Blackout Bullet Journaling
Hello! Joy here with another celebration of stationery! This month is all about black paper. I was utterly baffled by the existence of black paper journals when I was shopping for my first journal. I couldn’t begin to imagine how you’d use one, but now I’m getting into the swing of bullet journaling, I thought I’d give it a whirl!
Fancy a having go? Nikki’s Supply Store stocks Archer & Olive blackout dot grid journals, dot grid notepads and Sakura sketchbooks. You’ll also need something to draw or write with. You won’t get very far with a regular ballpoint or fine liner but luckily, Nikki’s got you covered there too. Archer & Olive’s Acrylograph paint pens and Sakura’s Gelly Roll gel pens really come into their own against black paper!
Like most 2000s tweens, I was obsessed with gel pens and spent all of my pocket money on them. Collecting them and actually using them were two totally different hobbies! Fast forward a few years and I must confess that my stationery collection was distinctly lacking in them. I’ve seen so many amazing reviews of Gelly Rolls on YouTube and social media, and was so excited to try them. Let me tell you: These are a far cry from the globby transparent gel pens of the 2000s, that had to be re-activated every time you used them with copious scribbling!
Sakura Gelly Rolls come in a huge range of colours, from brights and jewel tones to pastels and muted autumnal shades. I set to work swatching the muted tones pack in my Archer and Olive blackout journal, and I can’t overstate how deliciously smooth, bold and opaque they are. I got a little carried away and decided to swatch them on white and kraft paper too, as well as Nikki’s pastel dot grid pads. I love how different shades pop against different background colours!
Sidebar: Archer & Olive journal boxes are great for keeping hold of all your paper scraps for future projects and swatches!
As well as amazing bullet journal spreads, I’ve seen lots of stunning patterns and Zentangles using Gelly Rolls on black. (If you’re not familiar with the term, the Zentangle method is an easy-to-learn, meditative way of creating beautiful abstract images with combinations of dots, lines, curves and orbs, invented by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts. Give it a Google - it’s so pretty!) I don’t think this qualifies as a Zentangle, but this muted rainbow gingham design was incredibly relaxing to create and required just enough focus to clear my mind.
After a thorough pen test, I created a few sample bullet journal spreads in my A&O blackout dot grid journal. The way the ink sits on the surface and pops against the dark paper put me in mind of fireworks, especially with Bonfire Night on the way! I went for a blue and green palette, with gold highlights courtesy of the Pentel Hybrid gel pen, but any colour combination would work. The beauty of fireworks is that they’re all different and imperfect, so you can’t really go wrong - just get doodling those swooshes and spirals and bangs! I used a few of the colours from my firework display to sketch out my weekly spread. This layout of a small box for each day plus a master to do list is working really well for me at the moment.
Next, I drew inspiration from a couple of my favourite August spreads, which you can read about in more detail here. Adding coloured papers is a great option if you want the drama of a black journal, but don’t want to rely on having specific pens on hand to fill out your weekly spreads. This was a really speedy simple spread to put together, but I really love the finished result!
This isn’t rocket science and maybe everyone except me was already doing it, but it’s only just occurred to me to keep all the pens and tapes I’m using for each month’s bullet journal spreads separately. So much quicker and easier that rooting through my stash every time!
Black and gold has definitely been a reoccurring theme in my journal spreads, and I went all out with this Art Deco-inspired cover page. Yep, I messed up the pattern more than once, but one of the advantages of black paper is that it’s much easier to cover up mistakes! I found a Pigma Micron the most effective to cover gel pen. The corrected sections actually show up much less in real life than they do in the photo!
A little side note on imperfections: I put off bullet journaling for years because I was intimidated by other people’s picture-perfect spreads, and thought it was totally out of the realms of possibility for someone like me who couldn’t draw or letter (I’m slowly getting better!) and rarely wrote a birthday card without a spelling mistake or pen smudge. My spreads aren’t the neatest or the most artistic, but I think it’s so important to share a bit of beginner / clumsy realism!
If you fancy trying bullet journaling on black paper, but don’t want to commit to an entire journal, why not try one of Archer & Olive’s neapolitan journals? They include a mix of white, kraft and black paper. They’re currently out of stock, but should be back soon! Alternatively, you could add sheets from an Archer & Olive notepad into your existing journal.
Next, I tried out the Sakura black sketchbook. They’re available in two sizes: 13cm x 21cm (slightly narrower than A5) and an adorable pocket version measuring 12 x 12cm. As with the Archer & Olive journals, Sakura sketchbooks are thread bound, which means they lie flat when open - ideal for drawing! The 140gsm paper is lovely and smooth and perfect for Gelly Rolls.
I’ve had the Archer & Olive Warm Fall Acrylograph set for a while, and was really looking forward to trying them on black paper. I absolutely loved how they looked in my kraft paper journal:
This Acrylograph set really lends itself to cosy autumnal designs, so I thought I’d go with a tried-and-true mushroom doodle. Apparently great minds think alike, as Nikki went for a mushroom theme for her November spreads, and is using the same Acrylograph set!
The smooth paper was great for Acrylographs, and I got really fantastic opaque coverage with the dark warm mulberry and goldenrod shades. My white Acrylograph is by far my most-used and after a ghost-heavy monthly theme in my kraft journal, is running a little low on ink which is why these sections don’t have quite the same opacity. I don’t mind that it adds a bit of texture to the drawing though.
If you’ve not used Acrylographs before, the key things to remember are:
- These are paint pens, so they need activating before every use. The first activation will take the longest, but re-activating each time you use them will keep them in tip top condition
- With the cap on, shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds (a shorter shake is fine for subsequent uses)
- Press the nib gently against a piece of scrap paper or the blending palette in the box to get the ink flowing. A few gentle presses should be enough. If it isn’t, put the lid back on and give it another shake
- Don’t paint over the same spot until the ink is completely dry. This applies to layering the same colour, or layering colours on top of each other
- Wipe the tip and return the cap when you’ve finished using them
- Store horizontally
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been trying to improve my illustration this year but definitely don’t consider myself an “artist” yet! I decided to push myself and try quite a different style. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that my beloved kitty Luna hasn’t been very well, so it seemed only fitting that I attempt to sketch her, especially as she’s black and white. This was a super quick sketch, and I wasn’t going to include it as it’s definitely a little rough around the edges, but I refer you to my above note about imperfections!
Sketching on black paper definitely felt like quite a different experience to black on white. I found it quite freeing as it allowed me to step out of my head and stop overthinking every little pen stroke. I think this would be a great exercise to help with art block or a creative rut, and I’ll be challenging myself to sketch on black paper more often.
Thank you so much for reading! Don’t forget to tag @nikkissupplystore on Instagram if you’ve been inspired to use a blackout journal or sketchbook!