Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Miatagrrl » Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:35 am

I just saw that Dick Blick now carries Stillman & Birn (prices are slightly discounted compared to Utrecht, which is the only other online source I've found):
http://www.dickblick.com/products/still ... oks/#items
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby getThemAlive » Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:45 pm

I can recommend these sketch books, though they are a bit pricey: http://www.kunstpark-shop.de/Kuenstlerb ... 230-g.html

The paper is thick enough to use water color.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby cestjeffici » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:47 am

Rollabind makes a punch and sells plastic rings. You can chose your paper and your format. They will open flat and you can add and subtract pages at will, Mix paper types, textures, colors whatever. In my mind this is the best solution, you are in total control.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby button » Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:34 am

Long time no see!

I've been basically testing all available sketchbooks that appeared to be of good quality from austrian and german stores for more than a year now, and let me tell you guys, they are all crap in comparison with the Stillman & Birns... I brought some of the S&B with me from our trip to the US last march and only just now got around to start the first one. I am amazed. The paper is great for sketching, my fountain pen does neither scratch nor feather nor skip like it happened on watercolour papers and I can actually use it with watercolours so well that I almost cried with happiness the first time I painted the mandarine I ate that afternoon, because after having to watch helplessly how every other thicker sketchbook paper just soaked up the watercolours and made every brush stroke look like marker for months, I had developed the delusion that the fault lies in my own inadequacy and that I'm the worst watercolour painter in the world. This is what bad paper does to people, folks.

In case someone here lives in an area where Hahnemühle is a brand you can get your hands on, they made amazing mixed media paper from bamboo which is just perfect for watercolour work, but unfortunately not yet available in a sketchbook but only in sketchpads. I contacted them about that, telling them how frustrating it is that there is basically no decent mixed media sketchbook available in our country, and they replied telling me that they'd be interested in hearing what I have to say about their D&S sketchbook which *should* accept watercolours well. I promised to try it and send feedback their way afterwards, but honestly my hopes that it can compete with the S&B sketchbooks are faint.
- Tanja

(look inside my sketchbooks:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/button_bird/sets)

“Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.”
- Irwin Greenberg
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby goosekeeper » Sun Apr 06, 2014 3:59 am

Just found these. I'm switching to them.

http://www.flexiblenotebooks.com

Tried Stillman & Birn after reading reviews about them here, but have found that while their paper accepts pens, brush pens and marker (mainly what I sketch with these days) beautifully, I've found that ink tends to stay wet longer than other books I've used.

A sketchbook is for putting down ideas and capturing things. I can't be sitting and waiting for ink to take its time drying.

The Zequenz are gorgeous in every way... their paper is heavier weight, smooth, ink loves it. No feathering or wicking so far. I probably wouldn't do watercolor in them, maybe light wash...

The design of these books is so clean and smart... makes all other books I've tried seem like they were designed by idiots.
"You can never do too much drawing"
- Tintoretto

g.o.o.s.e.k.e.e.p.e.r...... . . . . . . .
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Russ » Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:33 am

Which Stillman & Birn paper did you try? I haven't noticed a slower drying time for ink. But maybe I wasn't paying attention...

I'm curious about the Zequenz books. They are glue bound but are suppose to lie flat. I'm very interested to know if that's really true.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby goosekeeper » Mon Apr 07, 2014 1:55 am

They do lay flat.

I've been using the Zeta series because I like smooth paper.
"You can never do too much drawing"
- Tintoretto

g.o.o.s.e.k.e.e.p.e.r...... . . . . . . .
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby e.larsen » Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:03 pm

Russ, they are made with a breakable spine specifically to lay flat.

I use Epsilon books because the better paper sketchbooks are too nice for my sketching needs. A lifetime of cheap sketchbooks has given me a sort of preference for thinner papers.
my sketching blog is at: http://www.etagelarsen.com/blog/
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Alitogata » Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:05 pm

After testing a load of sketch books ( including Moleskines which have nice binding but not that good paper), I've realized that the only way to have what I want from a sketch book was to made a custom one.
I'm big fun of Winsor and Newton Medium Surface Cartridge Pad.
This sketch blocks are not binded but the quality of this paper is unbeatable. Heavy enough paper to carry watercolour washes without cockling too much, ( is not for wet on wet technique though- for this kind of paintings is needed heavier paper), smooth enough to work with ink without allow ink to make feather like effects and with a nice surface to be worked with pencils colored or not. This paper is something between cold pressed and hot pressed watercolor paper on 220 gsm the best all in one paper I have tried till now.

I prefer to work on A5 size which is a very convenient size for holding it and transfer it in a back bag, neither to big nor to small BUT these kind of sketching blocks are not binded and don't have any hard cover.

