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Sketchbooks Part 2 - What Sketchbook should I buy?

Sketchbooks Part 2 - What Sketchbook should I buy?

"Sketchbooks" or "Sketch pads" whichever name you assign them, are one of the most important tools in an artist's tool kit! The journey of personal discovery and progress, that can be taken in a sketchbook, can take a lifetime for one artist, whilst another can fill a sketchbook in an hour! There are no definitive time lines with a sketchbook, you choose your time, place and pace...

Finding the right sketchbook for you is important so these creative adventures become personal and meaningful journeys. In the first blog we looked at 5 famous artists and their sketchbooks and what they were used for.

In this second blog we will help you choose the right one for your style, medium and purpose.

Many artists rely on their sketchbooks for capturing the many facets of their creative process and for developing their creativity.

What are Sketchbooks used for?

Artists use sketchbooks and sketch pads as an essential tool for monitoring their progress, pushing ideas forward, and developing themes. They are used for capturing thoughts and  testing out ideas, used to test and foster new narratives, and to push and develop designs.

They are used as visual diaries and for note taking, working through propositions, practising textures and details and colour palettes, and testing out new media or mixed media. Sketchbooks and sketch pads have always been part of the creative process and will always be kept by artists to chronologically record their timeline and to see how far they have travelled, stylistically, spiritually, skilfully, etc...

Part one looked at famous artist's sketchbooks; Leonardo da Vinci, George Robert Lewis, JWM Turner, Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh.

Historical sketchbooks have given us the privilege to look back at some of the very beginnings of the most iconic work the Art World has ever seen. But what do professional artists use and what does a beginners Sketchbook look like?

Below we have answered some of your questions in the hope that you can eliminate the sketchbooks that will not serve your purpose and help you to find the ones that will!

A list of things to consider before buying your sketchbooks

Our Sketchbooks Collection

  • What size do I need?
    We offer a range of sizes from A6 up to A1!

  • Do I want a portable sketchbook for outdoors or a sketchbook for my studio?
    We offer pocket portrait orientation for travel or larger sketchbooks and sketch pads for studio use.

  • What painting medium do I use i.e. Watercolour paints, Acrylic paint or Gouache paint?
    Water-based mediums would require sketchbook paper that is a thicker paper weight to accommodate the water and to prevent buckling of the paper. A gummed pad is recommended for the heavy use of water techniques or sketchbooks that are specifically designed with thick paper and thick pages.

  • What sketchbook do I buy for pen and ink? 
    Ideally a watercolour sketchbook with heavier weight paper and thick pages will work well.

  • What sketchbook do I buy for drawing with graphite or colored pencils? 
    Hot-pressed paper and toned paper work really well with graphite pencils and colored pencils especially if you wish to use solvents with them.

  • What sketchbook do I buy for dry media, wet media or mixed media?
    There are some great mixed media sketchbooks that will cater for a lot of different wet media and dry media techniques.

  • What shape do I want my sketchbook? Landscape, Portrait, Square?
    We offer lots of various sizes and scales.

  • Do I want toned paper or white paper?
    Toned paper is great for coloured pencils, pastels, graphic markers and for using with fine liners and white get pens.

  • Do I need a bleed proof marker paper pad so I can use my Copic markers?
    Yes bleed proof paper will allow heavy use of alcohol based markers and graphic pens for urban sketching.

  • Do I need a sketchbook with a smooth paper surface or one with a slight tooth?
    Smooth paper will allow you to add lots of details to your sketches whereas paper with a slight tooth is perfect for oil and chalk pastels, graphite and charcoal drawings.


Tips for working in a sketchbook

  • Allot a time where you can have a moment to yourself, morning, afternoon or evening, even if it is for only 15 minutes a day! You will benefit from the escape and you will get faster at sketching and more proficient.

  • Keep your sketchbook handy at all times, backpack or handbag size is great for using while you are out and about. Especially on gallery or museum visits where a camera can't be used. Aim to take with you a small pencil case, containing some art supplies, such as; colored pencils, pencils, biro, fine liners or gel pens. Dry media is easier to transport than wet media and great for fine details.

  • If the white of the paper scares you a little, create light washes with watercolour or ink on the page before you start, aim for a different transparent colour on each page or lightly sponge two colours to create a slight background texture. Alternatively you could work in a toned sketchbook with tan toned paper.

  • Have more than one sketchbook, try a few different sizes. Ideas can change and develop once they have been tested out on various sized papers and 0n various scales.

  • Don't be too precious about your outcomes; your sketchbook will not judge you and only your eyes will see your work. (unless you post it on social media that is) .

  • Sketch means sketch, not finished pieces. Be brave and try new mediums, singularly or together.

