Cheap, Affordable Paper and Notebooks

When I first started my journey on fountain pens, I was still a student. And being a student, I tend to write a lot and would need to stock up on paper and notebooks, however I was shocked at how much fountain pen friendly paper cost! When I was still using rollerball and gel pens, I would normally get cheap paper that cost less than $7 for 5 – 70 Sheets A4 pads. But they are not fountain pen friendly and have massive bleedthrough and feathering, and thus i started my quest on searching for cheap, affordable paper and notebooks for everyday use.

Many people recommend getting Rhodia pads, however they are not very cheap here in Singapore. As I can write up to as much as 20 pages a day, Rhodia is just not an option for a poor student like me.

The search for affordable paper, started my craze over paper! Unknowingly I have accumulated over 1000 sheets of B5 paper and notebooks, and at least 400 sheets of A5 paper and notebooks. And thus, today, I would like to share about paper and notebooks which are student- and also fountain pen-friendly!

Notebooks_Paper_1

Some notebooks and papers I have accumulated in just 3 months!

All notebooks and papers are tested with the following pens and inks (with affiliate links to Amazon): 

Pilot Custom Heritage – Soft Fine. Pilot Blue Black

Kaweco Skyline Sport – Fine. Diamine Midnight

Pelikan M200 – Extra Fine. Iroshizuku Kon-peki

Sailor Procolor – Fine. De Atramentis Archive Ink

Platinum Standard – Extra Fine. Iroshizuku Asa-gao

A5_notebook_affordable_1

Left – Duranote Notebook. Right – Tsubame Notebook

First up, I would like to recommend two A5 lined notebooks. Made in Japan, Tsubame A5 7mm ruled notebook (100 Sheets) and also the Made in Germany, Durable – Duranote A5 7mm ruled spiral bound notebook (80 Sheets).

Cost:  Duranote – 2 SGD, Tsubame – 7 SGD

Bleed Through: Duranote – None, Tsubame – None

Feathering – Duranote – Slight, Tsubame – None

Dry Time – Duranote – Fast, Tsubame – Average

Texture – Duranote – Slightly Rough, Tsubame – Very Smooth

Colour – Duranote – White, Tsubame – Slightly Yellow

For quick notetaking during lectures, I would recommend the Duranote, as it has a very short drying time and also the cost is much lower compared to Tsubame.  However the paper used in Tsubame notebook is of much higher quality and is still fairly affordable. Prolonged writing with Duranote can result in arm and wrist getting tired due to the rougher texture of the paper used.

Left - Daiso D-98 Notebook. Right - Daiso Combine Notebook

Left – Daiso D-98 Notebook. Right – Daiso Combine Notebook

Next up are two B5 lined notebooks from Daiso. Made in Japan, Daiso D-98 6.5mm ruled Notebook (60 Sheets) and also Made in Japan, Daiso Combine Notebook 6mm Ruled (40 Sheets, Pack of 2 notebooks).

Cost:  Daiso D-98 Notebook – $2 SGD, Daiso Combine Notebook – $7 SGD

Bleed Through: Daiso D-98 Notebook – None, Daiso Combine Notebook – None

Feathering – Daiso D-98 Notebook – None, Daiso Combine Notebook – None

Dry Time – Daiso D-98 Notebook – Average, Daiso Combine Notebook – Quick

Texture – Daiso D-98 Notebook- Smooth, Daiso Combine Notebook – Smooth

Colour – Daiso D-98 Notebook – Slightly Yellow, Daiso Combine Notebook – Slightly Yellow

The Daiso B5 Combine Notebook is my go-to notebook, as they are very cheap and perform remarkably well. Drying time is fast, which is very important when taking note, however they are thinner compared to the D-98 and also the Tsubame notebooks, thus there might be some show through. When used with a very very wet nib, there might be bleedthrough when there are pauses during writing which results in ink pooling. However they work very well for daily note taking and tutorial work. The D-98 notebook sits just in between the Tsubame and Combine notebook in terms of performance. It is thicker then the Combine notebook and thinner then the Tsubame notebook, same goes for drying time as well. They both perform very well, however you get a pack of 2 Combine Notebooks for just $2 which is a steal!

