As a beginner to journaling or drawing, choosing a good sketchbook to practice is very important. Sketchbooks are very personal, and the best sketchbook will not be the same for everybody. Personal preference is important. But there are several other things you should consider when choosing a good sketchbook.
Some people like tiny, pocket sized sketchbooks for on-the-go sketching and journaling. However, for a beginner an a5 sketchbook works great. When open flat, an a5 sketchbook is the equivalent to an a4 paper so it gives you plenty of space to create your masterpiece. But at the same time, it fits on most bags and backpacks when folded, and it’s a size that is usually cheap and easy to find. If you like sketching while travelling a5 is probably the best sketchbook size.
If you want to do complex, detailed artwork and are going to use your sketchbook on a desk, a bigger sketchbook can also be suitable. If you wanted to create full sized watercolor sketches, an a4 sized sketchbook equals an a3 paper. Quite a nice canvas, but what you get in size you lose in portability. Forget about just holding your sketchbook on your lap to jot a quick sketch. And you’ll need a larger artist bag.
Most artists keep different sized sketchbooks for different purposes. As a beginner, a very good sketchbook is an a5 one such as the Pentalic Hardbound.
- Hardbound textured black embossed cover
- Perfect for all dry media
- Classic sketch book
- Bright white 70-pound paper
- Acid free
Type Of Paper
A good sketchbook can come in a variety of paper types. Regular paper, cartridge paper, watercolour paper, toned and colored paper. The choice is endless, and it really depends on what art style you are pursuing.
Pencil and light ink work can suit both cartridge and regular paper. Cartridge paper is higher quality and used for illustration and drawing. It comes in a variety of weights (thickness of the paper). And it can be either smooth or medium grain which has a bit of texture.
Regular paper is what you would usually use on a printer, for example, and it’s cheaper. Many beginner sketchbooks are made of regular paper, as they are just designed for practice.
Watercolor paper has a coating to stop it from absorbing too much water. This makes pigment look more vibrant and stops the paper from bending and losing shape. Some cartridge paper can also handle watercolor despite not being treated. But this makes watercolor paper feel drier than regular paper.
Watercolor paper can range from 100% cotton to 100% wood-based or a mix of the two. 100% cotton watercolor sketchbooks can be used for multiple washes, whereas wood-based paper is much more fragile. Some people love cotton-based watercolor paper for pencil work, because it’s so high quality and resilient. But it’s also much more expensive.
Mixed media paper is supposed to work with both dry and wet media. They are not treated so they can be more difficult to use with watercolor, but they can work with it. And then you have sketchbooks for markers which are treated to be bleed-proof and sometimes no-show. They are usually white to allow for true color accuracy.
You should always choose acid-free paper sketchbooks as that will prevent your artwork from decaying over time.
Binding And Covers
Binding is how the pages of your sketchbook are bound together. Sketchbooks usually come in either wire-bound or hard-bound. Both of those types of bindings come as either hardcover or paperback.
Wire-bound sketchbooks have a spiral wire holding the pages together. This makes it more difficult to create artwork across to pages, because the wire will be in the middle. But at the same time it means the sketchbook can lie down flat, or can be used folded on your lap. Hardcover sketchbooks (with a hard cardboard backing) this is a great sketchbook for journaling or sketching on the go.
Paperback wire-bound sketchbooks are the cheapest ones, but they are much more flimsy. Also, you can’t really use the cover to support the sketchbook while drawing.
Hard-bound sketchbooks are similarly bound to your regular book. Sheets are stitched together at the fold in sections, and a sketchbook is made of several sections put together. Some hard-bound sketchbooks can open flat, which means you can draw across the gutter and double the available space for your artwork.
Both wire-bound sketchbooks and hard-bound sketchbooks are available in portrait and landscape orientations. Choose the one that fits better with the kind of artwork you are interested in.
If you plan to display your artwork, a good sketchbook could have perforated guides along the gutter that allow you to remove pages easily. But that can get in the way of drawing close to the gutter.
There are many good sketchbooks that are not the usual plain white. Off-white sketchbooks in a variety of cream and light yellow tones are very popular as well. Sepia, grey and even black paper are also available. If you have a particular idea for your artwork that requires a colored background, look for a toned sketchbook.
How Many Pages Does A Good Sketchbook Need?
Usually a sketchbook made with heavier cartridge paper will have less pages than a lighter one. If you like having themed sketchbooks you may prefer to have several with fewer pages.
If you are into journaling or want to do a big project, a sketchbook with more pages may work best but they tend to be heavier.
If you are just testing sketchbooks, ones with fewer pages are usually cheaper and perfect to try different paper and binding styles.
How Much Money To Spend For A Great Sketchbook?
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good sketchbook, but it’s worth looking around for the best value for money. After all, you don’t want a cheap sketchbook letting your artwork down.
For casual sketching you can get a nice sketchbook for little money to practice. Many artists have a variety of sketchbooks with different paper, sizes and price ranges. It depends on which project they are working on. Good heavy paper feels nice and costs money, but maybe you don’t need that for a casual inspirational sketch or note taking.
Just make sure you always buy sketchbooks made with acid-free paper and a solid binding. This way you will be able to look back at your old sketchbooks. It’s fun to see your progress as an artist, and encouraging to practice more. A good sketchbook should be able to keep your artwork as new for years as long as it’s correctly stored.