So you’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to join the bullet journal revolution.
Good for you! This is a great step to organizing your life better and increasing your productivity and effectiveness to levels you never thought possible.
You’ve figured out what the heck a bullet journal is in the first place and gotten some inspiration for how to use a bullet journal to record your ideas, track submissions, work on book outlines, and more.
Now you need some ideas and a plan to get you started—as well as some basic supplies!
While you can use just about anything to create a working bullet journal, including a spiral notebook and a Bic you found on the sidewalk, you can also upgrade your experience with great notebooks, pens, markers, templates, and other tools.
Here are some of the best bullet journal supplies we’ve found.
Although any notebook will do, bullet journals tend to work best with blank pages. That way, you’re not limited by the lines and can use any layout that springs to mind.
Nervous about going completely blank? Try a dotted notebook! The tiny grid of dots lets you align your lists and writing precisely, staying neatly organized on the page.
Using slightly thicker paper is also good, because it keeps the ink from bleeding between pages and making your layouts hard to read.
A 5 x 8.25” notebook—the size of a sheet of paper folded in half—is generally the most convenient, because it’s small enough to be easily carried with you but large enough to allow you to get pretty detailed with your lists and spreads.
Some great options include the Leuchtturm1917, which was made specifically for bullet journaling and includes pre-numbered pages, a ready-to-go index, and a ribbon marker to help keep your place. It even has a pocket for stashing notes or receipts!
Essentials by Peter Pauper Press is another good line that uses acid-free heavy-weight paper to help your pages last for years. There’s a pocket inside the back cover to hold receipts and papers you pick up along the way.
BookFactory makes a spiral-bound dotted notebook with lined pages in the beginning to set up your index. While the spiral binding adds a little bulk for carrying it around, it also lets the pages lie completely flat or be folded backwards without creasing, giving you more space to do layouts right up to the margins.
You might also consider investing in a refillable journal—you can choose a beautiful, durable cover and then pop blank notebooks in and out. Personally, I love refillable notebooks because I can keep my same journal going for years and just file away all the filled inserts for later reference.
Next to the notebook itself, pens are the most important—and personal!—choice you’ll make when bullet journaling.
Everyone has a pen and ink combo that they prefer. So you’ll probably have to try a bunch of different brands and styles before you find what works best for you.
Still, there are some nearly universal favorites that you might want to check out!
Many bullet journalers don’t like ballpoint pens because they tend to be a little scratchy on the page—it’s hard to get a nice flowing line. That said, the ink dries fast and these pens tend to be less expensive than some other options. The ink also lasts the longest, so you’re less likely to dig around in your bag only to find that your pen has dried up.
If you like ballpoints, try the Paper Mate Inkjoy ballpoint, which comes in a bunch of colors and has nicely flowing ink. They’re comfortable to hold, inexpensive, and will never let you down.
The Pilot Better Retractable ballpoint is another solid option, though it comes in fewer ink colors. It has a finer tip, so you can get really detailed (or write really small on the page).
Smooth ink and a great writing experience are the hallmarks of gel pens—along with dozens of color and style options.
However, they tend to write with a slightly thick line, which some journalers don’t like, and the ink can take awhile to dry, so you can’t close your notebook right away or risk smearing.
Uniball Signos are a great place to get started; they’re not very expensive and come in both black multipacks and color packs. They’re water- and fade-resistant to keep your journal looking great for years to come.
Gel pens are notorious for taking forever to dry, but Zebra Sarasa pens solve that problem! They dry fast and come in a range of colors. The quick dry speed makes them particularly great for left-handed writers.
Rollerball pens offer much of the convenience and affordability of ballpoints, but with nicer ink and build quality. That’s why so many journalers and writers love them! They take a little longer to dry, but they make up for it with smooth flow.
Keep in mind that the longer drying time can be a problem for lefties, who may have issues with smudging.
Staedtler is a classic pen brand you really can’t go wrong with. Their Triplus rollerballs are awesome—smooth flowing ink, great range of colors, and they won’t dry out if you accidentally leave them uncapped (a big problem with lots of pens).
Fountain pens are a love-em-or-hate-em choice—they can seem messy and fussy, but they can also give you a crazy amount of control and options for ink, including metallics and even invisible ink!
