Fountain pens are making a comeback and while they haven’t quite reached “all the rage” status, they’re far more popular than they ever have been in the US and are making a strong return in the UK and other, European countries.
That’s great news for the fountain pen manufacturing brands all across the world, but a fountain pen is only one side of the coin. The kind of paper that you choose is also very important. Plain old notebook paper doesn’t cut it with a fountain pen.
Check out our article about how to choose the best paper for fountain pens!
When it comes to the aesthetics and the style of the pen that you work with, a journal is the perfect companion piece. The premium paper, the feel of it in your hands, the binding and material of the journal all come together to create something unique and superb.
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What to Look for in a Fountain Pen Journal
There are two main things to consider when looking for a great journal. The first, is the aesthetic of the journal. Consider if the look of the journal is important to you.
Second, and maybe more important than aesthetics is the quality of the paper.
There’s always going to be a part of you that immediately goes for the aesthetic side of a journal, especially if it appeals to your personal design preferences. However, the paper within is where it’s truly at. If you can find both or figure out a way to put them together, then you will be set.
Of course, the initial look and feel of the journal cover are what is going to attract you from the very beginning. But the cover serves more than just the function of attractive looks. It protects the paper within and needs to be durable and long-lasting.
Leather covers are going to be the most expensive but leather is highly protective and more resistant to moisture than covers that are made out of different kinds of paper. Paper covers are softer and far more affordable but are susceptible to moisture, smudges, and lack longevity.
Plastic is another good option because it’s cheap, effective, generally long-lasting, resists moisture, and provides a good backing when you don’t have a desk or some other flat surface to do any of your writing on.
Check out our article about how to assess paper quality for fountain pens!
Paper quality is far more important than the cover that contains it. You’re looking for several aspects when it comes to the best paper for a fountain pen.
- Bleed-through level
- See-through/ghosting level
- Absorption and ink drying speed
- Neutral pH
- GSM (Grams per Square Meter)
Thinner paper that is relatively gloss-free is not going to work well with fountain pens. The way that fountain pens deliver ink is different from a ballpoint pen and it’s easy to get enough ink of the paper that it bleeds right through, potentially into, and through the paper behind it as well.
See-through isn’t as much of a problem if you don’t mind not being able to write on the back page. See-through and bleed-through aren’t the same, it’s just that the paper may be thick and absorbent enough to handle the ink while remaining translucent enough to see right through it.
Feathering is when the ink is absorbed and spreads through the threads inside the paper, like tiny little veins. It may look cool under a microscope, but it’s not what you want to see when you are writing.
Absorption and the speed at which your ink dries it is also a very important feature. Generally speaking, you want a quick dry time because you can’t really turn the page until the ink on the first page is sufficiently dried.
Acid-free and a neutral pH are important as well, as both elements affect the crisp precision of the ink on the paper. This is especially true when you are practicing or actively engaging in calligraphy, where every line should be its own level of perfection.
Lastly, there is GSM, which is the weight and thickness of the paper. The higher the GSM number, the thicker the paper. Deciding what GSM number is right for you is purely based on experience as you start writing with your fountain pen and become more proficient and knowledgeable with it.
One thing to note is that GSM isn’t always a magic number. Instead, the overall quality of the paper is more important. There is some high-quality paper that has really low GSM’s (well below the standard 80 GSM’s) that won’t have any bleed through.
Eventually, you will reach a point where you know exactly what you want and you can stick with it but until then, you can experiment and play around with different paper thicknesses until you find that perfect level for you.
The 4 Best Journals for Fountain Pens
Now that you know what to look for, we’ve compiled a few journals that may be worth your attention. The best journals are the ones that speak to you, personally and your level of creativity.
Midori MD Notebook
Midori MD Notebooks are strange in that they are so aesthetically pleasing despite the fact that it is probably one of the most humble and minimalist journals on this list or any other. There’s something very attractive about the layout of this notebook and the paper is simply a joy to write on with a fountain pen.
- The notebook is comfortable to write. Ruled grid with the feel of the original paper
- Size (H x W x D): 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.4 inches (210 x 148
- Specifications: 176 pages, 0.2 inch (5 mm) grid rule, book binding, thread binding, cover/glass paper, with bookmark...
- Made with an original writing paper "MD paper" that is resistant to bleeding and bleeding. Sewn binding allows for easy...
The binding is cheesecloth taped and almost non-existent, yet it holds the pages together exceedingly well. It’s simple, which leaves little in the way of distractions. The graph pattern of small rectangles is instantly addictive and very tempting to write on.
Of course, you can also pick up the standard lined version or a completely blank canvas. And, the minimal binding method ensures that you can open the book all the way up, which is an exceptional feature when it’s time to write.
You also have several options in terms of sizes. The Midori MD Notebook comes in A5, A4, B6 Slim, and A6 sizes, which covers everything from a small, paperback size to a much larger canvas style size.
The drawback to the minimalist cover is that it is almost as white as the paper within, which means that it’s susceptible to smudges, so ink-stained fingers, hands that have been out in the garden, or touching greasy food, shouldn’t handle the notebook.
As far as dealing with ink, all of the Midori Notebooks—regardless of the size—are very resistant to ghosting, feathering, and bleed-through, and you can expect a decently middle-of-the-line wait time on the ink drying.
Depending on your fountain pen, the above-mentioned thickness of the paper may come into play as well.
- A6: 134g
- B6 Slim: 152g
- A5: 258g
- A4 Variant: 478g
|– Gorgeous minimalist style|
– Multiple sizes and weights to choose
– Excellent rating against bleed-through, ghosting, and feathering
– 180° open-book style Decent ink drying time
|– Easily smudges|
Rhodia Rhodiarama Softcore Notebook
One of the first standout features that you’ll notice with this is that there are a ridiculous number of colors and sizes to choose from, 24 colors and 8 sizes to be exact.