Left - Kokuyo Campus Loose Leaf, Right - Maruman Loose Leaf

Left – Kokuyo Campus Loose Leaf, Right – Maruman Loose Leaf

Lastly, I would like to recommend two types of B5 Loose Leaf Paper. As a student, you would need to hand up your assignment at times, therefore loose leaf paper would come in handy. You guys must be wondering why do I not get A5-sized paper instead, since we have been using A4-sized foolscap paper since younger. The reason is simply cost benefit, A4 size paper usually cost twice or more as compare to B5 size paper, however they are not twice the size in comparison, hence I converted to using B5 paper instead! As pictured above, Kokuyo Campus B5 6mm Ruled Loose Leaf Paper (100 Sheets) and Maruman B5 6mm Ruled Loose Leaf Paper (100 Sheets).

Cost:  Kokuyo Campus Loose Leaf – 5 SGD, Maruman Loose Leaf – $4.80 SGD

Bleed Through: Kokuyo Campus Loose Leaf – None, Maruman Loose Leaf – None

Feathering – Kokuyo Campus Loose Leaf – None, Maruman Loose Leaf – None

Dry Time – Kokuyo Campus Loose Leaf- Average, Maruman Loose Leaf – Quick

Texture – Kokuyo Campus Loose Leaf- Smooth, Maruman Loose Leaf – Very Smooth

Colour – Kokuyo Campus Loose Leaf – VerySlightly Yellow, Maruman Loose Leaf – Very Slightly Yellow

Both the Campus and Maruman Loose Leaf paper are excellent papers! Dry times are similar to Tsubame Notebook, however I feel that the Maruman paper is just a tad smoother when tested with the above pens and paper. They are also pretty affordable and can be easily obtained. I always have either of them in my bag whenever I travel to school!

For me, my everyday carry papers and notebooks include either 15-20 sheets of Campus or Maruman Loose Leaf in a Campus loose leaf folder, Combine Notebooks for every different modules I am taking for the day, and also a Black n Red perforated A5 spiral bound notebook. I hope the above recommendations are beneficial to students out there who are looking for cheap, affordable paper and notebooks!

31 Responses

  1. Lazy-dog 28 September 2015 / 1:27 AM

    Thank you so much. This info is what I want to know in Singapore.
    Especially, in Korea, I’m one of Korean fountain pun user, affordable paper or notes are TOO expensive. So many student users as like you and me are using some A4 paper.
    Generally we use Double A paper but sometimes it is expensive and heavy. So we use Milk paper. It is not heavier than Double A. And it is reasonable.
    If you can purchase that paper Milk it is good for your fountain pen and your health both body and mind.

    • Maybelline T. 4 October 2015 / 10:58 AM

      Oh I have never heard of milk paper before. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wei Zhang 30 July 2015 / 10:09 PM

    Which user out of the lot below gave you the most detailed information?

  3. Kim Joong So 28 July 2015 / 11:38 PM

    Hi Mabel, this is really great info. My friends have gone for a recent pen meet up in Singapore. They said it was awesome. I was infact looking for affordable papers. I heard Daiso sells out fast. Combine is available but that D-98 is always out of stock.

    • Maybelline T. 30 July 2015 / 9:48 PM

      Hi, I’m glad you found the information useful. Kinokuniya also sells loose sheets but they’ll be more expensive than the Daiso ones.

  4. Wei Zhang 28 April 2015 / 4:46 AM

    Hi. I’ll start with a few observations. It’s really nice of you and others to post such informative stuff on pens but at times, important information is missing like location of where to make the purchase and the cost of these items. Let’s see how I fare in my attempt to show you how to make a near-detailed post.

    I bought the Kokoyu Campus Smooth paper, in blue packaging in A4/6mm Ruled/41 lines/30 holes for $5.80 from the Stationary Shop on the second level of Funan IT Mall. The shop is located at the entrance which is opposite Central Fire Station. In the store, there have an entire section (3 horizontal rows out of 4 of an entire shelf, measuring 5-7 metres long) dedicated to Kokoyu Campus paper and other products. IF you do not refer to Zich’s detailed post in the ‘comments’ section, not only will you be lost in the sea of products but you could also waste money buying the wrong items. (Zich, good job man on your wonderful post!) Also, if you are polite to the sales staff and depending on human traffic within the store, you may actually be able to test the paper with your fountain pens.

