My 5 Favorite Sketchbooks

There are a lot of sketchbooks in the market, so deciding for which one to use can be overwhelming. Which size, format, paper, price? It eventually comes down to personal preference. These are my favorites, the sketchbooks that fit my style.

1. Stillman and Birn Alpha, 8.5″x 5.5″

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I just love the Alpha series. Although the paper is a tad thinner than what I’d prefer (100lb), it has a lot of pages (124) and it holds pretty well to watercolor washes.  Bright white, nice tooth. They come hardcover, wirebound and softcover. Haven’t tried the softcover yet, but the hardcover hardbound is my favorite sketchbook.

Stillman and Birn offers 6 series of sketchbooks with different formats. They do have sketchbooks with heavyweight watercolor paper, but as today, I still prefer having a lot of pages. #stillmanandbirn

2. Strathmore Visual Journal, Mixed Media, 8″ x 5.5″

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These sketchbooks are surprisingly good. These have 68 pages, 90 lb paper.  They are very cheap, under $8, a good enough paper and strong enough to withhold traveling in a backpack. These are wirebound, which you may like or not. #strathmorevisualjournal

3. Strathmore Visual Journal, Watercolor, 140lb, 8″ x 5.5″ 

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Very similar to the Mixed Media Visual Journal above, except this one has 44 pages of 140 lb watercolor paper. I prefer a smoother paper to sketch with ink, but this one is acceptable. Do not expect premium watercolor paper quality, as it is not. But for quick, loose watercolor sketches it is pretty good. There is something weird, maybe the sizing on the front is not the same as in the back of the sheets, but again, great for the price. Last time I purchased 12 of these.

4. Custom sketchbook, Arches hot pressed paper 140lb, 9″x 6″

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I’m lucky that my wife loves to DIY, so she has made me a few custom sketchbooks with my favorite paper, Arches hot pressed 140 lb. she took them to a local print shop to spiral bind. I use these when we go on vacation as travel sketchbooks rather than for everyday. If you are handy enough to pull this off, it’s definitely worth it.

5. Crescent RendR, No Show Thru, 8.5″ x 5.5″

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When I sketch with markers, the Crescent RendR is my favorite. The marker won’t bleed through to the next page, no matter how heavy you apply it. And with 48 sheets, both sides usable, you have a lot of pages to experiment. It is not watercolor paper, although I’ve painted lightly with not terrible results. It does have an awful smell and may have damaged some of my marker tips, probably with the chemical used to make the paper No Show Thru. I use Copic markers though, so I can easily change the nib for a new one. #crescentrendr

*p.s. Notice that I didn’t include Moleskine, even though they are very popular and have a lot of good things. I really like the band and the pockets. I’m not a fan though, guess it’s because of the rounded corners.

Let me know which are your favorites!

Crescent RendR Sketchbook: Review

Today I received an 8.5″x11″ Crescent RendR sketchbook I had ordered, and took it for a quick test ride while having breakfast this morning. I had seen a couple videos and read a few reviews, but still had my doubts.

Until now, the best sketchbook I had tried was a custom made one with Arches 140lb hot pressed watercolor paper, although I wasn’t that much into markers by then. I hated having the markers and Sharpies bleed to the other side and sometimes the next couple of sheets. The last few weeks I’ve been sketching everyday with markers on regular bond or heavyweight bond paper sketchbooks, so I had to deal with a piece of scrap paper underneath the sheet I was sketching and struggle with the wind and even run behind a rogue scrap paper. I had to try if the Crescent RendR would deliver what they promised.

Well, this is the closest thing to the perfect sketchbook I’ve always been looking for. As you may now, I like to sketch on location with different media, markers (Copic, Prismacolor, Letraset, Chartpak), Sharpies, pencil, charcoal, watercolors, depending on whatever the subject calls for. I only have used the RendR with markers so far, but for now I think it is absolutely wonderful.

My first impression wasn’t that thrilling. On the outside, it looks and feels pretty good, well constructed with a nice matte, weighty hard-bound cover. But when you open it, the first thing you notice is that it has a funky, “un-natural” smell, similar to a pesticide. To the touch, the pages felt smoother than I’d expected. I thought for sure that I would promptly give away the sketchbook to my 9yo son. However, as soon as I put a marker to the page I fell in love.

The paper behaves like you would expect when using markers on regular bond paper rather than marker paper. It takes the marker very nicely, with a little tooth and a little blotting, just as I like paper.

Still had to see what about the other side of the page… Pristine. Unbelievable.

I’m not sure what will happen if I try watercolors on it, but I’m extremely happy I found this sketchbook, will use it almost exclusively from now on.

If you’re into sketching with Sharpies or art markers you’ll presumably fall in love with it as well. Please let me know what you think when you try one.

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