Posts Tagged ‘Journal Reviews’

Affirmation Journal spread created with acrylic paint and pen and ink.

Affirmation Journal spread created with acrylic paint and pen and ink.

I have been using a variety of mediums in an affirmation journal I am in the process of creating. This spread was created using acrylic paint. The abstract design was inspired by the hand design on the cover that I previously blogged about. To get a better idea of the flow of this journal, please see my earlier reviews Illustrating the Cover of an Ecosystem Large Sketchbook and Color Laser Transfer in an Ecosystem Sketchbook.

The watercolor paint and parts of the laser transfer from the previous page had bled through the paper a bit leaving me with a hand shape and backwards letter on this two page spread. This inspired me to continue the theme and to create an abstract flower.

The laser transfer from the previous page bled through a bit, which inspired me to create an abstract hand image for this spread.

To start, I outlined the hand shape on the left page and applied paint within the pencil lines. The remaining color and design was added on top using a brush.

To start, I added paint on top of the had image that showed through the page.

Ecosystem Sketchbook

I painted only on the left page, so I could press the pages together and create a mirror image.

When I had finished painting the left page, I closed the journal and pressed the painting onto the right page, creating a mirror image.

I pressed the pages together by closing the journal. When I opened it again, I had a good background for my image.

The paper buckled quite a bit during the painting process, but flattened out somewhat when the paint dried. There was a little bit of show through on the backside, but nothing major. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend using acrylic paints with the Ecosystem Sketchbook. The paper ends up very wavy and the pages were weakened where it is perforated. Perhaps in the future I will try again using a primer of some sort.

Once the initial layer was dry, I repeated the process using additional pinks, golds and yellows.

I used pen and ink to create the text. The ink was very compatible with the paper in the Ecosystem Sketchbook. There was no feathering, show through or bleed through and the lines were crisp and black against the bright white paper.

The final illustration including text.

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Daycraft’s Vogue 2010 Planners feature striking, modern designs that are uncommon in the day planner market.  These diaries pack efficient planning layouts, useful accessories and beautiful materials wrapped in a thoughtful, beautiful design both inside and out. The Vogue planners are available in four sizes and two formats, and three different cover designs.

Daily Planner

Daycraft Vogue Planners

Daycraft's Vogue Planners are available in both daily and weekly planning formats in several sizes.

Daycraft’s Vogue 2010 Planners feature striking, modern designs that are uncommon in the day planner market.  These diaries pack efficient planning layouts, useful accessories and beautiful materials wrapped in a thoughtful, beautiful design both inside and out. The Vogue planners are available in four sizes and two formats, and three different cover designs.

Daily Planner

The page-a-day or daily planner I reviewed has 408 pages. It has a flexible, brown, suede-like cover imprinted with an abstract floral that wraps around both front and back covers. A vertical ribbon embellished with a plastic repeat of the floral design adorns the front. At first glance, it appears as though this is an elastic strap, but it is not, although you could slide a piece of paper or notes underneath. While I love the design of the planner, I am not a fan of the plastic charm and I think it would get caught on things over time. Fortunately, it can be easily removed. The daily planning format includes hourly lines for 8:00 am through 10:00 pm in addition to three lines for notes at the bottom of each page.  A small monthly calendar is in the bottom, right corner of each two-page spread.

Daycraft Daily Planner

One-page-per-day planning format has hourly lines from 8:00 through 10:00 pm. Each month is distinguished by a color bar at the top.

Daycraft Daily planner

A monthly overview and lines for notes are at the beginning of each month.

Dayraft Daily Planner

A forward, monthly planning calendars in the back of the planner allow for future long-term planning.

Weekly Planner

The smaller, pink diary has 232 pages and includes a weekly planning format. The cover is flexible and has a spongy feel similar to the cover on the Rhodia Webnotebook. An abstract, circle design has been embossed on the front and back covers. This planner also features a vertical ribbon embellished with a plastic charm. Each two-page planning spread displays one week with Monday through Wednesday on the left and Thursday through Sunday on the right.

