Sunday, January 16, 2011

Plain, Lined, or Graph?


Because I have very small writing, most ruled pages have lines that are spaced too far apart for me.  Lines on a page also limit the ways you can write and draw on it.  It is for these reasons that I often prefer plain, unlined pages for writing.  Plain pages are better for adding doodles and drawings around my words or for writing in a non-horizontal manner.  And a sketchbook should, of course, be unlined.

Yet lined pages have their benefits - for one, they give the page an orderly appearance, keeping words and sentences lined up properly and improving the ease of reading the writing on the page.  Lined pages can also be interesting to draw on, with the lines adding another element to the drawing.  I have seen many excellent examples of drawings on lined and graph paper, as well as on various pre-printed forms.

Graph paper offers an even greater degree of order, and also, paradoxically, greater freedom.  Graph paper is ideal for precise drawings, graphs, and lining up your words in columns, tables, and blocks of text - all things that would not be possible without the use of a ruler or would just look messy on plain or lined pages.  Graph paper encourages doodlers to fill in the squares in different colours, draw diagonal lines through them, and create intricate geometric mandalas.

There are also other, more exotic formats, such as the dot grids used by the Rhodia dotPad and others, as well as the grid+lines format of Doane Paper.  Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to try either of these formats, although I think that a dot grid notebook would make an excellent calligraphy journal.

Which do you prefer - plain, lined, graph, or something else entirely - and why?  What do you use the different formats for?

32 comments:

  1. I really wish I could write on plain paper without hating how it looked, because I really want to keep an art journal.

    I'm thinking of keeping two separate journals as an art journal: one sketchbook for drawings, and one graphed notebook for writings. Then I can number the pages in both and just sort of cross reference them.

    I didn't think I'd like writing on graph paper, but I tried it because the rulings are usually smaller than the lined alternatives. I actually really enjoyed it and stuck with it. I also like knowing that I can turn it sideways and write that way, but I haven't done that yet.

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  2. I like your idea of two cross-referenced journals, topendoodle, so much so that I would almost be tempted to try it myself except that I already have too many journals. And I agree, graph paper is much more fun to write on than lined.

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  3. I once preferred plain as I didn't want some publisher dictating how many lines I could write on a page. Now I am happy with lines or dots. My 'Jottr Classic' has best of both worlds, plain paper on left and lined on right [and the pages are numbered!]
    I feel that size is more important and, over the years have moved from A4 to pocket book and am now happily using A5 for journaling and Pocket Book Field Notes for ... well, for notes.

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  4. All are OK, though I'm becoming less a fan of the grids in the Rhodia pads I have. I do mostly writing, and though I write both vertically and horizontally, I find that the guides are just too strong.

    More recently, for journal-type writing, I much prefer a blank writing page with a page of graph guides underneath. Since I write with pencil, this can also be used as a spacer sheet to catch graphite transfer when I write on the reverse of a page.

    The final result ends up being very even lines and spacing floating on the blank page.

    I think I could get into dots or into faint grids, but I haven't come across them where I live.

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  5. Plain - definitely - much more flexibility IMHO

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  6. Thanks for the comments, everyone!
    Colin, I have often thought that a notebook with both plain and lined pages would be good for a journal that combined writing and drawing, but I have yet to try one out. And I love numbered pages!
    Robert, it does sound as though you might enjoy using a dot grid - perhaps I will review a dot grid journal here in the future. I've tried using lined and graph guides under blank pages, but I find them a bit too awkward to use regularly.

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  7. Plain, for pocket notebooks 4" X 6" or smaller, lined or graphed for notebooks approx. 8" X 10" or larger. My pocket notebook notes are sometimes very badly scrawled; lines and graphs just don't work for me in the smaller sizes. Haven't tried dot grid yet. Jack/Youngstown

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  8. For my pocket notebook I've always used lined but now I'm changing towards using graph. If I need to sketch out some part's dimensions it's easier with the graph. I don't necessarily draw so using plain would just cause chaos with words swirling into oblivion. My penmanship is bad enough without me needing to turn my notebook in order to read it. For larger sizes I still prefer lined.

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  9. I find it interesting that some of you prefer different formats depending on the size of the notebook you are using. I haven't noticed such a pattern in my own notebook use... Perhaps a discussion of notebook sizes will appear in a future post...

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  10. Oh my gosh,I just found your blog and it's amazing! I love pens,paper,notebooks,etc.I love how you talk about the different notebooks,journals,pens,etc.I also love your art.

    I think I love graph paper b/c it looks so cool to write on & draw.Although I do like plain paper,it always feels intimidating to me, but graph paper is less scary.Maybe once I become better at art,I'll love the plain notebooks. :)

    Please stop by our family project here at http://2011letters.blogspot.com We hope you participate and there will be a prize for most decorative letter. ;)

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  11. I prefer plain papers for both doodling and writing on. I like the freedom it gives me to write how I feel: big, small, wild or ALL CAPs letters! :-)

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  12. Thanks so much, Renee! (Seriously, I think I'm blushing.) I didn't think of graph paper being "less scary" than plain, but I can definitely see how some people might feel that way.
    And iHanna, thanks for stopping by again! I agree - plain paper definitely offers the greatest freedom of the formats.

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  13. Plain- which is to say unruled and without lines is far and away my preference. If Rite-in-the-Rain made unruled journals, I'd use them regularly (their paper is great for pencil-writing).
    For me, journaling is very much about letting thoughts and words wander, and lines are too confining and tend to upstage the written marks.

