Bullet Journalling is one of the most beautiful ways to plan your days. A quick search on Instagram will flood your timeline with gorgeously decorated planners full of watercolour markers and cursive handwriting. Now you are probably here because you want to start on bullet journalling, but have no idea how. That’s okay; bullet journaling can be daunting at first. It's also for everybody and you can start a bullet journal even if you're not artistic or creative.
So without further ado, let’s break down the art of bullet journalling.
What is Bullet Journalling?
Devised by Ryder Carrol, the bullet journal is the ultimate planning system. The bullet journal starts as a blank journal and includes many sections such as an index, monthlies, dailies, collections, and a future log. The bullet journal works to help you plan for the future, track the past and make the most of your present.
It is important to note that not all journals can be a bullet journal. If you want to create a bullet journal, you need to have the elements created by Ryder.
Getting Started With Bullet Journalling
It can be tempting to buy a bunch of washi tapes, notebooks and pens and go to town. After all, a quick look at Instagram will reveal aesthetic watercolour pens, lettering and oodles of washi tape. However, remember that you are not bullet journaling for Instagram, you are bullet journaling for yourself. In a scenario like this, the best supplies are the ones you will actually use. So here is a quick starter kit with supplies that are widely used by the bullet journaling, or BoJo, community.
The Bullet Journal Notebook
Now, this might surprise you, but you can’t have a bullet journal without a… bullet journal notebook. The great thing about your bullet journal is that it can be as simple and utilitarian as you want. It always helps to get a journal you feel comfortable writing and doodling in because you don’t want to worry too much about wasting your pages. Or worse yet, buying an expensive journal and never using it!
A typical notebook used in the BoJo community is Leuchtturm1917 — specifically, the medium A5 dotted journal. This journal is unique because it was a collaboration on Kickstarter with Ryder and the german brand behind this book. In other words, it was created for the BoJo community. This journal is particularly interesting because it has dots instead of lines which means that it provides a structure without holding a monopoly over your creativity.
Ryder himself mentions that he was very excited to launch this project.
“I partnered with them because I appreciated the care they put into their products long before we worked together.” He explains, adding, “I could go on about the quality and attention to detail, but in truth, the reason I loved their notebooks is because they put up with me. I never had to worry about these, they just did their job better than any other I had used.”
If you want to look for a different notebook for yourself, here are a few more factors you would want to take note of:
Having a larger journal gives you more space, but it will also be harder to carry around.
We know that a denser paper is luxurious, so don’t be afraid to go for a thicker page. Nothing less than 100 GSM though, or your paper will get too thin.
Lines or no lines
The BoJo community tends to not go for notebooks that have lines in them, preferring grids or boxes. Lines can be more confining and limit your freedom and creativity. So that’s something you have to look out for!
Pen and Pencils
Although there are particular favourites for notebooks in the community, there is (un)fortunately, no consensus on pens. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, Ryder feels that people should work with whatever pens feel right for them. “It’s important to me that people figure out what works best for them,” he said, admitting that for years, he used a simple Bic Cristal pen ($7) because he didn’t have to worry about losing them.
If you are not a fan of ballpoints or are just more of a pen nomad feel free to experiment with gel pens like Pilot or Paper mate’s Inkjoy. Bullet journalists highly recommend both of these. It’s helpful to use a plain black pen for your lines, grids and letterings to have a clear planner. You can reserve your pop of colours for the doodles and scribbles that will add to your planner’s style. Just watch out for pens that bleed!
Nobody can get mad at you for a little pop of colour, plus it keeps your journals from getting too dull. While watercolours can be tempting and often add a lot of aesthetic to your journal, they can be really tricky to use. For a beginner, it will probably be a lot better to use coloured pens which can still create fabulous looks. When picking pens, it’s good to stick with reliable brands like Pilot, Sakura, Faber Castell and Crayola, just to name a few.
A good starter pen is the Sakura Pigma Micron Fineliners ($12.03), which are filled with waterproof archival ink. This particular ink would not bleed through your paper or smudge. You can even use watercolours on top of this ink, and it won’t blend into each other, which is fantastic.
Another great option is the Paper Mate Inkjoy Gel Pens ($9.97). Gel pens are great for people who are heavy-handed because using a ballpoint with a heavy hand could make your pens bleed through your pages. These gel pens, in particular, create very vivid lines and are super smooth to write with, however, the amount of ink that comes from them usually means that you will see smudges of colour if your hand passes through it before it dries.
