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I love Moleskine Sketchbooks!

Updated on November 5, 2015
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Katherine investigates and reviews different types and brands of art media and equipment - including paints, drawing materials and papers.

An introduction to Moleskine Sketchbooks

I highly recommend Moleskine Sketchbooks - however different ones suit different purposes and you need to understand the colour wrapper code, which is which and what they can be used for.

This site explains to you about:

  • the lilac wrapper - the classic sketchbook
  • the pink wrapper - sketchbooks suitable for wet media
  • folio sketchbooks - for those who like to have lots of space for their sketches

Why are Moleskine Sketchbooks great?

The main reasons why Moleskines are my sketchbook of choice

I've been using Moleskines for over 9 years. During that time I've tried five different sizes.

My absolute favourites - which can be found in my backpack all the time - are the Large Sketchbook and the A4 size.

The former is often also found in my handbag as it's a good size for sketching in art galleries and cafes in London.

MOLESKINE SKETCHBOOKS ARE GREAT because:

  • they're very robust - I've travelled with mine all over the world and they've never ever fallen apart. The black cover never ever seems to get scuffed or dented. The binding never ever comes apart. I've never once had pages come out of a sketchbook.
  • the paper is simply fabulous. It's 160 gsm of smooth manilla surface paper. It's the main reason I keep on using them - with the only variation being which size I carry round with me! The paper is slightly creamy which makes it very distinctive and easier on the eye than bright white - which can get very wearing on the eyes in hot climes. If there is one thing I could wish for it is that I wish they did this paper in sheets as well for use when you get back home!* the sketchbooks are thread bound. This means that if you open them up, absolutely no effort is required to get them to lie flat - making sketching across a double page spread absolutely routine for me. PLUS opening them up lie flat in now way causes a problem for the spine and pages do NOT drop out! This one of the two main reasons why I love this sketchbook.
  • the paper in traditional Moleskine sketchbooks (lilac wrappers) is particularly suitable for dry media - graphite pencils and sticks, pen and ink drawings (but not ones involving a wet wash) and coloured pencils.
  • the elastic wrapper keeps the sketchbook closed when not in use and hence all the pages stay in pristine condition - even if the sketchbook is at the bottom of your bag

The sketchbook comes in different sizes. You can buy:

  • a small pocket size;
  • one they call Large but I think of as normal;
  • one which is A4 size which is very good for routine large sketches.
  • Plus the A3 sized one which is one of the biggest sketchbooks made and is certainly the largest Moleskine sketchbook!

The company addressed the problem with the traditional sketchbook paper not liking waterbased media and created a special watercolour sketchbook - with a pink wrapper, which now comes in various sizes

Pastels and Pencils - Travels with a Sketchbook

Pastels and Pencils Travels with a sketchbook
Pastels and Pencils Travels with a sketchbook

You can see my sketches on this page on my website . Most of these have been done in a Moleskine sketchbook. CLICK a link in the names of the places to open the portfolios of sketches relating to different places I've travelled to

Places I've sketched using these sketchbooks

I started using them seriously on my travels in 2006 - on two trip to the USA. I filled a 'Large Moleskine' on both occasions with sketches across a double page spread - creating images 8" x 10".

Since then I've taken large and A4 sketchbooks to France for two trips in 2009 and 2011

Plus I routinely use them when sketching landscapes, gardens and parks around the UK and the urban scene and interiors in London.

One of the reasons I particularly like is them is that they work extremely well with pen and ink and coloured pencils which are my sketching media of choice. This also means I can use for them for sketching inside art galleries and museums where people who routinely work in watercolour would not be able to sketch because of the ban on painting inside an art gallery.

Moleskine Sketchbooks for Dry Media

Moleskine Sketchbooks love dry media such as graphite pencils and sticks, coloured pencils and pen and ink (without a wash)

This is the standard size Moleskine Sketchbook used by most people

Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook, Large, Plain, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25) (Classic Notebooks)
Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook, Large, Plain, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25) (Classic Notebooks)

I use one of these all the time - it goes just about everywhere with me.

