Do you need a lot of Bullet Journal supplies to get started? Heck no! So how do you start a bullet journal? You definitely don’t need a lot of bullet journal kit. Truly the only bullet journal essentials are a notebook and pen. Despite what you see on social media, the bare bones of the system is very simple.
One quick warning: Bullet journalling for beginners can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Creativity and gorgeous “spreads” are wonderful but that isn’t the point of the system so don’t get bogged down in the need to make your journal gorgeous if what you really need is organisation and a place to house your thoughts.
There are lots of people rocking a very minimalist Bullet Journal. The problem is, that they will be a lot less likely to take a picture of it and show you. They are out there though such as Olivia on Instagram at flyingpaperwords. She has such a simple bullet journal yet manages to still be wicked creative with only a black pen:
So after telling you that you don’t actually need them, I am now going to give you the low down on all the best stationery supplies that you can grab to make your eyes light up with brightly coloured glee.
I caught wind of the Bullet Journal about 6 years ago and have been bullet journaling ever since. It helped me take my journaling to the next level, it helps me remember the important thing and most days feels like a paper brain. This system got me back into journaling in a big way when I needed it the most so it will always have a special place in my heart.
What is a Bullet Journal?
So what the heck is it? It has been described as part-planner, part-diary and part-to-do list. I can’t find where now as the internet is literally flooded with information on the Bullet Journal since I was looking 6 years ago but I remember reading this just after I had started to “Bujo”, as the cool kids call it.
Essentially it is an analogue organisation system that rocks hard.
I’m not going to get sucked into a “What is a Bullet Journal” post as there are already so many fantastic posts like this scattered about the internets by now.
Bullet Journal Ideas
Here are few handy dandy bullet journal blog links below for you to go away and digest if you need to:
- Bulletjournal.com – Ryder Carroll is the official creator of the bullet journal. His website is a wealth of helpful information. There is also now even a bullet journal book as well.
- Bohoberry – She has a whole series of posts that serve as an introduction to bullet journaling and has become many people’s favourite go-to for creatively using their journal. She is also the queen of cute bullet journal art and spreads as you can see below!
- Little Coffee Fox – This is a great resource when starting out. I also like this reminder to ditch perfectionism
- The Lazy Genius Collective – I love their easy take on the bullet journal and how to avoid getting overwhelmed.
My own bullet journal is far from photo-worthy, although I did start to take pictures of it to share. I discovered that it was not something that was good for me. I began to censor myself as I wanted to take photos of the pages. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was sort of defeating the whole point. So I stopped sharing and my journal came back alive with, you know, actual life and loves and disappointments and the fact I needed to buy toilet roll. Erm, let’s move on shall we…
Are you itching to give it a go? I hope so. However, look into what you need and the list can very quickly become overwhelming. Really you don’t need anything spectacular. I started with a £3 lined notebook from Muji and a gel pen. Whilst I chose to upgrade these supplies with alarming and bordering on obsessive speed, I also struggle with stationery adoration so this was 100% not necessary.
If you are like me though and immediately want a cute little dotted journal, bullet journal pens, bullet journal stickers and even a bullet journal stencil to make your journal a thing of, in my case slightly wonky, beauty, then keep reading.
The Best Bullet Journal Supplies
We have to start out at the crux of the matter when starting a bullet journal, which is the (generally) A5 dotted notebook that will house your cute bullet journal. I used to think that I was an equal opportunity notebook lover, but I have discovered that I am really really not. I am fussy! Really fussy. And if I am honest with myself, bullet journaling has made it worse.
This isn’t really a bad thing though. My fussiness comes from knowing what I like and what is most important to me in a notebook. In an ideal world, you would know this right off the bat but I am coming from a place of 6 years of bullet journaling. During which time I have tried a lot of notepads and learned my likes and dislikes.
You might not be in a place where you know this right away, but you lucky lucky duck, you get to find out.
