Every BuJo newbie inadvertently stumbles upon the grid spacing problem early on. Your average classroom tools – a ruler and a calculator – are too inefficient for measuring out the sectioned layouts in bullet journaling spreads. To get the desired alignment and symmetry in your spreads, you’ll have to make your own bullet journal grid spacing guide, or cheat sheet, as many call it.
Here’s a complete, easy-to-follow tutorial for making a grid spacing guide for your new bullet journal. After explaining what a grid spacing guide is and why it’s important, I’ll teach you how to make the popular, classic, lined version. Then, I’ll demonstrate how to use another “boxed” version to design a functional weekly spread.
What is a Grid Spacing Cheat Sheet?
In design, grid spacing refers to the amount of space there is between each grid line. Most bullet journal notebooks, such as the Leuchtturm1917 A5 Bullet Journal, use standard 5mm grid spacing (each side of a cell measures 5mm).
A grid spacing guide, cheat sheet, spread, or ruler is a self-made reference that keeps track of the commonly used dimensions for your bullet journal. It should include the standard sections, such as halves, thirds, and quarters, as well as dimensions specific to your usage.
This custom measurement tool should save you time in designing layouts on the grid. Sort of like a one-size-fits-all diagram, it could either be an affixed page in your BuJo, or a standalone ruler. Regardless of its form, it should be tailored to fit your own style and notebook dimensions.
Types of Grid Spacing Guides
Even though your grid spacing cheat sheet should be based on personal preference, it’s best to stick to one of the two tried-and-true versions. First, there is the classic guide made of lines and, second, there is the one made of boxes. Either version will work just fine, but your brain might handle one more easily than the other.
The BuJo community boasts many ingenious members, several of which who came up with different types of grid spacing cheat sheets. Here are a few:
The grid spacing spread. The original format where your grid spacing guide belongs as a one- or two-page spread either at the front or back of your bullet journal. It could be as minimal or as fancy as you want. The simplest, cleanest spread using lines I saw was this one made by @pacificnotation on Instagram.
The grid spacing ruler. A grid spacing spread that is separated from the bullet journal as a sort of ruler. It could either be a full-sized page or a thinner strip of paper. An easy way to make a grid spacing ruler is to design it on one of the perforated pages in your notebook, then tear it out. This saves you from having to cut another sheet of paper to match the dimensions of your bullet journal pages.
Grid spacing stencils. Lastly, the type Casey uses is the grid spacing stencil. Stencils aren’t as commonly used for grid spacing but work well for my wife’s brain. These are basically cutouts or shapes which you can trace onto the page to create desired dimensions. Of all the guides, these are the most freeform and versatile but may require a bit more calculation when spacing segments evenly.
Do You Need a Grid Spacing Cheat Sheet?
I highly recommend making a grid spacing cheat sheet, not for necessarily creating straight lines, but for alignment and symmetry. Our eyes are quite sensitive to pattern discrepancies. This means that design elements within our bullet journal spread that should be even, but aren’t, can be visually discomforting. So, using a grid spacing guide can make your whole bullet journal feel more cohesive, more “soothing”.
Plus, the whole point of bullet journaling is to organize your life, save time, and get things done, right? A grid spacing guide can save you so much time and frustration as you create function with an artistic touch.
Clearly, one of your earliest projects in a new BuJo should be to make a personal grid spacing cheat sheet.
How Do You Grid Space a Bullet Journal?
Alrighty! Here’s the step-by-step tutorial for creating a functioning grid spacing guide. You will need
- your gridded notebook (if it has perforated pages, use these for tearing out if you want a separated ruler, or for throwing out should you mess up!)
- at least one good-quality pen (I prefer to color-code my guides, so I use a couple of colored pens, which are all skip-, smear-, and bleed-proof)
- ruler (not even necessary)
Step 1: Pick Your Grid Spacing Style
First, choose whether you want your grid spacing guide to use lines or to use boxes. You could see a comparison of my own digitalized cheat sheets above.
Then, decide if your grid spacing cheat sheet will be an affixed in-page spread or a separated ruler-like tool. Some BuJo’ers opt to make a ruler – a foldable strip of paper containing all the necessary measurements – that can be stored in a pocket within their bullet journal. If this ruler is what you want, most would agree that the lined style works better for these.
A quick tip: A grid spacing guide using lines only needs one page, whereas one incorporating boxes often requires two (one page for the horizontal dimensions and the other for the vertical).
Personally, I prefer the original lined cheat sheet as an affixed spread in my bullet journal. It suits my personality in both function and aesthetics. So, for the sake of demonstration, let’s recreate this version together.
Step 2: Count & Track the Number of Squares in the Grid
Start by counting how many squares there are in the grid, going across, and then going down. For me, I decided to leave out the “margin” of the page, so that the first countable square in both directions begins one space in.
For lined cheat sheets: It’s preferable to mark the numbers all along both axes, as shown below in my own spread. You can label them anywhere on the sheet, such as at the edges, or like mine, several spaces in for a bit of aesthetics. What matters is that these numbers are easy to interpret at a glance.
For boxed cheat sheets: Most people don’t find it necessary to number each grid square when incorporating a guide with boxed measurements because it looks too busy and is also redundant. However, you still would need to count the number of squares in each direction and make note of the totals.
