If you’re an artist like me, you’re probably constantly on the lookout for the perfect sketchbook. Each sketchbook has different properties. Which ones to choose?
Here are seven things to look out for:
1. Hardcover versus softcover
I like the hardcover versions of sketchbooks because they protect the pages more when carried around in a bag, and it looks better on bookshelves. Softcovers are lighter, though, and their flexibility allows you to fold things into them. You can clamp a pen between the pages, for example.
2. Paper Color
I prefer to work on white because it is easier to separate line art from paper when scanning pen and ink drawings. However, when drawing outside in direct sunlight, the brightness of white paper can hurt your eyes.
Yellow-colored paper is also an option. It looks less harsh in sunlight, and the drawings are generally easier on the eyes because there is less contrast between the color of the drawings and the paper. Also, some colors, like red and blue, just look nice on yellow paper.
3. Paper Tooth
When drawing with a pencil, you want a little bit of tooth. Also, with brush and ink, the drybrush effect can look nice on paper with some tooth. Line art can look good on smooth paper.
The binding the paper was made with can also influence how the art turns out. Watercolor paper is designed for watercolor, for example. Other papers might be less suited for wet media. Ink bleeds on some papers and not on others. It depends on the combination of paper and ink. Brown bistre does not bleed on any paper, while Indian ink will bleed on most papers. So it is worth testing the combinations.
4. Paper Thickness
If drawing on a thick sheet of paper, you won’t see the drawings shine through from the previous page, but you will have fewer pages. This tends not to be a problem since it takes so much time to draw something. It tends to take you a lot of time to fill a sketchbook with thick pages also.
Then again, it might not be a problem if drawings from other pages shine through. And thinner paper is cheaper per drawn page, which might make it easier for you just to experiment and try things out. You don’t worry as much about that the sheet of paper is expensive.
5. Number Of Pages
If a sketchbook has many pages, the chances of you running out of paper to draw on are smaller, but it will make your sketchbooks heavier. This can be a problem when taking the sketchbook with you but less of a problem with thinner paper and thinner sketchbooks.
6. Sketchbook Size
The larger the sketchbook, the easier it is to just try things out on a page. There is just way more room, also to draw from your shoulders and such. But larger sketchbooks are heavier and thus less easy to carry around.
When taking a sketchbook with you, make sure it is small and light enough that carrying it around doesn’t become a burden. Otherwise, you’ll leave it at home. The best sketchbook in the world is the one you have with you, so for carrying a sketchbook around, choose one that is small and light enough not to be a burden.
For your studio, of course, go large. The larger, the better. Give yourself room to experiment and try things out on these pages.
7. Opens Flat
For drawing, I tend to like sketchbooks that open flat. Also, it makes scanning pages easier. For quick sketches, it’s perhaps less important that the sketchbook opens flat.
These are my favorite sketchbooks:
For making finished drawings in my sketchbooks, my absolute favorites at the moment are:
Leuchtturm 1917, Stillman&Birn Epsilon series, Home-made Coptic stitch bound sketchbooks, Bookbinders Design.
For just experimenting and trying things out, I’ll just use whatever strikes my fancy. For quick studies, it doesn’t matter. Cheap paper, pencil, or ballpoint pen are fine.
Look at the sketchbook or sketchbooks you are using, and analyze them using the properties mentioned here. Are there aspects you wish were better? Analyze how, why, where and when you use your sketchbook. Try to find sketchbooks that you think match, and then try them out!
Next article: Daily Drawing Prompts?
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