Best Bullet Journal Notebook
Leuchtturm 1917 Dotted
Without a doubt, this beautiful and classy notebook comes first in the Bullet Journal world. They have even teamed up with Ryder Carroll and created an official Bullet Journal version of the Leuchtterm that comes in various colours. It also comes in different page formats including lines, plain and grid so make sure you order the one you want.
What I love: Mostly the Colours! I am working my way through them all. It lays flat, especially if you treat it right. Also the built-in Index page, numbers on the page, two bookmarks, elastic closure, a pocket at the back and the option to buy a pen loop in a matching colour to whatever colour notebook you choose.
What I don’t love quite so much: The Paper feels cheaper quality and ghosts quite a bit. This also seems to have gotten worse since I started out. Whilst the paper handles ink from a fountain pen or gel pen better than you would expect from the original feel of the pages, it ghosts like you wouldn’t believe. Having gone on a hunt for better paper with all the same features, I came back around full circle and returned to the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 dotted for my bullet journal notebook because ghosting doesn’t bother me as much as the number of pages, dot spacing and pre-printed page numbers.
Scribbles That Matter
If paper quality is important to you then it is definitely worth checking out the Scribbles That Matter notebooks. It is certainly one of the best journals for fountain pens. They also come in a variety of funky colour combinations and have most of the same awesome features as the Leuchtturm’s.
What I Love: Again, I swoon over the colours of these cute notebooks. I also liked the more stylised index page. STM also has a Key page for your signifiers, a built-in pen loop (as opposed to one bought separately) and a designated pen test area.
What I don’t love so much: It sounds silly but the STM notebooks are guilty of having one less dotted row per page that the Leuchtturm and I did notice it. I think the worst part was that they have room on the page for it if they shrunk the numbering font or missed one dot instead of a whole line. IT also has over 50 fewer pages of space than a Leuchtturm bullet journal.
The other thing I wasn’t so keen on was the Icons on the front of the bullet notebook and the texture of the cover. You can now buy one without the icons but I have moved on for now…
I do really really like this journal notebook, but just not quite enough to make them my main squeeze. I will flirt at some point in the future I am sure, with the pro version or the STM planner. I’m all about giving second chances and am totally a stationery
nerd *ahem* I mean aficionado. If you are a paper snob and not a picky weirdo like me, definitely go for a STM and you won’t be disappointed.
Rhodia’s can’t really be beaten in terms of bullet journal paper quality however you do have to give up some of the features as these notebooks are longstanding and therefore not either used or specifically made for bullet journaling. They have mostly been used by designers and creators.
What I love: Oh blissful paper quality! It handles even the inkiest fountain pen with ease. It does still ghost, although oddly seemingly more with the fine liners than my fountain pens.
What I don’t love so much – As stated a lot of the features of the Leuchtturm and STM are missing on this one. The biggie is no page numbers or index so if you want an index you need to create it yourself and number as you go along. It also only has one bookmark and no pen loops. Whilst I love these pads, I am far too lazy to make them work as my everyday carry. I like my bullet journal index and page numbers too much.
A compromise though is to buy a Rhodia DotPad which has perforated pages which fit perfectly into the Leuchtturm or STM. I found this helps for collections that I don’t want to have to copy them over and over. I just create once and then use washi tape to stick them in. Then when moving to a new notebook it is just a lift and shift. Though annoyingly, when I came to replace my old DotPad, it no longer fits perfectly but I don’t lift and shift too much so it’s a simple case of a quick trim. It still saves me duplicating lots of work.
I wanted to love this notebook so so much but sizing was an issue for me. Both in terms of it being bigger than A5 size which meant it didn’t fit so easily in handbags or the big old pencil case I used to use to carry my supplies, but also the dots were smaller. I found that trying to do monthly trackers was problematic as using a dot space per day was tiny and compact and well, squished. However, using 2 dot spaces per day was too big and I couldn’t fit it on two pages… So I tried the 1.5 dots per day and OMG, confusing! I kept lining things up wrong unless I took extra care. It wasn’t worth it. I still love the notebook, just not for my bullet journal.
