Think you can’t bullet journal with the best of them? Think again! You don’t have to be an artist to create a bullet journal that’s pretty enough to keep once you’re finished with it. In fact, crafting a journal you can admire—and share on Instagram—is as simple as having the right tools for the job and knowing where to look for inspiration.
Read up on our best bullet journaling advice for making your bullet journal beautiful, no MFA necessary!
#1. Pick up a luxury pen
A fine writing instrument is enough to make anyone feel fancy. Even if you’re keeping the bullet journal itself simple and unadorned, a luxe fountain pen or rollerball can add flair to your penmanship.
As you shop for a luxury pen, keep your bullet journal routine in mind. If you tend to take it with you or you travel frequently, a rollerball pen might make more sense. While many fountain pen devotees take their tools wherever they go, fountain pen ink does take about 10 minutes to dry, which might not work with your lifestyle.
A fine ballpoint pen is another option, though it won’t give your handwriting as much interest as a rollerball or a fountain pen would. If you opt for a ballpoint, go with a high-end one. The ink will flow more smoothly, making it easier to write with and giving your bullet journaling experience a finer feel.
#2. Scroll your way to extra inspiration
When it comes to creating art, inspiration is the name of the game. All those bullet journal designs you’ve seen on Pinterest and Instagram? They’re there to inspire you to get creative with your bullet journal, even if you don’t see yourself as a creative person.
A lot of creativity is about training your brain to think in new ways. If you’re not an artist by trade or hobby, of course exquisitely illustrated bullet journal spreads aren’t your forte—yet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t borrow a bit of design inspo from a pro. Many bullet journalers offer step-by-step directions or videos that show you exactly how to recreate their spreads.
Use this inspiration the way it’s intended: to be a launching point for your own creativity. It could take weeks for you to start going off on your own, or it could take years. How much time it takes doesn’t matter. No one is keeping track! Just be sure to credit the source of your inspiration, especially if you’re sharing photos of your bullet journal online.
#3. Add photos to bring pages to life
Illustrating, water-coloring, and hand-lettering are the most popular ways to decorate bullet journals. However, this dominant threesome doesn’t represent the only options you have for creating interesting bullet journal pages.
Why not decorate your pages with photos? You can paste them in, try scrapbooking squares to stick them to your pages, or use washi tape, which is the least permanent solution and will let you remove the photos later, should you want to.
This is a great way to remember to print out all the photos you snap on your smartphone—and makes your bullet journal a nice keepsake that you know you’ll want to return to. The photos will let you remember the person you were and the life you led while you were mastering these various goals and attending these assorted events listed in your bullet journal.
In fact, the more you print and use your photos, the more thoughtful you’ll likely become about capturing your life in pixels. Talk about a win-win!
#4. Experiment, spread by spread
Struggling to find your style? Make your bullet journal notebook a place for experimentation. While a lot of bullet journal users like to focus on consistency, that doesn’t mean you have to stick with the same-old spread from week to week. After all, it’s exciting to flip a page to find something completely different.
The more you try new styles, patterns, and designs, the closer you might come to discovering your own personal style. Even if you find yourself no closer to embracing your own artistry by year’s end, you’ll at least have a feel for what you do and don’t like about certain design elements. Hey, baby steps!
#5. Find easy ways to add color
In the same way a fresh coat of paint can completely change a room in your house, a splash of color on a bullet journal spread can transform your notebook from ho-hum to interesting. And the best thing is that you don’t need to be an illustrator to make a little bit of color look professional.
If you’re using a fountain pen, try finding interesting inks to experiment with. You can even source black inks that have different undertones or iridescent colors to them.
For other ways to use color, consider crossing out your to-dos using a highlighter or using a sticky note to flag an important page. You could use markers to color the edges of your notebook’s pages to signify different months. Or, try outlining your headlines and subheadlines to make them stand out from your bullet points, lists, and notes.
At the end of the day, the week, the month, and the year, a bullet journal is all about helping you find better ways to live your life. The bullet journal system was created to track habits and reach goals, not be Instagram eye candy. The key to a truly beautiful bullet journal is creating one that works for you. All those flourishes? They’re the sprinkles on top.