How to Find the Best Sketchbook: 12 Best Buys For Artists [2021]

Pen and paper alongside a warm cup of tea in a quiet room and you have entered a halcyon era.  Life is good once again and you are ready to take up the most pleasurable pastime you can think of – sketching.  For this hobby, your creative thought and originality are completely on display for the enjoyment of your audience, whether that includes millions of followers or you alone.

In this world of artistry, the tools of your trade can compose imagery that words cannot begin to define or they can devise to destruct your original talent and break your inspired spirit.  This is not a problem that you should allow into your art because this is not a difficult problem to fix. 

Craft & Stitch has been created to help artists, like yourself, reduce and even eliminate crafting troubles.  We have resources to guide artists as they select crafting tools and materials, and as they look for new and enlightening projects.  For those artists whose world is all about sketching, this article will guide you through the process of selecting the best sketchbook to suit your artistic preferences.  We are going to walk through the details of what features make up the best sketchbooks and give a few selected product recommendations.  Once you have browsed this article, you will be well on your way to finding your next sketchbook.  Let’s begin.

Sketchbook Characteristics

As you are contemplating which sketchbook to purchase, keep the following characteristics in mind.

Binding

What is your preference for how the book is bound?  This feature can make a big difference in how effective and cathartic your sketching time is.  Sketchbooks can be bound in the following methods:

Spiral-bound 

These sketchbooks feature a wire or spiral loop that holds the book together.

Pros:

  • Less expensive on average
  • Lays flat
  • Easy to hold
  • Easy to flip through the pages

Cons:

  • Tend to tear easily when they are being used
  • Wire gutter cannot be sketched on

Sewn-bound/perfect bound

These sketchbooks feature stitching that holds the book together.

Pros:

  • These are often created by specialty artists

Cons:

  • Some do not lay flat
  • Sketchbooks that do not lay flat are difficult to sketch across the gutter

Glue-bound

These sketchbooks feature a binding that is held together by glue.

Pros:

  • They are inexpensive

Cons:

  • The pages tear off too easily
  • They are not designed for long term usage

Color

Some sketchbooks are made with colored pages.  Let this be something you consider since certain writing mediums may show up better on these color pages.  Think of pastels and gel pens decorating darkly colored pages.

Cover

Just like any book, a sketchbook cover is meant to protect the art inside it.  Sketchbooks are available in the following:

Hardcover

This is a firm and protective shell to inhibit damage to the inside pages.

Pros:

  • Provides excellent support
  • Provides good protection

Cons:

  • None

Paperback

This is a flexible protective cover.

Pros:

  • Compact
  • Flexible

Cons:

  • Does not provide a sturdy space for sketching
  • Does not protect the inner pages as well as a hardcover

Orientation

In what direction do you prefer to sketch and how much room do you need to do so?  Consider this as you select a sketchbook because this feature can both help and hinder your creativity.  The most common orientations for a sketchbook are:

  • Horizontal – This is designed to work on landscape projects or anything that you want to stretch from left to right.
  • Square – This is a middle-of-the-road sort of orientation.  It might inhibit some types of art but it might embellish others.  Before purchasing a square sketchbook, take some time to consider if this is going to be a good fit for your art style.
  • Vertical – This is designed for portrait sketching or any type of project that requires height or depth.

Page Numbers

If you’re a sketch artist that is loyal to your sketchbook, then opt for one that has plenty of pages so you will have plenty of time to spend with it.  However, if you like to try out a new sketchbook frequently, look for thin options that will fill up quickly and allow you to experiment with something new.

Paper & Medium

The type of paper you should select for your sketchbook will partially be decided by the type of writing medium you plan to use.  To help you with this part of the decision-making process, here is a list of paper and medium pairings for easy reference:

  • Fine Liners – Paper used with this medium should be under 110gsm.
  • Liquid Mediums (acrylics, gouache, ink, etc.) – Paper used with these mediums should be at least 200gsm.
  • Markers – Paper used with this medium should be at least 200gsm.
  • Pencils – Paper used with this medium should be under 110gsm.
  • Watercolor – With this medium, you should look for sketchbooks that are labeled as watercolor paper.  You can choose from several types of paper, but regardless of which you choose, it should be between 280gsm and 300gsm.  Options include:
  • Cold-Pressed Paper: This classically is watercolor paper.  It is full of texture that soaks up the paints quickly.  With this paper, you can use big strokes and finish work faster.
  • Hot-Pressed Paper: This is very smooth and flat paper.  This paper is designed for art with lots of detail added to it.  It works great with line art where you use fine liners and fine brushes.  It is also convenient to use since it doesn’t dry quickly, therefore, corrections are easier to make.
  • Rough Paper: This paper is extra textured and makes a great base for watercolor art.