For separated guides: It’s best to utilize both sides of a separated grid spacing guide, one side for marking the horizontal measurements, and the other for marking the vertical. Otherwise, your ruler might have too many markings on one side and lose the intended simplicity of a grid spacing cheat sheet.
Step 3: Measure Out the Basic Sections
Now, calculate where the most basic sections of your grid are. Everyone on planet earth agrees that these are the halves, the thirds, and the quarters of the page. Do this part right, and you’ll seldom have to use Grade 5 math when bullet journaling ever again!
The formula for calculating the length (in grid squares) of your sections is
- Total squares per direction ÷ desired sections = ?
Stupidly simple, right? For example, this is how I calculated the dimensions for my bullet journal:
- Half (horizontal): 26 (total squares across) ÷ 2 (desired sections) = 13 squares
- Half (vertical): 38 (total squares down) ÷ 2 = 19 squares
- Thirds (horizontal): 26 ÷ 3 = 8.67
- Thirds (vertical): 38 ÷ 3 = 12.67
- Quarters (horizontal): 26 ÷ 4 = 6.5
- Quarters (vertical): 38 ÷ 4 = 9.5
What If the Result Isn’t a Whole Number?
Chances are, several of your measurements will include decimal points. This is bound to happen, of course, since your grid might not be evenly divisible by the desired sections. How can you deal with this? Easy!
First, find out how many “leftover” squares you’ll have in that section. To do this, ignore the decimals in your answer and multiply it by the same number you used for that desired section. Then, subtract this result from the total number of grid squares in that direction.
Here, how about we just look at the formula. There are two simple calculations here:
- Original answer (without decimals) * desired sections = result
- Then, the total squares per direction – result = amount of leftover squares
So, in my case:
- Thirds (horizontal): 8 (no decimals) * 3 (desired sections) = 24 (result); 26 (total squares across) – 24 = 2 leftover squares
- Thirds (vertical): 12 * 3 = 36; 38 – 36 = 2 leftover squares
- Quarters (horizontal): 6 * 4 = 24; 26 – 24 = 2
- Quarters (vertical): 9 * 4 = 36; 38 – 36 = 2
Next, space out your columns or rows in the section to accommodate for these leftover squares. Notice how I utilized the extra squares in my own grid spacing cheat sheet below.
For my thirds, I chose to put the two leftover squares between the columns and rows to create even spacing. But for my quarters going horizontally, I chose to center the layout by leaving one leftover square at each extremity. And so on, and so forth. This setup spoke to ME – and YOUR guide should do the same for you!
A quick tip: Keep it simple, stupid. All I needed for my lined grid spacing guide to make sense was ONE reference per section per direction. I didn’t clutter my page up with unnecessary lines. Also, to make it easier on the eyes, I decided to color-code the different measurements using black, gold, and silver.
Step 4: Determine Which Other Dimensions You Need
Now that the basic sections are out of the way, figure out which other measurements YOU will likely use. Go through the steps above and add these to your grid spacing cheat sheet. Common sections for BuJos include fifths, sixths, sevenths, all the way up to tenths.
In my grid spacing spread, I knew the only other measurement I needed was for a single-page weekly horizontal layout. Since this measurement created 5 leftover squares and I wanted symmetry, I chose to space the columns out evenly in “half-squares”. Super simple and as minimal as possible!
A quick tip: Once again, you should make differentiating between all the measurements on your guide simple. I used line thickness and color-coding. Also, keep in mind a grid spacing guide should merely require a quick glance for you to understand how to layout a spread. So, don’t cram on it every possible measurement you can think of.
How to Use a Grid Spacing Cheat Sheet
This is the part where the wisdom of making a grid spacing guide manifests itself. The steps are so self-explanatory that I’m just going to show you a couple of diagrams.
Suppose you want a two-page weekly spread, with a basic layout of four boxes on the left for Monday to Thursday, and three boxes on the right for Friday to Sunday. Of course, you’d likely want room for a clear header, perhaps a mini-calendar, and definitely ample space for notes.
In list form, your weekly spread will need
- two pages, with 4 boxes on the left page and 3 on the right
- a header or title
- a mini-calendar for visualizing how the week fits into the overall month
- enough space for notes or a habit tracker
- enough empty space for other things such as doodles
The “Bones” For the Weekly Spread
How did I come up with this basic yet balanced layout? By improvising a “custom” measurement using the ‘thirds’ section of my grid spacing cheat sheet, as highlighted in green below. I knew the key to this design would be to have enough space along the sides. So, I divided each page vertically into thirds, with the weekday boxes taking up two-thirds.
This was the ONLY measurement I had to reference from my grid spacing guide. All I needed was an accurate division between the vertical thirds of the pages. That’s it! EVERY other dimension, position, element – what have you – will be a combo of imagination, eyeballing, and inspiration from other bullet journal junkies online.
The Finished Weekly Spread
Hopefully, you can see that it doesn’t take extraordinary effort to create elegant spreads using a grid spacing guide. Weekly spreads such as this one usually have a basic structure where a brief referencing of your guide will suffice. Other more complicated spreads may require extra thoughtful planning. Regardless, you’re going to save so much time in the long-run by using a precalculated guide.
A quick tip: To surely avoid any frustrated hair-pulling, start by lightly marking your layout with a pencil, then fill it in with your desired inks when you’re sure of the dimensions. Measure twice, cut once, right?