Far from being a simple bundle of pages stuck together, your notebook is an extension of you. It reflects who you are and how you’re going to use it, so choosing the right one is an incredibly personal process. And in a way, we don’t make it easy, with such a deep range on our shelves! But each notebook we carry is the right one for someone, so here’s our ultimate notebook guide to help you find the one for you.
The first and arguably most important question to ask of your notebook is where you’re going to use it. If it’s going to stay on your desk 24/7, you might go for a more spacious option like an A4 notebook that’ll give you plenty of room to play. On the other hand, a Pocket-sized notebook is better for portability, so it’ll make your life easy if you’re looking to jot notes on the go.
A guide to Moleskine notebook sizes
There's too many options to cover here, so for more info on notebook sizes, we've got our Ultimate Guide to Notebook Sizes to help you narrow down your options and find your dream notebook.
Thankfully, cover options are a little more simple. Hardcover notebooks have a rigid cover that can take a bit more of a beating as it bounces around in your bag, protecting the pages inside. The thicker cover can take up a little more space, but it’s worthwhile if you’re planning to work on the go, since the hard cover can also double as a portable table.
Soft covers, on the other hand, are slimmer and more delicate. Usually made of a light card, they’re strong enough to keep their shape, but only offer limited protection to the pages inside, and generally won’t be sturdy enough to use without a desk or table to lean on. Because of that, soft cover notebooks like Moleskine’s Cahier or Midori’s Notebook Light are a popular choice for students who need to carry a lot of things around from class to class.
True adventurers might go for the heavy-duty feel of a Traveler’s Company Notebook, which features a durable leather cover that’s hardy enough to withstand your international expeditions (and also makes you feel a bit like Indiana Jones).
What are you planning to do with your notebook? Notebooks are versatile enough to do just about anything, but choosing the right page layout to suit your plans just helps everything work more smoothly.
Ruled pages are the most familiar option, with horizontal lines giving you a clear structure that’s especially good for any kind of writing, be it note-taking, prose, poetry, recipes or anything like that.
If you’re looking to express your inner artist, though, those ruled lines might get in the way, so a Plain page layout might be a more suitable option for sketchers and scribblers. With no markings or guidelines at all, the plain page can be liberating or paralysing depending on who you are, but that unrestrained freedom can be turned into amazing bullet journals, self-contained comics and anything else your imagination can cook up.
Though they might feel quite rigid, the regimented Grid layout can be adapted to suit everyone from industrial designers to artists wanting to work on their perspective, right through to graphic designers who crave symmetry and order. Its origins are in technical illustrations, so grid pages are also good for circuit diagrams, product modelling and other such orderly pursuits, but they're still great for writing, note-taking, recipes and such as well!
Sitting somewhere in between the structure of a Grid layout and the freedom of a blank page, a Dot Grid layout offers the best of both formats at once. The strict lines of the Grid are implied by the dots on the page, so you can use them to give your page shape when you want to, but the negative space between each dot makes it easy to ignore them when you want the freedom to be expressive. That’s why bullet-journalers love using dot grid notebooks to create their imaginative, organised planners.
Each notebook we carry at Milligram has high-quality paper – that’s a non-negotiable for us. But each of our brands are also unique, with paper that has something special to offer.
Fountain pen lovers, for example, want paper that’s able to handle the extra ink. French paper makers like Clairefontaine and Rhodia offer impeccably smooth pages that are perfect for fountain pens. There’s also a strong Japanese tradition of paper-making on display in brands like Midori and Life Stationery, which fountain pen fans absolutely adore.
Smooth, creamy paper makes Midori a legendary name in notebooks
Artists, on the other hand, might want something more specialised. If you’re drawing with pencils, markers or charcoal, the high GSM of Moleskine Art Sketch Album will handle those demanding media in style, while Art Watercolour Notebook has even denser paper so you can paint without fear.
But if you’re not sketching a masterpiece or using a fancy fountain pen, you’ve still got lots of great paper options to consider. Brands like Karst don’t even use trees to make their paper, instead going for recycled stone that results in impossibly smooth, bright white pages that take less energy and water to produce for an amazing eco-friendly option.
For more eco-friendly paper, check out Clairefontaine and Rhodia, who source their paper pulp from sustainably managed forestry and are self-sufficient for 80% of their power, or Decomposition Book, whose notebooks are made from 100% recycled paper and printed with soy inks.
Binding is the basic element that keeps your pages together, and it can have a subtle effect on how you use your notebook. Staple binding is simple and effective, but they can only hold a small number of pages. That keeps things slim and lightweight, so staple notebooks are common in student notebooks like Moleskine’s Cahier where you might want to carry a handful of different notebooks for each subject without overloading your backpack. Staple binding also makes it easier for your notebook to lay flat, so they’re a popular choice for left-handers too.
Field Notes' gorgeous notebooks are (almost) all stapled
Stitched notebooks are similar to stapled ones, with small pieces of string holding the pages together instead of a metal clip. Switching to stitching gives makers a bit more freedom to add more pages, so you’ll have more room in your notebook, and it’s also a bit sturdier than staples. Some, like Midori’s MD Notebook Journal, use a thread-stitch method that involves smaller bundles of pages being stitched together, then those smaller bundles are bound together with thread, and secured with a mesh tape binding. That approach helps maintain strength while adding more pages, and still allowing the notebook to lay flat so it’s easy to use.
The exposed binding of Midori notebooks adds to their minimalist charm
Spiral notebooks, like our beloved Delfonics Rollbahn and Studio Milligram’s Spiral Bound Notebook, use metal in small rings or a wire running down the side to keep your pages together. That simple approach makes it easy to write on any part of the page, so you can make use of every inch of your notebook. The spiral binding also makes it easy to pull a page out of your notebook, which can be helpful if you’re going to be sharing notes, or storing your work in a separate folder.
We won't pretend the aesthetic of a notebook doesn’t matter. Like we said at the top, it’s an extension of you, and its style says a lot about who you are as a person. There’s no right or wrong answer here – maybe you like the classic grace of a black Moleskine notebook, or the mid-century charm of Field Notes, or you might prefer the bright colours of Rifle Paper Co. and Papier Tigre. We’ve got plenty of options to choose from, so take your time and find the right one for you.
Because the only important question here is: do you love it? And if the answer is yes, then take it home and fill it with your thoughts, dreams, plans and ideas – because what really matters about a notebook is how you use it.