UPDATED (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JUNE 25, 2020 8:54 PM)
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A good sketchbook will preserve your ideas, while a great one will do that and make you feel excited to fill it. Hardbound sketchbooks—filled with open, unlined pages—are lovely to have for how they look and feel, from their heavy covers to their binding. There’s a lot to consider when browsing the massive sea of such products, including paper quality, design, cover, and size. The one that works best for you may also depend on your preferred sketching medium. Whether yours is a place to illustrate observations, visualize concepts, or record memories, a quality hardbound sketchbook should keep your musings intact and ready for you to revisit years down the line.
1. Canson Artists Series Sketchbook
This understated, 108-page sketchbook is a sturdy option that easily lies flat when open. The 65-pound, French-made paper simply feels good to draw on; it has a fine texture and is thick enough to receive markers and even paint, from watercolors to acrylics, with little bleed-through. If you prefer to stick with pencil, the high-quality paper erasing a breeze and is able to withstand heavy rubbings.
2. Illo Hardcover Sketchbook, 8″ x 8″
Square sketchbooks are surprisingly hard to come by in hardback. This one, from Detroit-based Illo, is made with creamy, super-heavy paper that’s smooth and well-suited for pencils, markers, and ink. The polyurethane leather cover is rigid enough to use as a drawing surface on the go, and the book is designed to open flat without struggle. With this thickness of paper, you shouldn’t have problems with bleeding onto the next sheet. The only mark against the book is that the paper is not acid-free, which diminishes its longevity.
3. Pentalic Sketch Book, Hardbound, 8.5″ x 11″
Pentallic’s hardback sketchbook has thinner paper than some other multimedia books, but it holds up impressively to dry media. Ink doesn’t feather and there’s a nice amount of tooth for colored pencils. It can even take watercolor and gouache, though you may experience some bleeding. The paper itself is acid-free and, as a bonus, is sourced from certified sustainable forests.
4. Daler-Rowney Simply Sketchbooks, 8.5″ x 11″
This Daler-Rowney sketchbook features microperforations—a coveted and hard-to-find feature that allows you to remove pages without ruining the entire book. The paper itself is thin but perfect for sketching and has a light level of tooth that is good for many dry media. The paper is “extra white,” and it provides a bright, even surface for drawing bound in a hard, matte cloth cover.
5. Strathmore Mixed Media Hardbound Journal, 8.5″ x 11″
For archival-quality paper that can stand up to acrylics, oil paints, and even watercolors, Strathmore’s hardbound sketchbook is a surprisingly affordable option. The 500 series paper inside is a mixed media paper that is virtually tear-proof no matter what medium you choose. Its durability can be attributed in part to the fact that it is 100% cotton and acid-free, which also will help your work last for years without degradation.