Journals are more than a place to keep random musings. They can be keepers of memories, conversations with oneself, and snippets of inspiration. In other words, these are highly personal objects. The best softcover journals are built to last and are suitable for both jotting notes and sketching ideas. While they can be less sturdy than their hardcover companions, they tend to be more lightweight and are easy to slip it into a small space. When choosing your book, it’s important to think about the binding quality, durability, weight of paper, and compatibility with your medium, in addition to general factors like size and appearance. Below, find the right softbound journal for your inspired visions.
Rhodia Top Stapled Blank Notepad
If you know your notebooks, you know that legacy brand Rhodia’s notebooks have a cult following—and for good reason. They are bound with high-quality, smooth European paper that is ideal for taking fountain pen ink. We’ve long been fans of the hardcover Rhodia Webnotebooks, but the company offers a plenty of other options, including this notepad, which is filled with the same French-milled, ivory-colored paper as the Webnotebook. The luxurious 90gsm sheets are perforated for easy removal, the scored cover is easy to fold back, and the rigid back cover offers solid support.
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Field Notes Dot Graph Notebook
If you tend to take your sketches and scale them up to sizable final artworks, consider getting a notebook with a dotted grid. These can help you figure out composition and sizing before you execute your masterpiece. Field Notes’ notebooks are slim options, with just 48 pages each, and perfectly sized to slip into your pocket at 3.5 by 5.5 inches. These 70-pound (105 gsm) sheets are super smooth and can tolerate wet media with minimal warping, ghosting, and bleed-through. The covers are flexible yet durable and feature a sophisticated design. Bound with a saddle stitch and staples, this sketchbook lays flat so you can maintain a firm grip on pages maintaining a firm grip on pages.
Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Premium Sketchbook
If you need a notebook that provides extra heavyweight paper for sketching, look no further than this beautiful option, which is designed for mixed media. The 180-pound (270 gsm) paper is surface and internally sized to maintain well-balanced and even absorption while allowing the brilliance of pigments to shine. Whether you use inks, pastels, or watercolors (with wet-in-wet techniques!), you can be sure that this archival product will resist pilling, tearing, or buckling. Available in six sizes, each holding 26 sheets, this is truly a sketchbook that feels luxurious to engage with.
Moleskine Classic Notebook
Moleskine’s notebooks always make our lists for their design as well as the variety of options in terms of size, color, and paper style. Yes, they are expensive, but using them is such a pleasure. The Italian brand protects its notebooks in a buttery-soft faux-leather cover with a subtle pebbled finish that is luxurious to the touch; inside, the ivory pages are super smooth and crisp. At just 47 pounds (70 gsm), these sheets are the lightest on our list and can really be used with dry media only; you’ll notice bleeding with inks. We do appreciate how slim and tightly bound they are, and we love the additional features like a ribbon bookmark, inner pockets, and an elastic band to keep pages together when not in use. Choose from notebooks with plain, ruled, gridded, or dotted pages and shades from earth brown to hydrangea blue.
ANOTHER GREAT OPTION
Muji Recycled Paper Bind Plain Pocket Notebook
Popular with architects, artists, and designers and another ARTnews favorite, Muji’s super-affordable blank notebook is bound with high-quality recycled paper and even comes with a bookmark. Especially friendly to drawing and writing in pen, it comes in two sizes: 5.8 x 4.1 inches (with either 50 or 144 sheets) and 7.7 x 5.4 inches. Made in Japan.