Daycraft Weekly Planner

A colorful ribbon and plastic charm decorate the cover of the planner. The ribbon is not elastic and it is only on the front of the cover. Its primary purpose appears to be decorative.

Daycraft Weekly Planner

The planning format is one-week-per-page.

Daycraft Weekly planner.

Each month is preceded by a different color and design and a monthly planning calendar.

Daycraft Weekly Planner

Each month is distinguished by a different color and design.

Daycraft Weekly Planner

The Daycraft Weekly Planner includes beautiful graphics which are perforated for use as notes or labels.

Daycraft Weekly Planner

An address book in the back of the planner is great for storing contacts.


Both planners feature colorful designs throughout the planners with each month having a different color and design that is displayed at the top of each page. Each month starts with a full-page of colorful design, a monthly calendar, lines for notes and a quote. A color-coordinated ribbon bookmark helps you keep you on track.

Small monthly and yearly planning calendars and tons of informational pages are included in the planner. You’ll find information on public holidays, world time zones,  IDD codes, conversion tables, pages for notes and a large address books. Information on Hong Kong banks, airlines, hotels, telephone numbers and rail systems are included, too.

I am unsure if the paper is acid-free or not. The color is fairly bright, but the paper is thin and somewhat translucent. It is on par with the paper in Moleskine’s planners and not suitable for wet pens or markers. It should be fine for those who use ballpoint pens , but anything else has showthrough and a substantial amount of bleedthrough.

Final thoughts

Daycraft’s Vogue planners are beautifully designed, efficient and packed with lots of useful information. The design stands out from the plethora of simple, black planners and would be a good choice for those who crave something unique. The materials appear to be top quality with exception of the paper, which is a bit thin and translucent for my taste. If you are using ballpoint pen or pencil, though, you will be more than satisfied with this planner.

Unfortunately, these planners are not available in the US at this time, so if you want one, you will have to find one from an overseas supplier.

These planners were supplied to me as review samples by Hong Kong-based Daycraft who produces a large line of beautiful diaries, notebooks, sketchbooks and corporate planners. Their products are designed in Hong Kong and manufactured in Dongguan, China by the Tai Shing Diary Ltd.

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Finshed page in my affirmation journal.

The first page in my affirmation journal created with a laser printer transfer, marker and watercolor.

I have been wanting to experiment with transferring a laser printer image into a journal using solvents for a while. Since the weather is warmer, and I am able to work outside, I decided to start my newest journal creation, an affirmation journal, using this technique. The Ecosystem sketchbook paper seemed appropriate for this method with its bright white paper. Even though it is not as thick as the paper in a Moleskine sketchbook, it has a more porous surface and I thought it might take a transfer well.

On the first page of this journal I wanted to include a message that would express the overall theme of the journal and I wanted to create it primarily with text. Since my handwriting is awful, I created an illustration in my drawing program that would fit the page. Once I had a design I was happy with, I printed it out backwards, as a mirror image, so the transfer would read correctly when complete. Once I had my laser print out, all I would need to do is place it face down on the journal page and apply a solvent to the back of the print out to dissolve the laser ink so it would print on the journal page.

Laser Printer Transfer in an Ecosystem Sketchbook

In order for the transfer to read properly on the page, I had to print my image out backwards on my laser printer. I placed this image face-down on the journal page to make the transfer.

I used  lacquer thinner to make the transfer. It is pretty nasty stuff and should only be used outdoors or in a well ventilated area. This substance is not for everyone and if you are chemically sensitive, I would recommend that you avoid this technique.

Laser printer transer

I blotted the solvent on the backside of the laser print until I could clearly see the image below. I used a fair amount of pressure to be sure I was making good contact with the journal page. In some areas, I burnished the image while the paper was still damp for a stronger transfer. Once the solvent dries, the wet areas disappear.

