Archer & Olive Blackout Journal review

1:28 PM


I spent weeks trying to decide what journal I wanted to use for my 2022 BuJo, and if you've been following me for a while, you know I like to start setting up mine a few months ahead of the year to come so that by the time January rolls around, I have a few months worth of weekly spreads and all my future log pages set up. 

My first debate was whether I wanted to keep going with a more compact layout that would fit in a 160 pages Archer & Olive or go for something that required more page and therefore a Leuchtturm Journal.
I even tested watercolors on the last page of my Life Journal (a Leuchtturm) to see if I could live with how the pages would look (I couldn't). Then I went to check my favourite Indian small business : Bigger Dreams to see what BuJo they had in the A&O range and started debating going for a 192 pages instead of a 160 pages one. 

This lead me to reconsider my idea of going for just boring white paper, and my dream if wanting to try the Blackout Book resurfaced. But Bigger Dreams has been out of stock of these for a while now, and I almost settled for the "Neapolitan" Journal which has a mix of white, black and craft paper. The problem is that it was available only in B5 format and I need a A5 journal! So I almost settled for a white BuJo again (but really didn't want to). 

One last Googling around lead me to know about another Indian BuJo online store : Paper Planning and more which also sells Archer & Olive in India and has the Blackout Book in stock! 
The also have the A&O Acrylograph pens, but I haven't made that jump yet. 

It took about a week to deliver

The instant the book arrived I started setting it up, enjoying the challenge writing on black pages bring. The paper quality is as good as you'd expect from Archer & Olive (they are the best) and it got me to look through all my existing art supplies and pens to see which one I would use.

Black paper means opaque pigments, gels and paints must be used

I had 2 white Gelly rolls at home already (affiliate link) and have quite a few cheap gel pens from a Chinese brand left (used them a lot with my art students and in my journals). I also have been writing with my gold Uniball Signo pens for years and they work well in the Blackout book too. 

I did stop by my favourite neighbourhood art supply shop to buy a few more Gelly roll pens in their "moonlight" series (the ones with an opaque pigment base) and a few Posca pens to complete the collection of those I have already. 

I also have not one but two sets of metallic watercolors, one with various shades of gold and one with different shades altogether from Brustro. 

I might get more specific supplies as I go, but for now the plan is to use my white pens to write just the way I used my black pen to do so on white paper and use a combination of colored pens, paint and washi tape to embellish the pages as I go. 

The one tip I recommend if you never ever used black paper is to have a sheet of black paper to test all your pens. It doesn't have to be inside your Archer & Olive journal though. I used some bit of black origami paper I had stuffed away in a drawer. That way you can see how each of your paints and inks will behave on dark paper. 
Some of my cheap Chinese metallic pen actually have a translucent ink base with silver bits in them, so those don't do well on black at all. My Brustro metallic watercolor set is having some limitation with some of the colors that end up looking more silver than anything too. The Gold tones watercolor set on the other end performs extremely well on dark paper. 

Black paper means no ghosting even on thiner paper

Archer & Olive is known for it's thick paper, and the Blackout has the same 160 GSM paper their white journals has. But frankly, less GSM would not have been a problem either, black paper will mean no ghosting no patter the thickness, so if you can't afford an Archer & Olive, know that even a cheaper journal with black paper will give you good result with any pens. 
The advantage of the thick paper in the Blackout Book is that it can handle gouache and watercolor without warping. 
Speaking of more affordable option, I found only one on Amazon from the brand "The Mood Twister", I never tried this brand but heard it's good, at least when it comes to the white paper version. Their black paper one is a little over half the price of an A&O and also boast 160 GSM paper. 
It's still a good option for all of your who aren't ready to commit to a super premium brand and just want to give black paper a try.

What makes me lean toward Archer & Olive

There is no question that A&O is expensive, and if you are just starting with bullet journalling, it's probably not your first choice of book to try. 
back in 2019, Bigger Dreams contacted me for a partnership and sent me one in the bundle they wanted me to test and review in my blog post, that's when I knew I was going to get hooked sooner or later. I used that first A&O as a Life Journal because I felt a bit bad about using such nice quality paper as a planner, beside by the time I was set to review that bundle, I had started setting up my 2020 BuJo already. 
It's during the crazy year that 2020 was that I suddenly decided to splurge and get one to set up my 2021 BuJo in and so far I have been HOOKED. 

Paper thickness set aside, the two other things I love in the A&O journals is that the dot grid pages perfectly line up from one page to the next, so split layouts will always look great. This problem of dots not lining existed in all my previous journals. Then, the binding is made to last! Even if you add washi tape and stickers inside, the book will bulge just a bit, and the spine and binding will stay strong. This has been the biggest weak spot both my Matrikas notebook and I am glad to not have a problem of a cracking spine with Archer & Olive.

Living in India, I recommend sticking to dark colored cover though, no matter the brand of BuJo notebook, but especially when said book comes with a fabric cover that can't be wiped clean. My current A&O has a black cover, and it is showing signs of dirt and dust, if it had been on a lighter color like my light blue life journal it would have looked really gross considering it's the one notebook I handle several times a day and sits on my desk all the time. 
The life journal in question is also showing signs of use on the cover and a few "dirt" spots, but less because it's not a book I constantly use.

Who else is ready to start setting up their 2022 Bullet Journal? How early do you start? Let me know in the comments below. 

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  1. The January 2022 set up looks so striking on the black paper. I have heard a lot about the Archer and Olive notebooks. Does the thick paper also result in a thicker notebook? That was one of the reasons I gave up on the Leuchturrm. Paper Planning and More is a great online store for stationery and their shipping and delivery has always been quick. I bought some clear covers in different sizes from them to address the issue of dust collecting on the notebook covers. For next year, I bought a Stalogy half year dot grid notebook from The Paper Company, another online stationery store. It feels good that we have so many more options for dot grid notebooks in India now.

    1. They are thick indeed, the 160 pages A&O is as thick as the 250 pages Matrikas Signature Elite, and about 1.5 times the thickness of the original Leuchtturm 1917 with 80gsm paper.

      I don't think I could use a Stalogy, they are too compact for me. I don't like switching journal mid years, I'm very particular about my BuJo lasting the whole year and the 160 pages A&O is the most compact I've ever gone and I just have about 3-4 pages left to spare once fully set up.

      I really love all the options we have for dot grids in India these days, when I first started with bullet journalling there was nothing except super over priced moleskine notebooks on Amazon, which had me got for a ruled notebook instead. That was back in 2016 when I was setting up my 2017 journal.


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