If you want to try a fountain pen, you can’t do much better than the Pilot MR, which is inexpensive and flexible. You can use pre-loaded cartridges for convenience, or load your own with any liquid ink. You could even try making your own walnut ink or using concentrated coffee!
Another classic choice is the Lamy Safari, which is precise and durable. However, you’ll have to buy the refillable cartridge separately if you want to take advantage of all the possibilities of using bottled ink.
Markers, felt-tips, and brush pens all give you tons of options for decorating and expanding your bullet journal. You can choose between an insane array of colors, tip styles, thicknesses, and more.
The classic Sharpie is always a good choice, although depending on your notebook, the ink might bleed through the page a bit.
Pigma Microns are one of the most popular art pens around—they come in a range of widths and colors, so you can choose what works best for you. They don’t bleed much and the ink doesn’t feather out from the line, keeping your journal tidy. They’re also waterproof, just in case your journal accidentally ends up in a puddle!
Paper Mate also makes some fantastic fine-point markers that are super-affordable. The Flair line comes in a bunch of colors perfect for starting to color-code your journal and won’t bleed between pages.
Tombow Dual Brush pens give you a wide brush on one side and a fine-tip marker on the other, and they come in a huge array of colors. Fast and flexible, they’ll help you take your journal to a new artistic level.
Adding emphasis to your bullet journal or putting a wash of color behind something in your spread is easy when you have a good set of highlighters.
You might use them to color-code list items, fill in charts, or just add some background flair to a spread.
Zebra Mildliners come in sets of five different colors and leave a nice amount of color on the page without bleeding through to the next. And the color selection is great, including classic neons, subtle pastels, and a nice primary range in between.
Sharpie also makes great highlighters in all the classic neon shades. They’re retractable, so you don’t need to worry about losing the cap and they’re less likely to dry out just when you need them.
While using a dotted journal makes it easier to get straight lines, having a ruler is never a bad thing when you’re bullet journaling! A small steel ruler helps you quickly divide up a page and keep things neat.
A folding ruler is a pretty neat little tool that can span across two journal pages, but only takes up a little bit of space in your bag or on your desk. It can also help make angles!
Adding some pizazz to your spreads with dots, circles, angles, lines, and other geometric details? Pick up a sturdy template and you’ll be zipping through your spreads in no time.
There are hundreds of stencils available for your bullet journaling pleasure, allowing you to add banners, graphics, detailed lettering, and more to your layouts. If you don’t think of yourself as an artist but still want to have gorgeous spreads, this is a great place to start!
Need to separate sections of your journal? You can’t do much better than sturdy stick-on tab dividers, which let you easily flip to a month or a section, like a “book ideas” page.
Sticky notes are also helpful—you can either buy pre-made flags or cut up a regular pad to make your own. That way, you can leave little notes to yourself that you can always remove or reposition later.
There are other stickers that come in handy, too! You can buy premade heading or label stickers to help set up your pages faster. Some designers even offer stick-on layouts to get you started with things like tracking!
You can also get washi tape, a thin, decorative Japanese paper tape that can be used to divide pages, make tabs, or just add some visual interest. It comes in thousands of sizes and patterns, so you’re sure to find something that appeals to you!
Remember those star stickers from kindergarten? They’re great for bullet journaling! If there’s a particularly amazing book idea that you just have to highlight, why not give it a gold star?
Consider using a fine-point (0.5mm) mechanical pencil to sketch in your more complicated layouts, like graphs or drawings, before you actually put pen to page. That way, if you make any mistakes, you can just erase them!
Binder clips are handy for holding your journal open to the pages you’re working on, or for keeping papers or notes clipped into your journal. They can even hold a pen on your notebook for easy journaling while you’re out and about!
Some notebooks come with a place to put your pen, but many don’t. Consider adding an elastic pen loop so you’ll always be prepared!
Just remember—the tools don’t make the journal, any more than the tools make the writer. It’s your creativity, ingenuity, and drive that make any organizational system work.
So grab a notebook and pen and start bullet journaling today!
What’s your favorite bullet journaling tool?
For more on how to stay organized and productive, read on:
- 9 Calendar Hacks to Maximize Your Productivity
- Planning for Productivity: Accelerate Your Success by Planning Right
- 7 Steps to Improve Your Handwriting (and Productivity)
Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.
In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!