Laser printer transfer in a journal

To check my progress, I carefully lifted the paper to see how the transfer was being applied. I was careful to hold the paper in place to keep it lined up with the image.

When making the transfer, I applied the solvent using a paper towel and blotted the back of the paper until I could see the image clearly through the back. I found that burnishing the image while the solvent was still damp improved the depth of color. I did this slowly and checked my work frequently by lifting the laser print to see how well the transfer was being applied.

Laser printer transfer being embellished with marker and watercolor.

I added watercolor and marker to the transfer to complete the image.

Once the transfer was complete, I added a watercolor silhouette of my hand to relate to the hand on the cover and provide a subtle transition to the interior pages. This caused the paper to buckle a bit, but I did expect this since the paper is sketch paper and not watercolor paper. You can see the cover image I created in an earlier post here. To complete the illustration, I darkened the color of the large letters to add color and contrast to the image.

Final touches on the laser printer transfer.

I added marker to the large letters for additonal color and contrast.

Final transfers using this method will be somewhat fuzzy and will never look as clear as the original. But this can be used to create images that look stamped or aged and adds an interesting effect to your art. It can be combined with other elements to give your designs a unique and professional look, and is worth experimenting with if you are looking for new ways to create art.

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Ecosystem's Sketchbook

Ecosystem's Artist Sketchbook was illustrated using permanent markers and pens.

The first assignment of a journaling class I have been attending was to find a journal to decorate and claim. Since I knew I would be creating an art journal, it was time to break out a bright orange Ecosystem Sketchbook that I received as a review copy from the folks at Ecosystem. I struggled with committing to a topic for this journal, but ultimately decided to create an affirmation journal, which supported my desire for more creativity in my life. Since most of the artwork I do is created by hand, I decided to use the image of a hand on the cover to be the central theme.

I chose this sketchbook for a couple of different reasons. I was enamored with the unusual texture and bright color of the cover and I have been wanting try some different mediums on the bright white sketch paper.

For this review, I am focused on using different pens and markers on the sketchbook’s cover, which has a matte finish that feels similar to the texture of an eggshell. By touch, I suspected it would be a good receptor for permanent markers.

Hand illustration

I did the original illustration on translucent paper and then transferred it to the sketchbook's cover using charcoal on the backside of the image.

I drew the illustration on translucent layout paper so I could transfer the image to the cover rather than drawing directly on the cover. This gave me more freedom to create and enabled me to throw the paper away if I didn’t like it. It also gave  me a chance to experiment with the design. Once I had an illustration I was happy with, I turned it over and rubbed charcoal on the back of the image where I could see the lines. The charcoal became the transfer medium I used to get the illustration to the cover. By placing the illustration on the cover and drawing over the lines of the original drawing, the charcoal was pressed into the cover and the image was transferred.

Ecosystem sketchbook illustration

The finished hand illustration after it was transferred to the cover.

I started by inking in the black lines over the charcoal lines. I did this to preserve the image because I was concerned that I might smear the lines as I added color. I experimented with different markers, but ultimately ended up using the Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen because of the rich, black lines. I used a piece of paper between my hand and the cover to minimize any smearing.

Inking the lines on the hand illustration.

I used a Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen to ink the lines because of the rich, black color. By using a slip-sheet between my hand and the cover, I was able to minimize smearing and keep my hand clean.

Next, came the fun part, adding color with pens and markers. I used several different markers and pens on the cover and had different results with each. All of the pens had permanent ink and longer drying times than you would experience when using a porous paper. Using  water-based markers on the cover resulted in beading ink, poor coverage and smearing, so I did not include these in the test results.

Prismacolor markers on the cover of an Ecosystem Artist Sketchbook

The Prismacolor markers were my favorites because of the crisp, clean lines and smooth color in large areas.

