I'm almost done with my Junior year of college, and I take a lot of notes, a ridiculous amount really, and a lot of that is done on index cards. There are a million different versions of index cards, and lots of different ways to use them. I use them for everything from to-do lists, notes for my hubby, flashcards for my kids, and school notes. If you are looking for ways to use index cards, go check out Ryan Holiday's Notecard System.
I go through a lot of index cards, and I dislike not being able to use whatever pen I want to. So I set out to test all of the index cards that have ever been mentioned as good for fountain pens.
I ended up with 12 different packs of index cards, ranging from 3.6 x 2.2 inches to 4 x 6 inches. Most are 3 x 5 inches, which is my favorite size.
The top five cards are white or ivory, the next two, Corrent Joho and Maruman Loose Leaf are cream, and Exacompta comes in yellow, blue, pink and green.
Let's take a look...
Oxford Shaded Bar Index Cards are 4" x 6" and the Oxford Dot Grid Index Cards are 3" x 5". Both have 50 cards, and are printed on one side and blank on the other. The nice thing about these two is their availability-they are sold at Target and most Office Depot/Office Max's. Since these are both made of the same paper I'm only going to test one of them.
There is a some feathering in the fountain pens, but absolutely no show through or bleeding, which is a lot better than I expected. The dot grid is about 8.5mm spacing, which is a bit big for me. I like the bright white color, but I wish the dot grid was on both sides of the card.
No issues with the highlighters. The dry time was 30 seconds, about average for index cards. These would be good if you need some quick cards while you are at Target, and are on the cheaper side.
Oxford 1/4" Grid Design Index Cards are 3" x 5", and are blank on the reverse side. The grid is a light blue color.
The grid is 6mm spacing, and only printed on the front. I wish the grid had a more subtle color, it's a bit too bright and obvious for me. There is some feathering, but its not awful. There is a little bit of show through, but not much. There is no bleeding.
No problems with the highlighters. The fountain pen dried in 20 seconds, which is pretty quick for a broad nib. I find it interesting that this version dries faster than the dot grid version discussed above. Both are made by Oxford, but behave differently.
I like the subtle dot dash printing better than the Oxford grid cards above. The grid is a bit small at 4.25mm. In the future I would probably use two lines instead of one. I like that the dot dash is on both sides. There is quite a bit of feathering, even in the fine nib. There is a little bit of show through, but no bleeding.
There was a ten second dry time, and no issues with the highlighters. These cards would be great if you need a really fast dry time, but the side effect is more feathering than I like. They are one of the most expensive of all of the cards.
Baron Fig Strategist Note Cards are 3" x 5", and contain 100 cards. The front of the card has a dot grid, and the reverse side is blank.
There is a little bit of feathering, but it's not too bad. Some show through, but no bleeding. You can see some shading, which is nice, but no sheen. I like the dot grid, but I wish it was printed on both sides. I'm not crazy about the rounded corners.
The dry time is one of the longest at 50 seconds.
Target Up and Up Ruled Index Cards are 3" x 5" and contain 100 cards.
There is some feathering, even in the fine nib, but it's not too bad. There is a decent amount of show through, but no bleeding.
The card handled the highlighters with no issues, and had a 40 second dry time. These aren't too bad for 50 cents a pack, and can be found at any Target.
Levenger 3 x 5 Dot Grid Cards have the dot grid pattern on both sides of the card, 250gsm, and contain 100 cards. These cards are the sturdiest of all the cards.
Levenger cards are set up a little differently since they have a blank space on one end, and a small logo on the other end. These are designed to be used portrait style instead of landscape, which is different since I've only seen index cards used landscape style. So far, these cards are the only ones that have no feathering. You can see some shading as well as a little bit of sheen.
40 second dry time, which is a bit longer than average. I'm not crazy about the blank end, but I like that the dot grid is on both sides. These cards are the most expensive, but they seem to be worth the cost.
Correct Joho Index Cards are 2.2" x 3.6", 104gsm, and have a grid printing on the front of the card. They are more of a business card size than a true index card, but I still wanted to test out the paper. There are 100 cards in the pack.
There is just a little bit of feathering, but quite a bit of show through and bleeding. I don't like the size of these cards-they are just too small. Just by writing on the entire card the paper wrinkles up.
The highlighters did okay, and there was an average dry time of 30 seconds. I'm just not crazy about these ones, they are too thin, wrinkle too easily, and are too small.
The fountain pens did really well, some show through, but no bleeding and no feathering at all. You can see some shading and sheen as well.
These cards had the longest dry time at 60 seconds, but handled the highlighters well. These would be really good if you include cards in your notes or books, instead of using them as flash cards, since they aren't quite sturdy enough for that.
Exacompta Record Index Cards - 3" x 5" - Graph - 100 Cards. The grid is 5mm on both sides, and there are 25 of each of the four colors: blue, green, pink, and yellow. The paper is 205 gsm.
These are nice and sturdy, but I'm not crazy about the four different colors. It might be helpful for separating different topics, but I prefer all white cards. There is a tiny bit of show through, but no bleeding. There is some feathering as well.
40 second dry time, and handled the highlighters well. I like that they come in a small box instead of the shrink wrap, which makes it easier to keep them together after opening the package.
Dry time ranged from 10 seconds to 60 seconds. Nock Co. dried the fastest at 10 seconds, but had quite a bit of feathering. Maruman dried the slowest at 60 seconds, and had no feathering. Levenger is a good middle ground, 40 seconds but still no feathering.
Cost Per Card
Cost per card ranged from half a penny to 12 cents. Up and Up were the cheapest at half a penny per card, and Levenger and Nock Co. tied for the most expensive at 12 cents per card.
If feathering bothers you, I recommend: Levenger and Maruman
If dry time is most important, I recommend: Nock Co.
If cost is paramount, I recommend: Up and Up
If thickness is most important, I recommend: Levenger
The only cards I would not recommend are the Correct Joho.
Overall, Levenger is my favorite for flash cards, and Maruman is my favorite for using in my notes and books. I really enjoyed playing with index cards. Which ones are your favorite?
Disclaimer: I purchased all of these products myself, and all photos and opinions are my own. There are some amazon affiliate links on this page.