Sketchbooks for Ink and (light) wash

November 1, 2014 | 13 Comments


Anyone who has followed my blog for a little while will know that I am a big fan of the sketchbooks by Stillman and Brin and Moleskine. Read more on my sketchbook page.

But what if you can’t easily get hold of them or they are a little too expensive for you. What other options are there? Here is a collection of sketchbooks that I have at home (crazy that I have these sketchbooks to try and haven’t used them yet) and I have also been asking on my other social media platforms.

What I am looking for is a ‘comprehensive-ish’ list of sketchbooks that are suitable for ink and light wash – not a ‘serious’ watercolour painting usage. For those that have signed up to my SketchingNow courses these will all be good options.

This is the start of the list – I would like to expand and make this more of a resource down the track but at the moment I am interested in getting your feedback on what you use. I have no idea of the availability of these worldwide  (would be great if I did but seriously my art knowledge doesn’t extend that far!) so google any one yourself to find in your own country-region.

Included in the above photo:

Handbook – artist journal – Trav•e•logue Series
‘heavyweight’Buff coloured paper – I have used and it was very thirsty paper. Wish they would tell us the gsm!

Handbook – Trav•e•logue watercolour book

200sgm cold press paper – look amazing. I can’t want to start the one that is shown in this photo

Strathmore- Mixed media
Seems to be very popular. 190gsm spiral bound

Fabriano- Venezia
200gsm watercolour paper- an initial review I did is here. More coming soon.

Aquabee – Super Deluxe
152 gsm  Spiral bound – available only in the US?
This seems to be a very popular general sketchbook – some people only use one side. I need to test drive the one I have hey?

Daler and Rowney Ebony (or Milini sketchbook or Jasart Premium Sketchbook)
These three brands (the 2nd and 3rd available in Australia only?) are very similiar
The DR and Jasart sketchbook I used for years and filled many of them but found that the paper quality has declined significantly in recent years.  150 gsm cartridge which did take light washes…not sure whether the more recent paper performs as well. Cover is not very robust.

Other books:

Handmade books from Portugal. Beautiful paper – thin but very robust for watercolour uses. I have two small books that I need to use!!!

VERY keen to try these books – in particular the Aqua journal. One of my FB friends mentions the Nature Sketch book

Strathmore – Watercolour and toned paper
There is a huge range that are quite new. I haven’t tried these yet
Seawhite (UK)
Large selection of books inlcuding 140gsm cartridge in concertina format and thicker watercolour books

Holcroft Sketchbook
225gsm spiral bound. Can’t find a link. Available in Australia from Riot art and Craft

The perfect Sketchbook
I have backed this kickstarted project and looking forward to seeing what it turns out like

Other names that have been mentioned:
Canson XL Mixed Media
Pink Pig (UK)

Have you got something else to add to the list???

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  • I have never finished a sketchbook. In fact, one icky page tends to have me shutting it for good! Love your reviews here, Liz.

  • jaguarish says:

    Liz, after trying quite a few (and frustrated at the limited selection her compared to the US) I was pleasantly surprised by a $4 sketchbook I got at a newsagent. Quill Visual Art Diary, 120 pages, 125gsm paper, ring bound, stiff plastic cover, removable divider pocket, elastic band. Nice toothy paper that works for light washes and doesn't suck all the colour out of the paint like most cheap art paper. The product code for A5 size is 10202, for A4 is 10206.

  • Carmel says:

    The Strathmore Journal also comes out in a nice softcover ..states the following "The velvety "softcover" is a rich, dark brown color, and the durable Smyth-sewn binding allows pages to lie flatter" This is 500 series mixed media, the same paper in the spiral journal. Very impressive sketchbook. It is available in the States and the comes in two sizes approximately 8×6 and 10×8 portrait.

  • Helen L Conway says:

    I like Khadi paper sketchbooks. Very soft tactile paper but takes ink and watercolour just fine for me

  • jaguarish says:

    p.s. I saved a pic of a Canson product from my endless search but haven't yet figured out where to get it: Canson Art Book with repositionable pages (I think they can be taken out of the wire binding and put back in?!) 30 pages, mixed media paper, 138lb/224gsm, 9in x 12in (22.9cm x 30.5cm). Cover looks like black leather-texture stiff cardboard (similar to Mont Marte black hardbound products).

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions- I will update this post to reflect all the comments I have got when I get a chance!

  • Chaypeta says:

    Hello. I'm in the process of discovering the rigright art journa; for my style… new to art journaling so I'm not sure which way is going to attract me the most so I'm trying most things. Presently I'm enjoying fineliner pen work with coloured pencil, watercolour pencil, water colours and acrylic inks. I picked up a few cheap Quill art journals (I'm an Aussie ) and I'm quite happy with them. My unipin black fineliners do drag slightly on the cartridge paper (which is a nice125gsm). I haven't experienced any bleed through (even after spritzing water on the paper to apply a very wet water colour wash) except with my copics… but lets face it, those inks would bleed through just about anything.) The pages do buckle a little when wet but can easily coaxed to dry almost completely flat.There is a little ghosting on the flip side of each page from the image on the previous page which some artists may be perfectly fine with… it isn't bad but I like stark clean white so I use a uhu glue stick to stick pages back to back after working on each of them so that my finished journal won't have any blank pages. I'm still in the early days of testing my journal but so far I think if you're in Australia and you want something that looks nicely hard cover bound at a budget price with paper you don't intend to torture too much then I think this will do nicely.

  • Rita Caré says:

    Marilisa Mesquita will produce very personalized sketchbook for you (size, paper brand, paper g/m2, tissues for the cover, etc.). Several Portuguese urban sketchers in Portugal are using her sketchbooks, including me 🙂

  • Definitely enjoying some of Stillman & Birn's offerings–Delta and Beta, as well as the Zeta are nice. Great post, Liz!

  • audrina K says:

    I'm using a Fabriano Venezia A5 hardcover at the moment and I like it. It doesn't lie very flat though but with a metal clip holding the left side pages together it's ok. As an Aussie I did notice that Quill 125gsm hardcover visual diary is easily available. I have in the past glued thin pages together I don't mind doing this because I like using Copic Markers and they bleed through everything! I'm wanting to try a hardcover Rendr Crescent Sketchbook just for my Copic markers.

  • Bob Cochran says:

    As someone who is just learning, I decided that the Stillman and Birn Alpha featured on the sketchbook page was a good place for me to start.

  • Noah Enholm says:

    Ink sketchbooks should be able to hold wet media well, especially if you’re working with really wet inks or pens. You can use a normal ink or fountain pen, or a dipping pen and pure ink if you have a bit more experience with inking.

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