The 5 Best Sketchbooks for Artists in 2022

The Best Sketchbooks for Artists 

The right sketchbook can capture a quick sketch or beautiful watercolor landscape, depending on the paper quality and sketchbook type. The best sketchbook has the right GSM for your project, doesn’t bleed through, has the right color paper, is acid-free, and is the perfect size for your use.

Fun fact: Some of the most famous artists in the world such as Da Vinci and Rembrandt produced numerous sketches to capture their surroundings and inspiration.

The best sketchbook has all the right features for your needs, from an elastic band, small portable size, to interior pockets for larger sketches, or landscape orientation to create a quick pocket landscape.

Some books are spiral bound with the option to lie flat for left-handed artists. Buying spiral-bound or thread-bound sketchbooks is largely a personal preference. Sketchbooks are available specifically for wet, dry, or mixed media, depending on the artist’s primary use.

Types of Binding

The more expensive sketchbooks have a leather cover that some artists love for their elegance and durability. Read on below to learn more about the types of binding as well as the different papers, these include GSM to acid-free paper.

Spiral Binding

A spiral-bound sketchbook has a spiral binding that allows artists to expose only the page being painted on. It can also lay flat.

This type of sketchbook is great for left-handed artists who need freedom of movement. Pages are also easily removed with a spiral-bound sketchbook.

Thread Bound

A thread-bound sketchbook is bound with thread that is sewn into the spine of the book. Depending on the brand, they might not lay open when used, which can get in the way of creating quick sketches or paintings.

They’re available in hardbound or softbound designs and have many different sizes. Note that the pages are not so easily ripped out of these books and ripping pages may reduce the integrity of the binding.

Acid-Free Paper

An acid-free paper sketch pad is the best sketchbook for artwork that is meant to last. The higher the acid in a paper, the shorter its lifespan will be.

Acid is simply testing the pH value of the paper on a scale from 0–14 with 0–7 being acidic and anything above being standard pH.

Smooth Paper vs Textured Paper

Entirely smooth paper is best for dry media such as graphite, pens, or colored pencils. Textured paper can hold watercolors and charcoal as it provides teeth for pigments and charcoal to grip on.

Recycled Paper

Most recycled paper is available as white paper only. Some recycled paper doesn’t react well with watercolors or other wet media and can also get discolored with certain markers. Keep this in mind when purchasing a sketchbook made with recycled paper.

Grams Per Square Meter (GSM)

GSM is the metric measurement of the weight of art paper. The lower the number, the thinner the paper, for example, tracing paper is 40 GSM, and newspapers are printed on up to 50 GSM. This metric can be converted to imperial lbs at 1 lb to 2.70GSM of paper. For example, 300 GSM would be converted to 140 lb paper.

Paper up to 90 GSM is good for sketching, charcoal, pastels, colored pencils, and most pens. It is too thin though for Copic markers or watercolors.

Paper above 100 and up to 130 GSM can handle most wet media and markers. Some brands do suggest using protective cardboard under each page even at 120 GSM. This is especially true if using alcohol markers as they tend to bleed more than other types of markers.

Heavy-duty paper that ranges between 180–260 GSM is thick enough to not bleed through whether using Copic markers or a light wash.

Sketchbooks specific for watercolors or other painting media do usually have 300 GSM paper for multiple layers.

Our Recommendation List for the Best Sketchbooks

  1. Best Sketchbooks Overall: Moleskine Sketchbook
  2. Best Sketchbooks with Spiral BindingArt Alternatives Spiral Bound Sketchbook
  3. Best Sketchbooks with Thick Paper: Crescent RendR Hardbound Sketchbook
  4. Best Sketchbooks with Acid-Free PaperLeda Art Supply
  5. Best Sketchbooks for Mixed MediaStrathmore Hardbound 500 Series Mixed Media Sketchbook

#1 Best Sketchbooks Overall – Moleskine Sketchbook

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$19.95 – Our score: 8/10
  • GSM – 120 – Our score: 9/10
  • Bleed through – Yes – Our score: 7/10
  • Color – Ivory – Our score: 8/10
  • Acid-Free – Yes – Our score: 9/10
  • Size – 5.5 x 3.5 inches – Our score: 8/10

About the Moleskine Pocket Sketchbook

This Moleskine pocket sketchbook is the right sketchbook for wet media art pieces such as watercolors. It is best when creating a quick pocket portrait, or using fountain pens that use India Ink. The toned paper quality of this sketchbook makes it ideal to write with a ballpoint pen, colored pencil, fountain pen, or pencils.

It comes with rounded corners, an elastic closure band, and a ribbon bookmark. Artists love that it can lay flat when open.

If using acrylic markers or Sharpies, the pages will bleed through if the paper underneath isn’t protected. This book is also available in A3, A4, medium, and large sizes.