Doesn’t Even Rate – Moleskine Dotted Notebook
I get kind of low key angry when I see sites huge magazine-style websites talk about the joys of a bullet journal and then suggest that a Moleskine notebook is the most popular choice. It makes me think that they are just jumping on the bandwagon and clearly hasn’t done their research; since you know Leuchtturm dotted journal is the “official” bullet journal notebook and the most widely used. Plus I’m a fountain pen nut, so the paper quality just doesn’t cut it for me.
Yes, yes I have stationery loon problems. Really though, similar to the Nuuna, the Moleskine just isn’t a good choice. Aside from the surprisingly poor paper quality, there is the same problem of the lack of page numbers or index. They might be fine notebooks and like the Leuchtturm, better at handling ink than the paper quality suggests but I would not suggest they are the ideal bullet journal starter notebook as they require extra effort with no benefit such as superior paper quality like the Rhodia has. Extra Effort? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Best Pens For Bullet Journal
They might seem scary and complicated and like you need extra knowledge and time to maintain them but fountain pens really are the best pens for journaling in my opinion. Not only can you buy ink in almost any colour but they create a little bit of ritual-like magic to writing in your journal. They also aren’t as scary as they seem, you can abuse a fountain pen a fair amount before it starts to have problems. Although I accidentally stabbed my favourite pen into a cast I had on my hand when trying to change the cartridge once and, well, RIP Pen. Hand cast accidents and nib to floor pen falls aside, they are not so fragile as they look
You can buy a relatively cheap starter bullet journal fountain pen which runs on cartridges so that takes out some of the maintenance out of it. Definitely worth a try if you haven’t before.
Gel pens are good journaling pens as they come in many colours and don’t have the same level of “fuss” as a fountain pen. They also come in a variety of colours.
Papermate Inkjoy – You can get a click version and a capped version of this pen. They come in lots of funky colours, they write lovely and smooth and the ink dries fast too. If you want something more low maintenance, then I can’t recommend these bad boys enough. Especially if, like me, you like your journal to look as if a unicorn puked all over it.
Pilot G2 – If you are not so enamoured with colour as I am then you cannot beat the Pilot G2 pen. I especially like the 0.5 fine nib version but I write quite small and therefore like a fine nib. The 0.7 version is fine for most folk, however. These pens are super smooth and write so nicely that they just make you want to keep writing.
What do you think are the best coloured pens for journaling?
I believe that “Pitt Pen” is the Faber-Castell branding. I essentially mean a waterproof and fadeproof pigment ink fine liner. The ones I currently have are Mitsubishi Unipens and work just fine. This pen is great for creating pages on your bullet journal as then you prevent bleeding and interaction with other pens, or watercolour if you choose to use them in your journal. I would say that they are key to outlining pages, especially if you plan to get creative in your journal and use coloured pens or paints.
Brighten Up your Page with Colour
If a simple black pen isn’t enough for you, as it isn’t for me, then you will be looking to get some colour into your journal. Here are some ways to brighten up your journal.
Staedtler Triplus or Stabilo are the most popular of the fine liners but there are plenty of other options you can use if you are on a tight budget. I have noticed most supermarkets and stationers now do their own versions.
Use Fineliners if you want to add small amounts of colour or use the pens to create coloured spreads. The key is in the name here. The idea is for them to create small lines so they are great for mixing it up and drawing spreads in colour rather than with a Pitt pen. Although you would think that these are pens that don’t bleed, you’d be surprised. As they are highly pigmented, it’s best to try them out before committing if bleeding and ghosting upsets you.
I’ve mentioned this brand rather than felt tip pens in general as because I found that these pens give the best coverage with the least bleed through. They are also often on sale and you can buy supplementary packs in other colours such as pastels if you want to expand your collection. I love these pens!
