If you’re like me and OCD, I see right through you. I KNOW you care about your dots and lines. So if you’re getting into bullet journaling, one of the first pain points for us perfectionists is the dot vs grid bullet journal dilemma. Simply put, should you use a DOT grid notebook for your bullet journal or one with a LINED grid?
So, a dot or grid bullet journal – Which one is best? We can confirm there is a definite advantage to using dot grid paper for your bullet journal. It helps make page elements more visually appealing, provides just the right amount of guidance and structure, and scales easily to accommodate your layout.
What is a Dot Grid Journal?
A dot grid journal or notebook contains pages with a grid layout made up of evenly spaced dots rather than solid lines. Basically, only the intersections of the grid are visible as small dots. I’m sure you’ve stumbled upon this pattern while flipping through notebooks in the stationery section. Last I checked, this otherwise boring framework was only recently propelled to stardom due to the explosion of bullet journaling on social media.
Do Bullet Journals Have to Be Dotted?
Okay, so, truth be told, when it comes to populating your bullet journal, anything goes, including which type of guide you choose. I’ve seen people make impressive spreads and creative features on plain, lined, and full grid paper alike.
You could argue the most important purpose of BuJo’ing is to become better organized or to create a functional log of life. Nevermind all that fancy, artsy stuff. So, really, you could do this on any medium. In this case, who cares if you’re using a dot grid, line grid, or something else?
Why are Bullet Journals Usually Dotted?
But most people, including Casey and me, start bullet journals because of the powerful creative outlet that they offer along with the planning aspect. They want their planner to look nice, to reflect them. If it weren’t for this therapeutic ability to customize and personalize, there’d be far fewer BuJo enthusiasts.
What’s the point?
Dots offer a cleaner, leaner way to make your bullet journal look great. Unlike solid lines, they’re less garish on your design. And, unlike plain white paper, they provide enough structure to keep your work aligned when it has to be. It’s advantageous to be able to freely decorate the way you want without visually intrusive lines all over the place. Yet, when you’re looking for precision, having a subtle dotted guide built into the page beats always having to use a ruler.
The Advantages of Dot Grid
I already mentioned briefly the advantages of using dot grid paper. Let’s go over them in more detail:
More Visually Appealing
Less busy? Less clutter? Less noisy? However you describe it, creating indexes, logs, and spreads in your bullet journal just looks more pro on dot grid paper. This shouldn’t be surprising because there’s a minimal amount of redundant markings to intrude on your work.
Provides Adequate Guidance & Structure
Think of the little dots as the ballboys & ballgirls in a tennis match. They’re trained to be ever so attentive, learning how to stay out of the way yet be there to assist as soon as they need to. The fact is, everyone enjoys the match partly because these kids do their job so seamlessly.
That’s the thing with the dot grid. It’s there when you need it but stays out of the way when you don’t. Once a page is fully populated, dots are hardly noticeable whereas lined grids blatantly show through.
Also, every dot is evenly spaced, plumb from either direction. Much of bullet journal detailing is freehand, where alignment doesn’t matter. However, much of it also involves making symmetrical patterns, straight lines, flush indentations, and so forth.
Scales Easily to Your Layout
The most popular dotted notebooks use the standard 5mm spacing between each dot. Others, especially Japanese notebooks, may come with smaller increments of 3-4mm. And yet other journals have dot grids spaced out at 6-7mm.
What does this mean for your layout? It means all of your elements can use a standard “unit” of measure. This helps your work in two ways – 1) You can flexibly “scale” up or down these elements more accurately, and 2) You can save time when creating repeating layouts.
For example, Casey and I use the 5mm dot grid spacing in our bullet journals. We confine the height of “default” writing to one row, which looks and feels pleasing. However, we can “scale up” the text to create headlines and multiple subheadings knowing they’ll all appear consistent throughout the pages because of this standard measurement.
asdf picture of my handwriting example
How to Write Neatly on Dot Grid Paper
There’s a nostalgic aura to analog handwriting, especially if the writer took care in producing his or her work. Granted, many people are embarrassed by their handwriting and rather not have any aura of theirs felt by others. Does this describe you?
Fret not! Writing neatly on dot grid paper is far easier to do than on blank paper, and nearly just as easy as writing on lined paper. Below are three practical pointers for better handwriting. Remember, this isn’t a rushed piece of homework you could care less for. Your journals will become part of your annals for perhaps years to come. So, spend time improving your freehand form.
