Part scrapbook, part notebook, and part handmade planner, bullet journaling is the perfect activity to take on after a new year begins. Not only can the best bullet journals provide a deeply soothing creative outlet, but they’ll also turn tedious task-tracking into a note-taking game that actually keeps your days in order. If this is your first foray into the world of bullet journals, also known by the portmanteau “bujo,” just you wait: Ticking off your to-do list will feel oh-so-satisfying and also very self-actualizing.
Most bullet journalists will say that you can find all the inspiration you need on bujogram and bujotok, the bustling social hubs where millions of followers of the organization method share their functional designs, showcase their artistic styles, and leave some of the sweetest comments you’ll find on the internet. But in the spirit of this decidedly analog hobby, let’s go back to basics: The Bullet Journal was created by digital product designer Ryder Carroll in 2013 as a way to combat his childhood learning disabilities. Ryder’s unique setup, now called The Bullet Journal Method, uses index pages, daily logs, monthly logs, and future logs to organize a boiled-down action plan to complete short-term tasks, accomplish long-term goals, and build lasting mindfulness habits in the process (a.k.a. the perfect ritual to start the new year!).
Since then, Ryder’s minimalist method has bloomed into a worldwide phenomenon with an almost cult-like following. You can find bujo subcultures centered around calligraphy, self-improvement, and K-pop biases, but one thing remains iconic across the bujoscape: the dotted journal. Dotted pages offer more structure than fully blank pages and less clutter than the ruling on grid paper, making them the best foundation to build your bullet journal dream house.
Whether you’re just starting out or are years into your bullet journal journey, these best-in-class products will help you turn haphazard habits into beautifully recorded routines…or at least have some fun with a low-stakes art project.
The thread-bound A5 notebook from Leuchtturm1917 is the best notebook on the market. It uses high-quality paper, which helps prevent bleed-through and accidental tears, and the faux leather softcover option allows your bujo to expand when you fill it up with stickers, scrapbooking paper, and washi tape. It also has an elastic closure, two ribbon bookmarks, numbered pages, a blank table of contents, and an inner pocket on the back cover to store anything you might need (a mini ruler tends to come in handy when you least expect it).
For the bujo mavericks who prefer the sleek spiral-bound look, Japanese brand Romeo is the way to go. The decadent essence of the Romeo dot grid notebook lies in its thick paper, which—unlike the Leuchtturm1917 journal—stands up against ghosting or when you can see ink on the backside of a page, even if it hasn’t fully bled through. This hardcover notebook cuts out the bulk of elastic closures, bookmarks, or back pockets, and instead has warm-white GSM pages, deliciously smooth paper grain, and sleek gold embossing on the cover, delivering a minimalist and luxurious bujo experience.
If you’re looking for some built-in whimsy, Papier is the perfect brand to browse. At a slightly higher price point than a Leuchtturm1917 or Moleskine classic notebook, Papier offers dotted notebooks with an expansive selection of bold cover designs. You can find real and vegan leather-cover journals, color blocks, floral patterns, monograms, and an option for each star sign if you’re astrologically inclined.
Deciding the winner of the black-pen throne is a contentious undertaking—after all, everyone loves to evangelize whichever model they’ve used since high school. That said, if you’re open to exploring a new option, consider the Pilot G2 0.38 Rollerball. With a pin-sharp tip, a smooth application of ink, and a satisfying clicky-top design (you know what we mean), the Pilot G2 0.38—and yes, it has to be the 0.38—is consistently excellent. One caveat: The ink can smudge, so we recommend using this pen to fill in your bujo spreads, not to decorate them.
After testing pen after pen, we sourced the holy grail of black brush pens: The Fudenosuke Brush Pen 2-Pack from Tombow, one of the most iconic brands in the bullet journal community. This duo comes with hard-tipped and soft-tipped pens, and both utensils deliver rich black ink from a firm yet flexible nib. Unlike most brush pens, the Tombow Fudenosukes almost never fray, keeping your lettering sharp and satisfying for as long as the inkwell lasts.
One side brush tip, one side fine-liner pen, the Tombow Dual Brush Pens are perfect for hand lettering and arguably the most essential item in any bullet journal kit. Tombow offers several 10-color palettes, with themes like cottage, galaxy, tropical, and pastel, but most art supplies stores sell individual colors if you want to curate a bespoke collection. The bad news: The soft brush tips tend to fray after extended use. The good news: There are officially 108 shades of Tombow Dual Brush Pens (collect them all for the most satisfying pen test page ever), but the ink is just light enough that you can layer them—watercolor paper works best—to create even more.
A favorite among bullet journalists, designers, and even architects, the Sakura Pigma Micron felt-tipped pens create smooth and even strokes that dry almost instantly. (Run a highlighter over a freshly-drawn doodle if you don’t believe us.) There are a variety of different colors and sizes, but this six-pack includes what we would consider the perfect range of thickness, from the bold 08 size to the delicate 005 size, whose tiny nib is perfect for easily-cluttered layouts like monthly calendars or habit trackers.
For wonderfully calming bujo layouts, the Zebra Pen Mildliners are the perfect deviation from classic highlighters. Available in 25 colors that range from soft neons to deep muted tones, Mildliners have a chisel tip on one side and a fine liner on the other, making them a versatile staple in your pen collection.
If we’re being honest, most white pens are kind of useless, which is why the Uni-ball Signo white gel pen is a miracle for bullet journaling. The gel ink is smooth and opaque—you can even see it on white paper—creating delightfully eye-catching accents for all your bullet journal pages.
Adding stickers is literally half the fun of bullet journaling, so start collecting any stickers that call to you. You can snag these adorable packs from Sumikko Gurashi, Ban.do, and Poketo—or find unique ones at the registers of coffee shops, as freebies in online order packages, or at stationery stores like Daiso, Muji, Topdrawer, Michael’s, and Blick.
Like stickers, washi tapes (or decorative masking tapes) are an absolute must-have for decorating your bujo spreads. There are infinite packs of washi tapes to choose from on Amazon, Etsy, and most art supplies stores. Suffering from choice overload? Start with this pastel 10-pack, and see if you’re left wanting more in terms of design or brightness.
For the bullet journal spreads that lean into the journal element, a tape or glue roller is a convenient tool to keep in your pencil case. Whether you opt for a well-known brand like Scotch, or one that’s a little cuter, like this glue roller from Soonpam on Amazon, this accessory helps you add everyday finds like museum tickets, receipts, and notes to your more scrapbook-y spreads.
For beginners and experts alike, bullet journaling is a pen-forward and mistake-laden experience, which means correction tape is a must. This mini correction tape from Midori fits in even the smallest of pockets, giving you the freedom to skip the plan-with-pencil stage and misspell Wednesday as many times as you need before you finally learn your lesson.