Best Bullet Journal Supplies For Any Budget and Artistic Level (2023)

Bullet journal-type notebook with elastic band holding it closed, with various pens beside it

When I started my productivity journey using the Bullet Journal, I didn’t know how involved I wanted to be with supplies. Was this going to become an artistic venture with colored pens, stencils, and stickers? Did I just want to track my projects, tasks, and meetings in black and white? These were serious questions as I stood at the juncture of transitioning to a new planner and planner system. It was an adventure to examine what I thought about productivity and what this Bullet Journal was going to become.

It’s been a 9-year journey as I worked out the best, most effective way to be productive with this tool. I’ve even written a book about how I’ve developed my own way of working with the “BuJo”. I’ve tried every angle in using my BuJo. In this post I’d like to share what I’ve learned about various planners and supplies you can use to “make it yours.”

Image of the book cover for "GTD With The Bullet Journal" by Derek Reinhard

Whether you’re just getting started with this creative outlet or have been crafting intricate spreads for years, the supplies you choose will make a difference. In this guide, I’ll explore budget-friendly and higher end tools and techniques to inspire your bullet journaling practice. From the basics of paper, pens, pencils, and highlighters to fun embellishments that spark the imagination, you’ll discover everything needed to craft a bullet journal perfect for your needs and skills.

I will also include tips on how to use each supply for maximum effect. You’ll be creating monthly, weekly, and daily spreads as never before. Your bullet journal can become a planner and also an artistic escape made just for you. If you want to take it in that direction.

Finally, I will also share a bullet journal supplies list for putting together your own bullet journal accessories.

No matter your experience or budget, the possibilities are endless. Let’s dive in!

Bullet journal supplies: start with a bullet journal notebook

Truth be told, the Bullet Journal is simply a specialized hardcover dot grid paper notebook. What makes it so popular, though, is that the journal includes a key for rapid symbols and instructions on the Bullet Journal method.

Depending on your preference, you can use the original Bullet Journal notebook or you can select an alternative. A plain dot grid notebook works, or you can create your own notebook from scratch.

Whichever you choose, remember that the weight of the paper will determine bleed and bleed-through by the pens, markers, and highlighters you use.

Let’s look at each approach:

The original Bullet Journal notebook

The Bullet Journal is a specially printed Leuchtturm1917 dotted notebook (more on that later). Designed with practicality in mind, the bullet journaling method allows you to customize each page depending on your personal needs. Whether it’s weekly meal plans or habit trackers, the dot grid system provides flexibility while keeping everything organized.

The Bullet Journal also makes a brilliant companion for creative pursuits like writing stories or recording memories. And with its internal filing/reference system you customize so you can easily trace your entries.

Author's Bullet Journal, gel pen, compact ruler

Dotted notebooks on a budget

The dot grid is what makes these journals so flexible. Whether you are drawing freehand or using technical drawings to scale, the unassuming grid pattern enables you to keep things orderly when desired. Amazon basics has a range of dot grid journals to choose from. There are also other manufacturers of these lower-cost journals in a range of sizes, styles, and colors.

Leuchtturm1917 dotted notebook

While I use budget lined notebooks for my note taking, poetry, and story writing, the Leuchtturm1917 is my go-to notebook for my productivity bullet journaling. This journal is designed in Germany to a high standard (it’s the same company that produces the Bullet Journal notebook), it just has a few extra blank dot grid pages since it doesn’t include the BuJo method pages in the back. The notebook can be bought with either the standard 80g page weight or a heavier duty 120g weight using high-quality paper manufactured in Germany so the pages can take even water color pens without bleed-through.

Rhodia dotted notebook

This notebook is marketed by Bloc Rhodia in France. It is a hard cover journal with just 96 pages. The pages are 90g and an attractive ivory brushed vellum. It still has the expandable back pocket on the inside cover but has only one book mark ribbon.

Dingbats dot grid notebook

These are high-quality, colorful notebooks with extra features like a lay-flat design. Each comes with a pen loop, an inner rear pocket, and two colored bookmark ribbons. They use 100g acid-free paper so you can use highlighters as well as pens with this notebook.

Generic dot notebooks

Along with the Amazon Basics notebooks mentioned earlier, there are many other dot grid notebook manufacturers. Some even sell in larger lots. Just be sure that whichever notebook you get, to be a journal/planner, the notebooks need to have page numbers. If you will be using a variety of writing and drawing tools, double check that the weight is heavy enough.

Spiral bound dot grid notebooks

Quality spiral bound notebooks are hard to come buy, probably because we look on them as scratch paper. Benefits of spiral bound is that it immediately lays flat when opened. Downside may be that the spiral binding sticks up higher than the page so as you are writing on the left-hand page (if you are right handed, and vice versa if you are left handed), you need to left your hand to continue writing closer to the edge with the spiral binding.

