Will it ghost? 7 Notebooks, 30+ pens, inks, watercolor

Update: now the test fea­tures 3 more note­books to a total of 7 major brands, 12 more pen types to the 20 we had already test­ed plus 4 stamp inks and water­col­ors.

No mat­ter if you use a Mole­sk­ine, a Leucht­turm 1917 or a Hobonichi, a Tomoe Riv­er Paper Midori insert (or a gener­ic spi­ral­bound note­book) you may have encoun­tered some­thing called ghost­ing or bleed­ing.

Ghost­ing: the effect of pens shin­ing through to the reverse side of the paper. Some­times severe (you are able to read the text from the back side of the paper) and some­times just a lit­tle bit (like a shad­ow of the print on the oth­er side)

Bleed­ing: the ink of the pen pen­e­trates the paper so much that it comes through on the oth­er side.

Depend­ing on your will­ing­ness to tol­er­ate some ghost­ing (I don’t think any­one can tol­er­ate bleed­ing!!) you are ask­ing your­self maybe “will I like this pen or is it a waste of mon­ey?”.

For me this hap­pens a lot when I see some­one rav­ing about pens on some social net­work which shall be unnamed and there­fore will be nick­named “Wish­book” by me (seri­ous­ly, I can’t count the times I want­ed to have this or that so bad­ly because it looked beau­ti­ful on some­ones pho­to — I am look­ing at you, Bul­let Jour­nal Junkies Group!)

So to save you some mon­ey, tears and torn out hair I gath­ered all my pens (ok, some of them) and sheets of paper of the major note­book brands and put pen to paper. Usu­al­ly I blog in Ger­man, but to help out all my inter­na­tion­al friends I made this blog­post avail­able both in Ger­man and Eng­lish 🙂

I also test­ed some stamp inks this time. All of those are from Tsukineko.

  • Sta­zOn Per­ma­nent ink — used for met­al, glas, plas­tic. Usu­al­ly not used on thin paper.
  • Memen­to Fade-resistent dye-ink — water­proof after dry­ing, there­fore ide­al for water­col­or­ing.
  • Ver­saCraft Water-based ink. Works also on wood or fab­ric (needs to be ironed after­wards)
  • Ver­saM­ag­ic Chalk ink. Per­fect for plan­ners or oth­er paper where you want to use the back side. It sticks to the sur­face of the paper instead of going in.

The water­col­ors I’ve test­ed are pepeo aquarell col­ors.

First a short descrip­tion of the results. For the pic­tures scroll a lit­tle bit fur­ther down — I made a gallery of the pic­tures front/back of each paper. Click on them for max­i­mum size.

Moleskine Cahier, plain

Mole­sk­ine is the worst of the four note­books I’ve test­ed when it comes to ghost­ing and bleed­ing. The paper is smooth, the note­book ist beau­ti­ful and I know there are lots of fans of the Mole­sk­ine range. But the plain cahi­er isn’t some­thing I could use for a bul­let jour­nal.

It wasn’t great with water­col­ors, either. The paper wrin­kles a lot. I love the sketch­book from the mole­sk­ine range for water­col­or­ing, though.

The stamp inks bleed through (except the Ver­sa Mag­ic Chalk, which only ghosts)

I found an old hard­cov­er mole­sk­ine in the back of my note­book-draw­er (who hasn’t one of those ;)) and amaz­ing­ly enough the paper was com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. Like it was from anoth­er brand. I haven’t tak­en it to the full test, but I wrote with some pens on it and there was no bleed­ing, very lit­tle ghost­ing, even foun­tain pens were ok. The rea­son I didn’t make the full test with it? You wouldn’t have gained any­thing by know­ing that an 15 years old mole­sk­ine was bet­ter qual­i­ty, would you?

Leuchtturm 1917

The  Leucht­turm 1917 is the declared favorite of some Bul­let Jour­nal Groups I am in. It is a bit bet­ter when it comes to ghost­ing (and a lot bet­ter in regard to bleed­ing) than the Mole­sk­ine, but still it is too much for my taste.

It took the water­col­ors beau­ti­ful­ly. Close to no wrin­kling the page.

The stamp inks ghost and even bleed a bit.

If you can accept a bit of ghost­ing and if you avoid the bleed­ing pens you may be ok with this note­book. The paper is smooth and great to write on and the cov­ers are just gor­geous.

Tomoe River Paper (Hobonichi  or Insert for Midori)

The Tomoe riv­er paper used for the 128 pages Midori Insert is leg­endary. It is the same paper used for the Hobonichi — just in case you rock a hobonichi and are inter­est­ed how the pen would look like in your hobo.

As you can see there is close to none bleed­ing, not even with foun­tain pens and a lot less ghost­ing com­pared to a Mole­sk­ine. The paper is very, very thin so it is nat­ur­al that it shows some ghost­ing. But it isn’t very dis­tract­ing. If you aren’t a Midori or Hobonichi user you can get Tomoe paper in A4 sheets and make your own jour­nal if you are crafty.