  • Stay loose and concentrate on the journey not the destination.

  • Enjoy the process of being lost in your sketchbook. Be an adventurer, explore uncharted territory.

What types of Sketchbooks and Sketch pads are available

Below we have compiled a list of the most common and best sketchbooks available with links direct to our website for further information.

Moleskine sketchbooks - are classed as high quality sketchbooks, great for writing, sketching, drawing, note taking. Great handy size for smaller bags.

Moleskine sketchbooks are very popular amongst the professional urban sketcher, watercolourist, illustrator and artist. Every Moleskine product is thread bound with a sewn binding and has a cardboard bound cover with rounded corners, acid free paper, a bookmark, an elastic closure and an expandable inner pocket that contains the Moleskine history. Moleskine sketchbooks are also very hard-wearing and durable.
  1. Moleskine Watercolour Album - The Moleskine Watercolour notebook is the portable atelier for painting and drawing with watercolours. A heavy weight 200-gram, cold-pressed watercolor paper is identical on both sides and was created especially for Moleskine. Every Moleskin is a thread-bound sketchbook.

  2. Moleskine Art Sketch Album -88 detachable pages, 120gsm/81lb acid-free paper. Stitched binding, and inner pocket. This sketchbook comes in 4 sizes, Pocket (14x9cm), Square (19x19cm), Large (21x13cm) and XXL (27.9x21.6cm). Not suitable for watercolour or very wet media.Every Moleskine is a thread-bound sketchbook. Paper quality is excellent for use with ballpoint pens.

  3. Moleskine Art Sketchbooks -The perfect portable canvas for drawing or sketching indoors or on the go. The Moleskine Sketchbook has premium sketch-grade paper that supports a selection of artistic media and stands up to eraser use. Ivory-colored, 165 g/m², paper weights.Comes in two sizes; A3 or 11x18cm (Medium Black)

  4. Moleskine Watercolour Notebook Large -The Art Large Watercolour Notebook is the ideal platform for producing art and putting your imagination to paper. The durable paper sheets are shielded by a black enclosure and iconic Moleskine rounded edges. Every Moleskin is a thread-bound sketchbook. 13 x 21 cm - 5 x 8 1/4" . Ivory-coloured, 200gsm, acid-free paper, Lies flat, opens at 180°. Expandable interior pockets in the back complete with elastic closure band. 

Spiral-Bound and Wire bound sketchbooks - are classed as versatile sketchbooks. They come in many sizes and are extremely economical.

A Spiral bound sketchbook is extremely versatile, they can be laid down completely flat so you can work on a double page spread, or if working on a single page, all the pages can be folded back. A spiral bound book is great for left handed artists who can change the orientation of the pages to suit their technique of working and to give them freedom of movement. We offer lots of sizes to suit every project.

Excellent for professional artists and beginners. Spiral bound sketchbooks are suitable for all kinds of drawing, sketching and for mixed media and watercolour painting. Any paper with a minimum weight of 200gsm is good for light watercolour techniques, Gouache and inks. For heavier wet on wet techniques use 300gsm which is more appropriate. For mixed media techniques use extra heavyweight paper, anything over 250gsm is good to use.

  1. Daler-Rowney Optima Mixed Media Spiral Pads
    Optima benefits from the expertise of Daler-Rowney to offer artists high quality paper designed for traditional art, mixed media, collage and visual journaling. Optima's textured surface is ideal for all drawing techniques such as pencil, inkpastel and charcoal, but also ideal for watercolour and acrylic
    Available in A4, A3 & A2 sizes. 250gsm, Spiral Bound, Pad with 30 Pages. Will Lay flat.

  2. Daler-Rowney Ebony Spiral Bound Landscape Sketchbook - A3 16.5 x 11.7"
    A spiral bound pad containing 50 sheets of acid free paper 109lb/160gsm weight. Size: A3 16.5 x 11.7" (420 x 297mm). Will Lay flat.

  3. Canson XL Recycled Drawing Pads
    Canson XL Recycled Drawing Pads Spiral bound on the short side. Manufactured using 100% recycled paper, non fluffy, resistant to scraping and erasing.

    Spiral bound on the short side. Manufactured using 100% recycled paper, non fluffy, resistant to scraping and erasing. Recommended for work with graphite pencil, charcoal, pastels, pen and gouache. Contains 50 sheets of 160gsm paper and each sheet is perforated pages for easy removal. 

Hardback Sketchbooks - are an excellent sketchbook, self supporting and come in many shapes and sizes.

