How To Start a Bullet Journal: The Complete Guide

Would you like to start a Bullet Journal and organize your life? Keep reading to find 8 tips that will help you to learn how to Bullet Journal and be the best at it!

Before I started using my Bullet Journal it was hard for me to keep track of everything that was going on in my life. Uni life, social life, appointments, deadlines, to-do lists… everything was a whole mess!

But then I came across a Bullet Journal on Pinterest and everything changed. I suddenly found myself completely obsessed with this new way of organizing my life, and bullet journaling became one of my biggest passions.

Keep reading to get a FREE Bullet Journal Printable Kit!

How To Start a Bullet Journal: The Complete Guide

When you start a bullet journal it’s pretty easy to feel intimidated by some of the more complex Bullet Journals out there.

It’s good to look up to other people’s bullet journal for new ideas and inspiration, but remember that everyone starts small with a notebook and a pen.

Here are 10 simple steps you should follow if you want to start a Bullet Journal:

1. Pick a Good Journal

Your notebook is the most important element when you bullet journal, so picking the best one can change your whole bullet journaling experience.

The wrong notebook can cause you a lot of trouble: pages can ghost or break when you use watercolors or markers.

I highly recommend you invest in a good journal from the beginning to avoid wasted time and a lot of frustration (speaking from experience). 

Here are some things to consider when you pick a journal:

The cover. While a softcover notebook will be cheaper, a hardcover notebook will make it easier to close your bullet journal and keep all the pages together. So you might want to invest in a notebook with a more consistent cover.

The lining. The most used lining among the Bullet Journal community is the dot grid because it offers you a lot of benefits without being distracting. It’s perfect for drawing shapes and placing all the elements into your bujo spreads.

The number of pages. It depends on the amount of time you want your bullet journal to last you. More pages will last you longer, but it will also make the journal heavier.  I recommend an average of 250 pages.

The size. How big you want your bullet journal to be? A5, A4? My go-to size is A5.

Paper quality. The paper thickness will determine the material you can use in your Bullet Journal. If you want to use watercolors or markers make sure to pick a notebook with more GSM paper, otherwise, you’ll face paper bleeding or ghosting. I recommend not going for anything less than 150 GSM.

I know, picking a notebook is hard work! 

But don’t worry, here I’ve listed some of the more popular journals, so it makes easier for you to pick the right one.

Best notebooks to start a bullet journal

Leuchtturm 1917 Dot Grid Journal

➤ Hardcover. It comes with an elastic closure band to keep all your pages together and safe.

➤ Dotted pages. This journal opens flat, so you can write and draw from all the angles.

➤ It has ink proof paper and 249 numbered pages.

Archer and Olive Dot Grid Notebook

➤ This is the holy bible of notebooks. It’s a bit pricy but definitely worth it. The most loved notebook by bullet journal accounts.

➤ It has pure white 160 GSM paper that can withstand any material, including watercolors.

➤ 100% vegan!

Get it here

Vivid Scribbles Dot Journal

➤ It has premium 140 GSM bleedproof paper.

➤ 200 dotted and numbered pages.

➤ 100% vegan!

➤ Includes key code page, index pages, dotted numbered pages, and 2 color-coded bookmarks for optimal organization and stress-free set up

2. Only Buy The Supplies You’ll Use

When you start, don’t buy all the supplies! 

First, you’ll need some time to figure out what you like, and that will tell you what kind of supplies you need.

Looking at other people’s Bullet Journal accounts might be tempting to buy all the stationery they own. I know it because I’ve been there, and then you found yourself with loads of supplies that you never end up using. Not cool for your wallet and for the planet.

Instead, you should be really selective about what you buy. I recommend starting with cheaper supplies to figure out your style, and then keep upgrading as you discover your own needs and preferences.

The one thing I don’t regret spending my money on is my Sakura Micron black fine liner pens. I knew from the beginning that I was going to use black fine liners a lot, so I’m really happy I decided to invest in high-quality ones from the start.

Source: @marthasjournal

Martha uses the Sakura Micron black fine liners to do the outlines and lettering.

Other than that, I’m also happy I invested most of my budget in a good journal, rather than on expensive Bullet Journal supplies. There are a lot of affordable alternatives that will get you similar results.

