If you’ve been working with mixed media or watercolours in an ordinary cartridge paper sketchbook, you’re probably finding that the papers are buckling with the water. Consider switching to a mixed media or watercolour sketchpad, which will prevent this from happening so much.
The weight of your paper
Generally, watercolour and mixed media papers are heavier than standard sketching paper and can take a lot more punishment. If you choose a watercolour sketchbook with a weight of 200gsm or more you should certainly get better results. The heavier the paper the less it will wrinkle up when you apply water or wet media.
The type of binding of your sketchbook
Along with the weight of your paper, think about the type of binding you would prefer. If you like to keep your sketches all together, then a good choice would be either a ringbound watercolour sketchbook or a hardback one. Ringbound sketchbooks mean that you also have the ability to tear a page out without ruining the rest of the book. They are also good for working outside, whereas a hardback one takes up twice the space when it’s open. However, with a hardback sketchbook, you can work across the spreads to create panoramic sketches.
If you like the ability to tear out your drawings after you’ve finished them, glued pads might be a good option for you.
Choosing a paper surface texture
What sort of surface texture do you prefer? You can choose from hot pressed which is smooth and good for detailed work. There’s cold pressed (also known as NOT) a medium texture paper. You can also get a rough texture paper, which might work well if you want to paint loose landscapes allowing the texture to show through.
Choosing the size of your watercolour/mixed media sketchbook
Where you are going to sketch will probably influence the size of your sketchbook. For example, on holiday recently, I took a small A6 sketchbook that fitted in my pocket for a chilly morning on the beach. Back at the holiday house, I worked in a larger A4 watercolour sketchbook as space was not an issue.
You don’t have to stick to white paper
You can also get tinted (pastel shades) watercolour paper and toned mixed media paper which I will talk more about later.
My favourite watercolour sketchbooks
My personal favourite hardback watercolour sketchbooks are made by Moleskine. They have a very slightly off-white paper with lovely round corners with 60 pages. The paper is 200gsm cold pressed/NOT (medium texture) surface. It has a bound cardboard cover which is black and shiny with a slight texture (a leather-like look). It has an elastic enclosure to hold the pages together so they don’t bend in transport. At the back, there is a pocket that you can store things in if you wish.
Also very similar –
60 pages, 200gsm, which is available in textures fine and rough. This sketchbook is similar to the Moleskine but has a bound cardboard cover covered with a black linen-like material. I’m not quite so keen on this cover as I prefer the ability to wipe the cover if I spill paint on it by mistake.
60 pages, 200gsm, NOT finish watercolour paper (slight texture). Another sketchbook that’s similar to the Moleskine, although I think the Moleskine cover appears slightly better in quality.
I also like the A4 watercolour Journal from Moz Art
Moz Art sells a really economical A4 watercolour pad. It has 50 Sheets (100 pages) of hot pressed (smooth) paper with a weight of 220gsm. It has a blue linen hardback cover with an elastic band to keep your work safe. What’s neat about this watercolour sketchbook is that it has a perforation near the spine, so you can easily tear a page out if you want.
White mixed media sketchbooks I suggest
This is a natural white, A4 mixed media pad including 50 sheets (100 pages) of paper. Glued on the short edge, it’s a smooth paper that’s very economical.
Also very similar –
40 Sheets (80 pages), 250gsm. Glued on the short edge, this is a smooth white paper that’s also fairly cheap to use.
Love these tinted watercolour pads
There is something lovely about using tinted/toned papers which really make your highlights ping.
Bockingford makes a sketchbook which contains tinted watercolour paper in mixed pastel shaded. Size 19x28cm 300 gsm cold pressed (medium texture) 10 sheets of paper.
Toned mixed media papers I use
Both Clairfontaine and Strathmore produce tan and grey toned mixed media papers that are really nice to use. They can stand a fair amount of water and have a nice smooth surface. Strathmore paper is slightly heavier, but seems a little harder to get hold of in the UK and is more expensive per sheet than Clairfontaine.
250 gsm, 30 Sheets – tan smooth paper.
300gsm, 15 sheets – grey or tan smooth paper.
Don’t buy sketchbooks that look so good you’re scared to use them
Sitting in my art drawer is a Khadi handmade watercolour sketchbook. It’s been sitting there for nearly a year now. When I bought it I had only recently started drawing by hand again and it felt too precious to use. Don’t make the same mistake that I did!
Which watercolour or mixed media sketchbook will you choose?
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