Sketchbooks for Artists
Sketching with pencils, pens, or watercolors is fun. What should you look for in a sketchbook?
The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.
10 Best Qualities of Sketchbooks
Ideas, observations, and inspirations come to you anywhere, at any time, not just in your artist’s studio. Keeping a sketchbook with you at all times lets you record your ideas and keeps you practicing your drawing techniques. You can easily see the variety and purchase sketchbooks online. Here are the best qualities to look for when choosing a sketchbook.
10. Size of Book
Any time I find myself with a few free moments, I feel that’s a good time to sketch. In order to take advantage of it, my sketchbook has to be ready and waiting. I have many different sketchbooks going at any one time. A small one, about 4” x 6” is probably the most handy. I carry it with me wherever I go, in my bag, or even in a large coat pocket. A larger one 9” x 12” is good for at home or in the studio. I even have a tiny 2.5” x 2.5” that can fit in any pocket. The most important quality of a sketchbook, one that will keep you practicing, is that it must be convenient. Look for sizes that will fit in a backpack or bag. Your sketchbook will become a welcome travel companion.
9. Layout Structure
My sketchbook reflects how I see the world. But how I put it down on paper mostly reflects my choices in composition. Sketchbooks come in different layout structures, or shapes. You may want to try out “portrait” format (vertical compositions) vs. “landscape” format (horizontal compositions). My preference usually runs to the portrait format and the challenge of placing a landscape or urban scene in vertical view. But sometimes I open the sketchbook flat and draw right across the binding seam. That’s great for panoramic landscapes. If you tend to prefer long vs. tall then the landscape format may feel most comfortable for you.
8. Paper Surface
Sketchbooks are available in many different kinds of paper. It’s usually a good idea to get books made out of high quality, archival paper. It’s just plain fun to look at your sketchbooks from 10-15-25 years ago! Initially, your choice of paper has to do with the sketching medium that you use. It breaks down to:
7. Number of Pages
While not a major consideration, the page count of sketchbooks can make a difference. Fewer pages are lighter in weight and take up less space. That can matter if you are traveling and trying to cut down on weight or space. Sometimes I go for a nice thick journal that will last me for years. Other times, especially for specific trips or locations, I like a shorter sketchbook that I can fill in a limited amount of time—one sketchbook, one topic.
6. Cover Material and Binding
A Sketchbook with a luscious cover can be inspiring! It may be worth it to you to choose a fine leather-bound or creatively decorated book. On the other hand, an expensive bound journal can be intimidating to start. There are many choices of covers in commercial books, and many artists choose to make there own sketchbooks with lovely hand-made paper covers.
Sketchbooks are bound with either spirals or as stitched books. Think about if you would prefer to work with the book flat, or holding the cover open, or by flipping the cover backwards. Also, the type of binding may affect how easily you can scan or photocopy the open pages.
5. Labeling and Dating
The more you practice sketching, the more sketchbooks you will begin to acquire. It can be a good idea to label your sketchbooks, either by topic or by dates. You may also want to date each page to keep a record of your progress, but also because it’s fun to look back at your books after many years. You can’t always rely on memory to know where or when you made a particular drawing.
Almost always, I want my sketchbooks to last a long time. The book must be sturdy enough to survive being handled and dropped, repeated open and shuts, and banging around in my carry sacks. I also consider the quality of the paper in terms of permanence. I want archival paper, meaning it won’t yellow or change the colors, or fade easily. Artists’ works, including sketchbooks, last much longer than their own lifetimes. Remember there are sketchbook pages, very valuable, that are still in existence from the time of the Renaissance!
Consider These Things
3. Sketching Tools or Media
The choice of sketchbook may ultimately rest on what your media of choice is. Pens vs. Pencils Pencils are suitable for just about any paper. Pens do better on paper that will not bleed through—either thicker paper or a thin but coated paper.
2. Purpose and Audience
Sketchbooks are used by almost all artists as a part of their creative process. Some artists sketch for observation or to record the world around them. Other times artists sketch to develop their ideas for future work. Consider what your artistic aims are as you choose your sketchbooks. Most artists enjoy showing their sketchbooks to others. Who will look at your sketches? An attractive or creative book adds to the appeal.
1. Appeal to Aesthetics
The most common sketchbooks are simply covered in black paper. For me, these are my “working” sketchbooks—for ideas or plans or unimportant visuals. I have shelves full of these books. The sketchbooks I value the most are aesthetically appealing—they are beautiful to me and I enjoy filling them with my artwork. I like to buy sketchbooks or blank books when I travel, and then fill them with sketches on the next trip out to a different region. For instance, a lovely cloth bound sketchbook that I bought in India made a beautifully compelling book for my travels in Southeast Asia. Never underestimate how much a sense of beauty attends your enjoyment of art.
Sketchbooks come in many different styles. You can easily see the variety and purchase sketchbooks online. It can be hard to choose which sketchbook to use. Luckily the answer is: Sketch often, sketch freely, and try out many different books and materials. Keep trying until you find the exact sketchbook for you and your style. And then try some others. You may find your drawing skills rapidly improve. Regardless, it’s all about fun!
Did you enjoy this Simple10s article about Sketchbooks for Artists? You might also like this article about the Quotes of Vincent Van Gogh.