A sketchbook is the ultimate artist's companion. Like a close friend, you'll spend a lot of time with it and tell it your inner thoughts (through drawing, painting, and writing). Many artists will regularly fill their pads with a bevy of drawings. Some are so polished that their books feel like mobile art galleries. But, gorgeous spreads aren’t the point of keeping a sketchbook. These books are private places to record your doodles, ideations, and observations without the pressure of sharing them with the world. If you want to, that’s great—but first a foremost, a sketchbook should be a place just for you.
So, how do you go about picking the perfect sketchbook for you? Well, there are a few things you'll have to consider…
Selecting the right sketchbook is a personal choice.
There are a few big considerations you need to take when buying a sketch pad.
1. The size that you like to work in. If you draw a lot, you’ll notice that there’s a scale at which you naturally sketch. Maybe it’s smaller than a quarter or you prefer to take up the entire page. Or, perhaps it’s somewhere in the middle. Take stock of this when selecting a sketchbook. If you like to draw big, make sure you pick something that can handle large art. With miniature drawings, you can opt for something much smaller in size.
2. Where will you be using this sketchbook? Another aspect to determine is where you intend to draw. For sketching at home, the size won’t matter as much—your book doesn’t have to travel. But if you intend to draw on the road, it’d be wise to select a scale that will fit comfortably in a backpack.
3. What media will you use? It’s important to decide what media you’ll use in your sketchbook because it will determine the type of paper that can best handle your art. For pencil and colored pencil, your doodles will be fine on thin 20-pound paper. Tools like watercolor paint, gouache paint, or markers are best used on thicker paper that can handle a lot of media and heavy saturation of materials.
Check out our comprehensive guide for an overview of the types of paper used for art.
Our Picks for the Best Sketchbooks
There are a lot of sketchbooks on the market that come in a variety of bindings and covers. The popular spiral-bound books allow you to lay them completely flat as you draw. Another binding style is called perfect bound, which makes your sketchbook look like a conventional book you'd find on a library shelf. In terms of cover choices, you can opt for inexpensive soft-cover sketch pads or splurge on a hardcover book that offers more durability.
Before you start to doodle, check out our list for top sketchbooks, below.
Hahnemühle 12″ x 8 1/2″ Tan Sketchbook
The smooth, tan-toned paper of The Cappuccino Book by Hahnemühle provides an ideal surface for work with India ink, fountain pens, acrylic markers, and other water-based pens.
Alibabette Paris 8.25″ x 5.7″ Journal
Sometimes sketchbooks themselves are works of art. Alibabette Paris Journals feature colorful covers and 240 blank pages of high quality, 100 gsm ivory drawing paper. This exquisite Bodoni-style stitching allows the book to lie open completely flat as you draw, write, or collage.
Blackwing Palomino 8 1/2″ x 5″ Notebook
If you're a fan of the popular Blackwing Palomino pencils, then maybe it's time to complete the set with a matching journal! The Palomino Notebook is available with blank or lined pages and features a durable, water-resistant cover and dual-sewn binding that allows the book to lie flat.
Shizen Faux Leather 8″ x 6″ Journal
Take a break from the blank canvas with the inspiring colorful sketchbooks by Shizen Designs. These whimsical journals are bound in a soft faux leather cover and hold 180 pages of 80 gsm paper. Available colors include red, yellow, orange, black, and white.
Global Art 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ Hand Book Artist Journal
Global Art Hand Book Journals feature 128 heavyweight pages of 130 gsm and durable hardcovers wrapped in colorful book cloth. These hefty sketchbooks are available in a variety of sizes to suit your different creative projects.
Strathmore Series 400 9″ x 12″ Sketchbook
This is the quintessential sketchpad, if you like to draw with dry media. Spiral bound with a soft cover, the 60-pound sheets of paper are perforated to allow you to tear out and frame later. With 100 sheets of paper at a low cost, this is a great sketchbook for keeping in your studio and drawing on every day.
Moleskine 5″ x 8.25″ Hardcover Sketchbook
Moleskine is known for high-quality sketchbooks that artists love to use. This book features premium off-white paper that’s 111 lbs and suitable for all types of media. Additionally, Moleskine is great for traveling. It has interior pockets for loose papers and is secured with elastic closure band.
Leda 7″ x 10″ Softbound Sketchbook
Leda has created a premium art journal that boasts 160 cream-colored pages. The smooth, thick paper is meant to handle pens, pencils, pastels, and more. Like Moleskine, it comes with an accordion back pocket and an elastic band to keep the pages together. There is a caveat, however. You'll want to look elsewhere if you're considering painting. “Leda isn't meant for heavy wet media,” the company notes. “Some users experiment with a light watercolor wash.” If you do this, the pages might warp.
Holbein 14″ x 11″ Multimedia Sketchbook
Looking for your next go-to sketchbook for outdoor excursions? The Holbein Multimedia Book is ideal for working en plein air. Each book includes 28 sheets of durable paper that accepts watercolor, graphite, chalk, pencil, charcoal, or pastels.
Fabriano 8 1/4″ x 11 3/4″ Hardcover Black Sketchbook
The name Fabriano is synonymous with high-quality creative products. The Hardcover Black Sketchbook features 40 sheets of 190 gsm black paper which is ideal for work in pastel, colored pencil, acrylic paint, and collage.
Once you’ve filled up a sketchbook, don’t throw it away! Look at it later to inspire you in ways you didn’t expect.