(The paper pads in this review were purchased by me at a discount using a code that Blank Slate Paper provided for review purposes — Stick around till the end of this article to get your own code for 15% off Blank Slate products).
How long have you been searching for the perfect paper pad without success? The one that’s fountain pen-friendly and has just the right ruling and layout for your needs. Do you need a weekly planning page? Something for sketching out a production or shot list? Bolder lines/rulings to help with a visual impairment? Or have you just always wanted to inject a little bit of your signature color into your daily notes?
Remember, you’re not picky; you’re discerning!
It’s cool; Blank Slate Paper has you covered.
I went to college in Rochester, NY — about an hour away from where I now live in Buffalo. I studied photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology and have a deep love for Rochester’s neighborhoods, restaurants, and local businesses. I love shopping locally when I can, and as a small business person, seeing people doing cool stuff and launching new concepts is exciting. I was especially thrilled when I discovered that Rochester is home to this very cool stationery company that offers customized paper pads for those seeking something just a little more perfect for their daily writing needs.
The Design Process
Blank Slate’s website sports an interface that is mostly easy to use when designing your custom pad — but I will suggest that you take a little time to fully explore the interface and just how flexible the options can be before you jump at getting a pad. The basic options are excellent, but you can get very deep into these options to create something with a high degree of usefulness and specificity. If nothing else, explore the “Start with a Template” tab of the design wizard to see some of the more advanced options in use — and have a solid starting spot for designing your perfect pad.
Another option to pay attention to is the front and back rulings options, which will allow you to duplicate your rulings (or have different ones) on the rear of every page. I overlooked this on my first order and will make better use of it in the future.
Erin and I chose three different layouts to test.
The first was a simple reticle grid for use in daily note-taking. This layout featured no margins, so I can write to the edge of the page if I want, and the ruling was a little more spacious than most dot/cross grids I’ve used in the past to accommodate my larger writing. Most importantly, I went with the custom color option to have the reticles printed in a pale lavender that allowed me to go with a bolder reticle size and weight while keeping the marks unobtrusive.
Erin likes the simple layout of old-school lined paper and margins. She chose the classic loose-leaf template and brightened it up with chartreuse rulings and a bold purple margin.
Finally, I wanted to create something that was task-oriented — so starting with the Blank Slates Weekly Page template, I made a pad that I can use to track production and project notes for upcoming shoots. It features a reticle grid on one half of the page for general notes and then seven blank sections for tracking action items, crew, cast, props, etc. I went with a reddish-orange color scheme for this pad.
Blank Slate allows you to keep an account – so if you land on something you like, be sure to save your template for future modifications and re-orders too!
Blank Slate currently offers two paper options – both are very fountain pen friendly but have slightly different attributes, and both cost the same.
The first is one that many in the community will already be familiar with — HP Premium32. This laser printer paper has long been considered a reasonably affordable and well-performing loose-leaf paper option for those who like to write with fountain pens and heavier-weight paper. HP Premium 32 is bright white 120gsm paper with a very smooth, but not slick, surface. There is no bleed-through and minimal show-through with this paper (which is nice since Blank Slate will print your rulings on both sides of the pad if you want – essentially turning this 50 sheet pad into 100 functional pages). This paper shows a moderate amount of shading and a slight touch of sheen in very wet lines — but don’t expect anywhere near Tomoe River levels of ink properties to be apparent.
I ordered the pad with the purple reticles as well as my production pad in this stock.
The other paper option is Domtar Bold 28, a slightly lighter paper stock at 105 gsm. Domtar is a little warmer in tone than the HP Premium32, but still visibly white. I find it to be smoother than the HP and less toothsome to write on. As a thinner paper, Domtar Bold 28 does have a little more show-through, as well as a very tiny hint of bleed-through when using large and wet stub nibs – though not enough for it to be an issue outside of very close and purposeful inspection. Domtar Bold 28 does show some shading, but no sheen. Ink dries very quickly on this paper with no feathering.
The school ruled pad I got for Erin features this paper, and I will likely use this paper over the HP in future orders.
How Did We Like Them?
A lot! but not without some caveats.
First, let me say that the design process itself is a lot of fun. It feels pretty cool to be able to say, “I want to make a sheet of neon orange graph paper with a 2mm spacing,” and then actually go and make that a thing (please don’t make that a thing).
But at $19.50 per pad before tax and shipping, I would urge you to be a little more thoughtful in how you design your pad. Consider your needs as well as the applications you want to use this for. I see a vast amount of potential for this product if you design it with specificity in mind. I love my purple reticle pad, but I love it mainly for aesthetic reasons beyond the enlarged ruling (though I plan to refine it into something more useful I have in mind for an upcoming project). Taking some time to really explore the possibilities and examine your needs will help you get every little bit of value that you can get out of it.
The pad I am getting daily use out of is the production notes one. I’m using it for the intended purpose of project tracking but also using it as a weekly mini-planner, organizational tool, and meal planning page. I also think that Blank Slate could add a ton of appeal to their design engine if they expanded their stock template offerings to give customers a broader overview of just how task purposed these pads can be. I would also suggest that they start developing partnerships with influencers in various fields to create custom-built templates with niche and specific functions in mind, or even the ability for users to share their templates with others.
I like this concept a lot and see a ton of potential for it to grow. I do hope that Blank Slate continues to expand its customization options in the future. It’s fun and useful, but at the current cost, I will be focusing on crafting purpose-built templates from which I can get the most use and value rather than just those I want to design with the cool factor in mind. I would love to upload a vector file of a small wordmark or logo in the header or footer along with some other information — making this something branded and personalized I could stock in my studio for art directors and clients to use on set. I could also see these making fabulous business gifts or giveaways if there were more extensive personalization options.
The writing experience has been excellent so far, and I’m leaning a little more in favor of the Domtar paper than the HP for future orders. Both paper stocks take fountain pen ink very well, and the rulings’ print quality is clean and crisp, but the Domtar paper just feels a little bit nicer from a tactile perspective. On the other hand, if you are someone who wants a little more feedback from your writing, than the HP may be more to your liking. The pads come well packaged with a heavy grey top sheet, as well as an easily removed order summary page that wraps around the pad for shipping protection and lists your design options for future reference.
I would also like to see the expansion of the product range, including an A5 pad or even a smaller pocket-sized version for quick notes (I would buy those by the bundle). A full letter-sized pad is handy on a desk but can get cumbersome on a daily commute – especially for people who like to travel light.
The price may make some people hesitant, but once you consider the design engine’s flexibility, the development that goes into something like this, the end-product quality, and just how cool it is that a service like this exists, it makes a lot more sense.