Choosing Artists' Sketchbooks and Drawing Books

Recommended Sketchbooks, Art Books, and Journals

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

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 try the A4 - 8.5x11 inch for general use. These sketchbooks are hard wearing, workhorse sketchbooks that also look great and feel nice to use.

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 carbon 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.

If you like to tear the occasional page out to give to a friend (or file in the trash can!), then a wire bound book is a good choice. Some don't like the wire spirals against other books on the shelf or in the 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.

Hand Book 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. Try the landscape format, too.

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 the USA. Perforations allow for easy page removal.

This isn't strictly speaking a sketchbook, it's 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.