“It’s OK! Everybody makes mistakes.”
Yeah, that’s true. But those words are powerless against the anxiety of a chronic bullet journaling perfectionist. If dumb typos, ugly doodles, or entirely distraught pages are repeatedly dashing your dreams of creating that perfect BuJo, take heart! This post will, first and foremost, convince you that booboos aren’t a big deal, then teach you how to fix your bullet journal mistakes.
To fix minor bullet journal mistakes, you could mask them up with white ink or correction tape. For larger mistakes, you could 1) camouflage them into the design, 2) cover them with opaque material like Washi tapes and print-outs, or 3) discard the pages they’re on entirely.
Make Your Bullet Journal Pretty – But Not Perfect
I know the bullet journal pageants on Pinterest would have you believe that perfect artists exist. But never forget that all those fancy pages and spreads are their owner’s best foot forward. Behind the scenes, back at the desk, an endearing human is messing up VERY regularly.
Thus, before getting into how to actually fix BuJo mistakes, I’d like to share a coping mechanism to combat perfectionism. As someone dealing with OCD, I’ve learned that to truly enjoy a hobby, one must learn to love the PROCESS rather than the “thing”. Let me explain.
Perfectionists get anxious when they err on something they really care about, such as a new material project – even if it’s just a pastime. This is because they’re overly attached to the “thing”, being convinced that, in a perfect state, the item will bring perpetual satisfaction.
But, if they emotionally detach themselves from the thing and, instead, focus on enjoying the process of the craft, the stress of making mistakes no longer torments them. Ironically, the byproduct is a greater feeling of reward and an even prouder end result.
My point is, don’t place an unhealthy emphasis on the looks of your bullet journal. Making minor, medium, or even major aesthetic mistakes in it isn’t a big deal. Even though a BuJo conveniently provides the capacity for full creative fury all over, remember that it is, after all, only a productivity tool.
The words above are words to live by, I swear. Now, on to correcting those pesky mistakes.
How to Prevent Bullet Journal Mistakes
After all, prevention is the best cure, right? As with all things in life, there are some simple measures you could take to avoid carelessness. If you abide by these two general creative principles, you’re guaranteed to make way fewer mishaps in your BuJo spreads.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
I’m well acquainted with the deceptive confidence of, “Psh, I could do that, too!”. I’m sure you’re in awe of the awesome works on display by other bullet journaling veterans. Seeing these may spur you to get going ASAP.
Before letting the eager beaver loose, though, pause and plan your layout. Trust me, the number of emotional flare-ups you’ll avoid by just being a little humble will be SO worth the extra effort.
Use a pencil first. Use graphite to sketch or outline the perimeters of your design before solidifying it with permanent media. Its carbon footprint (see what I did there, eh, eh?) is so small that you might not even have to erase the lines after you’ve covered over them.
Calculate whether you have enough space. In this grid spacing tutorial, I explain why it’s important to figure out the dot grid layout of your bullet journal. Not only does this help with evenness, alignment, and symmetry, it also ensures you won’t run out of room for the last crucial letter to that inspirational quote.
Practice the Significant Stuff Beforehand
For intricate details that are an inevitable representation of your ability (read, ego), such as complex doodles or calligraphic headers, be sure to do ample practice. These art forms are skill-based, meaning you can’t just pick up a Tombow brush pen for the first time and expect to churn out adept strokes.
In this case, though, practice does NOT have to make perfect! After several sessions or once a skillful assurance sets in, you should just go for it – as long as you use a pencil to trace the outline first.
Can You Embrace the Mistake Instead of Fixing It?
I’m sorry, but have I mentioned already that bullet journal mistakes aren’t a big deal? Here’s your final chance to reconsider your ways and forgive your imperfections. How?
By embracing your BuJo mistakes rather than trying to fix them.
Make a joke out of it. How about you BLATANTLY draw an arrow towards that extra “e” in “Weednesday” and leave it at that? It’s a goofy reminder that you’re biological like the rest of us. People who are modest and courageous enough to laugh at themselves when they fail are endearing, yes?