Aspects which I very much appreciate are listed below:

1) What I like about it most is that the paper is thick, smooth loves coloured pencils and pen and ink and doesn't change surface if you use a battery powered eraser - which I use all the time for texture in my sketches.

2) the size is good for me - big enough to do a decent sketch across a double page spread and small enough for it to go in a handbag very easily

3) the pocket at the back which is particularly useful for storing tickets and business cards

4) the elastic band which you can use to keep the sketchbook shut when in your bag. This is extremely useful for keeping all the pages in pristine condition no matter how many times a sketchbook is "in and out" of a bag.

5) the way in which the paper is bound. This means that it lies completely flat at all times. This makes for ease in sketching but is also very useful when it comes to scanning images as you don't get the 'grey' shadow that happens when you scan sketches in sketchbooks which are not made so that they lie completely flat as a matter of routine

Series: Classic Notebooks | Publisher: Moleskine (January 1, 2008)

Hardcover: 100 pages | Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches

 

Monday 24th July: 2,000 miles later - Louise drives the desert with style

Monday 24th July: 2,000 miles later - Louise drives the desert with style © Katherine Tyrrell
Monday 24th July: 2,000 miles later - Louise drives the desert with style © Katherine Tyrrell | Source

This sketch was done in a Large Moleskine which I filled during a three week trip the California, Arizona and New Mexico. It includes sketches done:

  • on the road trip between San Diego and Albuquerque - via the deserts during a heatwave
  • on my drive down the coast road between San Francisco and San Diego

This one is called "Monday 24th July: 2,000 miles later - Louise drives the desert with style"

The Large Sketchbook is a great size for when you're sketching in a car. I sketched the people driving and the landscape outside the window.

My favourite small sketchbook

Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook, Pocket, Plain, Black, Hard Cover (3.5 x 5.5) (Classic Notebooks)
Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook, Pocket, Plain, Black, Hard Cover (3.5 x 5.5) (Classic Notebooks)

The same as above only smaller!

This smaller sized sketchbook is for when you're only taking a small handbag or bumbag/fannypack. It can also be slipped inside a large pocket.

Rated an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars (97 customer reviews)

Series: Classic Notebooks | Publisher: Moleskine (January 1, 2008)

Hardcover: 80 pages | Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 0.6 x 5.6 inches

 

My favourite big sketchbook

Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook, A4, Black, Hard Cover (12 x 8.5) (Professional Folio Series)
Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook, A4, Black, Hard Cover (12 x 8.5) (Professional Folio Series)

I use this sketchbook a lot and it always gets packed in my backpack when I'm going out to do some serious sketching.

The pages are A4 sized which means a single page is 8.5" x 11.8" and this gives me a double page spread of 11" x 16". It's both easy and great working on a double page spread in this sketchbook due to the fact that this sketchbook, like all Moleskines lies flat when opened up. Plus it never ruptures the spine and the pages never fall out. In fact once I realised the pages are sewn in (rather than glued) and never fall out I've found it very difficult to try other sketchbooks unless they meet the same standards.

This sketchbook has 96 pages of 160 g/m2 top quality acid free paper - heavyweight and smooth and ideal for all dry media

Do NOT whatever you do confuse this with the Moleskine Folio NOTEBOOK or else you'll feel shortchanged. That has completely different lighter weight paper. Always look for the weight of the paper when you place an order

Series: Professional Folio Series | Publisher: Moleskine (April 15, 2009)

Hardcover: 96 pages | Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 11.8 inches

 

A sketch across a double page spread of a Folio A4 Moleskine Sketchbook (11" x 16")

Summer in the Rose Garden, Sissinghurst © Katherine Tyrrell
Summer in the Rose Garden, Sissinghurst © Katherine Tyrrell | Source

A view of the Rose Garden at Sissinghurst Media Used: * Folio Moleskine A4 Sketchbook * Coloured Pencils * PencilYou can read about how this sketch was developed in "Step by step sketch of the Rose Garden, Sissinghurst"This post on my blog - Summer in the Rose Garden, Sissinghurst - is about the finished sketchOne of the reasons for showing you this sketch is you can see how the stitching shows up on some of the double page spreads. That's because the pages are stitched together with thread. That means they never ever fall out of the sketchbook - which is one of the reasons I prefer these to alternatives.

