Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook

Thank you to Darkstar for sending these for review and feedback!
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 16
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 22

ABOUT

Size: A5
Color: Light cream
Ruling: Dot Grid 5mm
Paper Weight: 100 gsm
Sheet Count: 50 & 100
Price: £6.99 and £13.99
Where to buy: Darkstar

PACKAGING

No packaging, which is generally ok. Both notebooks arrived a bit beat up via the mail. The MK3 had a pretty dinged up corner, which bent almost all the pages in that bottom corner. However, I can live with the dings if it means less waste.

APPEARANCE
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 1
Both notebooks look the same. The Original A5 has a thin kraft front and back cover, and the MK3 has a thicker, more firm cover. Both notebooks have a black canvas binding that is glued in place. The front cover has "Darkstar" and the star logo on the bottom right hand corner. The back cover says Made in the UK, Darkstar Collection, and a bar code. The light cream pages inside sit flush with the corners, both of which have pointed corners. The paper has a bit of visible texture to it - it looks a little toothy. The 5 mm dot grid is light grey - easy to see but not obstructive.
These are simple notebooks with almost blank covers, which are very inviting to doodle on, decorate, and/or plaster with stickers.
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 24
PERFORMANCE & FEEL

Before getting to the paper, I'll point out one or two things. Both notebooks lie flat, without having to crack the spine. This makes it easier to write from end to end, and make use of all the paper. I really like this.

The kraft covers on the original A5 are very thin and got torn very early in its life with me. I reported this to Darkstar, along with others, and now the improved MK3 has a thicker, more durable cover. They are not rigid, but they add a bit of structure to the notebooks. They do not tear easily.
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 26
The glue bound pages in the original A5 notebook fell out very easily, especially where the pages got turned a lot. The MK3 has improved this - so far, no pages have fallen out. There was also an issue with the black canvas binding separating from the cover of the MK3, but Darkstar has since figured out this issue and fixed it.
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 28
Both notebooks are my favorite size - A5. The original A5 with the thinner covers and fewer pages, are more convenient to carry and are quite portable. The MK3 is twice as thick, with 100 instead of 50 pages, and slightly thicker covers. It is still a portable size. Both are useful and handy. In hand, I like how both notebooks feel.
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 27
On to paper performance! The paper is toothy to the touch, so don't expect something super smooth and coated. It is a pleasure to use pencils, especially softer leads. Leads smudge well - great for sketching and drawing. Broad, soft leads are such a joy to use - hand lettering with Palomino pencils is a treat! Hand lettering with pencils almost makes it look like I have some skill and know what I'm doing. If you enjoy pencils, they pair up well with this paper.
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 5
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 6
Gel highlighters and regular highlighters are well tolerated. Very wet highlighters can show through but with normal use, should not bleed through. Gel pens, rollerballs, ballpoints, and marker pens all work well. It feels fairly toothy, so you will definitely notice if you use finer/dry writers. Markers - Sharpie/Staedtler - can bleed through, it just depends how wet they are.
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 3
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 4
The paper is quite fountain pen friendly! Particles in inks like Diamine's Shimmering Inks/J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Inks show up really well. Inks with sheen pop nicely, and the shades of colors are visible. It is pleasant paper to write on, as the slight tooth offers a tactile experience and some feedback I really like.

Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 9
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 10
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 7
Drying times are decent - not super long because the paper is not slick and coated. Of course, the wetter the nib, the longer the drying times can be. Overall, the relatively average drying times make this notebook great for daily use.
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 12
Nibs with sharp edges - such as italic nibs - must be properly aligned so the edges don't get caught in the tooth of the paper. I tested the paper extensively, using extra-fine to triple broad, super wet nibs. I used brush pens/brush markers, dip pens with dip pen inks, folded nibs, technical pens, and then even more nibs - calligraphy nibs, stubs, etc. No feathering, almost no bleed through. It's really tolerant and quite fountain pen friendly.
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 13
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 15
If you like super smooth paper, this is not the right paper for you. If you enjoy using a variety of writing instruments and want fountain pen friendly paper, this is for you!

PROS
  • Simple design that works.
  • The company listens to feedback to improve their notebooks.
  • Fountain pen friendly paper:
    • No feathering
    • Very minimal bleed through (with excessive ink application)
    • Shading, particles, sheen - all visible!
  • Covers are blank canvasses for decorating and personalizing.
  • Notebooks lie flat.
  • Portable, convenient size.
  • Dot grid is not visually obstructive.
  • Great for writing, drawing, journaling, doodling, sketching, lettering, and more.
  • Great for flex pens and calligraphy practice.
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 11
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 17
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 18
CONS  
  • Stock varies, so they're not always available. 
  • As the reported issues are fixed, I don't have much to complain about.
OVERALL 
Review Darkstar Collections A5 Notebook Original & A5 MK3 Notebook 23
Great for creative folks! A cute, convenient, competitively priced notebook that is pretty much a blank canvas for creating! The paper is very fountain pen friendly and also plays well with many other writing instruments.


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I received this item free of charge for the purposes of this review. I was not compensated monetarily for my review. Everything you've read here is my own opinion.

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GourmetPens by Azizah Asgarali is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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