Review – Piccadilly Sketch Book

There are quite a few sketchbooks out there, and it can be hard to choose. If one isn’t the “pick one and stick with it forever”, or the “grab the nearest one off the shelf when a new one is needed” type of person, it can be overwhelming. Which ones on the shelf are worth it? Piccadilly is a brand of notebooks that has been making inexpensive Moleskine-type books for some time. Are their sketchbooks any good?

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The books have a super-plain brown cardboard cover with only the word sketch thinly lettered on the front. This cover is more of a wrapping, as it’s only attached at one point on the back, wrapping around and folding in the front like a dust jacket would. The binding is a series of small, sewn signatures glued together on the spine. It’s similar to most other binding methods; the spine cover just isn’t glued to the actual spine. At 120 sheets it’s a nice length, and isn’t too bulky or heavy. The construction, while sturdy, wouldn’t, I suspect, hold up to more than its complete page count if heavily used, and the cover-cover might even fall off or be rendered unusable before then. For a non-spiral it’s good, but it won’t last forever.

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The paper is blank 100gsm, textured and acid-free. It’s quite thick, almost seeming like card stock, but this provides a stable writing service even deep into the book. The texture isn’t great, in my opinion, but isn’t intrusive either. It holds graphite and pigmented ink well. If one is using wet, dye-based inks, though, feathering can be quite severe. The thickness leads to very little bleed-through (although it couldn’t stand, say, sharpies) and almost no show-through in most cases. It’s very well behaved and makes writing and drawing a pleasure, especially with pencil.

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It’s a good sketchbook, quite a good one, if you’re not going to put it in extreme conditions. It’s on the lower price side of average sketchbooks and does the part. Most people won’t have a problem with it and I certainly haven’t. If you’re looking for something to beat up, a different book might be needed. But if you’re looking for a minimal, handsome medium-use sketchbook, I’d have a look.

Review – Bienfang NoteSketch Book

One of the worst things about different types of notebooks is that they vary in the page setup. Some have lines, some graphs, others are blank. Even the lined ones vary in the ruling between the lines. And what if you want to make a note on a sketch? Sure, you can just write it somewhere on the page, but it never really looks right, does it? Likewise with drawing on lined paper. Or what if you want to draw a diagram with a description. It will never go in any space you have left on the page, especially if it’s a long one.

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Well, Bienfang appears to have those people covered with the NoteSketch Book (all in different fonts so you remember it better). But we have to start with the covers first. The front cover is a nice card stock, heavy and not likely to rip out. It can take a mild beating, regular use is easily handled, but abuse isn’t. The back is cardboard and quite nice. It is light but strong, and will support drawing on ones lap or holding it in front of a subject. The paper inside is a little over half blank with the rest being roughly college ruled lines. It’s nice, but as thin as printer paper. It will only take pencil or technical pens before bleeding and wrinkling. Of course, for its intended use this is no problem. This also helps keep the book slim and it easily fits into most bags. They come in a variety of page sizes but those are all virtually identical, with the page size you like being the only deciding factor.

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Personally I can’t go anywhere without one of these. I don’t use them much at home, but on the road or just outside they are perfect. I don’t know about anyone else, but I only bring a pencil and a pen when I’m out, so any drawbacks from thin paper are negligible. And the ability to write notes and have space for it fits what I do. I love having a set aside space to put my thoughts or the story behind a drawing. If thats what you like to do, or you like to draft or draw diagrams that require explanation, this is the book for you. If thats not your thing, then this may just not interest you.

Review – Strathmore 400 series, 100 page, 8.5X5.5 Sketchbook

Strathmore sketchbooks, specifically in this review the 400 series, 100 page, 8.5″X5.5″ sketchbook.

Design-wise, the cover is acceptable. It certainly does its job and displays all the necessary information in a way that is easy to read, and in three different languages. The stock of the cover and the cardboard of the back are thick and nice, capable of standing up to a great deal of punishment (the back more so, obviously). The back is unbendable without breaking it first, creating a solid drawing surface away from a table, if that’s how you like to draw. The book is spiral bound, the metal of said spirals is superb, they are strong and have enough give and bounce that they don’t bend into a different shape easily. The spine also keeps the pages very secure.

The paper in this book is a medium thickness, thicker than 20-pound, thinner than heavier drawing paper. It is relatively smooth, but still coarse. Good for the main purpose of the book; sketching, but poor for fine detail work as the bumps create imperfections. It is still much less coarse than other sketchbooks by Strathmore. Pencil and ink are taken well by the paper. Pencil smudges fairly easily, and shows through to some degree. Ink is absorbed quickly, making drying time fast and can be seen through the paper. There are 100 sheets in this book, which seems a large number, making the book fat. But that is hardly a complaint. The pages are very nice for their purpose of sketching.

I take a sketchbook everywhere, I try to vary what I take and where, but when all I want to do is a simple sketch, a Strathmore is what I take. They are easy to get, fair priced and a good quality. I would not try to create a “finished” piece on one, but that is not their intended purpose. They help one practice, hone skills, and create technique by being very durable and useable in a variety of conditions. This size of book is great for a bag or carry in the hand (half the size of a sheet of copy paper). It is a great thing to have when one is out and about and would like to sketch anything.