How to Choose a Journal Notebook for College

Understanding how to choose a reliable journal notebook for college or personal use is vital to ensure you have the best writing experience.

This article details the numerous factors determining a notebook’s quality, formatting, and writing performance.

Therefore, this section is for those who want to dig into the various components that make up a notebook,

This segment also provides insights to help you make the best buying decision possible.

You’ll find valuable information here if you use your Notebook for work, education, self-improvement, idea generation, or art.

Notebook Size

The first thing I’ll cover regarding journal notebooks is their size.

This is because your Notebook’s saice dramatically affects how useful it is.

For example, notebook sizes provide different functionality for writing, journaling, note-taking, and drawing.

Smaller journal notebooks provide room for note-taking, idea generation, and doodling.

Conversely, larger notebooks provide sufficient space for journaling, classroom work, business, and elaborate drawings.

Therefore, determining the appropriate size for your needs is essential.

To illustrate, here are the most common notebook sizes sold today.

Common Notebook Sizes Include:

  • A7/Micro
  • B7/Passport
  • A6
  • B6
  • A5
  • B5/Composition
  • A4

I’d like to point out that this is not a complete list for those wondering about journal notebook sizes.

However, they are the more common sizes sold and used on the market today.

Because there is a lot to be said about various journal notebook sizes, it’s best to let the experts explain.

After all, they’re much better at describing how each size is utilized and the most effective.

If you’d like to learn more about journal notebook sizes, read Milligram – The ultimate guide to notebook sizes for more information.

Also, study JetPens – Paper Sizes Explained as they are better versed on this topic and provide valuable information on notebook/paper sizes.

Finally, there’s an article by Wikipedia – Printing and Writing Paper that you may find useful.

It dives into the various paper grades in books, catalogs, digital prints, magazines, newspapers, and other writing/media formats.

Notebook Cover

The Notebook’s cover is the second factor you’ll notice immediately when choosing a journal notebook.

These covers serve multiple purposes to ensure the books are properly protected and aesthetically charming.

This includes providing a beautiful design, offering environmentally friendly materials, protecting internal pages, establishing page flow (ease-ability of turning pages), and improving the Notebook’s durability/binding.

Hence, pages last longer and maintain their integrity.

Journal notebook covers are often a personal preference as they factor into the Notebook’s structural design.

Some individuals will purchase one journal over another because of its cover design or environmentally friendly composition.

While there is no perfect journal notebook cover, you may choose one journal cover over another because it resonates more with you than other designs and materials.

Commonly Notebook Cover Materials:

  • Faux leather
  • Soft/hard genuine leather
  • Hardcover
  • Softcover
  • Plastic
  • Paper
  • Cork

Besides the cover’s material and thickness, some journal notebook companies offer unique and beautifully designed covers.

These covers provide unique artwork, embossing, specific color pallets, and other fun and unique designs.

As a result, it adds visually appealing details and personality to the journal notebook.

Texture and Finish

A paper’s texture and finish significantly impact its writing quality, saturation, and contrast levels.

Therefore, purchasing a notebook with well-designed paper is essential for good writing.

Consequently, this list of the best journal notebooks for college, work, and journaling features notebooks designed for writing and drawing.

That said, there’s a wide diversity of textures and finishes extending beyond writing or journaling.

To illustrate, the following list provides textures and finishes used for print, business cards, illustrations, advertising, and even painting.

Paper Types:

  • Smooth
  • Matte
  • Glossy
  • Uncoated
  • Coated
  • Felt
  • Laid
  • Linen
  • Satin
  • Vellum

This is by no means a complete list.

However, it’s important to name some of the frequently used paper and print types for various work fields.

Some paper finishes/textures provide functionality to those who journal regularly.

Conversely, other paper finishes/textures provide functionality for print and other formats.


Paper thickness is important for preventing bleed-through while using ink pens.

Primarily, thick/dense papers absorb ink, which improves visual clarity and provides better contrast.

Moreover, it ensures that one page’s contents don’t spill over onto the next.

The thicker paper also provides a better writing experience.

This is because thicker/dense paper creates a barrier between pages and any rough surfaces you’re writing on.

