Sketchbook feast 😛😆

I took out my sketchbooks, a few days ago, to prepare an exhibition ☺️ (I will definitely talk  to you about this very special exhibition soon!! 😉).

Finally, I thought this vision was such a feast for the eyes that I should share it with you!!! 😀😍 

Feel free to click on the pic to see it at a bigger size! 😉

These are some sketchbooks I worked on during the past two and a half years. 

My favorite technique is watercolor only but you can see some ink and wash sketches too, a few done with pencils… That’s sometimes good to change and some subjects are not easy to handle straight with the brush. ☺️ 

Some sketchbooks are at a A5 format, but the more recent ones are at a A4 format. Some are handbound with Arches cold press watercolor paper and others, again the latests, are cheap Daler Rowney sketchbooks I bought.

For the handbound sketchbooks, I work on separate “signatures” (just a few pages sewn together) not to have to carry and to hold a too heavy sketchbook. I put the whole thing together later, when the pages are full of sketches. 😙 I admit, though, that I have a lot of signatures left alone I didn’t make the book with yet… 😳 I definitely have to do it!! ☺️


For these books, I create a cover with strong cardboard and hard store masking tape, and then I decorate it with Nepalese paper and lovely washi tape (there is also Vietnamese and Japanese papers offered by my sister used, here). I add ribbon because it’s fun and nice and it helps to keep the sketchbooks closed. 😊

Recently, I have been working more in Daler Downey 160 gsm Graduate sketchbooks, first to do more casual ink sketches and then because I was feeling that Arches paper was, sometimes, absorbing the colors of the watercolor paint too much…

I buy the ones which are thin and light. I began, a few months ago, to use the A4 ones (even if I always keep a smaller one in my bag) and I love the bigger size too!! ☺️ The paper buckles a bit but it holds the water really well and I like how the colors look clean and vibrant on it.

I embellish the covers with Nepalese paper and washi tape too, and sometimes other things. The one on the top, for December, below, has some wrapping paper on it. 😉 And, in the other photo, you can spot my travel journals from Portugal thanks to the pieces of map. 😙

However, I have now a problem with these sketchbooks because I just figured out that Daler Royney has changed their paper… It’s not 160 gsm anymore but, now, 140 gsm… ☹️ What a shame to lower the quality like that!! I am pissed off and disappointed because I fear the paper will buckle more / too much. 

So, I am not sure which sketchbooks I will use for the next months… I envision to try again the hot press Arches paper, and the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks I didn’t like previously, as I like, now paper who allow water to float on it. 😏 I have some Fabriano too. And I am going to try the 140 gsm version of the Daler Royney sketchbooks…

Which sketchbook(s) do you like to sketch in? 😊 Do you sometimes paint on paper that is not watercolor paper?! ☺️

16 thoughts on “Sketchbook feast 😛😆

  1. I purchase Canson Montval 140 lb cold press wc paper in a 10×15″ pad, fold the pages in half (7.5×10 portrait or cut 5x 15 and fold to 7.5″ landscape) to make signatures and make my own journals. The paper isn’t too rough, accepts watercolor, watercolor pencils or color pencil easily. The first and last signatures are heavy drawing paper in case I want to write notes or adhere ephemera within the book. The outside hard cover is where I use beautiful ‘found’ or hand made paper and decorate to my heart’s desire. A coat or two of mat medium will protect these exterior decorative papers.

  2. Hi Anne-Laure. Why do they always have to change things! I’m with you on that. I’ve been using Stillman and Birn Alpha landscape. The paper does buckle a lot. The one I’m using now is almost full so I plan to use a Moleskine watercolor next. I’ve used them in the past but they’ve changed their paper, too. I don’t think we can get the Daler Rowney Graduate sketchbooks here in America. I may be wrong about that, but I’ve never seen them. I love your handmade sketchbooks. I never thought to make signatures, paint in them and THEN assemble the book. Great idea. But if I did that I’d probably never make the book because I do procrastinate.

  3. Hi Anne-Laure again. How do you attach the signatures in the homemade books? Thank you!

  4. I’ve been using the Pentalic Aqua Watercolor Journal. The paper is 140 pound cold press…very nice to work on. I use the 6 x 8- and the 3 x 5 landscape format journals. I wish they would make a portrait format, but that seems to be very rare in watercolor sketchbooks.
    I use a couple of heavy rubber bands to close my cheaper sketchbooks, like Canson, and that seems to flatten out the paper. There is no problem with buckling in the Pentalic Watercolor Journal.

