Sketchbooks: Moleskine Pocket Watercolour Notebook (review)

If you go onto pretty much any sketching forum, you’ll notice that a lot of sketchers use Moleskine sketching journals. I wanted to see what the fuss was about so I bought myself a Moleskine Pocket Watercolour Notebook from The Book Depository (I was also later given a Large Watercolour Notebook as a gift but I haven’t used it yet).

Though I got the notebook many years ago, I only ever did a few small paintings in it (all of which were terrible) before shoving it into my cupboard. A couple of months ago I decided I wanted to get into the habit of sketching, drawing or painting weekly – even if it was just something small – and I figured I might as well put the unloved Moleskine to use.

It must be said that these are very nice looking sketchbooks. The rounded corners and black faux-leather cover lends them an air of class, and the little elastic band helps to keep it closed so the book doesn’t open in your bag, preventing the pages from getting bent or damaged. They’re not quite small enough to fit into a lot of shirt or pants pockets but they’d easily fit into a larger coat pocket or even a small handbag (or manbag, for any blokes out there). There are 30 sheets, which means 60 pages if you use both sides of the paper.

When I first started using the Moleskine journal seriously, I wasn’t overly fond of the paper to begin with. Much of this was probably because I’d been spoiled by the 300gsm paper I’d been doing larger paintings on at the time, but the paper felt a little flimsy. Also, at some time in the past I’d had a play with some of the Stillman & Birn journals, and while those are more expensive, they also felt like superior quality in terms of the thickness and texture of the paper. However, sometimes I come to realise that I’m being harsh towards something not because it is inherently bad, but simply because I wanted it to be something it isn’t, and this was one of those times. You can’t do a heavy wash of watercolour on this Moleskine paper; if you do, the page will curl up like a pretzel unless you’ve secured it with bulldog clips or something (as I discovered when I did the sketch of my friends’ cats, below). But for small watercolour sketches or for pen and ink work, the paper works well enough. It does have a slight texture; not as much as proper cold press watercolour paper, but definitely noticeable, which means you can get nice granulating effects depending on what watercolours you use. This does mean it might not be great for coloured pencil usage, unless you’re aiming for broken colour rather than smooth, solid areas of colour.

Here are a couple of things I’ve drawn or painted in my Moleskine Pocket Watercolour Notebook.

Moleskine watercolour notebooks are a good choice for those who like to keep a sketch journal. If you like to do a lot of heavy washes and really punish your paper, checking out some of the Stillman & Birn journals or making your own journals from your watercolour paper of choice might be a better option. However if you just like to jot down the world around you and splash some colour into your linework, it’s worth having a Moleskine journal. I’d recommend buying them from Book Depository though as everywhere else I saw them was charging almost double the price (you might as well spend that extra money on a couple of new tubes of paint).

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2 Responses to Sketchbooks: Moleskine Pocket Watercolour Notebook (review)

  1. Susan says:

    Meh. I like the Handbooks better–they handle water quite nicely. The Stillman and Birn notebook I tried was terrible–the paper not only curled up at the touch of water, but the paper pilled, too. Perhaps I got an early one…because everyone raves about them.


    • artdragon86 says:

      I’ll have to double check and see which of the S&B books I used (it was a couple of years ago now). They have quite a few varieties now but the one I used did have thicker paper than most sketchbooks, and I seem to recall that it was aimed more at mixed media rather than dry sketching.


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