Apply some CBT and ERT to your OCD. Fellow counters and hand-washers know what I’m talking about! Just as every kid eventually calms down from a tantrum, so too will the anxiety of knowing there’s an unsatisfactory element residing within your bullet journal subside.
Of course, if you’re adamant that your mistakes still need fixing, then here’s a list of great suggestions for how to go about it. I’ve compiled everything in a logical order, starting with how to deal with petty errors, and ending with how to cover up major bullet journal disasters.
Minor Mistakes: Pen & Marker Fixes
Minor mistakes include those singular letters or strokes made by your pen or marker, such as typos, unsightly lettering, crooked lines, or accidental slip-ups. To deal with these usually insignificant blemishes, you could conceal them with
- a white gel pen,
- correction tape,
- or, as a last resort, liquid white-out.
A White Gel Pen
A white gel pen, such as the Uniball Signo Broad, is the best tool for covering up smaller mistakes. The creamy ink closely matches the page color in several cult-favorite notebooks including the Leuchtturm1917 A5. Also, because it’s a pen, you have much finer control over the application.
Tips for using a white gel pen. Since white ink is slightly translucent, it’ll take some accumulating before the underlying mistake is fully covered. Rather than scribble over the affected area, go over it in several gentle passes, letting each successive layer dry before applying another. Once the white ink is fully dry, you can write on top of it with other ink.
Correction tape covers more surface area than a gel pen and applies cleanly as a non-liquid layer. Although it’s a bit tougher to handle due to its rigid casing, you should definitely always have one in your stationery kit. Look for high-quality, acid-free products such as the Tombow Mono Single Line series.
Tips for using correction tape. Once the strip adheres to the paper, try to drag the roller without changing directions. Otherwise, the application might wrinkle or overextend, and you’ll end up with a noticeable blotch that detracts the eye like the original mistake. Also, if there are any lifted or frayed edges, be sure to gently pat them down flat using a CLEAN finger.
Liquid White-out (as a Last Resort)
If you’re desperate and only have old-school liquid white-out to spare, then you could use it. Even though it’s haphazard, it gets the job done. Use the same pointers as a white gel pen to apply liquid white-out. You want to avoid goops of the liquid and instead dab it in successive, controlled layers.
Medium Mistakes: Ruined Drawings, Doodles, or Bigger Areas
Medium mistakes are more serious than minor mistakes and thus require a so-called intentional cover-up. Since you’re never gonna rightly “fix” these types of mishaps, your job is to camouflage them, making them look like they’re supposed to be there.
Medium mistakes might include regretful headers, doodles, sections, or other wrongful elements that take up a sizeable chunk of the page. They’re more often the result of a miscalculation rather than an unintentional slip-up.
I present two options: Use misdirection as a magician would, or cover up your crime altogether. Here’s how:
- incorporate the mistake into another doodle or design
- color over it entirely and write something new on top
- cover it up with Washi tapes, stickers, print-outs, or scrapbooking paper
Incorporate the Mistake Into Something Else
Compare this concept with how a magician hides the obvious from untrained eyes using a variety of illusions and tricks. It’s the art of misdirection – bullet journaling style.
If block lettering goes wrong. If you’re dissatisfied with the shape or evenness of your block letters, I’d recommend what I gleaned from Shayda Campbell’s video, How To Fix Bullet Journal Mistakes | 10 Quick Fixes. At the 6:34 mark, she demonstrates these relevant steps:
- Redraw the contours of your lettering, expanding the dimensions until they’re more aligned, even, and visually pleasing.
- Fill the lettering up, including the holes if they’re ugly, with matching colors.
- Hollow or thin out the solid letters by using white gel ink to resculpt their interior shape.
Draw a sensible addition. If your design ends up aesthetically wonky, could you try morphing it into a larger decorative doodle to masquerade the original dud? Or, could you minimize the unseemliness by creating a deceptive visual distraction?
