How To Choose A Sketchbook – BEFORE YOU BUY

How To Choose A Sketchbook – BEFORE YOU BUY

Buying a sketchbook for yourself? Buying one for your children? Want to sketch? Want to paint? Not sure which one sketchbook to pick? You have come to the right place to help you understand the basics before you buy your next one.

If you’re a beginner, then you’re probably wondering what size sketchbook, what type of paper, how many pages, spiral or hardbound, what if I hate it after 3 sketches, why are these sketchbooks so freaking expensive and these are a tenth of the price? And so on and so on. Before you start assessing the physical characteristics of a sketchbook, it’s important to think through how you will use it. Of course, this might change once you begin the book, but it’s good to make your best guess as to how you think you will use it.

We are going to cover the following basics through the course of this article:

Size – Figuring out the right size for you!

Binding & Cover – Impact how and where you want to use your sketchbook

Orientation – Choose according to your style

Paper – This might be a little complex, but it’s really important

Check Out SOLO Mixed Media Sketchbooks, A4/A3, 50 Sheets, 140 GSM, Acid-Free, Natural Shade, Spiral-Bound, Ideal for Wet & Dry Media Like Art Marker, Watercolor, Acrylic, Pastel, Pencil, Charcoal

Let’s get into detail!

1) Size: The best starting point in deciding the right sketchbook for you is size. Sizes that are normally available in the market are A4 or A3 under the sketchbook umbrella.

Two main questions you need to answer to reach a decision are:

  1. Do you like to carry your sketchbook with you? If yes, A4 is for you
  2. Do you like to spread your sketch all over the page and fill in the worth? If yes, you should consider the A3 size.

A3 size does get a little bulky to carry around and doesn’t fit in most backpacks. 

2) Binding & Cover: This is an important thing to decide since it’s about figuring out your comfort. Normally you get two binding options in the market, spiral bound or hardbound

  1. Spiral Bound: Opens flat so you can easily sketch on either side of the pages and you can turn the book back so you don’t have to support both sides.
  2. Hardbound: These sketchbooks can accommodate large volumes of paper and can have either hard or soft covers. One major drawback of hardbound is that it doesn’t open flat. Taking out pages can be tough in these as well. Look out for whether there is perforation or not near the binding.

The covers of your sketchbook come into play when you factor in durability and function. Will you be using your sketchbook in your lap, and therefore need the covers of your sketchbook to function as a hard surface on which to work? Do you like to fold your sketchbook in two, cover to cover, and therefore prefer a spiral binding? Do you transport your sketchbook in a role, need it to fit in your back pocket, or otherwise need a more flexible cover? As a rule of thumb, we recommend going for one with one side hardcover to give support.

3) Orientation: Generally you find either portrait and landscape-oriented sketchbooks in the market and choosing between the two is hugely dependent on what you want to sketch and your style. If you are going for spiral binding, you could switch it as per your sketch but it requires a decision if you are opting for a hardbound.

  1. Landscape: Landscape (horizontal) sketchbooks are great for landscapes and wide panoramic scenes. However, you will find it difficult to sketch larger objects. One more thing to consider before opting for a sketchbook with a landscape orientation is thebinding, a hardbound landscape sketchbook will take up a lot of space.
  2. Portrait: These are more versatile if you are prepared to sketch across the fold. For obvious reasons, they are not as good when you are making a panoramic sketch.

4) Paper – Quite possibly the most important aspect if you are a professional artist, if not, we will give you general advice on what to look out for in the paper of the sketchbook options from which you are going to choose. The starting point is to decide what kind of medium you want to

use more often than not in your sketches e.g. watercolors, pencils, etc.

The most fundamental things are:

  1. Support For Mediums – If you know which medium you want to use, then look for a sketchbook that screams of that medium. If you are not sure or want to maintain flexibility, opt for a mixed media sketchbook
  2. Paper Weight – Most brands express the weight of the sheet in GSM (grams per square meter). It is the best indicator of quality for beginners. No two sketchbooks (by different brands) will ever feel the same even if they are of the same GSM. If you are looking for a sketchbook primarily for watercolors, get a sketchbook that has 200 GSM + paper. Higher the paperweight, the higher the costs of the sketchbook.
  3. Acid-Free/PH Neutral – Watch out for these properties on the cover of the sketchbook. Using an acid-free or ph-neutral paper ensures that there is no yellowness over a period of time
  4. Texture – Our general advice for beginners who don’t want to restrict themselves is to go for a medium grain paper. If you are looking for specific mediums, then opt for smooth or mildly textured options for pencils & pens and textured or rough paper for watercolors.
  5. Sheets vs Pages – SHEETS ARE NOT EQUAL TO PAGES. The general rule of thumb is the number of sheets divided by 2 is equal to the pages. Some brands promote the number of pages they have in their sketchbooks while some promote sheets. While comparing the costs remember to look out for this.
  6. Perforation – One last thing to look out for is whether the pages are perforated or not. You might want to detach your individual masterpieces and having perforated pages is a major help. Otherwise, you will have to spend a lot of time trying to get it out unscathed.

By now you should have a relatively good idea about what kind of sketchbook you should be buying. You can check out our Mix Media Sketchbook below that’s perfect for beginners and professionals alike.

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