When buying a sketchbook, you need to know what you plan to use it with. If you are just planning to sketch with pencils, then any sketchbook will do. If you are going to use any sort of wet media (such as ink washes or watercolor washes, including watercolor pencils) then you will need a sketchbook that says it can handle light washes or that says it is for “all media”.
Hard Back Sketchbooks/Hard Bound Sketchbooks
A hard bound sketchbook obviously looks really cool and has an old world feel to it, however, there are problems with using a hardbound book, especially when starting:
- A hardbound book doesn’t always lay open flat
- Removing pages are obvious should you need to rip something out
- Hardbound sketch books cost more
If you are just starting your sketching journey, you want to make the process as easy as possible. Wrestling with your hardback sketchbook is the last thing you want to be doing while you get started keeping a sketchbook. You want a sketchbook that will feel comfortable in your hands as you work, not one that is in your way.
Spiral Bound Sketchbook
- Spiral bound is usually less expensive
- Spiral bound sketchbooks can be folded for use, and they open perfectly flat
- If you must rip something out of your sketchbook (which I don’t recommend but it happens), it will not be as obvious.
I find the smaller sketchbooks, while a convenient size, are not so practical for drawing in, especially for a beginner.
Most sketchers find they prefer a larger sketchbook, about 9 x 12 inches, or 11 x 14. For a younger artist, anything larger for a sketchbook may be harder to hold on to.
Any artist should get a size which they can comfortably draw in without being scrunched up while drawing.
Sketching involves your hand moving in a very fluid motion across the page to draw the basic form of your subject quickly, before adding additional details, and you’ll need room to move on the page.
I think 9 x 12 is the ideal size for this.
Doing Without (January 2015 update)
Especially since acquiring a nice drafting table, I create much of my graphic illustrations on simple computer paper, which I buy by the ream. To keep it neatly organized, I have a three-ring binder full of page protectors.
I do still keep a sketchbook (two actually — one large and one small), but for most sketching, thumbnailing, and illustration, I use loose paper now.