Choosing the perfect sketchbook can be a daunting, emotional task. If you’re a beginner, you’re probably wondering what size sketchbook, what type of paper, how many pages, spiral or hardbound, what if I hate it after 3 pages, why are these sketchbooks so freaking expensive and these are a tenth of the price? And so on and so on.
Even if you’re not a beginner artist, you may fall prey to sketchbook analysis paralysis sometimes. You may have your go-to sketchbook that you order 5 of at a time, and then one day you see someone’s Instagram sketchbook pic, and everything you thought you knew and loved about your favorite sketchbook is suddenly thrown into question.
This can be fun, though. At least for us art supply-obsessed. The thrill of cracking open a brand new sketchbook, feeling the paper, flipping the pages, and making your first mark on an unfamiliar surface can give you a little art thrill.
Digression: Typing that sentence made me stop everything and go make these t-shirts and mugs.
So what is the best way to choose a sketchbook? Here are some things to keep in mind when sketchbook shopping.
Think about whether you’ll be using this sketchbook in one place or if you want to carry it around with you. You probably don’t want an 8.5 x 11″ hardbound sketchbook if you just carry a purse or no bag. Go as small as you can without making the book too small to happily work in.
I feel better working in larger sketchbooks at home because I can spread my work out all over the page. I can draw little bits of ideas here and there, or if I want to work out an idea over a whole page or spread, there is plenty of room to really see it.
I only use smaller sketchbooks to tote around in my purse, and then they tend to turn into a combination of sketches and notes. Speaking of sketching and noting, I have a line of Sketchwhack notebooks I’m VERY excited about for people who like to doodle or draw while they take notes.
Sketchbook Paper Style
What supplies do you use the most in your sketchbooks? Do you carry around a travel watercolor kit? Or maybe you stick to the lightest H pencil in all the land and you only like to draw on lightweight, smooth paper.
Think about if you really need your sketchbook to be the most amazing quality paper because you absolutely need to see how your art supplies will work on it, or if it’s used mostly for ideas on the fly, to quickly sketch out.
After determining the paper weight and type you need, you’ll want to figure out if you prefer a hardcover sketchbook, soft cover, spiral, sewn, or glue-bound.
Some sketchbooks have perforated pages so you can easily tear them out, including many spiral-bound sketchbooks. Some sketchbooks are sewn together so well you need to cut the pages out with a craft knife if you want to liberate them from the book.
Sometimes super-cheap sketchbooks will start to fall apart quickly because they are cheaply glued together, so think about that when price-comparing.
When I was in high school, I used mostly spiral-bound, medium quality drawing sketchbooks. It’s probably a safe bet to use one of these if you’re in high school and trying out different mediums, or sticking mostly with pencil.
Related: 100 cool drawing ideas for kids will help fill up a sketchbook.
In college, I always bought black, hardcover sketchbooks in 11×14″ and fancied up the covers and used all sorts of art supplies inside: charcoal, pencil, pen, watercolor, gouache, clay, oil pastel, beer.
What sketchbooks do I choose now? It varies like crazy. Usually I go with a mid-price, mid-weight, mid-size sketchbook, just to keep things very average and boring.
Actually, I still love to use larger sketchbooks at home, so I can play around all over the page. I need to be able to keep it open and flat, and I vary my art supplies between ink and paint, so I need a paper that will hold up to those supplies, but I don’t love using watercolor paper sketchbooks.
I also must ALWAYS have a sketchbook in my purse.
I also just cannot buy fancy sketchbooks, because holy crap do I freeze up and feel like nothing I could put in the sketchbook would ever do it justice. I can covet them, though, for their incredible design and art perfection. And I can give them as gifts, so other people can freeze up. 🙂
You’ll undoubtedly need a list of sketchbook ideas now that you’ve ordered 6 new sketchbooks, so find your inspiration over here.