Tool Review: Whitelines Squared Notebook

Tool Review: Whitelines Squared Notebook


Whitelines describes their namesake graph paper notebooks and pads as the new generation of writing paper. While this seems overly dramatic, the idea behind their designs is quite novel. As Whitlines puts it, the idea is simple: dark lines distract, Whitelines don’t. Whereas traditional graph paper consists of white paper with colored – often blue – grid lines, Whitelines features light grey paper with white grid lines.

To be honest, I don’t recall ever having issue with my designs or diagrams not standing out well enough when drawn on regular graph paper. Even so, I decided to give Whitelines a try and bought my first notebook in early 2011. Whitelines’ marketing claims seemed convincing enough and the price tag reasonable enough, so I figured it was worth a shot. I bought another back in March 2012.

It’s too difficult to compare Whitelines paper to other quality notebooks like the Maker’s Notebook (available at the Maker Shed), square-lined Moleskines, and even Marble notebooks, so I won’t. There are just too many apples-vs-oranges differences to declare one style of notebook better than the other.

Both A4-sized notebooks I’ve used are square-lined with 2 squares per centimeter spacing. This comes out to about 5 squares per inch, which is what I prefer for most of my graph paper needs. One notebook is of the wire style, the other is hard wire, with the difference being more and non-perforated pages, a more robust wire binding, and hard front and back covers for the latter style. Ruled versions and several other binding styles are also available.

Does the Whitelines Paper Live up to the Hype?

Actually, I remember finding Whitelines a bit underwhelming, maybe even distracting at first, before I got used to it. Drawing with pencil does provide enough contrast for easy viewing, but I initially didn’t see the same degree of boldness as demonstrated in Whitelines’ advertisements and marketing materials. Blue and black ink and other colors stand out remarkably better, especially if you stray away from the rectilinear shapes I typically draw. Some types of drawings, such as circuit wiring diagrams, especially stand out on the paper.

Some users find the white lines to poorly contrast against the light grey paper, but I don’t seem to mind it. Over the months it seems that the paper has encouraged me to venture outside the lines at times I would otherwise have picked up a plain sketchpad. I have grown to greatly like Whitelines’ paper and grid style, although this could potentially stem from a subconscious inclination to like new and unusual things. I will say this – I have yet to be disappointed with my Whitelines notebooks.

If you’re the type of person that prefers to sketch with graph paper, you may want to give Whitelines a try. I went with the A4 size since this size is closest to US-letter size, but A5 or A6 are cheaper and thus more risk-free to start out with. (A-what now?)

I can’t be the only one particular about the type of notebooks I use – c’mon and share your favorites in a comment!

Stuart Deutsch is a tool enthusiast, critic, and collector, and writes his passion at ToolGuyd.

26 thoughts on “Tool Review: Whitelines Squared Notebook

  1. Andrew says:

    I’m very partial to Field Notes (gridded) for everyday carry, and I actually do a lot of my freehand sketching on plain white printer paper (on a clipboard), or for larger Has anybody tried the Doane Paper Works grid + lines notebooks? I’m curious about those…

    1. Andrew says:

      Sorry; glitch. I was saying, for larger stuff I sometimes use 24×36 newsprint.

  2. david says:

    You left out the best part about whitelines – the lines dont show up while scanning or copying in most circumstances. I use whitelines all the time and scan into evernote with my scansnap. As long as it’s a black and white scan/copy, the lines disappear.

    1. Alan says:

      Lines on traditional blue graph paper are also invisible to most copiers. That’s why they’re that color.

    2. Keith says:

      David, how do you scan the page? Do you tear it out or flat scan it. My page feed scanner requires individual sheets of paper. However, I’m intrigued by your use of Evernote. Thanks, Keith

  3. James Newton says:

    None photographically reproducible blue lines also work well.. and drop out if you copy the page.

  4. argentosapiens says:

    I use a Leuchtturm1917 Master Squared notebook. It has a very light, very fine grid printed on both sides of the pages. And it’s enormous: you can fit letter-size pages between the leaves.

    Edward Tufte on graph paper: “Most ready-made graph paper comes with a darkly printed grid. The reverse (unprinted) side should be used…. If the paper is heavily gridded on both sides, throw it out.” Printing with very light ink appears to be a loophole in Tufte’s rule.

  5. chuck says:

    I use the dot grid paper free on line from incompetech. They have more styles of pattered paper than I’ve ever seen. It’s a cool free on line resource for makers.

    1. Eric says:

      I love Incompetech’s graph paper generator. They have their own version of the Whitelines concept, and when I just need a few pages, I print off a few from their site. I have a couple of Whitelines notebooks, though, and really like how my sketches jump off the page.

  6. James Patrick says:

    I’ve been looking for notebooks with metric spacing, so I can draw full scale. Gonna give these a try.

  7. BigA says:

    I have not seen “black” lined graph paper for a long time. Usually it is “blue” and as stated above is often “non photogenic” :) I also like 10 square/in with darker 1″ squares.

    I make my own notebooks by buying graph paper pads, cutting off the “gummy” end, removing the card backing, and then having several pads spiral bound (be sure to use the true plastic spirals so you can fold the book all the way back on its self and it lays flat) with cardstock on front and back. To add further protection, I add thick plastic clear covers on both sides.

    This process is often a lot less expensive than buying already bound books and I like the ability to fold the book all the way back on itself and have it still lay flat.

  8. Kathy W. says:

    I just found some of this today on clearance at the local Hobby Lobby, and so far, I think it’s the greatest stuff ever, so much so, that I almost don’t want to waste _any_ of it. Looking forward to doing all my review of multivariable calculus (what’s not done using graphing tools online, anyway) with this. It will be nice not having my graph lines compete with the paper’s lines, I think, which usually happens, even with the paper with lighter or colored gridlines that I’ve tried. The only other thing I’d wish for is that this came with 3-hole binder holes already punched out. (This is the Wire, A4, Squared). (oh yeah, and the environmental stuff too. :D )

    I haven’t really tried any of the other options mentioned, but I think I am particular about this stuff too. Will have to try out the Incompetech generator, sounds cool.

  9. MAKE | Best of 2012: Toolsday says:

    […] Whitelines Squared Notebook […]

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When I am not testing and reviewing new tools, I am working on robotics, electronics, woodworking, and other types of projects.

I am also interested in microscopy, the physical sciences, and new technologies.

I write about tools and workshop topics at

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