There are numerous creative hacks to salvage a doodle in your bullet journal using this method. Here are just a couple of options:
asdf botanical incorporation
asdf pattern distraction (misalignments)
Color Over It Entirely and Write Something New On Top
Of course, you could always try to color over your mess. I’ve been resorting to the following solutions since elementary art class with great success. And, with a wide array of thick metallic or other colored inks at your disposal, you could write bold, impactful text on top of the patch to further bury any leftover evidence.
Scribble a cartoonish text bubble. As long as the underlying ink isn’t too dark or too strong, you could use a felt-tipped marker to scribble a filled text bubble over the mistake, like this:
asdf scribbled text bubble
This effect works particularly well in whimsical or cutesy bullet journals because of its organic, playful edges. Applied properly, it looks deliberate. Diagonal, parallel streaks seem to work better, especially if the bubble isn’t large. And nobody would ever know about the corpse buried beneath. *Shhhhh*
Fill in a solid shape. To paint over mistakes in a more elegant theme, try outlining a tidy shape around the area, then fill it in with a thicker, more opaque color, like these:
asdf solid shape cover-ups
Useful tips. Since this method transfers a ton of pigment or ink to the page, make sure your marker uses a non-bleed material. Also, to completely conceal the underlying mistake, choose a more opaque color. Test your selection out by first trialing it on a separate piece of paper similar to the one in your bullet journal.
Cover It Up With Washi Tape or Paper
Fixing bullet journal mistakes by covering them up is an all-time favorite of all BuJo crafters because of the unlimited arsenal of Washi tapes, stickers, print-outs – really, any pattern and design imaginable – readily available for cheap.
Tips for covering mistakes up with other materials. Stay away from liquid adhesives such as white glue or cheap glue sticks since large amounts will wrinkle the page. Instead, use double-sided tape. Also, some scrapbooking elements like old newsprint aren’t acid-free. This means they’ll yellow, fade, and become brittle over time.
Major Mistakes: Messed Up Journal Pages
These BuJo sins are so deliberate and bad that you must destroy all evidence of their existence. Fortunately, they’re relatively rare. Unfortunately, they’re also relatively “expensive” in that they cost your notebook valuable real estate. For instance, if you discard a double-paged spread by tearing it out, you sacrifice, not two, but four pages.
Major bullet journaling surgery often involves
- amputating the leaf,
- attaching another leaf to the amputated “limb”,
- taping two pages together,
- or covering up the entire page(s) with a large print-out.
Amputate the Leaf
If it’s only a single-page spread and there’s nothing on the backside, you could tear or cut the mistake out. Depending on how precise the removal, you’ll be left with a “limb” – that slim part of the original page – that might make you unhappy. For this, I’ve got a good idea…
Attach a New Leaf to the “Limb”
Why not leave enough of the page in your bullet journal to attach something useful to it? For example, you could create a nifty “barn door” spread and then tape it to the limb using sturdy Washi tape. Or how about an informative flip-out?
Tape Two Pages Together
Sometimes tearing out the pages isn’t an option, especially for double-paged screw-ups. For this situation, it’s best to stick the two pages shut, effectively merging them into one. Sure, you lose two pages; but you also salvage their backsides by not tearing the leafs out.
A useful tip. This YouTube vid shows the correct way to tape two bullet journal pages together. By taping the pages while they’re LIFTED UP as opposed to flattening one on top of the other, you gain a better alignment of the edges. The tape job appears less noticeable this way.
Cover the Entire Page With a Large Print-out
This is also a no-brainer bullet journal fix that’s super easy to do. Just cover over the existing page(s) with a nearly full-sized print-out. You could recreate any spread on this new layer, making this hack my absolute favorite.
Useful tips. Make sure the print-out you’re using is opaque enough to fully hide whatever’s underneath. Otherwise, you’ll get what’s called ghosting, where things on one side of a page show through to the other because of the thinness of the paper.
Also, you don’t need to cut the print-out to fit precisely the dimensions of your notebook. In fact, I like to make the print-out smaller than the page via hand-ripping it down to size. This gives it that appealing “tear-out” look, as tastefully used in this BuJo spread by @therusticwritings…