Lined vs. Blank vs. Dotted: Best Notebooks for Note-Taking, Sketching, and Bullet Journaling

Lines, blank, or dotted? What’s your notebook of preference? Do you know the difference between these notebook styles? What are the best notebooks for note-taking, and what are the best notebooks for work?

We’ll answer these questions and more in this ultimate notebook guide. We’ll also share a list of some of the best work notebooks, including some Blue Summit favorites.


Choosing the Best Notebook for Your Needs

Notebooks can be quite personal for people, especially when they are being used as a journal to vent and capture your inner thoughts.

We’re big fans of using journaling as a meditation, reflection, and learning tool. Our CEO, Owen Franklin, is passionate about using journaling for reflection, self-discovery, and self-improvement. He blocks time in his daily routine to journal at least four times a week, and he reviews his entries every 30 days to search for common threads and learning opportunities.

Learn more about the benefits of keeping a daily work journal and how to turn journaling into a consistent habit.

The type of journal or notebook you choose depends entirely on your own preferences and needs. Are you a creative person who enjoys doodling and sketching, or do you like to keep your journaling neatly between the lines? Do you like the idea of crafting your own organizational system in the form of a dotted bullet journal, or do you just need something to jot down meeting notes in?

Let’s discuss the differences between lined, blank, and dotted notebooks.

Writing in Notebook


Lined Notebooks

Lined Notebooks

Lined notebooks need no introduction. We have no doubt you’ve come across a lined notebook before, and you’ve probably used a few of them too. Lined notebooks are often hailed as the best writing notebooks since they were designed for just that.

Lined notebooks provide clear separation between each line of text. The distance between each line provides more or less space depending on your writing preferences. When choosing a lined notebook, take a look at the spacing between the lines. Does this distance reflect your regular writing style, or is there too little or too much space between each line?

If all you need to do is capture notes in the workplace, keeping it simple with a lined notebook may be your best option.

Blank Notebook

Blank Notebooks

Blank notebooks are a little less common in a workplace setting, but they do serve their purpose. Blank notebooks are free from any lines, which has some advantages.

First, the obvious disadvantage is that there are no lines guarding your penmanship. For some people, this is a dealbreaker. They need those lines to keep things neat and organized, and they couldn’t imagine it any other way.

For others, the idea of not being told what to do by a notebook is intriguing. The blank space is an open canvas for you to write, doodle, and sketch, making your notes colorful and engaging.

Blank notebooks give you plenty of freedom to take notes on your terms. Using this type of notebook also forces you to play outside of the box and lean into your creativity. Did you know that doodling is actually good for your brain? It aids memory, calms your nerves, and promotes creativity. If you are a doodler, feel no shame, and if you’re not a natural doodler, don’t worry; doodling is a skill you can practice and hone.

Want to live on the wild side and boost your creativity? Then a plain, blank notebook may be right for you. It might feel a bit strange at first to not have any lines guiding you, but switching to a different type of notebook will take practice. Remember, you don’t need to emulate the lines. Doing so will only frustrate you.

Instead, think of new ways to utilize the page based on the type of notes you are taking. You might start in the middle and work your way out, create a mind map, write vertically for emphasis, or utilize a doodle language instead of sentences.

Dotted Notebook

Dotted Notebooks

Dotted notebooks may be considered the best of both worlds. They provide open space for your own design and creativity while still providing evenly spaced sections for you to follow as needed.

The inside of a dotted notebook contains pages with lightly printed, evenly spaced dots. These dots can form a grid, but they’re pale, so they won’t stand in the way of creative designs.

Dotted notebooks have gained popularity in recent years with the rise of the bullet journaling technique. Bullet journaling is a system of rapid logging that tracks the past, present, and future. A grid pattern is used to intentionally manage and prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. The bullet journal system is also completely agile, which means it’s adaptable and works with your own needs.

The system is clean and straightforward, but it also leads to many unique and creative bullet journal spreads, which can be designed for any number of purposes, including mood trackers, budgeting, travel planning, food logs, habit trackers, and more. The dots in the bullet journal create an open canvas for designing any spread to suit your needs while allowing you to get creative with color, imagery, and themes.

📘 Learn more about the Bullet Journal system, including how to set up a bullet journal and ideas for creative spreads.

If you’re into bullet journaling or want to try it out, a dotted notebook is the way to go. If you’re curious about using a blank notebook but aren’t quite ready to abandon the safety of your lines, a dotted notebook can provide an in-between option that’s the best of both worlds.


Notetaking Notebook

The Best Notebooks for Note-Taking

The best paper notebook for note-taking depends on your style and personal preference, but in general, lined is your best option if you are focused on note-taking.

If you want to incorporate some doodles and sketches within your notes, the alternative is choosing a blank notebook. This may sound a little “outside the lines,” but adding creative elements to your note-taking can help you recall information better.

Sketching Notebooks

The Best Notebooks for Sketching

The ideal notebook for sketching is a blank one. The blank pages will give you the freedom to use all of the page without being constricted by lines. When choosing a notebook for sketching, pay close attention to the paper thickness and texture. Ensuring the pages won’t bleed to the other side is especially important if you will be using pens or markers on the page.

Another alternative for sketching is a dotted notebook. The dots on a dotted notebook are often faint, so they shouldn’t hinder sketches too much, and the dots also provide clear guidelines for drawing crisp lines, circles and curves, and other shapes.

Bullet Journaling

The Best Dotted Notebooks for Bullet Journaling

Bullet journaling is quite difficult without a dotted notebook. For bullet journaling, you’re designing your own planning system, so you need to use the grid pattern as a guide in order to create your spreads.

When choosing a bullet journal, look for one that has a dot pattern on every page, but make sure the dots aren’t too bright and bold so that they won’t get in the way of your designs. The thickness of the page also matters. Make sure the journal you choose has pages that won’t bleed through. You’ll want to use both sides of the page, and if the lines and designs from the previous page seep through, it will become distracting.

Larry-Approved Notebooks

Blue Summit Supplies carries a wide selection of notebooks, including pocket notebooks, spiral notebooks, composition notebooks, and more. Simply add your notebook or notebook pack of choice to your next office supplies order.



More on Notebooks From Blue Summit Supplies

📕 Travel Journal Ideas for Your Next Adventure

📗 The Pros and Cons of Online Notepads vs. Real Paper

📘 Common Types of Notebooks Explained, Including Notebook Size Charts

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Jordan's passion for travel led her to design a career as a remote content marketer. Nearing 1000 published articles, she's spent the past decade using her interdisciplinary education to research and write content for a wide variety of industries. Working remotely, Jordan spends half of the year exploring different corners of the world. At home, she's content exploring fictional lands—Spark an immediate and detailed conversation by mentioning Game of Thrones, Red Rising, Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings.

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