Step 1: Slow Down
Relax and don’t rush. At first, you might consciously be pacing yourself quite well. But after a while, especially as the creative juices begin flowing or fatigue begins to kick in, you’ll get the tendency to want to speed up. But fight this urge.
It also helps to have a looser hold on your pen. This delays muscle fatigue and helps you to relax.
Step 2: Visualize
Writing neatly in a dotted journal requires no new principles, just a bit of imagination at first. Mentally connect the dots to form horizontal lines at the area where you’re going to write. Keep your writing within the “lined” boundary – make sure the letters don’t protrude above or below the row you’re working on.
A quick tip: If you’re writing on standard 5mm dot grid paper, make sure to leave enough spacing between each row of handwriting. If single-space is too difficult to write comfortably, no worries; many choose to write double-spaced and their words look gorgeous.
Step 3: Stay Consistent
The key to visually pleasing handwriting is consistency. Curves, form, spacing, slant – these should look consistent throughout the page. To achieve this, try to
- make sure the top and bottom of your letters all align on the same horizontal plane. The bottom of the letters should touch, but not protrude through, the lower boundary (descenders, such as your g’s, p’s, y’s, etc. can ignore this rule, of course).
- keep the slant of your letters uniform, all leaning in the same direction, at the same angle.
- have equal spacing between the individual letters within a word, as well as between separate words.
With regular practice, before long, you’ll see a drastic improvement in the look of your handwriting. This aesthetic boost to your bullet journal will encourage you to stick with the hobby and enjoy reviewing your past notes.
The Best Dot Grid Notebooks
Casey and I have used the standard 5mm dotted notebooks so far. We’re both satisfied with the 5mm spacing and haven’t yet needed to move to other measurements. In fact, I think most writers are fine to use a 5mm dot grid.
Your local stationery store is bound to have at least several selections of dot grid notebooks, and your online retailer will just downright overwhelm you. But, for simplicity’s sake, look for a notebook with
- A5 or B5 size
- archival-quality, acid-free pages
- at least 60lb stock (80-90 g/sqm) paper
- numbered pages (at least 150)
- lies flat when opened
- simple or minimalistic design
If you’re looking for a time-honored, trustworthy brand, we’ve used the following and have no regrets:
Originally founded in Hamburg in the year stated alongside the Leuchtturm family name, this stationery company produces the finest quality notebooks for reasonable prices. This is one of the major brands universally loved by writers. Nothing can go wrong with a Leuchtturm1917 notebook.
To take it a step further, though, Leuchtturm1917 actually teamed up with the mind and inventor behind the bullet journal, Ryder Carroll himself, to create a notebook solely dedicated to the movement. It includes templates for creating a comprehensive key, indexes, logs, spreads – every analog gauge you’ll ever need for bullet journaling – for $25 US on Amazon.
asdf LT1917 A5 Bullet Journal link to Amazon
Verdict: Dotted Bullet Journal Wins!
After dissecting (yeah, right… more like skimming) this post, you can bet that using a dotted, or a dot grid, notebook for bullet journaling is better than using one with a lined grid. That’s right. Unless you already have a bunch of lined or solid grid notebooks that must be salvaged, invest a little in a dot grid notebook for your next BuJo. You won’t regret it.
Is dot journaling the same as bullet journaling?
In a nutshell, yes. Actually, the “dot” in dot journaling has nothing to do with the type of layout that comes with your notebook. Dot journaling and bullet journaling are similar in that you use various forms of “dots”, or “bullet” symbols, to represent what you’ve got going on in your life and how to tackle these.
Whereas some dot journals are devoid of any design except for an index of symbols along with bulleted lists, others are far more personalized, complete with hand-drawn modules and creativity of all sorts. These are the ones red hot on social media these days, and these are known as bullet journals.
How many dots are in a dot grid?
This depends on the brand, the size of the page, and the spacing of the individual squares. The “official” A5 Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal notebook contains 27 dots (26 squares) across and 39 dots (38 squares) down excluding the outer margins. Counting the dots or squares in a dotted journal is important for uniformity and layout. To learn more, check out why you should make a grid spacing cheat sheet for your bullet journal.