Which sketchbook should I use next?

January 29, 2020 | 20 Comments

I’m coming to the end of my Kunst and Papier sketchbook (94 x 8.1″) and looking at the pile of books that I want to use this year. I can’t decide which one to use next!

Here’s my thoughts on the options:

A. Stillman and Birn Alpha – softcover square format 7.5 x 7.5″
This is my favourite everyday paper in a new format. I haven’t used Alpha for ages since I have been testing different books in the last few months.

B. Stillman and Birn Zeta – softcover square format 7.5 x 7.5″
Smooth page which I want to revisit after using the Hahnemuhle Nostalgie – 270gsm

C. Stillman and Birn Epsilon – softcover 8 x 10″
Smooth page which I want to revisit after using the Hahnemuhle Nostalgie – 150gsm. This size is the closest to the big K&P book I’ve been using.

D. Handbook Journal – 5.5 x 8.5″
I haven’t used this paper for over 10 years and want to try it again. It’s not true watercolour paper and it has a strong cream colour.

E. Seawhite travel journal – 200gsm watercolour paper A5
This book looks nice but I’m a little worried about jumping down to a small landscape size after using a bigger book.

So what do you think? Which sketchbook should I use next?


  • Yvonne says:

    Perhaps return to the Alpha, cycling back to a familiar reference point before embarking on new experiments. Alternatively, try the Epsilon in order to compare with Nostalgie while the experience is fresh. (Using the Seawhite might be a bit like the Etchr, I’m guessing.)

  • Ginette Pierson says:

    Start the year with a challenge! Go for option D, the Handbook Journal. You haven’t tried it for 10 years, so now’s the time to do so. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like it for what you do, and you have to put it aside and open up one of your other sketchbooks. But it may set you to trying new techniques and materials and taking you to new places. If all fails, the book might be perfect for all the pen & ink challenges throughout the year and the cream will be fine for that, even with a bit of colour, maybe a bit stronger and bolder than you usually use! Have fun!

  • Ann Cumbie says:

    Would love for you to use B, the Zeta – great shape and great paper.

  • Barbara J Neufeld says:

    I have personally tried both the Zeta and the Alpha but have never used Epsilon. I have also almost strictly worked on smaller sized books and would like to see what you do with both the size and the weight of this paper.

  • Steve Freear says:

    I have used Seawhite 140GSM for a while and it’s a bargain at about £5 so would be interested to see how you go on with the book you have.

  • Regina Sielk says:

    Take the Stillman and Birn Zeta: smooth paper for flowing line work and heavyweight paper for a lot of watercolour washes.?

  • I’m partial to the Handbook Journal sketchbooks. So my vote is for “D”.

  • Lisa Pierson says:

    I’d go with the Seawhite Travel journal. The Handbook Journal paper is great as long as you’re using dry mediums, not great for watercolor. You’ve done a lot of Stilman & Birn, the quality is consistent not matter the paper grain. I’m a fan of Hahnemühle and Stillman & Birn personally, one can never go wrong with these two brands.

  • Terry Elrod says:

    My vote is for “B”, the Zeta sketchbook. Its heavier paper allows working wetter, which helps get smoother washes and more blended wet-on-wet when wanted. I paint both sides of the pages and haven’t had trouble with transfer of colour between facing pages. Perhaps this is because I follow the suggestion to use a blank sheet of w/c paper to separate touch-dry sketches until I can leave the book open to get the pages bone dry.
    LOVE your blog, BTW. 🙂

  • Melanie Bernstein says:

    I’d like to see what you do with the Stillman & Birn Zeta. That was the sketchbook I was using for the last six months and I found the paper hard to accept lots of water. I’d be interested to see how you handle that – I liked the durability of the paper, but sometimes found it challenging too!

  • Brenda Claire Porter says:

    I vote for option D because it is a little challenge and I always love my own page when I use the handbook landscape travelogue journals. I’d love to see your page layouts!

  • Zeta. I bought one and haven’t tried it yet. Curious as to your thoughts.

  • Phyllis Lord says:

    Since you are currently engrossed in the run through of buildings, which book would work best to enable you to work through the homework and answer other people’s challenges… without too much distraction from the unknown?

  • Lisa Holt says:

    The Zeta. I want to try it, but would like to get your impressions compared to the Hahnemuhle.

  • Yvonne Carpenter says:

    I am curious about the S&B Epsilon (C) to see how it compares to the S&B Alpha that you like so much for your daily sketches. ?

  • Leda Brandão says:

    Use all of them, a bit of each one day and the other. The best way to gave fun and compare the different papers and sizes.

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    I would like to see you use Zeta as I would love to hear your thoughts on the paper. I have been working through my stash of sketchbooks and am hooked on working on cartridge paper which is smooth. Great for watercolor.

  • Heather Austin says:

    Liz, I’m a massive fan of Epsilon paper – I do get a little frustrated with the transfer between pages (which we’ve discussed before) – Do you happen to know if the Epsilon comes in the 7.5 x 7.5″ format? I would love to try the paper again in this format.

    I usually jump between the Alpha and the Handbook. I’d like to try the B but worried it would feel a little more precious with the thicker paper… I can’t wait to hear which one you choose and what the outcomes are.

  • Ian Barry says:

    I am considering using the S&B Alpha next but would value your review.

  • Nicki Haldane says:

    Having used mostly S and B Alpha, and sometimes Beta ( I find the pages a bit stiff ), I would be interested to hear your take on Epsilon. Good luck.

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