  1. Hahnemühle Hardback Sketchbooks
    This hardback sketchbook is ideal for drawing with pencil, charcoal or red ochre. The natural white colour allows good contrast and colour vibrancy of the sketches. Acid free and age resistant. Features: 120gsm, Acid Free, Natural White Paper, 64 Sheets.

  2. ARTdiscount Case-Bound Hardback Sketchbook - 140gsm
    Unlike cheaper inferior imports these quality ARTdiscount Case-Bound Hardback Sketchbooks are 100% British made, from the paper and board to the finishing . Each book contains 92 pages of 140gms, acid free, all-media cartridge paper, sized for extra wet strength. The pages are sewn and superbly bound with classic black-cloth covers.

  3. Hahnemühle 'Nostalgie' Sketchbooks
    Natural white sketch paper with fine grain for defined pen control and delicate hatchings. 

    Thread stitching makes for a solid binding and good flatness of the sheets. This also makes sure that double sided sketches and drawings across the fold too can be created without any problems. With an anthracite-coloured cover featuring a linen structure, the book is hard-wearing and nice to the touch.

    Every book features 40 sheets / 80 pages. The heavy, natural white paper feels both solid and flexible. The fine grain of the paper makes the pen slide over the surface virtually on its own. Clearly defined pen control and delicate hatchings allow for every kind of work – from the architectural sketch to the fast, vividly coloured draw.

    Suitable for use with all dry-painting techniques in addition to wet colours, the paper brings a great sense of versatility and precision to the artistic process. Acid free, high longevity.

  4. Seawhite Landscape Plein Air Watercolour Sketchbook 350gsm 20 Sheets
    Seawhite Plein Air Watercolour sketchbooks are great for urban and field sketching. 20 sheets- 350gsm watercolour paper, NOT finish. Acid- Free paper. Wire-o bound with rounded corners. Black, hard backed poplin cover, perfect for sketching on the go. A4 and A5 sizes, great for popping your tote bag.

Toned Sketchbooks - Toned paper in a sketchbook or sketch pad gives you a great starting point for your studies. A mid-coloured ground makes it much easier to start a sketch or drawing. Just work in your darker tones and highlights.

  1. Hahnemühle 'Toned' Watercolour Books - Beige 200gsm (95lb) 
    Inspired by Urban Sketchers.
    The gently toned watercolour paper has an even, fine-grained surface structure on both sides providing a natural background for your artwork.

    The Toned Watercolour Book is ideal for all levels of artists, students and hobbyists. Great for taking out and drawing en plein air.  Suitable for all wet and dry techniques, india ink , ballpoint pen, watercolours, use with masking fluid, adhesive tapes and erasers. Solid linen cover protects the contents from moisture and dirt, the colour-coordinated rubber band keeps everything well secured.

  2. Hahnemühle 'Toned' Watercolour Books - Grey 200gsm (95lb)
    The gently toned watercolour paper has an even, fine-grained surface structure on both sides providing a natural background for your artwork. Suitable for watercolours, india ink, Gouache, fine liner pens and gel pens. The Toned Watercolour Book is available in either grey or beige watercolour paper. Comes in 3 sizes, A6, A5 and 14cm x 14cms.

  3. Canson Mi-Teintes Pad - (32cm x 41cm) - 20 Sheets 160gsm - GREY TONES
    Mi-Teintes Pastel Paper is made with a high cotton rag content and is both acid free and lightfast to ensure your artwork stands the test of time. The paper is pulp-dyed and is known worldwide for its quality.

    Gummed pads are glued along one short side. The toned paper pads each contain 4 colours, with 5 sheets of each colour. Both the Black and White pads contain 20 sheets of either black or white pastel paper. Excellent for pastel, charcoal, sanguine, pencil, watercolours and gouache paint.

  4. The Cappuccino Pad 14cm x 14cm 
    The cappuccino-coloured paper
    is the best toned sketchbook and is reminiscent of freshly frothed milky coffee and offers a warm-toned painting base.

    Soft tones stand out on the smooth paper surface and can bring to life the unique luminosity of coloured pencils on the 120gsm heavy paper. These are perfectly suited for ink pens, fountain pens, coloured pencils and acrylic markers as well as all other water-based pens with little abrasion. Pads are glued to the top and contain 30 sheets of 120gsm paper. When framed, these artworks will also form a nice eye-catching statement on the wall.

Bleedproof pads for Copic markers and graphic pens

  1. Seawhite Marker Pad A2 70gsm 50 Sheets
    A2 (420 x 594mm) The marker pads are bleed-proof with a stiff 2mm board backing. Pad contains 50 sheets of bleed-proof 70gsm marker paper, glued and taped on the short edge. Suitable for pen and ink. Made in the UK.