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  14. While sitting down for coffee with one of my mentees yesterday, there was a moment where I pulled out a second notebook, to which she remarked, "You really like graph paper don't you?" I told her it was mostly just because it was useful for a lot of things.

    In my previous comment, I mentioned using plain with a guide back, but I guess outside of that context (purely long-form journal writing), I almost always opt for some kind of graph variant. For what it's worth, my current favorite is the Maruman Mnemosyne, since the graphs are pretty benign and the reverse of each page is blank.

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  15. Speculator, I know what you mean about the confining nature of lines; I have especially noticed this with a few notebooks that have thick, dark lines that really distract from my writing.

    And thanks for the mention of the Maruman Mnemosyne, Robert! Its format sounds like something I'd be interested in trying out.

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  16. For the longest time, I bought just lined journals but once I got into art school and chose that as a career, I've been leaning more toward plain and graph. It's hard to find the right size journal with graph paper though. Also, I have a back log of partially finished lined journals, and it's such a waste of space in my small studio so I've gone back and started using them, gluing in blank or graph paper as needed.

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  17. Plain...and ruled. I use plain paper journals if the paper is toothy (a little rough, has drag) because they're good for pencil and I crave freedom when using them. For smooth paper journals, and anything about 3x5 inches, I use ruled paper because my preferred gel type pens need order imposed upon them for some reason.

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  18. Why chose between lines, graph paper or no lines? Have you heard of White Lines? It is a grey paper with white lines in the shape of either lines or graph. The beauty of it is, the lines dont distract from the writing/ drawing! I like it because I can keep a semblance of uniformity (my writing sloopes unnaturally without lines)! No distractions! Try it and tell me what you think!

    endlsdremr

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  19. I haven't tried WhiteLines (and I don't know why I didn't think of it when I was thinking of other "exotic" formats), but I do hope to try it out one of these days. Sounds like a way to have the orderliness of lines or graph with the freedom of plain paper.

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  20. I definitely do not like graph. I usually use lined notebooks; that is what I feel comfortable with. However, I have used blank/plain in the past, and really enjoyed how creative I would get with my journals when I used blank paper. With lines, I tend to refrain from doodling and stuff. But, all things considered, lined is my choice.

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  21. Heather, I too would like to find a notebook (preferably a square one!) with both ruled and plain pages, ideally facing each other, for writing and drawing. I've just been combing the internet for such a thing, but the only ones I find are for early elementary school children! But I think I'm going to give up that search and get the Moleskine square Creativity Notebook (found it on Amazon). There's something about the quad ruling; it's like a trellis for whatever you want to "grow" on it! I like some support for my letters; my handwriting isn't perfect enough to stand up on its own on a plain sheet and I'm kind of unstructured, but I love structure, the discovered kind as opposed to the kind someone imposes on you. The quad ruling lets you use it, defy it, inhabit it, ignore it, color it, peek through it. A trellis, a mosaic, a chessboard, a screen. Mathematically organic. And after all that, I just noticed the post on WhiteLines, which I will have to check out. Thanks for the blog!

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  22. Okay, so now I want a Whitelines notebook in an 8x8 size. (Did I mention that the Creativity Notebook is square?) Thanks for giving me one more requirement that the market can't handle, LOL!

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  23. Plain paper for me please...lines..no no...I'll rule them myself if I want them...and I usually do as I am a calligrapher....one quote a well-known calligrapher has said is
    "Writing between lines is like dancing in a room with the ceiling only as high as yourself".

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  24. I love the quote, Joyce! Thanks for sharing. And I agree - plain paper certainly offers much more freedom than any kind of lines.

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  25. I would love a notebook with alternating pages of [college rule] lined and plain paper. I love to write and draw, and I have yet to find such a notebook in my adult years. At one point, I made one with lined sections on plain pages, but it wasn't to my liking.

    If only I could find my Holy Grail of note/sketch books...

    I'm so glad I found your blog. It's amazing!

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  26. Thanks, Adana! A notebook with both lined and plain pages would be ideal for writing and drawing; I'd love to come across one myself.

    I'm glad you like my blog, and I hope you stop by again in the future!

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  27. Hi! Does anyone know of a journal that has both ruled pages and alternating plain pages??? I need this for a class I am going to be teaching about Moby Dick while sailing out of Conn. Thanks.

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  28. Dk, I have asked the question about a journal with alternating lined and plain pages in a new post (http://apenchantforpaper.blogspot.com/2011/05/notebook-question.html), so keep an eye on the comments section of that post and you should get some good responses from other readers.

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  29. Graph or plus-shape/dot-graph, hands down. If, like myself, you like using lines for your typography and composition, as well as technical OR freeform sketching, it's far easier to "break the format" (so to speak) than regular ruled lines are.
    I also love the way grids help me better judge the proportions of letterforms (and drawings, to an extent).

    If I had to pick a second choice, I would use a graph guide sheet beneath plain paper (although this then relies on having paper of a light enough gsm to see through, which usually results in show-through, making them one-sided pages, which I think is wasteful).

    Ahh... the conundrums!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment, danyka! I also really like the greater freedom of grids. Ruled lines just seem so boring and constrained in comparison.

      I hadn't thought of the option of using a guide sheet with plain paper, so thank you for mentioning that!

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  30. Jottrr makes such a notebook, but they don't seem to ship to the U.S.

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