Sharpie Fine Point Markers – The lines laid down nicely, but as they dried, the lines looked thinner and less saturated than when wet. I found as I added more color with the Sharpies, the wet line would remove any color below. This made it difficult to get a smooth area of color, but this may be due to the tiny size of the nib rather than a problem with the ink.

Berol Prismacolor Permanent Markers – These were my favorite markers on the Ecosystem cover. The color went down saturated and stayed saturated once the ink dried, even when using the fine nib. The lines created by the fine nib were crisp and clean . The larger nib laid down saturated color and I was able to create smooth areas of color. I used this marker for the colored areas on the illustration.

Pilot Precise Grip – This pen created lines that were crisp and clean and I used it to go over the black lines I originally drew with the Sharpie. They still weren’t as black as I would have preferred, so I decided to go over them with my Tombow Ultra pen.

Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen – Once the illustration had been outlined and the color filled in, I went over all f the black lines again with the Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen to clean things up. The ink is permanent, although it is not a marker like the others. The Tombow produced very saturated lines that were a bit thicker than the fine point markers, and I loved how black the ink was. The ink did take longer to dry than the markers, so if you use this pen, you will need to give it lots of time to dry or you will end up with smears.

Overall I was quite happy with how the permanent markers performed on the cover of the Ecosystem sketchbook. I would imagine that most permanent markers will work well and would be interested in trying Copic markers in the future.

Ecosystem Artsit Sketchbook Cover art

The final illustration. I left room for a title once the journal is complete.

I will be doing more reviews of the paper in this journal with different mediums in the future, so stay tuned. For more detailed information on Ecosystems sketchbooks and their complete line of environmentally friendly journals, please visit their site at: ecosystemlife.com.

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Head on over to Pocket Blonde blog for The Eighth Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper. This month there lots of great posts encompassing pens, pencils, inks, notebooks, and…other entertainments. Enjoy the reading, and please do invite your friends to drop ’round by posting a link to this website.

Be sure to check out the review by Margana at Inkophile as she takes a look at Clairfontaine’s French-Ruled notebooks and gives her Namiki Falcon a workout on that wonderful paper. “Clairefontaine paper is outstanding for fountain pens, dip pens and everything in between,” she notes. Quite true – a flex nib + Clairfontaine paper= fun!

Mark Dykeman of Broadcasting Brain submitted this great post on the insanity of paper notebooks, adding “Some musings about how we use paper notebooks – great comments section.”

The 9th Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper is scheduled for May 4, 2010, and will hosted by Julie (Okami) of Whatever blog. You can submit entries (either your own posts or nominations of other posts) using the Carnival submission form.

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I reviewed the Fiorentina Journal refill a few weeks ago using pen and ink, but at the same time, I also did a quick test of the most basic art mediums in the journal and wanted to share the results.

Fiorentina Journal Refill Color Test

I tested some of my favorite artist mediums in a lined Fiorentina Journal Refill. The results were better than I expected for a writing journal.

I used the lined journal for the test rather than the sketchbook because there are times when you want to incorporate art into a written journal and it is good to know how well the journal will perform. Also, I plan on doing a review of the sketchbook refill at a future date, so this way I can explore both.

The most basic art supplies were used for the test, including those that are the most portable, to give you an idea of what can be done while you are traveling with your journal. I tested a few others, too, but wanted to focus on those that are easy to carry.

The mediums I tested:

  • Watercolor Paint
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Tombow Dual Brush Water-Based Markers
  • Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Markers
  • Pen and Ink
  • Ink Wash
  • Prismacolor Colored Pencils
  • Aquarelles Water-Soluable Pastels
  • Rubber Stamps & StazOn Solvent-Based Ink

Top Performing Mediums

The best performers were the Tombow Dual Brush pens, pen & ink, Sharpie Fine Point Permanent markers and the Prismacolor colored pencils. Each of these mediums went down smoothly without bleed through, show through or paper curl. The colors were clean and clear and the edges were sharp.

Fiorentina Journal Refill Artist Medium test.

