New Moleskine A4 Portrait Format! But I need your advice

April 2, 2019 | 19 Comments

So I recently discovered that my favourite sketchbook – Moleskine A4 Landscape Watercolour sketchbook – now comes in a portrait format. Wow! this is exciting news.

There is no doubt that I am very excited about this format but it has created a little dilemma for me.

I have a huge European trip coming up soon (three months worth of travel) and I just don’t know whether I should just stick to my tried and true landscape format, or mix it up and take some vertical format – or take risks and use all vertical format.

Maybe I should stick to landscape for the start of my trip, my new workshops in Umbria and then try portrait for this year’s Veneto tours? Since it will be the third year I have done these tours, a different format will be a new challenge. After that I could order some more sketchbooks of whatever format I want to use for the rest of the trip?

The portrait format will definitely give me some new compositional options (which I love) and will be easier to handle that than themassive width of the open landscape version. However it is hard to fit on my support board. (Do I have to make a bigger support board to suit it?) If I am visiting a city with tall buildings the portrait would be great, but when I’m in Scotland would I miss the panoramic possibilities of the landscape version?

Oh! it’s such a hard decision. What do you think I should do?



  • Angie Keegan says:

    Take both and alternate as needed ?

    … you KNOW you’re going to fill two sketch books easily anyway ??

  • Christine Fitzgerald says:

    Liz, why not take at least one as an experiment? I mean if you hate one page vertical you can either work across the gutter or turn the book around.

  • RENATA says:

    Hi Liz
    I love de A5 portraits formats. I’ m not very lanscape ones.
    I used to use the Moleskine “sketchbook”.
    And, as soon as this new watercolor model went out I bought all from the shop… but I don’t like it… ?
    I don’t remember if the big one, the one you use also, it’s also the one I use only for your Italian workshops, I don’t remember if it behaves the same as the small one. But I find that the watercolor doesn’t go into the page… I just don’t like it!

    I’m in the airport now and I took with me the moleskine watercolor A5 to see if I could get used to it… but now I prefer much more the Hahnemuhle’s D&S sketchbooks …

    I would also say try it, but why not to try it first before leaving… anyway in the airplane it’s much easier the portrait one as it is also when you draw standing (easier to hold).

    Chears Liz and see you soon !

  • Sydney C says:

    I just can’t think in A4 portrait. I like A5 portrait and even 8×10 inches but that little bit of extra height of the A4 just tips it over the edge for me. Very strange.

    Anyway, if you don’t have a chance to ‘warm up’ in a portrait version before your workshops start, I reckon start with landscape. Once you get into the swing of it change it up a bit. You don’t know what other challenges you might come across during your travels…you might be grateful for the familiarity of the landscape.

    I am off to Porto in a few weeks and have been deciding which sketchbook to take. Unfortunates ly the one I want to take doesn’t fit in the bag I was going to take. Something has to give. Not a bad problem to have in the scheme of things ?

  • Deborah Knight says:

    Hi Liz,
    My first thought, like yours, is about the backing board. For the first time yesterday I thought about using my version of your backing board with a Stillman and Birn Beta 8×10 portrait, and there’s really no way to make that work and still have room for my paints. Travelling with two backing boards seems wrong. I wonder whether a new design to accommodate an A4 portrait sketchbook might turn out okay for the A4 landscape books as well?

    Of course you should take both for the flexibility, but maybe the portrait would be best suited to working at a table while the landscape could continue to be your go-to when you need to provide the support on location.

    See you in Italy,


    • Sandra says:

      I agree with everyone…take both sizes. Hauling around the extra weight may not be great (practice daily before you leave) it the ability to switch formats as challenges present themselves is a bonus. Put a flip down/up extension at the bottom of the support board to accommodate portrait size…use clips to stabilize.

  • Jenny Rose says:

    I would take one portrait sketchbook, and if you love the new compositions, turn the landscapes sketchbooks around. But maybe that doesn’t fit your support board. If you do love your new portrait style, you will have to change your support board anyway. It will be an interesting exercise.

  • Lael Sorensen says:

    Well, of course I would encourage you to honour your excitement and give it a go. But here’s another thought. You’ve been using the Stillman&Birn alpha in the smaller (5.5×8.5) portrait size as a daily book on occasion —just to mix it up. An A5 portrait Moleskine might do the same thing and not require revisions to your support board. Options are such fun. Happy mulling.

  • Alan Barbour says:

    I vote for taking A4 landscape (as many as you normally would use, or maybe one less) plus one A5 portrait. If you like the portrait format, there is plenty of time to use it in future.

  • Yvonne Carpenter says:

    If I were in your shoes, I would bring both. If you bring only one type, it is very likely you will wish you had the other! I don’t know how many sketchbooks you plan to bring, but I would make at least one of them be the new portrait format. You seem to be the kind of person that likes to challenge yourself and learn new tricks, and the new format will fit that bill and allow you to traverse new roads! Have fun!! Hopefully I will see you in Amsterdam in July 🙂

  • Ginny Stiles says:

    Go with portrait.
    AND try Stillman and Birns or Hahnemuhle Watercolor Book (8 x 5).
    I am totally off Moleskin now in favor of the bright white and lovely paper of these two!

  • Cookie Ballou says:

    Take both! Your dilemma might solve itself once you get there. ?

    This was very exciting news to me. I’ve been wishing moleskin made a portrait version for years! Ordered one immediately. So I certainly appreciated your post. I hadn’t heard about it till now.

  • Barbara J Neufeld says:

    I’d take both and start with the one I know but definitely experiment with the portrait version. Anxious to see your work.

  • Ron Heikes says:

    It seems like you’ve already answered your own questions by having described the need for both and when to use each during your travels. For most of your indoor work when you’re doing isolated objects, people or the like the portrait seems to be your go to format. Yet when you travel and get out into the great outdoors the landscape seems to fill the bill. Jumping back and forth alters the sequence of captured events but yet individually these formats serve your purpose all the more. How many of each is best answered by the percentage of outdoor to indoor events and having been there done that I’m sure you’ve got a handle on that. There will of course always be crossover (i.e. interior landscapes) but those are probably minimal. Excited to see your documented 3 month journey. Bon voyage.

  • jennifer may says:

    Liz you can buy Moleskine all over Europe so why load yourself down? I do that and then find I didn’t need to.
    Have enjoyed your architecture course, but didn’t upload any work. Thank you for the tips though.

    • Liz Steel says:

      HI Jennifer, I expect that I might need 10 sketchbooks in total for my big trip. So I will have to send a lot home in the mail. I expect to carry 2 or 3 with me at any time. I do not necessarily have easy assess to stores that sell moleskines at various points of my trip – some places, yes, I can buy some more but at other times weeks where there will be none (ie. the island my sister lives on) so I have to plan ahead and order them online and collect from friends.

  • Sarika Shivnani says:

    Hi Liz, I’m so happy I found your blog and online course. I just started the course today. I have been used various sketchbooks in the last year since I have tried dabbling in sketching, the only one I loved the feel of is Moleskine watercolor. But I was torn because I really wanted a portrait format. Looks like now they do! Thanks for the update. And please, do share how you like the portrait compared to the landscape format. I am thinking of ordering one to try out.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Sarika – so great to have you following along. Yes! I will tell you more about the portrait format soon!

  • Mel says:

    You could pack one new Moleskine portrait for when you’re in your second home of your sister’s island…since it’s already familiar ground, that is a good time to experiment with a new tool. But since there is always a learning curve with new tools, I would plan most of the working sessions with the book you know and love (landscape) — that way you can focus on your work of sketching and paying attention to your environment, without the distraction of figuring out a new tool at the same time.

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