A few weeks ago I received a package of the new Stillman and Birn softcover sketchbooks to test out. They are available in every paper type in the S&B range and in five different sizes. This photo shows four sizes (the largest size can be seen in the photo below) with only the Beta and Alpha paper.
My thought when I initially heard about the new range was that the lack of a hardcover for a support when sketching in all kinds of situations wouldn’t suit me. But now that I have them here, I really like the feel of holding them in my hand. Having a lighter-weight version of the sketchbook paper I love is a really important feature – in particular for my everyday book which I carry around with me everywhere.
This week I finally finished my current Alpha 9 x 6 hardcover book that I started in May before my big trip, and so I cracked open the A5 portrait book (5.5″ x 8.5″). It feels wonderful to have a different format sketchbook and the reduction in weight is not insignificant!
Here is a photo of my new softcover 5.5 x 8.5 on top of my old 9 x 6 hardcover and the larger size 8 x 10 cover on top of a Moleskine A4 sketchbooks with the weight comparisons. All I can say is “wow!”
- I love the feel of a lighter weight sketchbook (I know I have mentioned this two other times already, but this is huge!)
- It makes my daily sketchbook feel a little more personal and less formal than a hardcover – I like this very much,
- It is less bulky than the hardcover version – so much easier to get in and out of my everyday handbag.
- Like all other S&B books, it opens flat – this is a massive requirement if you want to sketch across the gutter. So a big tick!
- It was lovely to be able to stamp the sketchbook number on the front cover (Kelly Purkey Southport stamp set with Stazon ink)
- I am wondering how tatty the cover will get with all the rough handling I normally give my sketchbooks.
- I normally use rubber bands to hold my pages down (from wind etc) but I can’t do that with these books as it curls the whole book, though I can use one to hold the whole book together. So instead of rubber bands, I am having to use bull-dog clips which I normally don’t like using as they easily catch on things in my bag. But I am willing to have a go and see how bad it is (probably not a big problem). I have noticed already that the clips are leaving a mark on the cover, but I am not overly precious about my sketchbooks. I love the wear and tear and warped pages of a used book.
- As I use a support board most of the time when I am out and about I am thinking that lack of support in the sketchbook itself is not such a big deal, but of course, I have to remember to have the board with me.
- Doing my daily latte sketches this week (sitting at a table) there was a noticeable flex when drawing on the left side of the spread. This will obviously occur at the start and the end of the book when working on the side with fewer pages, but not so much when I am working in the middle of the book.
Here is the book clipped to my support board. I wasn’t painting today so my hinged flap in it’s closed position worked perfectly. Ha! a nice surprise. More about my support board here.
So in summary, even though I consider myself a hardcover sketchbook girl, I am really excited to try something different. I can see that the smaller sizes might be the most useful for me as a book I carry in my pocket and the flex issue will not be so noticeable in them.
I am already surprised that I am liking the feel of the 5.5 x 8.5 book much more than I expected. So stay tuned for the final verdict once I have filled it.
Huge thanks to Stillman and Birn for adding softcover to their range and for sending me these books to test.
I know a number of people have been using them for a while, so if that is you, I would love to hear how you like them. Please leave a comment!