Evolution of a Bullet Journal, 5 notebooks reviewed

6:13 PM


A bullet journal spread with Home Cyn Home printable stickers
I don't know about you guys but I am DONE with 2020. So done, that I finished all the weekly spread in my current bullet journal until the end of the year and am already working on setting up my 2021 journal. 
This got me realising that I was setting up my 5th Bullet journal and that from my first one, my planning and journalling style has evolved drastically. I also tried and tested 5 notebooks in all those years...FIVE! 
So I thought it would be fun to review those notebooks and share the pro and cons of each along the way. So, are you ready for trip down memory lane? But before we dive in, let me just make the casual disclaimer about how the links below are Amazon affiliate links. 
Ok, so now we are ready to dive in! 

2017 : Look What Happened notebook

A ruled notebook with a donut cover

This was my first ever bullet journal and amazingly, it is still sold by  "Look What Happened" with this exact same cover. 
My first BuJo happened in a ruled notebook because back then I could not find an affordable dotted grid option anywhere, the only two available in India were Leuchtturm and Moleskine, both imported and pricey, and I really wasn't sure I wanted to make such an expense being such a Noob at bullet journalling. 
Looking back at this notebook, it was fun, but definitely not ideal for a bullet journal. My style was looking very amateurish, but it served its planning purpose. It has 192 pages, so I managed to do my whole year in it with a very basic layout and spreads. 

I took you on a tour of said notebook here, and gave you an update there

Pros of this notebook

Affordable, basic, and decent paper quality. Back then I used only fine liners, color pencils and occasionally my Sakura Koi brush markers. The ghosting was minimal, some of the Sakura Koi did ghost a little, but all in all it was a paper that could handle a few colorful doodles and that was all I asked back then. 

Cons :

This notebook has a soft cover, so it got damaged, bent and dog eared quickly, fortunately, the cover also had a smooth protective film, so I could wipe it clean from time to time. 
And of course, it's ruled paper so complex layouts and spreads is not going to be easy in this one. But all in all, it was a good "newbie journal" in the times when there was no dotted grid alternative on a budget. 

2018 : myPAPERCLIP signature series Notebook

This was the first dotted grid journal made in India that I saw and I bought it in November 2017 for nearly 800 rupees, believe it or not, it was still a lot cheaper than the two super popular imported options mentioned earlier. The brand was "myPAPERCLIP" and this was their "Signature Series Dotted grid" notebook. If you are interested in reading the whole set up head to this blog post

This is one of the notebook I've been the most divided about, and the first one I ran out of space in before the end of the year. The 2018 journal goes only from January to November, probably because I did a lot of tracker pages that ate quite a lot of space. 

Pro of this journal :

Dotted grid paper made for bullet journalling, the paper is of decent quality, but I found that it ghosts a bit more easily than the lined notebook I used the previous year. I started using Tombow brush pens, in that book, and some would ghost through a little. 

Cons : 

It has a soft textured cover that isn't wipeable, so by the end of the year it was super dirty, had many natural skin grease stains from handling it everyday, and the cover was bent. It has only one bookmark, and no back pocket, I had to glue an envelope on the back pocket to hold all my bits of paper. 
I still think this notebook is a bit pricey considering the paper quality and the soft cover. 

2019 : Matrikas Signature Elite Notebook

Purple Matrikas Bullet Journal

Matrikas' Signature Elite remains the best affordable bullet journal notebook available in India to this date. At its MRP, it's half the price of the myPaperclip notebook, has a hard cover, 3 bookmarks, a back pocket, 248 dotted pages and a couple non doted pages for an index and lists, and 4 pages of stickers included. 
This notebook has been specially designed for bullet journalling and it really shows. I managed to hold December 2018 to December 2019 in this book, along with several tracker pages and I had a few pages left to spare at the end. If you recall, I let you peak inside in my most popular blog post : "Your bullet journal options in India"

All the pros of this journal

This book has a hard PU leather cover, so it's sturdy, and wipeable, keeping that book clean has been a dream. 
At 248 dotted pages, you can keep a full year in it easily, unless you do a complex setup (more on that later in this post). With 3 bookmarks, you can mark your year at glance page, the start of your month dashboard and keep the last bookmark to keep track of your week. 
The paper is much better quality than that MyPaperclip too, and at the exception of Stabilo highlighters, nothing will bleed through. 
It has an index at the beginning, so if you are one of those people who need an index, it is a valuable point. All the pages in this book are numbered which is another huge bonus. 
The 4 stickers pages at the end of the notebook are cute although basic, and this book has a small back pocket at the end to keep all your loose papers and bills. 