The water­col­ors show through to a point that I wouldn’t use the back side of a water­col­or draw­ing for writ­ing. As you can see from the pic­tures the col­ors are very vibrant, so I kind of rec­om­mend to use it nev­er­the­less. This and the Rho­dia is my favorite note­book-paper for water­col­or­ing.

The stamp inks bleed through, which sur­prised me. I can’t rec­om­mend any of them for the Tomoe Riv­er Paper if you want to use the back side.

Cheap spiralbound notebook with 80 gsm paper

This is the cheap­est one of the note­books I’ve test­ed. I bought it from a dis­count store. It has no brand on it. You can get note­books like this very eas­i­ly in Aus­tria. It is spi­ral­bound and stays open on my desk, but I like it also because there is no ghost­ing and no bleed­ing except from my foun­tain pens.

Water­col­ors don’t wrin­kle the page and don’t shine through. I would be per­fect­ly fine with using the back side of a water­col­or draw­ing.

The stamp inks sur­prised me. Where there is heavy bleed­ing on near­ly every oth­er paper (Staz on, Memen­to inks) they only ghost a bit on this note­book. The oth­er inks aren’t even vis­i­ble on the back side.

New to the test

Thanks to Lisa R. who con­tact­ed me on Face­book and sent me the Rho­dia, Puk­ka and Wilkinson’s paper I have now even more note­books to test!

Rhodia Webnotebook

Wow. What a great paper. The pens are run­ning so smooth it is a plea­sure to write on. It shows no ghost­ing and doesn’t even bleed with my foun­tain pens. This is my absolute favorite of all the papers I’ve test­ed. And it even comes dot­ted, which is my favorite. I ordered a rho­dia pad as soon as I fin­ished the test on it.

It took the water­col­ors with ease. They look vibrant on the paper, don’t bleed through and show no ghost­ing.

The stamp inks fared very well, too. The Staz on ink bled through a lit­tle (as sus­pect­ed from an ink like this) but even the memen­to ink (which is prone to bleed­ing) only ghosts a bit. The Ver­sa inks aren’t vis­i­ble on the back side.


Very pop­u­lar in the UK, but I haven’t seen this one before in Aus­tria. It has a strong grid (which I find a bit dis­tract­ing) but it shows very lit­tle ghost­ing and only bleeds through when I write with foun­tain pens. If you don’t mind the grid it is a good choice for writ­ing.

Water­col­ors were ok. The paper is a bit rough, so they don’t look as vibrant as they do on the Tomoe Riv­er or the Rho­dia, but they don’t wrin­kle the page and they don’t bleed through. A bit of ghost­ing.

The stamp inks ghost (Ver­sa) and bleed (Staz on, Memen­to) — I can’t rec­om­mend it for stamp­ing.

Pukka Pad

Anoth­er new one for me. And, I am afraid to say, not one I will like­ly buy. There is bleed­ing from pens that are a sur­prise (Saku­ra Gel­ly Roll? Staedtler Triplus Fine­lin­ers??) and a lot of bleed­ing from the usu­al sus­pects (foun­tain pens)

Water­col­ors were ok. A bit of wrin­kling the page, but not too bad.

The stamp inks react­ed like expect­ed. The Ver­sa inks were fine, the Staz on bled and the Memen­to ghost­ed.

Too bad it has a lot of bleed­ing with many pens. This would oth­er­wise be a nice white paper.

My offer

If you have a note­book I haven’t test­ed and want to know how the pens behave before you buy then just send my one sheet and I will try it out for you. I can’t test any pens I don’t own, obvi­ous­ly. But as I am a sta­tion­ary addict any­ways chances are that the com­par­i­son will grow 😉 This arti­cle will be updat­ed as soon as there a new pens or new note­books.

If this blog­post was help­ful for you it may also be for oth­er. Please share the link (not only the pics, because those will be updat­ed reg­u­lar­ly)

I want to reach as many fel­low sta­tion­ary lovers as pos­si­ble. I know the ter­ri­ble feel­ing if you final­ly have the pens you want­ed so bad­ly only to find out you can’t use them in your note­book.

The Gallery

(please click on the pic­ture to see it full size — very large)


  1. What is the brand of the cheap spi­ral note­book? Thank you.

    • Susanne says:

      There isn’t any brand not­ed on it. It is just a spi­ral­bound note­book with a card­board cov­er I bought at a dis­count mar­ket. Noth­ing fan­cy, just 80 gsm paper

  2. They are from an Aus­tri­an paper dis­counter. The label just read “Spi­ral­note­book, grid, 120 pages” and this Inter­net address: http://www.friendshavefun.com
    I found the note­book I use but I found no online shop, sad­ly. http://www.friendshavefun.com/spiral-notebook-a5-90