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Monday, September 16, 2013

Pens, Planners and Notebooks: What I Buy

Kate B recently asked me what pens I prefer to use in my planners, and how that subsequently affects my planner (and notebook) purchases. Great question!!

I prefer archival pens, because I want to be able to read what I've written decades later. My preferred archival pens are Sakura Microns, but they aren't that great for day-to-day writing because 1) I prefer a click pen for quick writing and 2) I prefer a roller ball pen for easy writing. Recently I discovered the Uni-ball Signo RT roller ball with their Super Ink which is designed to last through UV light, water and solvents. So they are my go-to pens now.
But, the Signos have wet ink and not every paper can handle it well. For example.....

Earlier this year I reviewed the Moleskine Turntable planner, and one day I decided to play with it a little bit. I used a purple Pilot V5 pen to write the days at the top of the page, but was horrified by the bleed-through and show through to the other side. So I wrote with my Signo and Micron to see if they were just as bad as the V5.
This photo below doesn't even show how nasty the bleed through is from the V5 across the top of the page. The back side of the page is completely unusable, and I hardly even wrote anything. I wouldn't be able to use this planner at all. Huge disappointment.

So I decided to test a variety of pens in the Moleskine Turntable to see if anything performed any better.
Nope. Yuck.

So now let's talk about what planners and notebooks I DO like with these pens, and in particular what I buy.

First of all, my Plannerisms planner works fantastically well with the Signo, and with pens in general. Even though the paper is only 84 gsm, I've heard from fountain-pen using friends that their thinner nibs and not-so-wet inks work well with it. For my purposes, my Signos and Microns work great with no bleed through at all and very little show-through so the opposite side of the paper is entirely useable.
(PS the 2014 Plannerisms planners are available to buy! Email me at Laurie at Plannerisms dot com to order.)

Until recently I was using my Time Traveler day per page diary to record lots of daily details. If you've read What I'm Currently Using you'll know I've gone back and forth on this diary a lot, only because it is thick and heavy in my bag. Aside from that, I absolutely adore this planner and it takes ink very well. I never had a problem with it and my Signo pens.

Recently I switched to using a notebook for recording each day, lists and notes. I did a post here detailing how and why. A few weeks ago I started using this A5 size Signature Inspiro notebook from Daycraft that I reviewed here.
I LOVE the paper in this notebook. It's off-white, super smooth and is a dream to write on. I also like how the purple page edges look next to my Plannerisms planner's purple cover.
A few years ago I used a purple-covered Daycraft Signature notebook as a self-drawn planner, and it was so pleasant to use. I decided to get another one to have on deck when I use up my Inspiro. I haven't even taken the plastic off this one yet.

Another brand I'm really liking is Paperblanks. A few days ago I posted about a Paperblanks planner that I bought to use as a notebook (this one:)

Also awhile back I posted about my pocket size Paperblanks Darwin notebook:

I love it so much I wanted a bigger version, so I ordered the Ultra size Darwin journal:

I had a hard time finding it, I think it may be nearly extinct! So I immediately ordered another one so I wouldn't be afraid to use it. (I ordered from First Stop Stationers, www.firststopstationers.co.uk. Super fast shipping!)
Paperblanks paper is great, and takes my pens well. I also like the color of the paper, off white, not too dark. And I love their beautiful covers! My only complaint is that they don't have nearly enough selection in their Maxi ( 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch) size. Most of their notebooks are either bigger or smaller. But I love Paperblanks notebooks and am growing quite a collection!

Recently I bought this Rhodia webnotebook at Costco:
I had never used a webbie before, because even though I love the smoothness and thickness of the paper (from Clairefontaine, my long-time favorite paper), I don't care for the darkness of the apricot-colored pages. But it was such a good price I couldn't pass it up. I'll use this Rhodia for my new job, whenever I finally get one.

Below you can see how dark the Rhodia paper is compared to the Paperblanks paper (background), my Plannerisms planner to the right, and Daycraft Signature paper in the foreground.

Another brand I bought recently is Brush Dance. Awhile back I reviewed the Perennial Grace planner of theirs that I bought:
The paper in their planners is amazing, very thick and can take any pen with no problems at all.

They recently came out with a new line of journals with their wonderful paper. I was wondering how I would be able to buy one, since they don't have international shipping on their website. But I was extremely lucky and thrilled when they offered to send me some to review, which I happily accepted!
I would have bought these journals for myself, given the opportunity.

I have loved Quo Vadis planners for 15 years now (wow!), they have spectacular paper that is a joy to write on. Recently I bought the Quo Vadis Journal 21, which I wrote about here with details on my slightly obsessive search for it. It has that Clairefontaine paper I love, so smooth and takes pens so well.
I also bought a Quo Vadis Space 24 planner, which I reviewed here, because I'd been wanting to check out this planner for so long. And again, it has that awesome-to-write-on Clairefontaine paper.

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list of planner and notebook brands with paper that works well with wet inks, there are plenty that I haven't listed here. These are just what I have bought recently for my own personal use.

What planner and notebook brands do you like to use with wet inks?


  1. Leuchtturm 1917s are my favorite notebooks bar none. The paper is fantastic, it isn't "apricot" colored like Rhodia (it's a nice ivory color), and it easily handles a variety of ink/nib combinations. (PLUS! Pages are numbered, and there's an index in the front.)

