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Top Artist's Sketchbooks

Recommended Sketchbooks, Art Books and Journals

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Sketchbooks are the artist's constant companion, repositories of our observation and thought. Here are my pick of the best sketchbooks, covering a range of media and purposes. You're sure to find one to suit you.

1. Canson Basic Sketchbook

Canson Sketchbooks
You can't go wrong with a sketchbook like this. The Canson Basic Sketchbook has a leather-textured hard cover that gives it a nice, solid feel. Contains 216 pages of 65lb / 96 gsm white, acid-free paper. The A5 - 5.5x8.5 inch - is fine if you like to work very small, but I prefer the A4 - 8.5x11 inch for general use. These sketchbooks are hardwearing, workhorse sketchbooks that also look great and feel nice to use.

2. Fabriano Artist's Journal

Fabriano Artist's Journal
photo courtesy Blick Art Materials

Bliss. Fabriano's paper-bound artist's journal contains a range of Ingres laid papers in neutral tones including Warm White, Hazel Brown, Ash, Flet Blue, light Green and Ivory. An ideal sketchbook for those who favor charcoal drawing (try carbone pencils, which won't make such a mess when you travel), as well as Trois Crayons technique and pastel. These do have mixed reviews - some criticism of the quality control and the stiff glue binding.

3. Canson Field Sketchbook

Canson Field Sketchbook
photo courtesy Blick Art Materials

If you like to tear the occasional page out to give to a friend (or file in the trashcan!), then a wirebound book is a good choice. I'm not personally keen on them, as I don't like the wire spirals against other books on my shelf or in my bag, but many artists prefer them. The spiral binding allows them to lay open or with the front pages flipped behind the back, which is useful when working outdoors - hence the name Field Sketchbook. It has 80 pages of acid-free, 65 lb / 96 gsm paper, with a robust board cover and double wire binding.

4. Hand Book Artist Journals

Hand Book Art Journal
courtesy Blick Art Materials

HandBook Journals are really beautiful, a definite favorite. With gorgeous buff-colored paper and curved corners. They are somewhat similar to a Moleskine, but with much heavier 130gsm paper, which has perhaps a little more tooth, and suitable for pencil or pen-and-ink drawing. Available in a range of colors, formats and sizes, 128 pages, cloth bound. I particularly like the landscape format.

5. Strathmore Dry Media Pads

Not prettily bound but with a durable, medium-surface, heavier paper, the Strathmore Dry Media Pads have a slightly heavier paper, at 100 lb / 163 gsm. They are available in a range of sizes, side and top bound, and contain acid-free, white paper, made in USA. Perforations allow easy page removal.

6. Arches Watercolor Travel Album

A simple, functional sketchbook,  the Carnet de Voyage contains 15 sheets of Arches 140lb / 300 gsm Cold Pressed (rough) watercolor paper. This is a true watercolor paper, thick enough not to require stretching, and robust enough to withstand heavy washes. The landscape format is perfect for outdoor sketching. Although, as I said, I'm not a fan of spiral bindings, the luxurious feel, quality and servicability of this sketchbook make it a personal favorite.

7. Stonehenge Drawing Paper Pads

Ok, so it isn't strictly speaking a sketchbook, its a sketch pad. But what better than to get your favorite drawing paper (which you've previously lugged home, ever so carefully, in huge sheets) in a handy sketchpad? This paper is a favorite for colored pencil artists and is also used for graphite pencil drawing. The pads contain 250gsm Stonehenge paper, 100% cotton, American made, in a range of sizes from 5 x 7 inch up to 18 x 24.
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