Most of the mediums performed well and did not bleed thorugh the back side of the page. The wettest paints caused some bubbling of the paper which is visible in the photo above.

Good Performers

The paints were overall good performers with only one issue; paper curl and/or bubbling. There was no bleedthrough or showthrough on any of the paints. Watercolor and ink wash caused the most paper distortion, but not nearly as much as I expected. Only the wettest  areas bubbled and warped. The acrylic paint caused minor buckling when the color was applied thickly, but this disappeared as the paint dried. The water-soluble Aquarelles did not cause any paper distortion until water was added.

Fiorentina Journal Refill Artist Medium Test

Only the ink from the StazOn ink pad bled through the backside of the paper. This is not surprising since this ink is designed to be used on non-porous surfaces.

Poor Performers

The only medium that performed poorly was the ink from the StazOn solvent-based ink pad. The ink impressed on the page using the ink pad directly as well as from the rubber stamps did bleed through the page. This ink is designed to use on surfaces including plastic, metal, glass, ceramic and leather, so the fact that it bled through paper is no surprise. I would not recommend it for use on paper of any kind unless the bleed though effect is desired.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the lined Fiorentina Journal refill works fine for artist mediums with some limitations. If you limit your mediums to pen and ink, colored pencil, pencil, marker and light paint washes, it will be more than satisfactory. It would not be the best choice for use with wet paints if buckling paper bothers you.

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Fiorentina offers a complete line of Italian journals produced by small artisans as well as a fully established manufacturing plant that has supplied the gift industry for more than 30 years. The journals range from contemporary, pocket-sized journals, to elaborate, hand-crafted journals which ooze traditional, Italian design. They all have excellent paper, high-quality workmanship and beautiful design.

Fiorentina refill

A 5" x 7" Fiorentina refill is moderately priced at $10.99. It can be used with Fiorentina's line of refillable, leather journals. If used without a journal cover, the outside can be decorated with collage, paint, paper, fabric or a variety of art supplies for a custom look.

I chose to review a 5″ x 7″ Fiorentina refill for several reasons including:

  • The paper is beautiful and handles most mediums with ease
  • The price is reasonable and the quality high
  • It can be customized on the outside for a completely unique journal
  • There are lots of pages, 128 leaves, 256 sides
Fiorentina Refill Lined Pages

Fiorentina's 5" x 7" refill has 256 ivory, lined pages which have a slight tooth on the surface. There are 22 lines per page spaced approximately 7 mm apart. There is a small, screened logo at the bottom center of each page.

First Impressions

The paper is lovely. It is ivory in color, fairly opaque and has a a very slight tooth on the surface. I am not sure of the exact weight of the paper, but it feels comparable to the weight of the Cartesio journals, which is 110 gsm. The surface feels porous to the touch and there is no evidence of a coating. The binding is tight, even so, I am able to open the journal flat when working.

The pages are ruled with 22 gray lines that are about ½ pt. thick and are spaced about 7 mm apart.  The lines stop about 7 mm before reaching the left and right edges, leaving small, vertical margins. The refill measures approximately 4¾” x 6½” and fits Fiorentina’s 5″ x 7″ journals.

Fiorentina Leather Journal

This refill is designed to fit a variety of Fiorentina’s 5″ x 7″ journals. Pictured is a refillable, recycled, leather journal I received as a sample about a year ago when I was considering adding some new items to my store. Other refillable journals including a sunny yellow Smile Journal are available.

The Pen and Ink Test

For the writing portion of the test, the pens I tested on the paper include:

  • Tombow Ultra Rollerball Pen, 0.5 mm point
  • Sensa Ballpoint Pen
  • Staedtler Triplus Fineliner
  • Tombow Fountain Pen with Medium Nib and Foray Ink Cartridge
  • Tombow Pixie Ballpoint Pen, 0.7 mm point
  • Pilot Precise Grip Fine Point Marker
  • Tombow Dual Brush Pen, Fine Point
  • Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker

Please note that you may get different results using your pens than I do with mine. A lot of variables can come into play here including pen type, ink type, pressure used, nib style and environmental conditions, etc. I will do my best to be specific when possible and to include all of the relevant details, but sometimes these things vary.