Here is one spiral bound dot grid notebook I found that ticks all the boxes (even though you need to manually enter page numbers there is a “Page” space at the bottom of each page).

Create your own Bullet Journal-type notebook

You can start from scratch and assemble your own dot grid notebook, just like we often did with ruled paper when we were in school.

Choose your binder

As with pre-made bullet journals, binder quality varies but mainly come in utility-grade. You can get fancier leather-bound binders if you like. It is your choice.

Good Paper Quality

Just like buying a dot grid notebook for your bullet journaling, choose the desired weight of loose-leaf paper. Also, make sure that you either have a hole punch that matches the size and number of binder rings you’ve chosen, or purchase pre-punched dotted paper that has the holes punched for your selected binder.

checklist, list, check

The best notebook for you – a checklist

  • Consider size for portability and readability – A5 (about 8.5″ x 5.5″) has worked for me; it’s not pocket sized but it’s easy to carry and can fit into a backpack or medium-sized purse no problem.
  • Hardcover or softcover – Again, it depends on your preference; I think of hardcover as something to preserve after using all the pages and softcover more expendable. Still, either type can sit on a shelf nicely.
  • Must have numbered pages in order to track locations, or be prepared to write in your own numbers; the idea is to be able to cross-refer information on different pages through out your bullet journals.
  • Multiple marker ribbons – 2 at least, preferably different colors or patterns; there are two in the standard Leuchtturm1917, the BuJo method (and Bullet Journal) uses 3.
  • Paper weight is important if you plan on using marker pens or highlighters – nothing less than 80g weight; look for heavier if you will do a lot of drawing or coloring sizeable areas of a page.
  • Do you need a pen loop, either built into the notebook or an accessory that can be attached in some way? If you are going to use any of the pens I discuss below, I suggest purchasing an attachable pen loop that is larger than a standard pen loop. I’ve used the Rocketbook pen station for years. It costs a bit more but easily holds the larger barreled pens.

What supplies do you need to start a bullet journal?

There are many types of supplies you can use for bullet journaling, including pens, highlighters, and markers. These come in various colors and tip sizes, so it’s a good idea to try out a few and see which ones work best for you. Additionally, stencils and stickers can be helpful for adding a touch of creativity to your pages or marking certain information or pages. Don’t feel you need to buy everything at once – start small and build up your collection as you go along. You’ll soon discover which bullet journal supplies are essential for your own unique style of journaling.

In this section I’ll discuss various supplies to use, based on your bullet journaling approach. You can take a simple, even minimalist, approach by using a single pen (though I also recommend keeping a compact ruler or straight edge handy). My first bullet journal looked like that. You can also take a more involved approach, one that looks more technical or more creative as you go on your bullet journal journey.

pencils, notebooks, supplies

The best bullet journal supplies for beginners

As I mentioned, if you are new to journaling or have experience there but not with bullet journaling, start small and experiment so you can decide on the right tools that work for you and how you journal.

Here are recommendations for a bullet journal starter kit:

Pens are are one of the bullet journal essentials

Basically, any pen or pencil will do when you start bullet journaling. It may be tempting to grab a cheap pen or pencil lying around, investing in quality pens can make all the difference. Not only do they have smoother ink flow and more precise tips, but they can also enhance the aesthetic of your planner. With options ranging from brush pens to gel pens, there’s a pen out there for every bullet journal lover. Plus, using a quality pen can make writing in your planner feel more satisfying and can even reduce hand fatigue over time. But there are some considerations to make, again, based on your personal approach to your journaling.

My personal approach

I look for long-lasting fixable ink pens so that the ink will not run or bleed on the paper of my bullet journal. The other consideration is how fine the pen tip is. My go-to pen for day-to-day journaling (which has evolved since I started bullet journaling), is the retractable Sharpie S-Gel pen, with a .38mm line thickness. These come in black, red, and blue ink–though I did find one package of 8 pens that included green and purple ink as well.

I like these pens because, first, Sharpie is a brand I trust, next, there is a variety of line thicknesses (from .38mm up to 1.0mm), and finally, it has a retractable tip rather than having a pen cap.

Another black pen I’ve used in the past is the Pilot G2 gel pen. The G2 is retractable and comes in the same range of line thickness (though called Ultrafine, Very Fine, Fine, and Bold — for 3.5mm, .5mm, .7mm, and 1.0mm). The G2 also comes in many colors.