    So why do people buy the Kokoyu Campus paper and other similar products? If i were to hazard intelligent guesses then I’ll have to say that the paper can withstand fountain pen ink and the fact that the paper as many vertical holes on the left side makes it easier to insert additional written papers onto your existing ones. You can then purchase a Kokoyu Campus folder which looks like the cover of a Diary, has a pen holder at the side, a buckle to lock your written work tightly and you can flash it around proudly.

    I also purchased 4 Platinum Preppy blue pens in 0.3 nib size for $4.95 each. It is definitely pricey considering the cost price of the pen in China is $1 upwards. The 0.5 sized version is thick on both normal cheap paper and Kokoyu products so unless you are signing bank cheque or giving others your autograph on a daily basis, I suggest you stick with 0.3 sized pen. For those who intend to buy these pens in Singapore shops, be mindful to check that there is indeed a ink cartridge in the pen itself. The same thing happened to me because I checked and found there were no ink cartridges in some of the pens, I approached the salesman and he camly handed me the ink cartridges at the cashier.

    For those who have just started or thinking of getting into the fountain pens craze, I recommend that you try out the Platinum Preppy pens. It’s cheaper(depending where you buy it from) and more reliable than most entry level fountain pens apart from the usual suspects such as Hero which was a few dollars each, Pilot Tank which was $7.50 each and a few others. I’ve used such pens before and they were absolute rubbish with leaking nibs regardless of how many times I buy the same pen, over and over and over again.

    Another interesting point to note is that most entry level fountain pens are on the thick side. So having to come to terms with its size, grip and writing in them can be cumbersome if you’ve always used thin ballpoint pens. So your experience of fountain pens will end abruptly. Fret not! You might want to consider trying out the Pilot Vector or some of Lamy fountain range pens which are thin sized pens. Stay clear of pens such as Lamy Safari, Pilot Tank, Pilot Metropolitan and a few others which is clearly on the thick side! Also, if you’ve always had rubbish handwriting all your life then please do not think for a moment that switching to a fountain pen would somehow improve it. It won’t! The change needs to come from you first.

    Anyways, I am glad I experienced the hype of using various entry fountain pens and accompanying, suitable writing pads. If you ask me, I rather go back to using my Pilot V5 pen. It has served me well during junior college, diploma, advanced diploma and undergraduate degree. So I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words to my Pilot V5 pens. I am apologetic for having abandoned you and using a variety of fountain ink pens instead, only to return to you without you subjecting me to criticism and ridicule of any sort. Please forgive me.

    • Maybelline T. 28 April 2015 / 7:34 AM

      Hi Wei Zhang, thanks for your detailed post and introduction to fountain pens. I guess in any post, there will be limited space to cover all aspects of a topic, especially since I generally try not to make each post too long to read. As for location of items, I do agree that indicating it can be helpful, but probably only for my Singapore readers. As for cost, I generally avoid talking too much about cost as my purpose is to focus on product characteristics and less on the cost. My audience is from all over the world where the cost of the pens can be vastly different at times. Also, prices change all the time and someone reading my post 2 years later may not find it representative anymore. I do sometimes give an indicative range but not the exact dollar value of the pens. I am guessing we may have some differing opinions on this, but we can agree to disagree. Thank you again for taking the effort to write this post. Enjoy your V5.

  5. Thomas Tan 27 April 2015 / 12:26 PM

    Thanks for your reply! I love my B5 and am not going back to A4 as they are much affordable n portable!

  6. Thomas Tan 27 April 2015 / 12:25 PM

    hi Zich thanks for the update! I didn’t notice there’s smooth and rough, however i did notice that there was 2 different colour options when i was making purchase. However the only difference i can see during that time was the line printing! Which have dots on the line for the orange package and no dots for the blue packaging! However I have both type of paper and to me they felt identical!

