Beautiful Hand Painted Tomoe River Paper Notebooks From Etsy

The other day, I was laying in bed browsing Etsy even though I had already made the purchase that I actually intended to make that night (very dangerous). I searched the keywords "Tomoe River" to see if I could find any notebooks made with that paper. This is even after I had already told myself I was done stocking up on TR. The fear of never being able to buy that paper again made me want to see what was out there. The usual suspects came up like PaperPenguinCo and PebbleStationaryCo. I already have stacks of notebooks from both of these companies, but I was still considering ordering from Penguin to get some more cheap TR notebooks.

While looking through the search results, my eyes caught these fun colored notebooks from TheBookmarkNovelist. I really love the light, bright look that the combination of the colorful paint and white watercolor paper create. At 5×8 and 80 pages, they are very similar to the "Wide" size notebook that PaperPenguinCo sells. Penguin's notebook costs $9.99, while these cost $12.60. At an almost $3 difference, these painted notebooks aren’t the cheapest option, but I think they are worth the premium.

Both notebooks contain 40 sheets (80 pages) of Tomoe River 52gsm blank paper. There is no special title page in the front, nor are there any designated pages in the back to write your name or subject. Each notebook simply has the white watercolor paper painted with a single color on the front and back cover. The front has nothing else added, but the back has a cute stamp mark that states:


The insides of the cover are left completely white, and the blank Tomoe River sheets are bound by a single staple.

Stacked painted notebooks showing the stamp on the back.
Its hard to accurately portray the exact white these notebooks are. These are warm white, but not to the point of being considered offwhite.

Comparing these colorful, painted notebooks to PaperPenguinCo’s notebooks, leaves Penguin’s notebooks looking bland. These notebooks have a very nice look and feel that is worth the small premium. I would rather have a stack of these on my desk, or hand one of these to a friend if they needed a notebook. I’m not trying to bash PaperPenguinCo’s product though, they are very utilitarian and are a good deal. These were just the two products and companies I was choosing between when I went to purchase some more TR notebooks. There are also many other options on the market, of course, I just singled out PaperPenguinCo as a comparison because they are popular, and you may be familiar with their notebooks. To give PaperPenguinCo a pro, a big pro at that, is that they sell both new and old Tomeo River paper, so you can pick your preference. I assume these painted notebooks are using the new style paper, since they specify. So if you are looking to stock up on old style Tomoe River Paper as cheap as possible, these painted notebooks are probably not the buy for you.

Stacked and centered green, blue, and purple notebooks.
Cute pastel colored paint on nice thick watercolor paper.

TheBookmarkNovelist’s hand-painted notebooks are staple bound with only one staple in the middle. PenguinPaperCo uses two staples from what I’ve seen. I don’t love staple binding. It’s fine for a cheap notebook. However, thread bound notebooks are definitely my preference, due to the look, strength, and how flat thread bound notebooks can usually lay. That’s why I love the notebooks from PebbleStationary, but threaded notebooks are usually a higher price point. Personally, I can tell the difference between only one staple vs two. The notebooks are somewhat tall, so using only one single staple in the center causes some variation in how the paper feels when you write. It’s hard to put in words the exact feeling, but basically, you can feel the paper lay flatter or bunch up more in relation to the distance your nib is to the staple. It's not a huge issue, but I did notice it, and I noticed it even more when I wrote in the notebook in a landscape position. Having two or three staples allows the notebook to have a more uniform feel because there is less distance between the staples. Two staples working together also gives the notebook a bit more structure when compared to just one in the center.

Painted notebook opened to the first page with a Kaweco Liliput fountain pen laying on the page.
First page of a notebook with a Kaweco Liliput laying on it.

The lack of title page and single staple binding are just little nitpicks that I thought of when I was using the notebooks. They are just simple but cute notebooks. I loved these notebooks the instant I saw them, and I loved them even more when I saw them in person. I recommend these notebooks to anybody who wants a simple Tomoe River notebook that can be used whenever you just have to jot something down. The thinness and price makes these a great choice for just some school work or little notes. Occasionally, it can be hard to decide what is worth to use your leatherette hard cover thick notebooks for other than as a journal. These are priced low enough and don’t have a ton of pages, so there isn’t a lot of pressure when deciding to use one of these or not.

You can purchase these notebooks here. You can also read my review on PaperPengiunCo’s notebooks here(coming soon). You can also read my review on PebbleStationary here(coming soon). Thank you for reading, and thank you for supporting these small businesses.

Anthony Gamboa
I run blogs related to fountain pens, film photography, gardening, and Southern California life.
Southern California