- PREMIUM PAPER - 90g smooth ivory sheets, acid-free, pH neutral. French Milled. Inks won't bleed or feather.
- EXPERTLY CONSTRUCTED - Italian faux leather hardcover, glued spine, rounded corners.
- HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL - Includes inner pocket, ribbon page marker and elastic closure to keep papers secure.
- THREE SIZES: 4 x 5.5" has 72 sheets (144 pages); 6 x 8.25" (A5) and 7.5 x 9.75" has 80 sheets (160 pages).
It’s nearly impossible to be picky over this journal and it really does have the look and feel of a journal, regardless of the color scheme you choose to go with. The 90g ivory sheets are smooth and easy to write on.
Also, there are no issues with bleed-through, ghosting, or feathering, especially since these papers are acid-free and pH neutral. The cover is faux leather, so it’s not the real deal, even though it is just as effective at repelling moisture from spills and protecting the sheets within.
The pages themselves are somewhat resilient to moisture, so if you spill your drink and are quick enough, there’s not likely to be any lasting damage. You get three paper types, like the Midori MD, with lined, dot, and blank.
For drawing purposes, you’ll want to stick exclusively to the blank pages, as the dots are dark enough to be problematic, and the book’s flex gets in the way when you are writing in the first few sections or the last few pages.
|– Numerous color and size choices|
– Excellent paper allows for a smooth writing experience
– Resistant to moisture
– Cover is adequately protective Acid-free and pH neutral
– You have a choice of dots, lined or blank
– Resists bleed-through, feathering, and ghosting
|– Dots are a little too dark|
– The flex of the book can get in the way
There are actually three different names for these as there are three different sizes, each with its own name.
- Blackwing Clutch: 5.5” x 3.5”
- Blackwing Slate: 5.0” x 8.25”
- Blackwing Summit: 7.5” x 10”
- 160 HIGH-QUALITY PAGES: Each of the 160 sheets in this notebook is made with 100 GSM, acid-free, ivory paper. The...
- INCLUDES BLACKWING 602 PENCIL: The Slate features a built-in elastic band as a pencil loop that comes loaded with a...
- COMMITMENT TO QUALITY: Every Blackwing Slate is made in Turkey with the finest materials in the world. With a durable,...
- NOTEBOOKS WITH HERITAGE: First created in the 1930s, Blackwing built a cult following that included John Steinbeck and...
- HOW WE GIVE BACK: A portion of the sales from all Blackwing products benefit the Blackwing Foundation, which funds and...
The Clutch is a little more on the journal side of the aisle. It comes with 48 pages and a “wear-resistant” polymer cover. The sheets in between are your choice of the dot, lined, or blank variety, all of which are 100gsm paper.
The paper handles fountain pen ink very nicely, however, if you have a habit of stopping with the point of the pen frozen on the paper, catching your thoughts, you might experience a small level of bleed-through.
The best inks to use with the Blackwing Clutch are the drier inks, along with dry nibs. Outside of that, you should have no problem writing on both sides of the page. There’s also no feathering, even if you decide to go with a wetter ink.
As journals go, the Blackwing Clutch is a little more slick and modern than typical journals of the same type. The aesthetics of the name may be a little on the goth side, but the overall result is exceptionally bright.
|– Three names/Three size groups|
– Smooth writing experience
– Wear-resistant polymer cover is very effective
– Multiple choices of a dot, lined, and blank style
– No feathering
|–Slight bleedthrough issue|
– It’s best to stick with drier inks
Midori Traveler’s Notebook
The rustic, travel-worn design may fool you into thinking that there is nothing more fascinating than sheets of paper beneath the antique-looking covers. What you will actually get is one of the most customizable notebooks on the market.
- Midori Traveler's Note
- Cover Size H134×W105×D10mm
- 64 page Blank (no line) Notebook (refill) H124×W89mm
- Spare Band
- Cotton Bag H153×W120mm
In fact, you’ll find just that on the Midori website, all kinds of accessories to go along with the Traveler’s Notebook. You can use multiple notebook inserts within the leather casing, so once you’re done with one, slide it out and insert the next, bound by a durable, elastic strip.
Better yet, you can continue to add filler paper until your elastic strap reaches its limit, so you’re not pulling out the old to replace the new if that’s not your style. Simply add new Midori notebooks in as you need them.
This is a real leather cover, hence the heightened expense. The leather is well worth the money, however, and the few extra dollars shouldn’t hold you back. While the paper is thin and flexible, there is no level of bleed-through or feathering.
It’s an exceptional feat that Midori has pulled off, as it usually takes thicker paper to avoid any bleed-through. Since it’s thin, you will find that there is a good level of ghosting and that might be problematic if you like to write on both sides of the paper.
Like most of the notebooks/journals available out there, you can purchase the paper types in a grid, lined, or blank formats to suit whatever style of writing that you’re going for. When we mentioned customization, we meant it. You can add all of the following:
- Additional filler inserts
- Pocket stickers
- Card files
- File folders
- Zipper cases
The level of customization is quite impressive and especially so if it’s linked directly to your writing style. So, if you enjoy the idea of travel, exploration, discovery, and writing all about it, this is the journal that you’ve been looking for.
|– High level of customization|
– Excellent paper with no feathering or bleed-through
– Room for multiple journals
– Durable and protective leather covering
– Several additional accessories available
|– There’s a good level of ghosting|
–Leather makes it more expensive
The journals on this list are all outstanding choices for those who are fountain pen aficionados. The levels of customization and premium paper options are superb and there’s something here for just about anyone.
There are a lot of journals out there and many of them are specifically designed for fountain pens, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better than these on the market.