    However thanks very much for providing the information regarding the difference

  7. Thomas Tan 27 April 2015 / 12:21 PM

    For both Campus and Maruman loose leaf folder they can be purchased from NBC in Bugis Junction and Kinokuniya in Ngee Ann City. Campus loose leaf can also be found in selected Popular Bookstores (seen and bought them from Bras Basah & Marine Parade Branches). As for the rest of the notebooks they can be found in Daiso all over Singapore, gotten mine from Marine Parade, Riverie & Tampines branches! Hope that helps! Prices range from around $12-20 if i recall correctly!

  8. Wei Zhang 17 April 2015 / 2:57 AM

    Hi. Does Popular bookstore sell the Platinum Preppy and how much does it cost? Does Popular bookstore also sell the Kokoyu loose paper for fountain pen? Do you know the price? Thanks.

    • Maybelline T. 17 April 2015 / 2:43 PM

      Hello Wei Zhang, thanks for dropping by my site. As far as I am aware of, the Preppy and the paper can be found in Kinokuniya bookstore (your best bet would be the Ngee Ann City branch). Popular doesn’t sell the Preppy. I’m not sure about the paper – I haven’t been to Popular for a long time!

  9. Zich 11 April 2015 / 11:11 PM

    I found mine in Stationary Super Store in Funan, they have one entire section for Japanese papers, Campus and Maruman.

    B5 about 5+, 100 sheets/pack, didn’t see the price for A4

    • Maybelline T. 12 April 2015 / 11:22 AM

      I will need to check them out! Sounds delicious!

  10. Zich 11 April 2015 / 11:06 PM

    Hi there, I was kind of dissatisfied with the paper I bought yesterday so I went to buy one belonging to another model code and loved it. Quality (as measured with smoothness, bleeding, feathering .. etc) was comparable to Life notebook but lower cost and more customizable.

    So after discovering the Kokuyo table which detailed all the variations, I have summarized their paper into two main categories – smooth さらさら書ける or rough しっかり書ける.

    Seems like my first shot with campus was the rougher paper (しっかり書ける) which I hated it (I think it’d right better with ball points or roller ball but not so with fountain pens. Maybe because I like the smooth writing experience and sometimes tend to press down slightly and you can really feel the resistance of the paper)

    So I went back to buy the smoother paper (さらさら書ける) and understood all the hype with Campus paper.

    I think what new buyers to Campus needs to note is that campus has quite a few variations – from 7mm lined papers to 6mm lined papers and each of them comes with either lined, line with grids or grids without line (the website also detailed with 50/pack, 100/pack or 150/pack codes but that isn’t a problem because the shops seem to carry 100/pack only) but most importantly on the packaging itself, smoother paper comes with circular speech bubble and pencil (as sampled by the original post of this blog) and rough paper comes with a squarish speech bubble and pen.

    I also noticed that Campus have notebooks that is manufactured from China now. Read somewhere that Kokuyo bought over a China paper factory and is manufacturing from China too and the paper doesn’t agree with fountain pens. Although I haven’t tried any of the China made papers yet but just a note on possible quality issues and test out before hoarding any of those notebooks.

    P.S Your idea on using B5 notebooks is brilliant. It made me wonder why I didn’t think of that earlier. Years ago when I was still a student, A4 was the standard and it was a luxury but after my student days were over, my working space and writing time shrunk so I sought out something smaller to fit the current situation. I experimented with A5 but found that they are a bit small for writing anything long but then I found your post and face palming myself for not seeing that B5, all along, was the kind of size that suited my needs.

    For more details on the variations of campus notebooks, simply drop by http://www.kokuyo-st.co.jp/stationery/looseleaf/hinban.html and google translate =)

    • Maybelline T. 12 April 2015 / 11:24 AM

      Thank you, Zich. I will let Thomas know about what you shared and I’m glad you found B5 useful for you.

  11. Zich 10 April 2015 / 4:00 PM

    Hi there, thanks for this wonderful post on paper. I recently started using fountain pens and needless to say notebooks and paper became a very high priority when I realise the paper for ballpoints previously just couldn’t make it.

    So far I’ve found life notebook very smooth but I’m more inclined to get loose leafs to manual bind so I went to Stationary superstore to hunt down some of these Campus paper but was so confused by the range that they carry.