The Pilot G2 does have refills so instead of throwing away the entire pen when the ink runs out, you can purchase the refill chamber. You would do this purely to save from buying a full pen body and all because, unless you buy the refills in bulk, the G2 refills cost almost as much as the entire pen.

The G2 is slightly bulkier than the Sharpie S-Gel which may be an issue with pen loops you may use (discussed further on). Also, the G2, like most gel pens, is not waterproof ink.

color gel pens

Colored Pens

As I mentioned, the Sharpie S-Gel and Pilot G2 pens come in different colors. You can also purchase Sharpie ultra fine-tip pens with colors and permanent ink. I think these are the best pens for everyday life if you want permanent results.

There are higher end pens that perform better for the creatives among us. I will cover those in the section for advanced bullet journalists.

Highlighters for your bullet journaling

The performance of your highlighter is important. While there doesn’t seem to be any “permanent” ink highlighters, highlighting is essentially permanent. What you need to be sure of is that your highlighting doesn’t bleed or run. This is both a matter of paper quality and highlighter quality.

Both Bic and Sharpie make highlighters in many colors that perform well for a modest price. The one feature you want your highlighter to have is a chisel tip. Regular point highlighters enable you to underline text while the chisel tip allows you to highlight over the text.

Techniques for using highlighters in your bullet journal

How you use a highlighter in your bullet journal depends on your personal approach as well as what sort of pen you are using.

You can use highlighters to emphasize sections where you outline something you’ve drawn, such as calendar boxes or larger shapes. This won’t have you highlighting over something you’ve written or drawn. If this is the case, then highlight away! But if you are going to highlight over a drawing or writing, then timing is everything.

Two techniques for highlighting what you’ve drawn or written
  1. The first technique is that once you have written or drawn something using a gel or ballpoint pen, you need to wait 30 seconds or so to let the ink set. Otherwise, when you run your highlighter over it, the ink will spread a little. Of course, if you are using permanent marker, you can highlight almost immediately after using the pen.

Comparing "Test This" written by permanent ink pen and a gel pen to show ink bleed from highlighter in bullet journal

  1. The second technique is that you lay down your highlighting first, and then do your drawing or writing over the highlighting. This technique takes a bit more planning, obviously, but the results can be even sharper than the first technique.

Other items I think are essential supplies

There are hundreds of possible bullet journal accessories and with experience working with your bullet journal, you will discover what is essential for you and your style of bullet journaling.

protractor and compact ruler

For me, the one other essential besides pens and highlighters is a compact ruler or some other straight edge for this bullet journalists. You can combine the straight edge and measuring tool with other tools, such as a protractor or if it comes as part of a stencil kit.

Best bullet journal supplies for advanced users

If you’re an advanced journal user, you know that having the right supplies is key to creating a beautiful and functional journal. Some of the best bullet journal supplies to consider include high-quality pens in a variety of colors, fine-tipped markers for precision, sturdy rulers for straight lines, as well as stencils and washi tape for adding decorative touches. And don’t forget the importance of finding the perfect storage system for your supplies – whether that’s a compact pencil case or a cute desk organizer, having everything readily accessible will make your bullet journaling sessions even more enjoyable. So, let’s discuss these journal supplies.

Stencils to use in your dotted journal

As ever, the stencils you use should have three characteristics:

  1. They have enough variety so you can create freely
  2. Their quality ensures sharp lines and useability
  3. Their dimensions make them portable (they can fit in the back pocket of your bullet journal or whichever dotted journal notebook you are using)

One set that fits these three characteristics is by ZICOTO which has 15 template cards. Each card can fit into the back pocket of your dotted notebook (probably not all 15, though). If you want the portability of carrying all your templates in the back pocket, be sure to experiment and find the best stencil set for your bullet journal kit.

Some examples to consider include by Sunny Streak:

Specialized pens

These types of pens can serve different purposes or provide a higher level of quality (or they simply meet a preference of yours). The fountain pen, fine tip pens, specific gel pens, and brush pens are examples of these specialized writing and drawing pens.

Your choice of using these comes from experience. While journaling you will discover how to use thick or thin lines to express yourself, make medium or bold strokes in writing and drawing, even how to do brush lettering. Your bullet journal could turn into an art journal!

Fountain Pens

Using this type of pen takes some practice, but once you gain confidence using them, they could become your favorite piece of bullet journal equipment. The fountain pen is enjoyed by many simply for its writing experience. Others use fountain pens for calligraphy.

This type of pen ranges in price and capabilities. The key feature of a fountain pen is that the body is refillable; you do not discard the fountain pen. The most popular way of refilling fountain pens is with cartridges. There are more sophisticated (or old-school) fountain pens that are manually refilled from an ink bottle. Another feature is that many fountain pens have interchangeable nibs so you can vary the line thickness your pen produces.