Start with the basics, and you’ll get an idea of what else you need eventually.

Bullet Journal Basics

Here are a few items that I’d call basics because you’ll be using them no matter what your Bullet Journal style is:

Black fine liner pens. I can assure you that you’ll use them a lot. They are the best to draw your setups and basically everything you put in your Bullet Journal. This is why in this case I highly recommend you invest in the Sakura Micron pens. They have given me the best results and I couldn’t love them more. Here’s an example from my Bullet Journal:

Source: @itsclaudiart

Pencil and eraser. It might sound a bit lame to mention this, but you’ll use your pencil and eraser all the time. When I start a new bujo spread, I always draw it with my pencil first. The Staedler HB2 Pencils are my favorite. And you also want to pick an eraser that doesn’t leave any marks on the paper and keeps your journal clean. My favorite eraser is the Milan eraser.

Ruler. You can start with a regular ruler for straight lines that will make your pages look neat and clean, and eventually add fancier rulers to your collection. For example, the Helix circle ruler is perfect for drawing circle shapes you can turn into habit or mood trackers.

Color supplies. When you start, don’t buy a pack of colors of every existent media, otherwise, you’ll end up with a big bunch of supplies and a lot of stress because you won’t know how to use it all in one spread. Instead, pick one of them, for example, markers, and learn as much as you can with them until you switch to, for example, watercolors. As I mentioned before, start with the cheap option. My favorite markers are the Zebra Midliners, but you can start with the Crayola Supertips.

Source: @lafondari

If you own any of these supplies already, please consider starting with what you already have. Buying new stationery is so cool, but don’t waste your money if what you have is still working! 

Do it for yourself and for the planet.

3. Think About The Purpose

Before even you start your Bullet Journal, write down the reasons why you’re starting and what do you want from it.

That will give you a clear idea of what type of spreads you want to include in it and will make sure you stick to your new habit.

Yes, bullet journaling is a habit itself, and a lot of people fail at it because they don’t have a consistent purpose. Find what moves you to start a Bullet Journal.

Do you want to be more productive during the day? Do you want to wake up at 6 AM in the morning? Do you want to work on a new project? To reach your fitness goals?

Find what your purpose is and stick to it to succeed.

Or there can be a bunch of motives why you start a Bullet Journal, which is my case. I want to be more productive and wake up early to work on my projects (this blog and my Etsy store), but I also want to workout at least 3 times per week and read more. 

Source: @itsclaudiart

To the moment, my Bullet Journal has helped me accomplish all of that, so this is my purpose. I know my Bullet Journal brings helps me to bring out the best version of myself and this is why I stick to it!

4. You Don’t Need To Be Good At Drawing

If you follow some Bullet Journal accounts on Instagram, you may have already noticed that a lot of them draw on their Bullet Journals.

If you want to spend hours on your BuJo you can, but if you don’t have the time or the skills to do it – it’s fine. You can keep it minimal and only use a black pen, or you can use a wide range of colors – it’s all up to you! 

I personally like to keep things in between.

Drawing in your journal is an option, but it’s definitely not an obligation. So if you’re not good at drawing, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways you can decorate your Bullet Journal.

Washi Tape. There’s an infinity of beautiful Washi tapes. Some have decorative patterns and motifs, but there are also washi tapes with the days of the week or months of the year. Just cut them and use them as headers in your BuJo spreads!

Stamps. Use them to stamp the days of the week, numbers, or titles. Stamps are good to get this writing machine font look.

Stickers. Adding stickers into your Bullet Journal is the easiest and quickest way to decorate it. If you aren’t good at drawing, you can substitute drawings for stickers! Also, don’t you love the feeling of having a sticker collection that’s like your biggest treasure?

Check my Etsy shop!

5. Get Started!

So now you have your journal, pencil, pens and everything, but you still don’t know where to start.

Don’t worry, this is totally normal. It’s called first-page fear and it happens to me every time I need to start a new Bullet Journal spread – and basically any new project!

The crazy amount of things you can do with a Bullet Journal can be a bit overwhelming at first, but don’t let it stop you.

Here are a few things you can do when you experience first-page fear:

Quote. Use the first page of your Bullet Journal to write a quote that inspires you or motivates you. This is a good option if you don’t want to start your BuJo with a monthly spread right away.