    I like Clairefontaine, but the coated paper can sometimes be so ink resistant that ink doesn't dry properly, and CF doesn't make a "Moleskine" style notebook any way. Leuctturm paper is not as coated as CF, and I find that slow to dry inks are less problematic.

    I have, however, recently picked up a few Piccadilly and EcoSystem notebooks when they've been on good sales at B&N, and both of them are also good for a variety of ink/nib combinations.

    The paper in both notebook brands is not coated, so sometimes there's a tad bit of feathering, but for my personal journals that doesn't bother me.

    Also, the Piccadilly is ivory and the EcoSystem is white, so the colors of the paper don't interfere with the ink colors like Rhodia does.

    1. Rori I agree the Leuchtturm notebooks are great, and I love the pre-printed page numbers and index. Their dotted A5 notebooks are the ones I used for my self-drawn Plannerisms planners before they were published.

      I wish wish wish Clairefontaine made a Moleskine-esque cover! Or that Rhodia made a white-paper version of their webnotebooks. I can't find a Clairefontaine notebook that has a similar cover. The Habanas are nice but expensive, and they don't have the size I want (A5 or 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches).

  2. I hate when pens 'blob' or smear. For years I used a variety of Parker pens and still do on occasion. However, I find that they have been problematic with leaking. So, for a while now I have been using Fisher Space pens which I have purchased from eBay. So far these have proved to be an excellent writing tool. The only criticism I have is an issue with the tops, which can be loose and fall off easily. Overall though, they are for me, a quality pen. Do you have any experience of them?

    1. Hi Tom, I haven't used a Fisher Space Pen. Does anyone else have experience with these?

    2. Yes, I do have lots of experience with these. The Fisher Space Pens are as 'blobby' as regular ballpoint pens. More, actually, because the cartridge is pressurized so, as the ball wears, the ink is forced out by pressure to create big blobs of ink. You must carry around a tissue or similiar item to 'wipe the nose' of a Space Pen if you don't want to see a blob on your paper.

  3. Whew, lots of planners! :-) I'm guessing not all of them are in daily/weekly use? I'm interested because I currently have a slight 'overload' on planners and notebooks (mainly because I can't resist buying 'em, lol) and am doing a bit of experimentation at the moment on how to make meaningful use of them all, plus my Filofax, somehow. I've found some of the posts on here really helpful in that regard - thanks!
    I've been experimenting recently with Pilot G2 0.7 pens, Frixion and the Schneider Slider Memo XB, all of which seem good, although I haven't tested all the pens in all my planners/notebooks yet - hope I don't run into any bleed-through problems! Agree Moleskine paper's not the best on that score.

    1. I'm not familiar with the Schneider, but the G2 smears with water if I recall correctly, and the Frixions disappear with heat (like if you leave your book in a hot car). Allegedly the print comes back in the freezer, but I think it would eventually disappear completely before too long.

  4. You have soo many diaries, notebooks etc, how do you possibly use them all! :)

  5. I don't use them all at the same time!!! I would lose my mind. I only use my weekly planner and daily notebook. The rest of these are on deck for future use.

  6. On the Fisher Space Pen - I know people love them. I had one a few years back that just didn't work for me - the ink flow was terrible and blobby. It was uncomfortable to hold. Just not the pen for me.

    I've been trying a bunch of gel pens lately and love the super fine point of the Pentel Slicci, but I'm relatively sure it's doesn't have archival qualities.

    As always, we appreciate the shout out to Brush Dance, Laurie.

    1. My pleasure Christine! Your books are wonderful and the paper is amazing!

  7. I love the uniball vision elite 0.5 mm. I would much rather write everything in pencil, but I am wanting the archival qualities of a pen.
    Does anybody know if LePens are archival quality?

  8. I don't know about LePens, but the Uniball Vision Elite is archival quality ink. I like wet inks and the Vision Elite 1mm is a favorite. I also like Sakura Microns. The notebooks/planners I most like are Paperblanks and Personal Planner. The latter has white paper, which I prefer, and can take absolutely and ink at all with no showthrough.

  9. The term 'archival' means about as much as 'organic', 'all natural', and 'fat free'. In other words, these are all marketing terms that you cannot trust when you find them on packaging. You must instead examine the ingredients. As far as inks go, a truly 'archival' product must use pigment (not dye), and be pH neutral. Both of those things must be stated on the packaging. And, these qualities will be of no value unless the surface (paper) is also pH neutral. And further, both the paper and ink must be resistant to breakdown by UV (sunlight) and oxygen exposure, unless you store your finished work in a sealed, light-tight area and never look at it again. All this is simply to make you realize that nothing is permanent - the best you can hope for, without taking extraordinary measures, is for your work to last a generation or two. And, contrary to popular belief, pencil (graphite and clay) is far, far more 'archival' than any ink, in that the marks made with pencil can endure through many centuries, while all inks will fade in a few days/weeks (dye) or months/years (pigment) when exposed to sunlight.

    All that said, one of the best pens out there for long-lasting ink is the Sakura Pigma Micron. Once dry, it will even take a watercolor wash over it without smearing. I've done fade tests with dozens of the commonly available brands, and this is the only one that had no visible fading or color change after 9 months of continual, direct sunlight exposure. There are even better solutions out there if you want to get into bottled pigment inks and dip pens or brushes, but the Pigma is, IMO, unequalled in the cheap and commonly available category.


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