Friday, August 31, 2012

Choosing a Sketchbook

So you want to try to choose and fill up a sketchbook? Good for you! The guide below is based on my personal experiences when choosing a sketchbook. The first step is to decide what type of sketchbook you want!

  • They can come in small (approx. 3”x5”), medium (approx. 5”x8”), or large (approx. 9”x12” or larger). I would pick it up from your local art/craft store like Utrecht, Dick Blick, Michael’s, or Jo-Anns with a 40% or 50% coupon. 
  • It’s probably best to stick to one sketchbook at a time but I tend to have two or three sketchbooks at a time. That’s because I have a large 9x12 one I carry in a backpack and smaller ones that I carry in a purse/bag or pocket for whenever I feel inspired.
Paper Weight
  • You might want a heavier weight of paper that contains some cotton fibers if you have a heavy hand or use quick washes to prevent the paper from buckling or warping. Normally you’d want 75 gsm or higher depending how heavy of a hand you have or if you want to quick watercolor washes. 
  • I find that 100 gsm seems to work for me since I usually use dry materials and handles light washes but does buckle the paper, but that doesn't bother me. If it bothers you, you'd might want to use 150 gsm or more.
  • I like measuring by the “grammage (aka gsm) because it’s easier to tell if it’s thicker or not. You might also want to consider eco-friendly paper or paper made from sustainable sources.

Color Design
  • I usually prefer either a solid color or one with a really neat design that appeals to me. Normally I default to the standard black color or company design. If you you feel adventurous you can choose whatever colors you want. 
  • I like to put stickers and doodles on my covers to personalize my sketchbooks.
  • The most important thing is that the sketchbook appeals, interests, and inspires you.
Soft/Hard Cover
  • Next you’ll want to think about whether you’d like a soft cover or hard cover design. 
  • I personally like hard covers because they get tossed around in my bag/backpack without a problem. Unfortunately, I found that out when I had softcover sketchbooks. After awhile the edges started curling and became dog-eared from the abuse. Furthermore, I accidentally spilled food and liquids on my soft cover sketchbooks and now they don’t look so pretty. 
  • Take my advice and consider whether you’re klutzy enough like me to make my mistakes and choose your books accordingly. 
  • Hard covers tend to be a little heavier than the soft covers but they make pretty sturdy backboards when drawing out in the field.
  • Now we’re getting a little more nit-picky on the types of sketchbooks such as the binding and enclosures. You normally want a sketchbook that is typically like a normal book. That way it allows you to utilize the entire page and there isn’t a “hump” that will distort your drawing. Another thing, you may not want to use this type of binding for gluing images or sticking a lot of loose pages in it because it might break the binding. If you do, you might want to remove some pages first. Don't throw it away though! You can still reuse it for other projects.
  • Then there are spiraled notebooks which always lie flat but the spirals may get in your way when drawing or be uncomfortable to rest your hands upon. An easy remedy is to turn the sketchbook so that the spirals are on top or bottom so they don't get in your way. I would recommend using this type of binding if you like to draw on flat surfaces or plan to stick a lot of paper in your book. It also makes it easier to scan in pages in a flatbed scanner if you keep a sketchblog.
  • There are many types of enclosures but the more you want the more expensive it can be. Most sketchbooks don't have any enclosures at all although you can create your own with a binder clip or a large rubber band. Again, it depends on if you want your pages protected or not. You can be as creative as you like for closing your book. I personally don't really use an enclosure in my sketchbook but I do use the ones that come with my notebooks.
Paper Type
  • Strathmore provides recycled sketchbooks and Strathmore Wind Power sketch paper made completely from wind power if you are willing to pay a little extra. 
  • Stillman and Birn is a brand of sketchbooks that have been really popular with artists lately online. 
  • Eco-System also has a 100% post-consumer recycled sketchbook that is worth considering. 
  • Canson has a nice line of sketchbooks that you may want to take a look at as well that support sustainable sources.
  • Moleskine has a loyal following of creatives including artists. I heard the paper quality has suffered and that earlier versions have better paper than the current versions.
  • Ecopaper has sketchbooks made from alternative sources such as bananas, coffee, and hemp. 
  • If you don’t mind textured paper you might want to check out paper made from poop! Don’t worry, it doesn’t smell and they clean it. They come from animals such as Elephants, Pandas, and Horses from PooPooPaper.
Summary: Things to consider when buying a sketchbook
  • Size (small (approx. 3”x5”), medium (approx. 5”x8”), or large (approx. 9”x12” or larger))
  • Weight of the paper
  • Color/Design
  • Soft cover/Hard cover 
  • Recycled or Alternatively-made Paper 

To me, this is one of my favorite parts about keeping a sketchbook. Starting something new with a fresh start. Finding and experimenting on the different types of paper. Some artists are easy to please but there are others who are still looking for the one sketchbook for them. Some hands-on creatives even go as far as making their own sketchbooks. I wish I had the patience to do that but I find pre-made sketchbooks much more easier and fun to play around with. Maybe some day in the future I will book bind my own sketchbooks when I find paper I can't live without.

Technically you can use whatever you want, even a notebook if you don’t mind the lines. Personally I could do both but I like not having the lines on my artwork when I scan them in. It might be cheaper but I like the archival purposes of sketchbooks rather than cheap notebooks. I've also known and have done something where I just drew on loose leaf paper and put them in a binder but I prefer keeping a somewhat chronological order to my sketch progress now.

Once you decide on your sketchbook now is the real fun! An upcoming article will talk about how to keep a sketchbook.

Meanwhile, check out some of these great articles also about choosing a sketchbook if you're still on the fence. - Highly recommend reading this article

Google more about it if these don't cut it out for you. :D Have fun! As always, feel free to leave a comment or question!

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