    Seems like for every variation in the model code the paper is of. Like the one you posted here is ‘S836BT’, there’d be a ‘S836B’ (http://www.kokuyo-st.co.jp/search/1_detail.php?sid=100116000) or ‘S836BN’ (http://item.rakuten.co.jp/fancy/no-s836bn/) and they’re all same except packaging colour and some depicted with a pen and others with a pencil. Just curious if you have tried writing on these variations and tested with FPs?

    • Maybelline T. 10 April 2015 / 11:00 PM

      Hi Zich, thanks for dropping by and sharing this information with me and other readers! We haven’t tried specific serial coded papers yet, and I wouldn’t expect them to differ to much (but don’t take my word for it). If I have the chance to try them out, I’ll post a review up. 🙂

  12. FountainNewbie 9 March 2015 / 6:58 PM

    Can you please tell me how much is there campus loose leaf folder (B5 and maybe A4) and where to find them in Singapore?

  13. Kent 14 January 2015 / 11:39 PM

    Most important is …… where can it be purchase ?

    • Thomas Tan 15 January 2015 / 12:18 AM

      For Tsubame Notebooks, they can be purchased from Tokyo Hands in Westgate and Orchard Central. As for both Campus and Maruman loose leaf they can be purchased from NBC in Bugis Junction and Kinokuniya in Ngee Ann City. Campus loose leaf can also be found in selected Popular Bookstores (seen and bought them from Bras Basah & Marine Parade Branches). As for the rest of the notebooks they can be found in Daiso all over Singapore, gotten mine from Marine Parade, Riverie & Tampines branches! Hope that helps!

  14. rdcalhoon 14 January 2015 / 10:20 AM

    It can be fun to read about the super top of the line pens and paper, but I really appreciate this sort of real world comparison. Thanks for sharing this useful information.

    • Thomas Tan 15 January 2015 / 12:20 AM

      Thanks for the comment! Glad that you found the post useful! I will do my best to include more real world comparison posts in the future!

  15. J☆ji 13 January 2015 / 5:24 PM

    Thank you. That is literally all I can say to you for this post: /thank you/.

    • Thomas Tan 15 January 2015 / 12:21 AM

      Thank you very much for reading! Hope it was useful to you!

  16. Diarek 13 January 2015 / 3:53 PM

    Those paper might be budget-friendly but those pens are not, but we are here for paper testing so that’s irrelevant, but your nib choices are limited to only Fine and EF, what about the standard M ? Heck, if you gonna test bleeding and feathering, might as well bringing Calligraphy/Italic nibs and Broad nibs in to cover all the base.
    Another info you should throw in about your paper, gram per square meter or gsm. I tried a few Kokuyo, either because they are fake or belong to the cheap end, but at 70 gsm, there are bleeding and feathering even with a Platinum Preppy 0.3 Fine using Noodler X-Feather.
    To avoid bleedthrough and feathering, one can simply remember :
    “Heavier paper, Drier pen, smaller nib.”
    But even so, you clearly has been putting effort into this post, from the variety of brands and models has been bring to test, i can appreciate that

    • Thomas Tan 15 January 2015 / 12:28 AM

      Thanks for the comment Diarek! I understand the points you have raised. As I have pretty small handwriting, most of my pens are EF & F, however I did possess a Pelikan M800 in M nib and also a Faber Castell Intuition in M nib. They are both very wet pens and the Pelikan is more like a B or BB, and I have used them papers and notebooks mentioned in the post, and experienced similar results, however I have not tried them with noodler’s ink so I can’t comment on that.

      Oh before I forget, do take note that KOKUYO have cheaper paper too that’s made in China too as they bought over a company there and have rebranded the paper, you must get CAMPUS paper and notebooks that are made in Japan. As paper is not mentioned on the paper and books, therefore I left them out of the post.

      However I disagree with heavier paper being better at resisting feathering and bleedthrough, I have most certainly tried paper that are 90 or even 100 gsm, and results varies. Japanese paper might be thin, they are definitely lighter and thinner compared to my rhodia pads, however they perform just as well or in fact better. So please do give them a try.

    • Thomas Tan 15 January 2015 / 12:38 AM

      Here’s a writing sample of some pens and inks on Campus Loose Leaf

      Campus Writing Sample

I would love to hear your thoughts!