Use the Flairs if you want to add a little more colour to your bullet journal or like to outline with a thicker line for bold pops of colour.
Bullet Journal Markers are a bit rarer as most people find them a little thick. They can still be useful though when adding colour. Although I would say that sharpies would bleed too much. I have used the Crayola Super Tips to good effect though.
Watercolours are so much fun but need to be approached with a little caution. As the name implies they need water to work so they can warp and distort the pages of your journal. If this is something that will upset you then start small with a little test area and try out things on other paper.
Use watercolours in your bullet journal if you like to experiment with colour mixing and large areas of colour. Even the most experienced watercolour artists will tell you that the medium sometimes has a life of its own though so do not go for this route if you might get upset if it doesn’t turn out how you want, has water and/or paint bleed through or just general distortion of the paper.
These have slightly less pigmented effects but lots of people use coloured pencils in their journals for a less harsh way to get colour on to the page. As previously stated though, I am lazy and having to keep sharpening the pencils annoys me, especially when I am not very skilled in their application. They are a super option though if you have better skills than me and like the way they look.
Akin to highlighters but in cute pastel colours but with dual tips, one chisel tip and one pointed tip, these pens are a great way to get some subtle colour on the page without going overboard. You can see that whilst I think these are cute, I prefer bold colours, therefore, they are only getting an honourable mention however if you are more subtle and elegant then the Zebra Mildliners may serve you well.
What is the heck is washi? Essentially it is just a paper tape. This means that washi tape sticks in your bullet journal easily but also can be taken out (carefully) so that it doesn’t rip the page. This means that it is fantastic for bullet journal decoration as it has so many applications. Sticking in tip-in pages, ticket stubs and other mementoes, Bordering pages, for a pop of colour, as a page flag or my favourite as a lining to the page so you can easily differentiate between different months.
It comes in so many colours and varieties that you can easily get lost and end up with an absolute bucket load of these tapes. What me!? No, I don’t have that many…. Only 50 or so!!! Eek!
Stickers may not be for everyone but they certainly aren’t just for kids. There is something particularly satisfying about affixing little chore stickers to the page in my bullet journal when I complete a chore or adding an angry Puka sticker on the day when the computers at work stopped working for 3 days straight. I love the trend that is developing for functional stickers too. My favourites are my “On-Call” and “Payday” stickers which make these days pop out on my calendar (not that I need the reminder with payday). There’s also brush letter stickers, countdown stickers, water tracking stickers…. All kinds of insanely cool stickers!
I’m gonna give a shout out to my favourite sticker shop on Etsy here too. Go check out HappyCutieStudio if you think bullet journal stickers might be your bag!
In order to save me from spending all my money on stickers then I also invested in some small bullet journal stamps. My favourite is the water tracker stamp and my mini weather stamps. That way I can keep track of these things without having to draw wonky water drops or slightly demented smiley sunshine. I am a trier and I will keep trying but I am not the most gifted artist in the world so having stamps to do the work for me is ideal.
I got my stamps cheap on Ali-Express so you don’t need to spend a fortune on them, they are just a nice way to add things that you routinely use in your journal without the stress of re-drawing the same things over and over.
If you are neater than I am, instead of stamps you can also use stencils and as with everything on this list, there are lots of cute ones!
That’s All Folks…
So there you have it. My low down on the best bullet journaling supplies out there. Don’t take my word for it though, go and see what you find most snazzy and useful. Feel free to start a stationery discussion with me in the comments. I have no qualms in debating the relative merits of any of these things with anyone. There is no bad stationery, except the things I hate, ha!
Finally to finish off this post, a question for you. Given that the ethos of bullet journaling is to keep the system simple and make it work for you, do you think printables help or hinder this ethos? Does it depend on the printable and how much you end up trying to shoehorn your methods into someone else’s workflow, even if it is very pretty? If you think that printables are a help, which are the most help?