Perforation

Do you want to be able to remove the pages from the sketchbook without risking a tear right across your artwork?  Consider getting a sketchbook with perforation if you plan to remove the pages frequently.

Price

While there is no reason to go into debt for a sketchbook, there is also no reason to buy the cheapest thing on the shelf.  Do yourself a favor and get the sketchbook that meets all your needs and wants and don’t skimp on the price.

Size

Consider how you plan to store or carry your sketchbook.  Do you plan to take it traveling with you or will it just be resting on your desk until you need it?  How you use and where you take your art supplies could make a difference in which sketchbook you purchase.

Source

Are you concerned with how your sketchbook is designed and manufactured?  Are ethically sourced materials and labor ethics primary matters to you?  If so, and they really should be, take some time to learn about the company that is selling the sketchbook that you want. 

Product Selection

With the above information as our guide, we can now begin to look for sketchbooks that best suit our artistic needs.

The Best Budget Sketchbook – Premium Sketchbook Small

This is an inexpensive and travel-friendly option that will still be great to work with.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Hardcover
  • Perforated pages
  • Works well with dry writing mediums

Cons:

  • Small size
  • Should not be used with liquid writing mediums

The Best Cold-Pressed Paper Sketchbook – ETCHR Store Mixed Media Sketchbook

If you are an artist that prefers to work with slightly textured paper, then consider adding this sketchbook for your art supplies.

Pros:

  • Can be used with both wet and dry writing mediums
  • Environmentally friendly paper
  • 1-year satisfaction guarantee
  • Compact and travel-friendly
  • Lays flat
  • Designed with an elastic band to keep the book closed
  • The outside cover is designed to be an extra page for artwork

Cons:

  • Some customers have stated that the binding is poor

The Best Ethically Sourced Sketchbooks – Anna in Paperland Perfectly Imperfect Sketchbook

If you need to know that your sketchbook is not going to harm the environment, then go to this shop and purchase a great work of art for your works of art.

Pros:

  • Made of ecofriendly materials
  • Available in several different colors
  • Available in several different sizes
  • Hand-stitched
  • Handmade paper
  • Can be gift-wrapped

Cons:

  • Sells out very quickly

The Best Glue Bound Sketchbook – Soho Japanese Sketch Pad

If you need something simple to sketch on with a dry medium, then consider this sketch pad.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Offered in several sizes

Cons:

  • Pages will fall out easily
  • Can only be used with dry writing mediums (pens and pencils)

The Best Horizontal Sketchbook –  Travelogue Drawing Book

This is a lovely and chic book that is perfect for landscape artists.

Pros:

  • Comes in several different colors
  • Designed with an elastic closure to keep the book closed
  • Comes in several different sizes
  • Designed for use with dry mediums
  • Has many positive online customer reviews and ratings

Cons:

  • Some customers have stated that the paper is too thin

The Best Hot-Pressed Paper Sketchbook – Paul Rubens Art Supplies Watercolor Paper Journal

For those artists who prefer their paper to be fine and flat, this is an excellent sketchbook.

Pros:

  • Paper is dual-sided
  • Perforated paper
  • Designed with an inner storage pocket
  • Satisfaction assurance guarantee
  • Sewn-bound sketchbook
  • Hardcover

Cons:

  • Some customers have stated that the paper is not a very good quality
  • Some customers have received the product with creased pages

The Best Sewn Bound Sketchbook – Wizened Oak Leather Hand Sewn Sketchbook

For something that is one of a kind and full of passion, try this Coptic Bound sketchbook.

