time, I had so many issues with my hands in the cold weather that I started using a fountain pen to write my thesis cause I couldn’t type anymore.
When the notebook arrived, I was so excited! I was so looking forward to using it!
Look at how pretty those fountain pens look and all the other pens! I was so happy, until I flipped the page…
My heart sank. I felt so betrayed by a notebook. Moleskines aren’t cheap notebooks, not by far, so this did upset me. Sadly enough, this is what Moleskines are like, I’ve heard many complaints about this from other people since I got the notebook.
Two terms here are important ghosting and bleed.
Ghosting is how well you can see the text on the next page. With black ink this is of course more common, but colours like red and blue shouldn’t really ghost much.
Bleed is, well, ink coming through the paper and coming right out the other side. This can either mean that it’s only on the back of the page, but in some cases is as bad that it even presses onto the next page behind it. Bleed isn’t really something most people want.
I did finish the notebook though, only just using balpoints (so lucky that the ink didn’t run out on them before I ran out of notebook) and some coloured pencils. It did mean I had some really minimalistic weekly and monthly layouts though, all in black, blue and red.
At that same time, I also bought a dotted Rhodia pad, both to try out practicing handwriting and to test my pens on. Here is one page of that.
This is quite different paper, especially in quality, as you can see above. The same pens, the same texts and no ghosting or bleed. This made me aware that this is actually posible, it is possible to not have your pen come through the page with every word you write.
When I filled the Moleskine notebook, I really searched for a replacement that would work for me, so I bought a Rhodia Webnotebook. Beautiful cream paper, in dot and it felt so much sturdier and of higher quality.
You can see how my pen collection changed a little over time. As I used some pens and ink more and others less.
Look at that back page! The only place where there is some bleed is where I went over the same square three times with a Stabilo Pen 68. Which was no surprise as I could feel the paper give away on the front side a little too. The Stabilo Pen 68 are felt-tip markers and not really pens (you can find a review of them on my blog here). After this I bought a Rhodiarama, also from Rhodia, but it’s a softcover and comes in a rainbow of colours, and it has the exact same paper. Lush!
I don’t have a Leuchtturm to compare the results with, I went from Moleskine to Rhodia immediately because I just couldn’t handle another disappointment (and I had so many beautiful pens I just didn’t want to have to put aside for another couple of months just because of a notebook).
The big difference is that Moleskine has 70 grams paper, which is quite thin, and Rhodia has 90 grams Clairfontaine paper that is also fountain pen safe. This is a thing, by the way, some types of paper are produced a certain way that they won’t bleed as much and are smoother to write on with fountain pens. Another brand that has fountain pen safe paper are Oxford brand notebooks. I’ve posted about one before, it’s my creative/writer notebook.
Here is how that paper performed:
Different types of pens and no issues. If you like lined notebooks, they’re a great buy! I mostly write in it with my Lamy Safari fountain pens, and it holds up amazingly well. I’ll probably get another one as soon as I fill this one.
So yeah, this is why it’s important to actually test your pens on the very final page before you use them in your notebook. It lets you know how a pen performs on the type of paper and will save you a lot of tears.
Have you ever thought about making a pen page in your notebooks? Or have you actually made one? Share your experiences below!