So I bought a A3 sized block which if it's cut horizontally gives two bundles of paper sized 42x14.8 cm. These can be folded, sewn and binded in A5 sized sketch books, ( with hard cover), work that was done by a bookbinder.
Cost of each A3 block 7 something euros, cost for binding each block another 8 euros. Final result two hardcovered A5 sketch books of 50 pages each, which can be sketched or painted both sides. ( total 100 pages for each sketch book) which cost me 15 euros each.
I will post a photo later, as I don't have one available.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Russ » Thu Oct 01, 2015 7:32 am

I just saw on Facebook that Stillman & Birn is coming out with a new product line, softcover editions in pocket sizes, landscape and portrait orientation. This may be the sketchbook of my dreams after all.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Alitogata » Sun Oct 18, 2015 2:12 pm

I had a very nice surprise the other day when I discovered in a store a range of very very nice hardbound sketchbooks that a local company produces.
These sketchbooks are very well made, with hard black covers, with acid free watercolour paper. I bought one at A4 size but the company produces these sketchbooks at A5 and A3 sizes also and with soft covers all in portrait binding.

The sketchbooks is this one. ( is not curved.. my camera does this :roll: )

DSC02446.JPG
DSC02446.JPG (235.1 KiB) Viewed 1214 times


and it has 48 paper sheets ( 90 pages) of 220 grs watercolour paper acid free as they told me when I contacted them.

DSC02448.JPG
DSC02448.JPG (241.78 KiB) Viewed 1214 times


I tested the paper and it didn't buckle neither lost its sizing and the paper is of the colour that I like the most, white enough to show nicely my watercolours.

Look what I made in this sketchbook to get an idea about the paper.

Julie the Kings Charles Puppy- Watercolour Sketch- Artist Marialena Sarris - 10-2015.JPG
Julie the Kings Charles Puppy- Watercolour Sketch- Artist Marialena Sarris - 10-2015.JPG (486.67 KiB) Viewed 1214 times


A Rose- Watercolour Painting- Artist Marialena Sarris - 1- 2015.JPG
A Rose- Watercolour Painting- Artist Marialena Sarris - 1- 2015.JPG (275.36 KiB) Viewed 1214 times


And the paper has another advantage. Dries fast and completely flat. See at the photo above that I show you the side of the the book to see that the pages that I made my sketches have dried completely flat. Excellent for this weight of paper.

The only minor ( for some people not for me anyway) is that the paper has two different surfaces, the one side is like vellum with very very light tooth and the other one completely slick something like bristol. But is properly bound in order to have each surface matching with the same kind on the opposite page.
But personally I have no problem with this thing as I like flat of the hot pressed kind of papers.

The book also stays completely flat when open.

DSC02447.JPG
DSC02447.JPG (198.2 KiB) Viewed 1214 times


The company is called NEOHART and the sketchbook I bought is this one: ( and you can see under the one I bought the full range of this sketchbooks).

http://www.neohart.gr/prod-en1634-a4-21 ... sheets.php
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Andre Jute » Sun Oct 18, 2015 5:03 pm

Lovely watercolours you've made in your new sketchbook.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Alitogata » Wed Oct 28, 2015 8:58 pm

Well.. the paper of this book is very strong. I tried some extremely wet washes on it and dries always flat. Well.. I have come to the conclusion that you never know when and where you are going to find something really good.
This was a completely random purchase, I mean that I bought it just because I saw it in front me - :lol: ha ha haaaa ok I have lost it completely.. I don't buy art materials this way- and it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. :)
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Andre Jute » Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:07 pm

Alitogata wrote:Well.. the paper of this book is very strong. I tried some extremely wet washes on it and dries always flat.


Interesting. I was also struck by your experience on your holiday earlier this year, recounted on your blog, with the Saunders Waterford paper in the extreme humidity of that little town; I often use Saunders paper.

I liked the painting (on your blog in the holiday report) you made in the dark while fishing... Mind you, I liked all those sketches. I sometimes think that those who adhere too closely to the modern sketching mantra of "Draw only what you see in front of you," are limited by their hard outlines.
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Re: Best Sketchbook for ink and watercolor these days?

Postby Alitogata » Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:38 pm

I think that it depends on what you want to achieve. If you want to make a study and anyway practice on making something then you have to draw what you see. If you don't care and you make your fun or you draw while you are fishing, ( as it was my case ) then it doesn't matter if what you draw is exactly what you see.

Anyway.. Sometimes I take care to draw accurately and sometimes I don't. The thing is that I was ill for almost the whole month and I haven't sketch that much. And now the weather turn colder and I foresee me going back to the museums.. :roll: :)
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