Pros

  • Best sketchbook for a pocket portrait or pocket landscapes
  • Beginners or professional artists alike can appreciate the binding style that lays flat when open
  • Ideal for mixed media creative projects
  • One of the best-toned sketchbook journals on the market
  • A portable sketchbook that comes with an elastic band and easily fits in a tote bag

Cons

  • If using an eraser on this toned sketchbook, it might remove the cream color

2. Best Sketchbook with Spiral Binding – Art Alternatives Spiral Bound Hardbound Sketchbooks

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Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$17.74 – Our score: 7/10
  • GSM – 90 – Our score: 8/10
  • Bleed through – Yes – Our score: 8/10
  • Color – White paper – Our score: 7/10
  • Acid-Free – Yes – Our score: 9/10
  • Size – 8.5 x 11 inches – Our score: 9/10

About Art Alternatives Spiral Bound Hardbound Sketchbooks

The perfect sketchbook to draw a large landscape, or large portrait, this spiral-bound Art Alternatives sketchbook can lie flat when in use. Many artists prefer a pad that can lay flat when drawing or coloring, especially left-handed artists who need maneuverability.

While the smooth paper is too thin for wet media, it’s the perfect sketch pad for dry media such as colored pencils, charcoal, pencil, or very fine pens such as Micron. This sketch pad can have a portrait orientation or can be used for landscapes.

If using alcohol markers, we suggest putting another paper in between the pages to protect it from bleeding through.

Pros

  • Comes with 80 perforated pages
  • Good for dry media
  • The spiral-bound binding allows the book to lie flat when using
  • The white paper is good for colored pencils, charcoal, and other similar mediums

Cons

  • Is too heavy to be portable

3. Best Sketchbooks with Thick Paper – Crescent Rendr Blank Canvas Sketchbook

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$23.32 – Our score: 7/10
  • GSM – 180 – Our score: 9/10
  • Bleed through – No – Our score: 9/10
  • Color – White paper – Our score: 7/10
  • Acid-Free – Yes – Our score: 9/10
  • Size – 5.5 x 8.5 inches – Our score: 9/10

About Crescent Rendr Blank Canvas Sketchbook

Most sketchbooks don’t have the thicker paper that this Crescent Rendr sketch pad boasts. The paper surface of this thread-bound sketchbook is perfect for mixed media such as Copic markers, light washes, or fountain pens.

The sketchbook paper is thick enough for easy removal of dry media with an eraser and it stays open while drawing, unlike other sketchbooks. It also doesn’t bleed through the pages when using markers but is not great for blending.

One of the more high-quality sketchbooks, this professional book is made with sewn binding to ensure papers stay put and don’t loosen with extended use. If using watercolors, note that the paper may produce less vibrant pigments.

Pros

  • The best sketchbook for markers
  • Its versatile surface can be used with acrylic paint
  • Includes 48 sheets but both sides of the paper can be used for double sketching

Cons

  • It’s not easy to blend markers on this sketchbook like a designated marker paper pad
  • Doesn’t come with an elastic band

4. Best Dry Media Paper – Leda Art Supply Sketchbook

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$19.54 (Was $24) – Our score: 8/10
  • GSM – 120 – Our score: 8/10
  • Bleed through – Yes – Our score: 7/10
  • Color – Cream-colored – Our score: 7/10
  • Acid-Free – Yes – Our score: 9/10
  • Size – 7×10 inches – Our score: 9/10

About Leda Art Supply Sketchbook

Leda Art Supply has made the best sketchbook for dry media that is soft bound and available in four different sizes. This thread-bound book can lay flat, has an elastic closure, and the pocket and medium sizes are good for on-the-go sketching.

The smooth paper works well for pens, pencils, charcoal, graphite, and other dry media. If using watercolors the paper may get a little warped and markers will bleed through.

Its thick and sturdy pages along with its durable spine and leather-like exterior make this an excellent choice for a beginner or experienced artist.

Pros

  • Includes 160 pages
  • Comes with an interior pocket
  • The different sizes make this one of the more versatile sketchbooks available

Cons

  • Watercolors will warp the pages
  • Elastic band is too tight and distorts it

5. Best Mixed Media Sketchbook – Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$17.60 – Our score: 9/10
  • GSM – 190 – Our score: 9/10
  • Bleed through – No – Our score: 9/10
  • Color – White – Our score: 7/10
  • Acid-Free – Yes – Our score: 9/10
  • Size – 7.75 x 9.75 inches – Our score: 9/10

About Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Sketchbook

The unique paper on this Strathmore sketchbook is the ideal surface for acrylic markers, watercolors, gouache, and any dry media. Its large portrait orientation provides ample room for artists to create close-ups or entire portraits.

It has a vellum finish on each page making them smooth, yet textured enough for artists to blend and shade different media.

Although this isn’t specifically a watercolor or marker paper pad, it’s one of the best sketchbooks for mixed media thereby giving the artist the versatility to use dry or wet media.

Pros

  • Paper is 100% cotton archival quality and is lignin-free
  • The thick paper can also handle oil with gesso paints
  • Its buttery soft, brown cover is elegant and lighter than a hardbound book

Cons

  • Doesn’t lay flat

Conclusion

We hope you found our guide to the best sketchbooks helpful. We’ve covered the different types of sketchbooks available along with our recommendations in various contexts.

We’ve discussed how you can choose the best sketchbooks with different paper quality, toned paper, or white paper for charcoal, pens, or pencils. Lastly, we’ve combined our recommendations for the best sketchbooks for dry, wet, or mixed media. There are also spiral-bound designs that lay flat or hardbound or softbound sketchbooks that come in different sizes from pocket to a large 5.5 x 8.5 inches.

Thanks for reading. We hope our suggestions help you choose the best sketchbook for your needs, whether buying it to complete quick graphite sketches or to create watercolor scenes of nature or a city street.