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Types of Sketchbooks for Beginning Artists

Updated on March 10, 2011

What Will You Do With Your Sketchbook?

I have been keeping a sketchbook diary for several years now. I love to sketch and to draw, and I am always looking for subjects to draw with my students (I teach k-4th grade art 1x per week). A sketchbook is a very handy tool for a beginning artist as well as for a more seasoned artist. However, with so many types of sketchbooks on the market, it may be difficult to decide what kind of sketchbook is the right sketchbook to buy when starting out.

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 water color pencils) then you will need a sketchbook that says it can handle light washes or that says it is for "all media".

I usually have a sketchbook for "all media" because I like to use pen and ink with watercolor washes when I sketch, along with doing pencil drawings. All media sketchbooks are good if you like to work with a variety of media, but you still can't get the paper too wet, as it is not watercolor paper.

Hard Back Sketchbooks

A hard bound sketchbook is a very beautiful tool to have for sketching. I love that hard bound sketchbooks have an old world feel to them. I have quite a few hard back sketchbooks that I have filled up over the years, and I treasure them all. However there are problems with using a hardbound book, especially when starting:

  • A hardbound sketchbook doesn't always lay open flat, making it harder to draw in.
  • Removing pages are obvious should you need to rip something out
  • Hardbound sketch books cost more than spiral bound sketchbooks

If you are just beginning to draw and sketch, you want to make the process as easy as possible. Wrestling with your hardbound sketchbook is the last thing you want to be doing while you are just learning how to draw and sketch. You want a sketchbook that will feel comfortable in your hands as you work, not a sketchbook that is in your way.

Hard Back Sketchbooks are usually more permanent though, and look very nice on your bookshelf. This kind of sketchbook is usually of a better quality than a spiral bound sketchbook, and will last longer. I enjoy taking a trip through memory lane, looking through my old sketchbooks that I have. Some of them are almost 20 years old!

Spiral Bound Sketchbooks

A spiral bound sketchbook is good for beginners who are just learning to draw and sketch, though it doesn't look as classic as a hardbound sketchbook. I feel that a spiral bound sketchbook is a better option if you are starting out.

It has other pros too:

  • A spiral bound sketchbook is usually less expensive
  • A spiral bound sketchbook's cover and used pages can be folded behind it for easier use.
  • Spiral bound sketchbooks lay perfectly flat, making it easier to draw in them.
  • If you must rip something out of your sketchbook, it will not be as obvious.


What kind of sketchbook do you use?

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What Size Sketchbook is Good for Beginners?

After you decide what kind of sketchbook to purchase (hard back sketchbook or spiral bound sketchbook), you need to decide on a size. What size sketchbook is easiest to draw in?

Obviously a smaller size sketchbook makes it easier to carry a sketchbook with you where ever you go. The compact size of a smaller sketchbook means that you will have it with you more than if you had to carry a larger sketchbook with you, so this should be considered.

However, I find the smaller sketchbooks, despite their convenient size, are not so practical for most sketching, 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.

Sketching on Loose Paper

There is another option too. A final option is to just use the paper you need, as individual sheets (whether water color paper, sketching paper, charcoal/pastel paper, or  colored drawing paper), and bind it together after the illustrations are complete. Several years ago, I found a great tool, called Binding Books Beautifully, which I've used for many projects. This cool tool, with video, is very easy to use for all sorts of creative projects, such as journalling, creative writing, and nature notebooking.


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    • profile image

      Honeysuckle 3 years ago

      Hey, you're the goto extrep. Thanks for hanging out here.

    • profile image

      Bobbe 3 years ago

      This arcitle is a home run, pure and simple!

    • profile image

      Mina 3 years ago

      So excited I found this article as it made things much quricek!

    • profile image

      Kim 4 years ago

      These are some great sketchbooks you can get on amazon.

    • joymk profile image

      joymk 7 years ago from Michigan

      Those are great, Kira! I think I may have to order me one.

    • profile image

      Benny 7 years ago

      We use those sketchbooks at the Art Institute in Hollywood.

    • profile image

      Kira Trynan 7 years ago

      I like the ones I get at They are easy to sketch on white pages and they lay flat so I can sketch with either hand and not have to fight the binding. I really like the fashion templates where I can just draw the clothing on the crokee. My fave!