One word. If you can’t think of any quote, write a word instead. You can choose a word that describes you, a word you like, or a word that represents what you want to accomplish with your Bullet Journal. This will be a good reminder in the future.

A sticker. Did you just get a new sticker sheet or sticker pack? Pick the sticker you love the most and place it on the most important page of your Bullet Journal: the first page.

Collage. Use a mix of photos, stickers, and washi tapes to create a beautiful collage with different textures. You can also add some lettering to it, or leave it as it is!

A doodle or a small illustration. If you like drawing, you can do it on your Bullet Journal too – find something you’d like to draw and decorate your first page with it.


Once your first page is done, you’ll be wondering how to organize your pages. The truth is everyone does it differently.

Today I’ll share with you how I do it and what works for me the best:

Index. I include this page to get a general look of the year. Nothing too fancy, just to get a better perspective of where I’m at in the whole yearly context.

Monthly cover page. I use this page exclusively to write the name of the month and a little calendar of said month. Sometimes I’ll also add a small doodle or a sticker.

Monthly habit trackers. There are some habits I’m trying to improve and be more consistent with, so I use my Bullet Journal to track them. Some of these habits are reading, drawing, drinking my water, working out, watching more movies, and walking.

Weekly spreads. This is the most essential part of my bullet journal. In my weekly spreads, I organize my weeks, make to-do lists, write my goals, and basically keep up with everything that goes on in my life!

Source: @lilbrownjournal

These are the basic pages for me. If there’s a month I’m feeling extra creative, I’ll just add more pages. You don’t want to restrict yourself or force yourself to fit into a specific mold. 

Your Bullet Journal, your rules. 

This will help you at the beginning while you’re still figuring it out, but as you gain more experience you’ll find out what you like and what works for you the best. 

But you can get some ideas to get started from my List of Bullet Journal Ideas.

You can also subscribe to get a FREE Bullet Journal Printable Kit to get you on the road to success in your new Bullet Journal!

6. Do A Pencil Test First

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but I promise you won’t regret it.

It will help you to get a first impression of the idea you had in mind. Sometimes we picture things in our heads better than they look on paper, so making a first pencil sketch will allow you to see what works and what doesn’t.

You can use your eraser to make the proper changes and fix your design.

After your design is set and you are happy with the results, you’ll be ready to start inking. But before that, make sure you do a pen test!

Here’s why you should ALWAYS make a pen test:

It will give you a real reference for how pens work in your bullet journal. If your journal doesn’t have pure white pages (like Archer and Olive), colors can change. Making a pen test will help you know what to expect.

It’s a great way to keep track of your supply collection. As you buy more stationery, some pens may end up being forgotten at the bottom of your pencil case. If you have a pen test with all the colors,  you can rely on it the next time you have to choose a color.

Make your pen test at the end of your notebook. You’ll avoid the awful experience of ruining anything important in case the pen bleeds or ghosts.

Source: @mizustudy

7. Don’t Be Afraid To Make Mistakes

Mistakes are also part of the learning process. 

When you allow yourself to experiment and try new things that are out of your control the odds are you’ll probably make a few mistakes – and that’s totally fine!

Don’t let a few errors discourage you and keep trying. No one is born with all the skills, and even the Instagram accounts you love have been through a process of trial and error – and they probably still are.

Doesn’t matter how skilled you are, mistakes are human and happen to all of us.

Here are some tricks to help you solve Bullet Journal mistakes:

White gel pen. This is perfect if you want to fix a small mistake without ruining the whole design. 

Cover with washi tape. If you feel like the mistake is too big and the white gel pen won’t work, use washi tape instead.

Cover with a sticker. You can also use a sticker to cover a larger mistake. I personally have a preference for stickers when it comes to covering any mistakes because you can choose from so many shapes and sizes. 

8. Get your FREE Bullet Journal Printable Kit 

So now you’re ready to start a Bullet Journal!

I wanted to make things even easier for you. This is why I’ve designed a free Bullet Journal printable kit you can use in your BuJo spreads.

With this free printable you’ll get:

  • Daily labels for every day of the week to use on your weekly spreads
  • Beautiful stickers to decorate your Bullet Journal layouts
  • A habit tracker
  • Page markers
  • and more!

Sign up now and get your FREE printable!

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