This is where the Paper Mate Inkjoy pens come in handy because they have a new technology that allows ink to dry three times faster, preventing smudges - definitely one of the best coloured pens for bullet journaling.
Highlighters and Markers
Coloured pens are great for adding some colour here and there, but for the adventurous, markers and highlighters are the way to go. These tools can be easy to use but can add texture and pigment to your pages. Many in the bullet journaling community swear by Stabilo highlighters, which is a trendy brand of highlighters. The Stabilo boss collection ($9.42) even has a vast range of pastel colours that anyone who enjoys a bit of colour on their bullet journals will love!
If you are looking to experiment with your highlighters, another personal favourite is the Zebra Mildliners ($16.97). They are also a household name and are known for their pastel tones. These highlighters are the only ones that come in a complete pastel range. While the Stabilo boss collection does have pastel shades, it only has six, so the Mildliners are far superior. The only downfall for the mildliners is that you need to paper test them because they will bleed through some paper. They also come in dual tips: a broad angled tip and a fine one for highlighting, underlining, drawing or writing.
Another great product is the erasable Pilot Frixion Colors ($13.19). As the name suggests, these markers are completely erasable, and that is great for a clumsy person like myself. Now you don’t have to worry about random jerking movements that will render your page useless. These colours are lighter and can even double up to act as highlighters. The downside to this pen is that exposure to heat can make your colours fade, so you probably want to limit this tool to decorating.
If you are looking for a more economical and nostalgic tool, the Crayola markers($11.97) you played with as a kid are perfect for bullet journaling. Crayola markers have this edged nib which allows you to draw thin and thick lines. So you can be creative and dabble in artwork, hand lettering, faux calligraphy and craft in general.
It’s so small that you might almost miss it, but a ruler is a must-have in any bullet journaling starter kit. Having one allows you to draw neat sections and lines to organise your work. You can also use almost any ruler here, but Ryder himself uses a triangular one that is small enough to fit in the back of his notebook. You can use a simple Helix Ruler for this. Or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try one of these fun stencil rulers.
These rulers have everything you need to let you draw quick and quirky shapes. This is particularly helpful for those of you who want to beautify your spreads, like checkboxes for tracking your weekly or even monthly work. Now we know that all you need to start your bullet journal is a notebook and a couple of pens, but let’s be honest, that’s incredibly boring. So we have compiled a small list of additional supplies you can include in your bullet journaling kit.
The trick with these supplies is not to buy them all in one go. We know it can be tempting to hit Amazon and buy all of this in one go, but you should probably build your kit up instead of buying all of this at once and never using half of it.
You can find washi tape in almost any bullet journal on Instagram. For the uninitiated, washi tapes are just little rolls of masking tape with cute designs and patterns. You can use it for any kind of craft-including bullet journaling.
The most popular type of washi tape on bullet journals is the reliable glitter kind, but there are ones that are a lot more sophisticated. Washi tapes are high for borders and grids on your bullet journals. You can easily find these in your nearest stationery shop or head over to Amazon to buy them in bulk. Feel free to experiment and figure out what works best for you.
Metallic Gelly Roll Pens
There are tons of metallic pens and markers on Amazon and in craft stores. The problem is that most of them have this dull shine to them. Clearly, if you are going for sparkly pens, you want one that can be seen easily! And that’s what these pens provide. They work on top of other pens and markers and leave a beautiful shimmery flow of ink.
I hate it when I use glue to stick things up, and it leaves a residue because that never goes away. It just stays there, an ugly spot of bumpy, sticky glue, which is why the Tombow Adhesive is such a lifesaver. It’s one of my favourite alternatives to glue. It’s incredibly sticky and will hold pictures, tickets, cut out stickers, in place without leaving behind that tacky residue.
Pen Case Organiser
There is just something so satisfying about a well-organised pen case. If you often travel or like to pack your bujo around the house, feast your eyes on this new carrying case for your favourite pens. This case can hold up to 202 coloured pencils or 136 gel pens, making it a perfect pitstop for all of the pens you will ever buy.
And with that, you have a guide to all the supplies you will ever need to step foot in the BoJo community. Remember to have fun and take inspiration from the other members of the community so that you have a truly fun experience.