  5. Hi Anne-Laure, I jump around a lot with sketchbooks. I use Stiillman&Birn Alpha sketchbooks. There are lots of pages which helps with my daily sketching. I have started to sketch more with watercolor and had the local printing store spiral bind some books for me using Arches, Fluid and Fabriano watercolor paper. They are great. Now I have purchased a second hand binding machine for $20 and will try binding my own. I would love to make my sketchbooks with signatures. However I worry I would feel they would be too precious to sketch in

  6. Hi Anne-Laure. I really enjoyed seeing all of your sketchbooks and how you made the covers, etc. I always use cold press 140# to 300#
    paper, but buy it large and tear it down to the size I want. Recently, I’ve been using the Fluid watercolor paper, cold press finish, 140# blocks. Sherri Blaukopf (urban sketcher/teacher) recommended those in a craftsy class, so I purchased 5 in various sizes. They take watercolor well, don’t buckle, mistakes can be wiped off immediately without leaving too much color, and they come in various sizes – easy to handle.

    Thanks for sharing your art with others. Seeing all of your gorgeous work inspires my creativity!

  7. Oh les belles couvertures! Je detruis mes couv’ moi, il faudrait que j’ai le courage de faire de jolis livres comme toi, par respect. J’ai, par contre, pour mon Fabriano préféré, fait une couverture en patchwork de tissus japonais que je passe d’un carnet à l’autre. Je ne dessine pas souvent dedans, il m’intimide, il va falloir que j’attaque…

  8. Hello Anne-Laure, what beautiful sketchbooks, inside and out! 😀 I didn’t know sketchbooks existed! ^^ I love the idea of making your own, as I’m not good enough or confident enough to paint directly into a book, maybe some day! So I don’t have any sketchbook suggestions, but I do keep all sorts of pieces of painting, experiments etc. glued into black spirals where I write my notes, and if I am just making notes to myself I may paint directly onto what is probably papier à dessin. About paper though, as you mentioned somewhere (in another article?) you like the water to stay on the surrface and you like grainy effects, hot pressed Arches, grain satiné, is divine. Very smooth, brighter than the cold-pressed, and not what most people choose for watercolor painting…

  9. Whooo, thank you so much for all these enthralling comments about the sketchbooks you use and love!
    I already read it very carefully, of course, but I will have to read it again, and to search for informations about the sketchbooks you are talking about to really get the benefit of it.

    Maybe, the problem, for me, by now, is that I am not sure which kind of paper I want to sketch and paint on…

    Or maybe, I feel that I am now able to sketch on all kind of various papers and I don’t know which is my favorite. ☺️

  10. Hey, I saw your video on youtube and just made an order for the Daler Royney skecthbook on amazon UK. It’s still 160 gsm based on the description so if possible you might get and store some of this?

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  13. Beatiful! Seus trabalhos são lindos! Ainda não sei pintar bem com watercolor mas gosto muito. Espero que tenhas encontrado o papel certo. Congratulations and sorry for writing in portuguese.

  14. Hello Anne-Laure, I love your sketchbooks! Thanks so much for sharing your books as well as your sketches. I love the brilliant colors you use. I also make my own sketchbooks. After working on Arches 140lb paper for large watercolors for years I knew that even the cold press paper was too rough for me to do lettering on with ease in a journal. I tried Fabriano 140lb soft press paper, which has a surface somewhere between Arches cold press and hot press. I seem to do pretty well with the hand lettering on it and the surface is strong enough to allow for some drawing and working. The thing that has hindered me from actually getting out and using these journals is their bulk – because of the multiple signatures. So I love your idea of making separate signatures for doing the sketching then binding them together. I am going to try that! My interest has also switched from doing “paintings” to making journals of things I want to remember about my life. I appreciate your inspiration and beautiful work. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Hi Fay!

      Thank you very much for your comments! Your compliments made me really happy!!
      I hope this trick about sewing separate signatures will be great for you too! The only problem is that you can end up with a lot of pieces of sketchbook and it’s a bit of a mess!!!!

      Thanks, too, for the information about the paper.
      I tried a Fabriano Cold Press but I am sure it’s the same paper you use. It’s maybe a bit less rough than the Arches cold press but rather absorbant, nevertheless.
      I keep experimenting and trying several paper for now. 😉

      Working in these sketchbooks is such a pleasure! Happy sketching to you!

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