How to Choose a Sketchbook:Top 5 Sketchbooks & Journals for Artists

Hello, dears!

Have you ever started sketchbook shopping and just felt like… *facepalm* “WHERE DO I EVEN START?” There are SO many options out there – different sizes, styles, paper types and textures and colors… But no worries – that’s what I’m here for! I’m going to be reviewing five of my personal favorite sketchbooks, rating them for different types of media, varying prices, covers, etc.

If you’re looking for your next sketchbook or want to gift one this holiday season, read on and let’s help you find the perfect fit. πŸ™‚

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Illo Sketchbook

beloved and popular for a reason, this “fair and square” sketchbook is well-made and uniquely crafted for creating and sharing multimedia artwork.

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Posts ft. this book: Art Dump + Sketchbook Tour

Features: Trademark square shape makes for easy sharing on social media. // Durable hardcover with a luxurious, leather-like feel. // Fun label on the front page and a large, expandable paper pocket in the back; blue ribbon bookmark and elastic band for closure.

Paper type: Bright white; best for dry mediums (pencil, colored pencil, pen, etc.). The paper is of cardstock thickness and silky smooth with almost no tooth. It holds up to a little bit of watercolor, but buckles easily and doesn’t provide enough texture for best results.

Pages: 56 sheets/112 pgs.

Price: $16.75

Opinion: I love this sketchbook! It’s super quality and fun to use, especially with Posca pens – but whatever medium you use just glides across the surface. If you’re exclusively a painter, this sketchbook is not for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend it.

Arteza Watercolor book

this inexpensive, versatile sketchbook is filled with thick, two-sided pages perfect for primarily watercolor artists.

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Posts ft. this book: Art Dump + Sketchbook Tour

Features: Pages alternate between rough and smooth texture. // Linen-bound hardcover comes in different sizes (this is 5.1X8.3″). // “If lost, please return to:” label on inside cover and an expandable, clear plastic pocket in the back; as well as a red ribbon bookmark and an elastic band for keeping the book closed.

Paper type: White; best for watercolor. 110 lb. paper with alternating hot press and cold press-textured spreads. The smooth pages are best for just one layer of watercolor, and you can also use them for drawing and dry media. The rougher pages hold up under several layers without much buckling. The paper is very soft and absorbent.

Pages: 38 sheets/76 pgs.

Price: Currently on sale – $19 for a pack of 2, which equals $9.50 per sketchbook.

Opinion: There are parts of this sketchbook I love and parts I don’t. The textured pages work SO well for painting with watercolor, but it’s hard not to damage the paper with an eraser or when pulling off tape borders because the paper bears some similarities to paper towels: absorbent but a little fragile on the surface. If you love watercolor and don’t do a ton of erasing or scrubbing the paper, this sketchbook is great, and affordable too!

Toned Paper Journal

midtoned paper allows you to focus on the highlights and shadows, adding interest to quick sketches and making it possible to create art that almost pops off the page.

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Posts ft. this book: Inktober 2019 Sketchbook Tour, Recent Art {Sketchbook Tours}

Features: Great for monochromatic sketches.// Addicting to use with a white gel pen.// Quickly blocks in midtones for portraits, etc., so you don’t have to color the whole page.

Paper type: Brown, tan, or gray; best for dry media and pastels. I couldn’t find a link to the specific journal I have, but I linked to one on Amazon that looks similar. Usually the paper is fairly thin with little flecks of texture across the page, the way some cardboard looks.

Pages: 56 sheets/112 pgs.

Price: $8.99 (but I got mine for about $5 in Walmart)

Opinion: If you’re looking for an interesting kind of paper, try a toned sketchbook! It’s amazing how much different it feels and how inspiring it is to use a surface that interacts differently with color than you’re used to. Also it elevates doodles to a new level, kinda the way B&W photos make anything look important.

Strathmore Visual Journal

another great sketchbook for watercolor artists, filled exclusively with extra-thick watercolor paper.

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(^art credits to my sister Megan!^)

Features: Classic watercolor sketchbook with consistent paper type. // Ugly paper cover can be torn off to reveal this… slightly less ugly brown one. πŸ˜› // Spiral-bound so you can tear out pages if necessary.

Paper type: White; best for watercolor. 140 lb. paper with strong yet smooth texture. Holds up well under many layers. Paper is less absorbent than Arteza’s and a little more slick, which means it is sturdy and holds up to more erasing and rubbing.

Pages: 22 sheets/44 pgs.

Price: $15.96

Opinion: The aesthetic appeal is pretty minimal, but it works great, especially if you’re looking for a consistent watercolor sketchbook. I haven’t used this one myself a whole lot, but I bought one for each of my watercolor art class students and it has performed just as I hoped so far. The texture of the page is kinda weird – not very fine or subtle, and may be annoying if you’re trying to get smooth results with dry-ish paint.

Travelogue Drawing Book

an excellent sketchbook for on-the-go drawings or mixed media, with paper that can be used successfully with almost all art supplies!

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Posts ft. this book: Recent Art {Sketchbook Tours}, Inktober 2018, Various Artsy Things

Features: Versatile and sturdy pages. // Cloth-bound hardcovers come in many different sizes and shapes, including handy “pocket” sizes. // Address label and a clear plastic pocket in the back, as well as an orange ribbon bookmark and an elastic band for keeping the book closed.

Paper type: Slightly off-white; suitable for most mediums. Paper is about the thickness of cardstock, maybe a little thinner, but with a subtle texture and tooth. Doesn’t work as well for watercolors as specifically watercolor paper, but it works well enough for everyday purposes, and quite satisfactorily for all the other mediums I’ve used with it.

Pages: 64 sheets/128 pgs.

Price: Currently on sale – $10.37

Opinion: I prefer my paper a little thicker than this is because of how much watercolor work I do, but really, it’s awfully nice to have a sketchbook that can take whatever you throw at it in ways none of the other sketchbooks in here can. If you like many different types of art and want to experiment all in one place, try this brand and see what you think!

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And there you have it! Five of my favorite sketchbooks. I hope you enjoyed those mini reviews! Feel free to pin or this post for future reference if you found it helpful, or ask me questions in the comments if I didn’t cover something. πŸ™‚

What sketchbook(s) do you use? Any brands that I should try out or review? What medium do you like creating with the most?

Thanks so much for reading, dears, and have a lovely day!

***Allison***

28 thoughts on “How to Choose a Sketchbook:Top 5 Sketchbooks & Journals for Artists

  1. Coming from a person who is in need of a new sketchbook, this post was marvelously helpful. XD I have a sketchbook from my journaling class that my teacher provided, so I have no idea what it is, and a rather large, spiral-bound sketchbook I picked up from Ross. The former I only use for assignments – though technically I should be drawing in it daily XD – and the latter is falling apart…which is why I don’t normally like spiral-bound things. πŸ˜› The back completely fell off. O.o But ANYWAY, I love the sketchbooks you showed in this post, and it was so helpful to me!

    Like

    1. OH GOODY. I was hoping it would be helpful! Hee hee. XD Yeah, I definitely prefer book-bound sketchbooks for the most part, although at least you can tear out spiral bound pages which is sometimes helpful. BUT YAYYY! Thanks again, dear – I’m so glad to hear that!

      Liked by 1 person

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