In other words, it offers a smoother surface by absorbing imperfections on rough tables or similar objects.

This is especially important for artists and doodlers worried about ink bleeding through and affecting their artwork.

Note: Although paper thickness reduces the likelihood of ink spilling into other pages, the paper’s finish significantly reduces or eliminates spill-through, even on thin pieces of paper.

As a result, writers and artists don’t have to rely exclusively on thickness as a quality metric.

Thickness simply offers its unique features and provides another experience for those who prefer thicker pages.

Pros and Cons of Thicker Paper

When it comes to paper thickness, you should consider several pros and cons to determine how thick you should go with your paper.

Benefits of Thicker Paper:

  • Reduces/prevents bleed through
  • Generally improves overall writing experience (smoother paper)
  • Allows for better ink adhesion/writing quality last longer
  • Deeper color contrast for a better visual appearance

Potential Downsides:

  • Fewer notebook pages
  • Page-turning may be more difficult or uncomfortable
  • It May not be preferred by some writers
  • Some thick paper can be very rough and create a poor writing surface

Note: These pros and cons do not apply to all paper styles as the material, smoothness, and density can vary, allowing for very different writing/drawing experiences.

Understanding GSM

Paper thickness/weight is often calculated using GSM or grams per square meter.

The higher the GSM, the more a piece of paper weighs; typically, the thicker and denser it is.

The journal notebooks in this article range between 80gsm and 120gsm. 

As a result, they allow for various writing experiences, especially when combined with various page finishes.

Figuring out which thickness and finish are best for your particular needs may require trial and error.

However, I’ve provided some valuable information to help make your decision a little easier.

Regarding various types of prints and journal notebooks (not including our listed ones), the GSM level for paper varies widely, ranging from 70gsm – 17gsm. 

And while there is no perfect piece of paper, most people will be satisfied if they stay within 80gsm – 120gsm.

That is unless there is a particular need to go higher or lower.

This article by (What is GSM paperweight) explains what GSM is and how it is used to learn more.

Page Layout

A page layout refers to the page lining that provides a structure for writing and drawing.

The page layout is broken down into several categories. This includes lined/ruled, dot matrix, grid-lined, squared, and bullet journal.

The design will change dramatically depending on your page layout, affecting how you write and draw.

Therefore, you must determine the best layout for your particular needs.

Types of Journal Notebook Paper

  • Bullet Journal
  • Dot Matrix Notebook
  • Grid-lined/squared Notebook
  • Plain
  • Ruled Notebook

Paper Brightness and Whiteness Rating

First, I’d like to preface that the paper brightness rating isn’t always available for all journal notebooks or papers.

This is because some brands don’t mention a rating in their product description.

Furthermore, a company will sometimes use different metrics or calculations to display its brightness rating.

In short, a paper’s brightness rating refers to the reflectiveness (how vivid and crisp) the contents of a page will be.

Brightness rating measures between 0 – 100, with a higher number indicating a brighter and more vivid paper.

Similarly, paper whiteness uses a 0 – 100 rating scale to determine how white a piece of paper is, with a higher rating indicating a closer actual white color.

If you are looking for a specific shade of white or vividness, pay attention to the paper’s brightness and whiteness ratings.

It will ensure you purchase a notebook that suits your particular needs.


Binding refers to the process and mechanism that holds the pages of a book together.

This process affects how easily pages turn when they’re flipped.

It also affects a page’s sturdiness, the Notebook’s portability, and how many pages a notebook can support.

Finally, binding influences the appearance/style of the book and its overall functionality.

For example, there are different bindings for journal notebooks, magazines, textbooks, binders, and other paper formats.

Different binding mechanisms alter how it performs depending on the journal notebook you purchase.

The most common binding processes include twin loop wire binding, spiral binding, 3-hole punch binding, hardcover binding, saddle stitch binding, and perfect binding.

Each binding provides unique benefits and features to accommodate the book’s purpose.

Therefore, you may want to determine your needs before purchasing your journal notebook.

That way, you won’t have issues while writing or drawing. For example, some books offer different binding for right-handed or left-handed individuals.

In this case, the binding you choose will determine how easy your writing/drawing experience will be.