Skip to content
Choosing A Sketchbook

Choosing A Sketchbook

In this month's guide, we're going to talk about choosing sketchbooks! Sketchbooks are a great way to document your artworks and travels but getting one is easier said and done, of all the brands out there which one will best suit you? In this guide, we will cover three important factors to take into consideration: size, binding and type of paper.


Before buying a sketchbook, think about your habits, your lifestyle, the size of your bag instead of going for what you think you should be working with. The best sketchbook (like your camera) is the one that's always with you. If it's too bulky it may deter you from taking it out too often.



A5 size sketchbooks are generally a good size as you can open it to get a working area of an A4 size paper. It's also a size that is compact and can fit into most bags, 

If you choose a larger sketchbook, you will need more time and materials to complete it plus it can get heavy you're travelling on foot for long hours. Don't forget a larger bag too! However A4 sizes are more comfortable to use as you can prop them up on your lap or any hard surfaces when outdoors.

For those who want to go super compact, these palm sized sketchbooks by Kami Art & Design are slightly larger than your typical name card making them pocket sized and highly portable! They're great for painting little things or objects you find on the go or even mini panoramas when two pages are used together. On the downside, it may be too small for intricate drawings and can get challenging if you're used to drawing big. That being said, using different sized sketchbooks from time to time is will help you mix up your style and think outside the box and tackle drawings differently. It's like drawing with different media to try something different.


Papers aside, there are a few types of binding to consider - The wire-bound, hardback and also paper back. The benefit of wire-bound sketchbooks is that you can flip the pages to the back making it easier to hold the sketchbook in your hands especially in standing position. Unfortunately panoramic sketches would be troublesome as your artwork will be interrupted by the wire. It would also make scanning your artwork difficult as you won't be able to get a flat scan without removing the wires.


This is where perfect bound sketchbooks come in, go for the ones that can open flat otherwise you may get some curve.The other advantage of the wire-bound sketchbook is it's ability to open flat. Also if you're the sort to add other sorts of ephemera in your sketchbooks such as tickets, flyers, stickers, dried flowers and more, it will add bulk to your journal so wire-binding is an excellent option as the book will still remain flat when you close it.


The perfect bound or sewn bound sketchbooks are those that use stitching to hold the pages together. Several pieces of paper are grouped into a section, folded and stitched together at the fold. Several of those sections will combine to create a whole sketchbook.


Some perfect bound sketchbooks can open flat while some can't. It's best to get sketchbooks that can open flat. For those that can't open flat, it's more difficult to draw close to the gutter as the paper there curves in. For sketchbooks that can open flat, you can easily draw across the gutter.

There's a third kind of binding and it's the glue bind which are typically used for pads where you can tear off the sheets, because they have no binding, they aren't meant for long term storage as the pages will eventually start to detach if you flip through them often.

Paperback or hardcover

Hardback cover notebooks provide support when you're sketching and good for both indoor and outdoor use as you can stand and draw with a hardcover sketchbook easily compared to a paperback. When you're drawing or painting on a paperback, any pressure you apply whether from sketching or erasing may push the pages and it can get challenging to control your lines.


If weight is an issue, you may also opt for softcover bindings which will enable you to fold them back but the trade off will be getting less support especially when standing up. If an archival end product that will last the test of heavy wear tear is what you're looking for then you're better off using a hardcover.
Paper is also very important- are you using mainly color pencils or watercolor? Or perhaps you only ink your paintings? These factors will determine the best kind of paper to use, most sketchbooks are for mixed media, intended for dry media. For wet media such as gouache, ink and watercolor - best to go for watercolor sketchbooks where the paper used is usually thicker to prevent the paper from buckling too much.
Also try experimenting with unconventional papers such as Kraft Paper or Black Paper!
Every time I travel I ambitiously tell myself that this is it, this is THE trip that I will sketch and paint on the go and come home with a sketchbook full of memories and beautiful painting that I can be proud of. Well that's the lie I tell myself anyway. I tend to be a slow painter, I envy those who can sketch quickly and paint with such carelessness and ease. I'd trade my ability to sleep anytime and anywhere for it. These days I don't beat myself up if I choose to slowly slurp on noodles, walk an extra mile in the park or people watch over pulling out my pencil, if it's a sight that awes me, I take a photo and sketch it later when I get back to my hostel room.
Only bring tried and tested sketchbooks when going for a trip because it can get frustrating when if your new sketchbook does not accept watercolor or if the ink bleeds. Anything new from papers, paints, pens and inks should be tested multiple times before you leave home, get familiar with them and understand how they behave so that you can quickly sketch and paint while on the go because as Murphy's law dictates, whatever that can go wrong will go wrong. Unless you're in Japan and can quickly run into a nearby stationery store to pick up more supplies, something we've done before many many times, not complaining though.

Part of the fun of sketching is experimenting with the materials as you explore and practice. If one sketchbook or medium doesn't work for you, keep trying out new materials until you find one that works for you! 

Previous article Choosing a Planner
Next article Meet the Maker: Artsunami


Emma - November 1, 2020

I hope some of this gets restocked and available Again

Fazriani - September 23, 2020

Thanks for the tips ! As a beginner, I found it very useful and assisted me in making my choices when I’m buying. Keep on sharing ! It is very helpful to us, especially the beginner :)

Leave a comment

* Required fields