My new favourite daily sketchbook

January 30, 2017 | 25 Comments

After testing out a few different sizes of the Stillman and Birn Softcover Sketchbook range in Alpha paper, I have decided that my new favourite sketchbook for daily use is the Softcover Alpha 8 x 10″.

I used one during the month of November and found the larger size suited my style of sketching during my day to day life. It gives me lots of compositional options which is really important as often my daily sketches are small, quick and ‘nothing special’ – just attempting to do something most days. The softcover not only reduces the weight while still providing adequate support (once you are a few pages in) but it also creates a casual, ‘working book’ feel. This is exactly what I want from my daily sketchbook.

If you missed it, here is a video of the flip-through for this book. Note: If you can’t see the embedded video please click here.

This supersedes my previous go-to book: the Alpha hardcover 12 x9″. I still have a few spare books in this size, so I will be returning to them at some stage during the year to use up my stock, but for now I am going to start a new 8 x 10.


And just to confirm: I still prefer the A4 Moleskine watercolour book for my travel sketching and dedicated sketching outings here in Sydney. I prefer to use true watercolour paper when I am doing some ‘serious’ sketching. But for everyday use, I prefer the alpha paper and will be showing you why in a video later this week.

You can also read more about my decision-making process in regard to sketchbooks here. There are lots of links to other articles on sketchbooks on that page too, and these can be found at any time under the Sketching Tools section.

And yes, I stocked up with three sketchbooks! For those in Australia, I bought these from LarryPOST. Please leave a comment if you know any other places that currently stock the softcover versions.


  • Marilyn Thomas says:

    Yes, I’m a fan of The Art Shop ( and have bought all my Stillman and Birn sketchbooks from them.

  • Fiona Hayes says:

    Have not seen the softcover S&B at any art shop in Brisbane, and only Larry Post in Sydney (bought mine online with them). Thanks for the review , Liz. Always so helpful.

  • Linda Sprouse says:

    Are these or any similar sketchbooks available in the United States? I really do appreciate your great blog.
    Also, I am really learning a lot from your wonderful book.Thanks for sharing so much with us.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Linda – these are sketchbooks made in America! Obviously I don’t know where the best place to buy them is the States… but if you google it I am sure you will find them lots of places. Or maybe someone might leave a suggestion.

    • Kelly B says:

      In the United States, in addition to Blick, the Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbooks are available via





  • Chas says:

    These are available from Dick Blick in the stores or online in the US

  • Amanda McLean says:

    Available at ‘Framing Pieces’ ( & Art Supplies) Mitchell (Canberrra) ACT
    Liking their light weight version for quick sketches too !

  • Lawrence Goldfarb says:

    I cannot find anyone selling Moleskin A4 watercolor books.
    Everyone seems to have the A5, but no A4.
    Anyone know of a source?

  • NoteMaker usually do.

  • Kare Furman says:

    Hi Liz – since you use the sketchbooks for art, notes, do to lists, etc. how to find, a particular sketch, or notes for example, at a later time when you are looking for them? Do you create an index for each book?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Kare. Great question. I find sketches on my computer based on file name – or search my blog. I then look at the date of file- blogpost and look up sketchbook that way. I used to have a more elaborate system but this works fine. There is the occasional sketch that is hard to find but that is rare.

  • Candice says:

    Thanks for sharing! I love these sketchbooks! I was gifted a Zeta soft cover in A5 size some ago, but I really need a larger book! lol 8″ x 10″ seems like a perfect size!

  • Susan Stevens says:

    These sketchbooks leave me baffled. I bought the smallest soft cover and a larger hardcover. I hated them. The soft cover curled away from the paper block by the time the book was filled. The hard cover doesn’t sit flat, so it needs something under it to prop it–I don’t like writing on a slant. Even DeAtramentis document ink and 2H pencil smears on this paper–I gave up using any softer pencil or other ink. And there must be something in my water, because even the most delicate application caused the paper to pill and ripple. When I finish the larger book, I will return to Hand Books, which behave nicely for me.

  • PJ Magalhaes says:

    That was just pure pleasure to watch you flip those pages, Liz. 🙂 Very jealous of how neat and tidy and beautiful lettering you have in them.
    Just noticed yesterday that Dymocks on George St, Sydney, has new softcover stock. It was everything i could do not to walk out with one of their Epsilon Softcover sketchbooks but at $30 each, i cannot afford it at the moment!

    Your favourite did have me wondering, considering you use pens and nibs all the time as part of your regular sketching, why you prefer the Alpha series as opposed to the Epsilon or Zeta series, which have smoother paper?

    Keep on rocking Liz! 😀 Time for a catch-up now that i am back in Sydney.

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