The price ranges along with the quality and the manufacturer’s reputation. For example, the Montblank Meisterstuck starts in the US$500+ range while a Parker fountain pen costs from US$20 to over US$800.

notebook with notes and fountain pen

Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen

Aside from Pilot’s limited edition pens, this line of fountain pen is in the US$20-US$30 range. They use refill cartridges and are nice for general use.

Fine line pens

Similar to the ultra-fine tip basic pens described earlier, fineliner pens provide smooth writing and precise, narrow lines. These are excellent for writing, drawing, drafting, even doing faux calligraphy. Their ink comes in a variety of colors and can be retractable or use a cap to cover the writing tip.

Sakura Pigma Micron Fineliner pens

Sakura is my go-to pen for my drawing. I’m currently learning black ink pen drawing and the Sakura pens come in a variety of sizes, from .003mm all the way up to brush pen.

These pens are capped and have a smooth barrel. The Japanese precision is noticeable and they are very enjoyable to use.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner

Staedtler produces a wide range of art supplies including pens, pencils, and calligraphy pens. I use their pencils for drawing. Their pens would serve you well like the Sakura.

colored pencils, fine line pens

White Gel Pen

Why a white gel pen? As opposed to the traditional black ink, using a white gel pen can add a unique touch to your journal. It’s perfect for writing over darker backgrounds or adding highlights to doodles and illustrations. Whether you’re looking to add some fun details or simply switch things up, incorporating a white gel pen into your bullet journal can be a fun and creative way to do so. Sakura and Pentel are some of the most popular brands that produce white gel pens.

Brush Pens And Markers

Brush pens and markers are popular tools for those who want to add a touch of creativity to their bullet journals. Unlike traditional pens and highlighters, brush pens and markers provide a varied line weight and texture that can be used for different purposes. For instance, brush pens can be used for lettering and headers, as their brush tip can create various line widths and styles depending on the pressure applied. Meanwhile, markers are ideal for adding pops of color and shading, allowing users to highlight and emphasize specific details in their layouts. Overall, brush pens and markers can elevate the look and feel of a bullet journal, adding a fun and artistic flair to daily journaling.

Tombow Dual Brush Pens

Tombow dual brush pens are literally that: a pen with a tip on each end. One end is a brush tip and the other is a fine line tip. Tombow creates many styles of these pens along with different shades and color palettes.

Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Color Pens

The Fineliner Point 88 is Stabilo’s line of colored pens with a 0.4mm tip. They come in a variety of colors (at least 65) so there is a pen for every one of your color needs, I’m sure.

Zebra Mildliners

These brush pens are more like highlighters for coloring. There are vibrant as well as soft colors and are very useful for filling broader areas of your bullet journal art.

Specialized highlighters

While typical highlighters are great for marking important passages in textbooks, specialized highlighters, like the Stabilo BOSS Original Highlighters, offer a variety of uses for bullet journaling. These highlighters come in a range of colors, making it easy to color-code different categories or tasks in your journal. Additionally, the chisel tip allows you to create simple broad lines instead of using a brush pen.

Stabilo BOSS Original Highlighter

Having been around over 50 years, these are pretty much the original quality highlighter. The body has a distinctive, no-roll design and they come in both the original pastel shades as well as more modern fluorescent colors. The chisel tip produces 2mm and 5mm lines. They are refillable and very durable. I’d put these on my list of bullet journal essentials.

highlighter pens, colored

Other journal supplies

I’ve covered what I think are the best bullet journal supplies for beginners and for advanced journalers. There are only a couple other supplies you might want to consider, especially if you want to add your own personalized creativity to your bullet journal.

Washi tape and stickers for your bullet journal

Washi tape and stickers are popular in scrap booking circles. It is a fun and versatile tool that can be used in many different ways within a bullet journal as well. They come in a large variety of widths, colors, patterns, and themes.

patterned washi tape, japanese paper

One of the most common uses is to add some color and personality to the pages. This can be done by using strips of washi tape as borders, frames, or dividers between different sections. Another popular use is to create tabs or bookmarks so that you can quickly flip to important pages.

You can also use this tape to cover up mistakes or smudges, or to label different sections of your journal. With so many different colors, patterns, and designs available, it’s easy to find washi tape that matches your style and helps you express your creativity.

Stickers are probably the ultimate creative touch (and easy to use for those who prefer not to draw). Besides being available in a huge variety of colors, stickers come in geometric prints, flowers, objects, vintage themes, and so much more.