Reviews of Moleskine Sketchbooks

You'll find more extended reviews in the blog posts below.I also write Making A Mark Reviews and I have a particular structure I use for product reviews which you'll see if you take a peek at the ones below

What do you need to be careful about?

Learn the wrapper codes if you want to get the right type of sketchbookIn smaller sizes:

  • lilac means classic sketchbook
  • pink means watercolour sketchbook

In larger Folio sizes (A4 and A3)

  • brown means sketchbook 160 gsm paper
  • mauve means notebook 100 gsm paper - if you buy one of these thinking you're buying one of the sketchbooks you will end up feeling shortchanged!

Moleskine Sketchbooks for Wet Media

You've got to be careful about only using wet media in the Moleskine sketchbooks designed for this purpose. Not every sketchbook likes wet media

A Moleskine watercolour sketchbook in portrait format

Moleskine Watercolor Album Sketchbook - 5"x8" (Spanish Edition)
Moleskine Watercolor Album Sketchbook - 5"x8" (Spanish Edition)

The pink wrapper indicates this a Moleskine Sketchbook designed for wet media.

This is the much requested version of the sketchbook for watercolourists. The one thing that the lilac sketchbooks are not good at is watercolour so they had to create a different sketchbooks with paper particularly suited to watercolour for the very many people who sketch using paints or ink washes.

It contains 200gsm watercolour paper - this is 25% cotton cold pressed which means it's heavy weight but not completely archival. However it is better than paper which is made from just woodpulp (which is most sketchbooks)

The spine is threadbound which means this sketchbook will lie completely flat without any effort

Rated an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars based on 163 customer reviews of which 75% are 5*

Hardcover: 72 pages Dimensions: 5" x 8-1/4"

Publisher: Moleskine; Ntb edition (January 1, 2008)

 

A sketchbook for those who like working very big

Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Album, A3, Black, Hard Cover (16.5 x 12) (Professional Folio Series)
Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Album, A3, Black, Hard Cover (16.5 x 12) (Professional Folio Series)

Rated an average of 4.9 out of 5 stars based on 19 customer reviews of which 95% are 5*

This is the VERY BIG Folio Watercolour Sketchbook with a landscape format and it's the ideal sketchbook for people who like working really BIG! This one is for the very serious sketcher.

You can produce watercolour sketches of 11.7" x 16.5" on a single page OR 11.7" x 33" on double page spread

The 200 gsm 25% cotton fibre paper is cold pressed and identical on both sides and in all other respects it has exactly the same characteristics and features of the smaller versions of the Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook.

Series: Professional Folio Series

Hardcover: 96 pages

Publisher: Moleskine; Har/Pmplt edition (April 15, 2009)

 

The Japanese Accordion style

Moleskine Classic Japanese Accordion Notebook

Moleskine Art Plus Japanese Album, Pocket, Black, Hard Cover (3.5 x 5.5) (Classic Notebooks)
Moleskine Art Plus Japanese Album, Pocket, Black, Hard Cover (3.5 x 5.5) (Classic Notebooks)

Rated an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars (13 customer reviews)

The Japanese Notebook - What's different?

I bought one of these recently. The design is based on the traditional Japanese horizontal emakimono scrolls.This notebook comprises one very long sheet of heavyweight quality paper. This is folded to provide 60 pages in an accordion format. This is ideal for panoramic sketches or to record a journey or to sketch a long sequence of images e.g. a street

The Japanese Notebook - What's the same?

* thread bound

* cardboard bound cover with rounded corners,

* acid free paper,

* a bookmark,

* an elastic closure

* an expandable inner pocket (useful for small records of your travels such as tickets and receipts)

Series: Classic Notebooks | Publisher: Moleskine (January 1, 2008)

Hardcover: 60 pages

 

© 2011 Katherine Tyrrell

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