  2. Winsor & Newton Bleedproof Marker Pads 
    -A superior, bleedproof, smooth paper, providing optimal performance for alcohol-based markers.
    Available in A4 and A3 sizes.
    Bespoke paper for your graphic marker choice, blend-friendly, ensuring the most impactful graduations of colour. Ink bleed is prevented to ensure clean lines and maximum precision.

    -Vibrant and flat coloursSuperior performance paper to ensure rich, vibrant colours and clean, precise lines without streaking.

    -Bleedproof paper
    A coated smooth, matt, archival paper designed for optimal marker performance, without soaking through.

  3. Frisk Marker Paper Pad 70gsm 50 Sheets
    An exceptionally high white bleedproof 70gsm paper pad for use with all spirit based markers and felt tip pens. Available in three different sizes, A3, A4 and A5 - these pads all have 50 leaves.

  4. Frisk Essentials Marker Pad 70gsm 30sheets
    Ideal for beginners & hobbyists, great for use with all markers, technical pens and pencils. Smooth, bleedproof marker paper pad.


Concertina Sketchbooks - these books are great for working on a very long theme or urban sketching. Great for quick rapid mark making activities or for abstract image, shape and pattern making.

Let your imagination run wild, linking pages with colours, and line. Excellent if you require one long landscape orientation!

  1. Seawhite A5 Concertina Sketchbooks
    Seawhite A5 Concertina Sketchbook, Fantastic for display. Features:70 possible working surfaces. Each 140gsm page is 2 sheets joined for stability, Hard carrying case, Fantastic for display.

  2. Hahnemühle ZigZag Book - 300gsm - 14 x 14cm - 18pgs
    18 pages of the finest watercolour paper folded in accordion style provide unlimited possibilities. No matter if it is the giraffe with the longest neck, the widest panorama or an Instagram-style pictorial, the ZigZag book you can do it all. Ideal for urban sketchers and all those that love to paint and draw while being on the road: the ZigZag book is available in a square (14 x 14 cm) or portrait formats A5 and A6.

    The watercolour paper features a fine-grain surface on both sides and is perfectly suited for all wet painting techniques with brush or pen. The 300gsm weight ensures stability and thanks to the surface sizing, colours flow with ease and can be lifted without any problems. The paper is eraser-resistant and masking fluid and tapes are removed residue-free.

    Rugged oversized book covers help to protect the content. Due to its durable cover, the ZigZag book is inured to outside influences. An eye catching red band in the upper right corner can be used to close the book securely. The rooster on the backside underlines the exclusivity of the Hahnemühle creative prowess. 

Pocket size travel journals can come in a hard back or have a soft cover.

  1. Seawhite Classic Artists Travel Journal 
    Record ideas and thoughts on the move with these beautifully bound journals. Features:128 pages of 130gsm paper weight, all media cartridge paper Acid free, Elastic retaining band, Inner pocket. The best pocket sketchbook to have whilst travelling. Comes in A4, A5 and A6 sizes.

  2. Rhodiarama Blank Pocket Journal 9cm x 14cm
    These books have a hard-backed leatherette cover with a colourful removable paper banding and printed full colour flyleaves. The paper is a luxury ivory 90gsm vellum paper. The books also have an orange elastic closure strap and hidden inside pocket. Colour.  Cerise Pink, These books have 96 sheets / 192 blank pages.

  3. Daler-Rowney Simply Pocket Sketchbook (Soft Cover)
    A little pocket-sized sketch pad for travel, measuring 3.5 x 5.5 inches / 8.9 x 14 cm. 48 pages (24 sheets). Acid free off-white cartridge paper. Great to use with graphite, biro or fine line pens.

  4. Rhodiarama Lined Pocket Journal 9cm x 14cm - 'Poppy' Colour
    These books have a hard-backed leatherette cover with a colourful removable paper banding and printed full colour flyleaves. The paper is a luxury ivory 90gsm vellum paper. The books also have an orange elastic retaining closure strap and hidden inside pocket. Colour  Poppy Red, These books have 96 sheets / 192 pages with lined/ ruled pages.

    We hope you can find your best sketchbook after reading this blog. We have many more best sketchbooks listed on our site but if you can't find anything listed above, or if in doubt please call our excellent customer service team for more advice and support.

Ellie Jakeman
Ellie Jakeman

I have had a strong interest in the visual and creative arts since a very early age. After completing an Art and Design Degree and Post graduate studies I have taught Art and Design, Fashion and Textiles, Textile design , Fine Art print and Illustration for over 20 years. Before teaching I was a freelance artist and illustrator and decided 4 years ago I would return to freelance and commissioned work. I have created many domestic and commercial murals for hospitals and hospices. I work part time for ARTdiscount as a content creator and product tester.

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