I was quite pleased by how well the paper in the Fiorentina refill performed. The words on the page appeared clear and the depth of color was similar to others I have tested, with plenty of contrast for good readability. The inks went down clean without drags, skips or picks and the paper was a joy to write on.

The edges of the words written with the Pilot Precise Grip marker and my Tombow Fountain pen appear clear, but not as sharp as those written in the Rhodia Web Notebook. The difference is slight, but if you look very closely,  you can see it. I am guessing this is because of the difference in the surface of the paper. The Fiorentina paper is more porous, so the ink settles into the paper and dries more quickly, while the ink on the Rhodia paper sits on top a little longer and dries more slowly. This difference in the Tombow Fountain pen sample could be because of a difference ink. For this test I used a budget, Foray fountain pen cartridge in my Tombow pen and have found it to perform a little bit different than the original Tombow refill that came with the pen that was used for tests in other journals.

There was little showthough and no bleedthrough using any of the roller, ballpoint and fountain pens, so the showthrough was comparable to the Rhodia Webnotebook I tested in an earlier review. What really surprised me was how well the paper resisted bleedthrough from Sharpie Fine Point Permanent marker. While it did bleed through where I started the down stroke of my letters, most of the letters did not bleed through at all.

None of the ink samples had raised areas on the backside of the paper. It performed better than Rhodia’s Webnotebook which was my previous best performer.

I tested the paper using a variety of pens from several manufacturers. Overall, the paper was a top performer. The words written with the Pilot Precise Grip and Tombow Fountain pen are almost as clear as the samples in the Rhodia Webnotebook, but not quite, due to the porous surface. Because of this, wet inks dry much faster than on Rhodia's paper.

Fiorentina Refill

The paper is fairly opaque so there is little showthrough. While there was bleedthrough with the Sharpie Permanent Marker, it was only slight and much less than any other journal I have tested with exception of Leuchtturm journals produced after August 2009.


  • Clear text even when using a fountain pen and markers, although not quite as clear as Rhodia’s Webnotebook when using the wettest pens
  • Thick paper has very little showthrough
  • Pages lay flat when opened
  • No raised areas on the back from writing
  • Lots of pages
  • No bleedthrough except a small amount from a Sharpie Permanent Marker
  • Porous paper accepts ink nicely and dries quickly
  • Pale ivory color is easy on the eyes
  • Good for use with ballpoint pens, roll pens and some fountain pens
  • Can be used with a variety of Fiorentina’s refillable journals
  • Reasonable cost


  • Heavier paper and higher page count makes the notebook thicker than the other samples tested
  • The ink from wettest pens not as clear as those in the Rhodia
  • There is a screened logo in the lower portion of each page
  • This is a refill and a cover will be an additional cost unless you create your own cover

Final Thoughts

For my uses, I like the paper in the Fiorentina refill better than any other I have tested to date because of the lovely paper and quick drying time. The paper is reminiscent of fine stationery and because of its thickness, it handles pens and other mediums without bleedthrough unless you are using a wet, permanent marker. Even then, bleedthrough is minimal. The page count and heavy paper does give you a journal that is thicker than many, but it is a reasonable tradeoff for the high-quality of the paper.

A large variety of pens will work well on the paper although this may vary somewhat depending on your pen and ink choices. If you use a wet fountain or roll pen, this journal may be a good choice for you if you want to avoid showthrough and bleedthrough. In my experience, I was able to use my fountain pen with great success, but since inks and nibs vary so much, you may have different results than I did. Who knows, your pen might perform even better! If you have had an experience with a Fiorentina journal or refill and you’d be willing to share with us, please email me at cynthia@journalingarts.com. I would love to hear from you.

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