Cons : 

The PU leather has a tendency to crack on the spine over time, a problem I had with 2 others non dotted grid notebooks from the same brand. 

2020 : Matrikas signature Marvel

Blue textured cover Matrikas notebook

This is my current journal, and in all respect, a brother of the pervious year Matrikas Journal. 

The Signature Marvel is slightly cheaper than the Signature Elite version because it has a rough textured paper hard cover instead of PU leather. Everything else is the exact same about it inside. 

I did a full tour of it at the beginning of the year, showing you a more elaborate split page layout for my weekly spreads. This turned out to be what tested the limit of this 248 pages journal, and the reason why I am going to make 2021 a simpler BuJo. 

I also used a lot of Washi tape, which is making my BuJo bulged in the middle and contributed to warping the hardcover binding a fair bit. 

Pro of this notebook

Everything in it is the EXACT same as in the Matrikas Signature Elite, so all the pros are the same


The cover is rough textured paper and does get dirty quickly without it being wipeable. I went for it only because I wanted a light blue book this year. But I knew full on that the cover would be an issue.

2021 : Archer & Olive - Crescent Moon Gold

Black Archer and Olive notebook

I am in process of setting up my 2021 BuJo already, and this time I decided to SPLURGE. 

After all these years, my bullet journals have become really important and have gone beyond being simple decorated planners, especially this year with me stuck at home and not having much of a social life and planning bits as I would have otherwise. What I need from a bullet journal shifted enough that I was ready for an upgrade. 

Archer and Olive is available in India exclusively with Bigger Dreams Co.  a just 1 year old small business I support 100%.

If you remember well, I did a partnership post about Bigger Dreams last December. Back then, the owner sent me a bundle of Bullet Journal supplies to review, and one of them was a light blue Archer & Olive notebook, which I ended up using as a personal illustrated diary (I am still using it). 

I fell in love with the super thick, smooth paper so much that I wanted to do my next BuJo in one. And, because those notebooks have only 160 pages, I decided already to go with a much simpler weekly spread layout so that everything fit in my A & O notebook next year. 

I chose a black cover for that book because it's fabric clad and I don't want it to show dirt considering I'll be using said book everyday. 

Pros of this notebook : 

Archer and Olive is known for their super thick paper pages, at 160 GSM you won't find anything thicker in a dotted grid notebook.

This means this paper can hold a LOT of ink and paint and there is almost zero ghosting guaranteed. The only ghosting I noticed on some of the page of my personal diary were the pages I used my pastel Stabilo highlighters on. Those highlighter pretty much ghost through every paper I tried them on. 
I also noticed that too wet watercolor might warp the paper and possibly bleed through, but that is because water is a destructive medium on any paper anyway. 

I would not advise anybody to try Copic or Alcohol based markers on that paper, I know it would bleed through because Copic bleed through even the thickest Bristol paper, so they are definitely not the type of markers to use in this  notebook, or any bullet journal for that matter. 

The hardcover binding is of superior quality and thick enough that the book will not warp or bend easily and the dots on the paper inside are perfectly lined from pages to pages, which is something I never had with any of the other notebooks. This means you can easily do a double page grid spread on those pages and not see a jump in dotted line in the middle. 

So far I have used markers, ink, pencil, gouache, watercolor and Posca pens in this journal and the paper completely hold it's own. Here is a sneak peak at what I am up to before I move to the list of cons : 

February 2021 spread in my Archer and Olive journal


This notebook is expensive, period! 
I am not going to apologise for it or even hold it against said book, because the quality makes it entirely worth it. But, it is NOT a notebook that would be your default newbie Bullet Journalist book. 

It's a notebook meant for people who plan to keep their journal for years and flip through them and want them to be more than just a planner, the type of book that holds bits of your history, your memories and little progress in life. Think old school journals of a bygone era with embellishment, sketches, drawing and possibly a few photographs as well. 

The cover of this notebook is fabric, so you run the risk of having stains you can't wash on the cover. So, if you know you are going to use it on a daily basis, go for a darker color.

Once I am done setting up the 2021 journal, I'll give you a proper tour and full review, so stay tuned. 

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