Pros:

  • Handmade
  • Leather bound cover
  • No spine
  • Works well with dry writing mediums
  • Lays flat
  • Refillable
  • Has great online customer reviews and ratings
  • Comes in three different colors

Cons:

  • Does not work with liquid writing mediums

The Best Sketchbook for Fine Liners and Pencils – Plumchester Square Sketchbook

If you prefer a sketchbook that is designed for use with dry mediums, specifically pencils, and fine liners, you will certainly love this option.

Pros:

  • Beautiful plum-colored cover
  • Hardcover
  • Designed with an elastic closure to keep the book closed
  • Lays flat
  • Includes a page ribbon
  • Has great customer reviews and ratings
  • Compact and travel friendly

Cons:

  • None

The Best Sketchbook for Liquid Mediums and Markers – Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook

For sketching with liquids such as ink, marker, and watercolor, try this book.

Pros:

  • Available in six different types of paper
  • Does not have a lot of paper sheets
  • Hardbound
  • The spine can be trained to lie flat

Cons:

  • Available in only one color

The Best Spiral Bound Sketchbook – Ali Sunflowers UK Sunflower Ringbound Sketchbook

For a spiral-bound sketchbook that is focused on bringing natural and high-quality materials into the art world, try this option.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Made from recycled and eco-friendly materials
  • Lays flat
  • Great for use with dry writing mediums
  • Designed with the help of a local social enterprise

Cons:

  • Should not be used with liquid writing materials

The Best Square Sketchbook – Oxide Press and Bindery Square Sketchbook

This is an item that has stunning features that every artist will be proud to own, work in, and display.

Pros:

  • Available in four different colors
  • Hardcover
  • Paper is handmade and considered strong and versatile
  • Can be used with wet or dry writing mediums
  • Can be ordered in custom color combinations
  • Has great online customer reviews and ratings

Cons:

  • None

The Best Vertical Sketchbook – Saied Crafts of Egypt Papyrus Paper Sketchbook

If you want something truly unique for your sketch work, then head over to this shop and get this one-of-a-kind sketchbook.

Pros:

  • Great online customer reviews and ratings
  • Comes in two different paper types
  • Handmade papyrus paper
  • Crafted in Egypt

Cons:

  • Stock runs low

The Rough Paper Sketchbook – Journal Shop Cotton Watercolor Sketchbook

This is a lovely book that will warm the heart of any artist.  

Pros:

  • Available in several types of paper
  • Available in two different colors
  • Added pages are available
  • Available in other sizes
  • Comes with a linen bag for safe storage
  • Designed in Greece

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Shipping costs can be high
  • Delivery time is not guaranteed

FAQs

Question: What is gsm a Reference To?

Answer: This is a reference to the weight of the paper before it is cut to letter size.  These letters stand for “grams per square meter”.  The lower the gsm number, the lighter the paper, and conversely, the higher the number, the heavier the paper.

Low-numbered paper is what is used for a newspaper or even tracing paper; these types of paper range somewhere between 35 and 55 gsm.  High-numbered paper is typically used for cardstock and business cards; these types of paper range somewhere between 350 and 450 gsm.  Comparing these two types of paper should help you understand how and why paperweight matters in the art world.

Question: What is a Gutter on a Sketchbook?

Answer: The gutter of a sketchbook is the centerfold of the page. This is the place where the two pages meet.  It can be used as a barrier to keep two separate pieces of art distinct or it can help bridge one artwork over both pages.

Question: Should I Use a Sketchbook Cover?

Answer: Sketchbook covers are completely optional and a personal preference; however, if you tend to take your sketchbook everywhere with you, it may a good idea to invest in one.  These do not only provide a beautiful cover for your sketchbook, but they also protect your sketchbook and provide storage spaces for pens, pencils, and other sketching tools.

For a great selection of unique and stylish sketchbook covers, shop at these Etsy shops.

In Conclusion

Finding a great sketchbook is more than just finding clean paper at the cheapest rate.  This process is all about art and designing something beautiful that you as the artist can be proud of.  Now that you know all about the characteristics that make for a great sketchbook, you are prepared to find the items that meet your artistic needs.

Research Citations

Greenleaf & Blueberry

Patricia Pedroso

Banana Print Blog

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