I know people are often always on the lookout for a next sketchbook. If you have the chance to look at blank books in an art store, then you can flip through them and see (and feel) what the paper is like. Paper really does vary greatly and makes such a difference in how you will respond to your sketchbook. The medium you use plays into that and has a lot to do with what will work and what you like.
My current medium is pen and ink, and I’ve found the Moleskine Art Sketchbook (A4 – 8.25×11.75) to be a really comfortable and solid sketchbook journal. The hard cover is really durable. (I don’t like a sketchbook I have to pamper, and I really don’t like it when I bend up a cover accidentally.) The paper is smooth and takes ink really well. (Bleeding has been very rare with the fountain pens and ink I use; your mileage with markers may vary though, and Copics do bleed.) In addition to being fountain-pen friendly, the paper also stands up to pencil sketching and lots of erasing. That’s important to me. One important thing to note is that the paper is off-white, so it has a creamy undertone. If a bright white paper is a must for you, this isn’t it.
Not Like Your Old Moleskines
If you’ve used Moleskine sketchbooks in the past, then I want to stress that this is specifically the Moleskine “Art Sketchbook” (not just a blank Moleskine that you may have used to draw in in the past since, at one time, they were very popular for “everyday matters” style drawing and illustrated journaling). The paper in the “Art Sketchbook” is thicker than others. I am on my third one of this specific sketchbook, and the quality has been consistent. I’ve only bought them from Amazon.com. The listings have a bit of variable/contradictory information about the gsm weight/lb rating, but the label on the A4 size says 165 g/m² / 111 lb. (From the photos, the label on the A5 and A3 are the same.)
I am a fan of working on smooth and heavy-duty surfaces like Bristol board, so given how much I’ve liked the Moleskine Art Sketchbook paper, I use that g/m² and lb rating as a benchmark when I am considering other blank books. Something may seem like a good deal, but if the rating is significantly different, I know it won’t have the substantial feel I like. (I like thick options in my index cards, too!) I haven’t been willing to switch or try something else in the last year. But I do poke around and look to see what is out there.
Again, if you are using watercolor, a different kind of paper is going to work much better for you. Similarly, when I was working in ballpoint, I had another drawing pad that I liked a lot! So it’s important to keep in mind your goal, your medium, and whether or not you want something bound, loose, or spiral. I’ve gone through phases in all of these formats, and my earliest illustrated journal and daily graphic novel were in a spiral sketchbook that I absolutely loved. So don’t rule spiral out. Sometimes, it may be just right!
Because I’ve been enjoying the A4 size (and even considering larger), I’ve been looking specifically at large format options. There are, of course, lots and lots of A5 and smaller sketchbooks out there. The popularity of bullet journaling, bujo keeping, and the planning community, in general, has resulted in scads and scads of A5 options. A5 can be a great sketchbook format, as can B6, pocket, field note, or other smaller sketchbooks. But in this roundup, I’m focusing on the larger ones.
Here are some of the heavy-weight paper, large-format sketchbooks that have made my radar and might be worth poking around and considering when you decide you need something new:
(All links are Amazon.com affiliate links. Your price at Amazon.com is not altered by this process, but the CMP may make a few cents on purchases that originate from one of these links.)
Moleskine Art Sketchbook (Hard Cover)
- Moleskine Art Sketchbook, Hard Cover, A4 (8.25″ x 11.75″) Plain/Blank, Black, 96 Pages
- Moleskine Art Sketchbook, Hard Cover, Large (5″ x 8.25″) Plain/Blank, Black, 104 Pages (the smaller size)
- Moleskine Art Sketchbook, Hard Cover, A3 (11.75″ x 16.5″) Plain/Blank (the bigger size)
Stillman and Birn (various sizes)
For information about their different lines (which are best suited to different media, see this information page). Zeta and Epsilon are listed as a good choice for pen and ink, although Beta is an in-between mixed-media paper and might also work.
- Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Hardbound Sketchbook, A4 (8.25″ x 11.75″), 270 GSM (Extra Heavyweight), White Paper, Smooth Surface
- Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Wirebound Sketchbook, 7″ x 10″, 270 gsm (Extra Heavyweight), White Paper, Smooth Surface
- Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Wirebound Sketchbook, 9″ x 12″, 270 gsm (Extra Heavyweight), White Paper, Smooth Surface
- Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series Wirebound Sketchbook, 9″ x 12″, 150 gsm (Heavyweight), White Paper, Smooth Surface
- Stillman & Birn Beta Series Softcover Sketchbook, 7.5″ x 7.5″, 270 gsm (Extra Heavyweight), White Paper, Cold Press Surface (square format)
Other A4 (or in the 8×11 range)
- Crescent Creative Products RENDR Lay-Flat Soft Cover Sketchbook, 8.5 11-Inch (saw this one on someone’s video)
- Leda Art Supply A4 X Large Sketchbook for Artists (8.25 x 11.5 inches)
- Strathmore (566-11 STR-566-11 48 Sheet No 90 Mixed Media Art Journal, 11 by 14″
- Speedball Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal, Grand Portrait, 10-1/2 x 8-1/4, 95lb / 200 GSM
- Derwent Sketch and Store Sketch Book, A4, Portrait, 8.27 x 11.69 Inches Page Size, Wirebound, 56 Pages
- Canson Mix Media Art Book, Heavyweight French Paper, Double Sided Fine and Medium Texture, Side Wire Bound, 138 Pound, 9 x 12 Inch, 40 Sheets
A5 or B5 (or in the 5×8 or 7×10 range – or square)
- ZenART Leather Sketchbook Journal for Artists – 160 Blank Pages of 120 GSM Acid-Free Ivory Paper – B5 7 x 10-inch
- Leuchtturm1917 A4+ Master Hardcover Sketchbook, 8.85 X 12.5 inches, 96 Pages of 180g Brilliant White Plain Paper
- LEUCHTTURM1917 Master Sketchbook, Lemon, 112 Pages, Plain – 150g/m² Paper, Hardcover A4+ Drawing Book
- LEUCHTTURM1917 344675 Sketchbook Master (A4+) mit reinWhiteem, Extra starkem 180 g/m²
- Canson Mix Media Art Book, Heavyweight French Paper, Double Sided Fine and Medium Texture, Side Wire Bound, 138 Pound, 7 x 10 Inch, 40 Sheets
- Crescent Creative Products 8-inch RENDR Wire-Bound Sketchbook, 8″ x 8″, Black (square)
- Midori MD notebook
Drawing Pads (typically much thinner paper – so look carefully and judge based on your medium)
- Canson Artist Series Cream Drawing Pad 9″ x 12″, Side Wire Bound, 60 Sheets (I have used and liked this one)
- Strathmore 662-59 Vision Mixed Media Pad, 9″x12″, White, 70 Sheets (side spiral)
- Strathmore 643-59 Vision Drawing Pad, 9″x12″, 65 Sheets (top spiral)
- Canson Artist Series 1557 Pure White Drawing Paper Pad, Fine Texture, Top Wire Bound, 80 Pound, 18 x 24 Inch, Bright White, 24 Sheets (24 sheets….. )
- Strathmore 300 Series Visual Bristol Journal, 9″x12″ Smooth, Wire Bound, 28 Sheets
- Canson Artist Series Mix Media Pad, 9” x 12”, Side Wire Bound, 30 Sheets
Even before the pandemic, I was out of money. I couldn’t really just “go shopping.” The pandemic hasn’t helped that, but it has made me long for the days when I could go to an art store and buy a blank book just because. I wish I had been the artist I am now back in the days when that was a more doable thing. In person, I don’t like to window shop, but window shopping online works!