Supplies organizer

So, you’ve picked (or created) your best notebook and collected your first batch of bullet journal supplies. But you can’t stash all this good stuff in the back accordion pocket, so how do you keep it all neatly together?

Cloth pen/pencil wraps

These type of holders are comprised of a series of slots for your writing/drawing tools in a cloth that is rolled up and tied shut. They come in many sizes so you can carry as few or as many as you like. I purchased one like this for my drawing pencils and pens so I can drop it in the bottom of my backpack or carry-on luggage when we travel.

The holders are made of cloth or leather with plain or decorative backing. While they are lightweight and inexpensive, they are bulky if you have a lot of pens and pencils wrapped up in it.

pencil case with colored pencils and eraser

Pen/Pencil cases

These generally are hard sided and range from the size of a smartphone to something like a fishing tackle box. I bought one like this that is on the small side but it is easy to carry around or fit into a purse or brief case. Unlike the wraps, these cases are able to hold other things besides pens and pencils.

Desktop organizers

If you aren’t a traveler, there are compact and convenient desktop organizers to keep your bullet journal supplies handy.

One of my favorite brands makes desktop organizers (in 3 models) out of bamboo rather than out of plastic. Check it out here.

diary, journal, pen

Best bullet journal supplies – final thoughts

This is an extensive list but still doesn’t include all the supplies you might choose for your bullet journal. When it comes to personal productivity and organizing, we all have our unique requirements. Some prefer colorful markers to develop creative spreads, while others rely on the simplicity of the black ink on paper.

Nevertheless, having the right bullet journal supplies can surely aid in enhancing productivity. Begin by experimenting with the supplies listed in this article, but if you feel that something else might work better for you, go for it. Remember, the goal is to find the supplies that help you journal faster, more effectively, and enjoyably.

Bullet journal supplies list

  • The best bullet journal for you is the one you will use. Purchase the original Bullet Journal or a dot grid notebook with good quality paper.
  • Quality pens and a pen loops (large or narrow)
  • Compact ruler, or a ruler on a stencil page, that fits into the back pocket of your notebook
  • Highlighters
  • Color pens of differing tip thickness
  • Washi tapes and stickers
  • Supplies organizer list, shopping list

Bonus Section – Calligraphy

In today’s world, where everything is fast-paced, it can be nice to take a step back and slow down. That’s where calligraphy comes in. Calligraphy has become quite popular in recent years, as people rediscover the beauty and art of hand-lettering. Whether you’re scribbling a thank you note, creating wedding invitations, or jazzing up your bullet journal, calligraphy is a beautiful and personal touch. This beginner’s guide to pointed pen and brush pen lettering will give you a foundation to start your calligraphy journey. Get ready to enjoy the meditative process of creating something beautiful by hand.

Modern Calligraphy: A Beginner’s Guide To Pointed Pen And Brush Pen Lettering

Modern calligraphy is a beautiful art form based on a centuries old skill with roots in China. It’s a stylish way to create handwritten designs and has become a popular trend for wedding invitations, wall decor, and greeting cards. With its unique flourishes and varying line weights, modern calligraphy has become an alternative to traditional cursive. In modern calligraphy, the letters are written individually and connected with each other in a fluid manner. What makes modern calligraphy fascinating is the blend of intricate details and personalized creativity.

What You’ll Need to Get Started with Pointed Pen Calligraphy

First, you’ll need a pointed pen – there are several types to choose from, but most beginners tend to prefer the oblique pen. You’ll also need ink that’s specifically made for calligraphy – be sure to choose one that won’t bleed or feather. And, of course, you’ll need paper! High-quality (lightly ruled) paper will help you achieve crisp, clean lines. Beyond those basics, you can also invest in some handy tools like a lightbox, ruler, and guideline sheets. With these simple supplies, you’ll be able to start creating stunning calligraphy in no time.

Essential Tips for Mastering the Basics of Modern Calligraphy

First and foremost, invest in quality materials – good paper and pens will make a world of difference. Next, practice your strokes. Every letter is made up of basic strokes, so perfecting these will set you up for success. Don’t shy away from experimenting with different styles and fonts. Finally, have patience. Calligraphy is a skill that takes time and practice to master, but the results are undoubtedly worth it.

Creative Exercises for Developing Your Calligraphy Skills

Writing about calligraphy, or even posting pictures about it, is not an effective way to learn calligraphy. Thankfully, YouTube (and probably TikTok and other platforms) have numerous videos about how to learn pretty much everything, including calligraphy! Here is a good 7-minute video teaching the basics of learning modern calligraphy.

Take it from here to further explore AND practice what you are learning about calligraphy. Even knowing the basics can add a beautiful dimension to your bullet journal and other areas of your life.

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