A sketchbook is an essential tool in every artist’s kit. Every masterpiece has its roots in a roughly-drawn sketch, and before an artist renders a beautiful final image, they have already spent hundreds of hours practicing how to draw. A sketchbook is a great way to explore and organize your ideas and record your progress as an artist. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll definitely need your own sketchbook!
In this article, we will discuss everything there is to know about sketchbooks. Because the options are so diverse, there is quite a number of considerations when it comes to buying one. But our buying guide is here to help you sift through everything and figure out what really matters to you. Our list of the 10 best sketchbooks will also help you check out the best options online.
Our recommendation articles are carefully researched and crafted by the mybest Philippines team of writers and editors. To stay true to our company’s mission and vision to help users’ selection process easier, we also collaborate with experts from various fields to ensure that our content stays factual and useful.
The products and services listed are ranked independently by the editorial team based on the points mentioned in our thoroughly researched buying guide (as of 01-16-2023).
Here are some key points to consider:
For more detailed information, read through our buying guide below.
Before anything else, you need to first define your goals for using a sketchbook. This will help you narrow down your choices greatly and simplify your buying process.
If you’re buying a sketchbook just for drawing practice, then all you need is the basic type that has lightweight paper. The texture may be rough or smooth, but generally speaking, it is a type of paper that can take only pen or pencil sketches.
Watercolor or mixed media painting are more specialized types of art-making. The use of water-based or oil-based mediums would dictate a heavier and thicker type of paper to be able to absorb liquid. On the other hand, a dry medium like soft pastel requires textured paper with some tooth to enable the layering of colors.
For beginners, an A5 sketchbook would be a good starting point. It is large enough for making detailed art but also small enough to carry for when inspiration strikes. If you like making intricate art, a larger notebook is best, since it can be hard to see details on a small sketchbook. It is also a safe choice if you only intend to sketch at home.
If you intend to do travel sketching, then it’s best to choose a size that is handy and yet spacious enough for you to do drawings of scenes. There are also palm-sized sketchbooks for those who like drawing in miniatures.
Size is really a matter of preference, but keep in mind that having sketchbooks in different sizes helps develop your skills in intangible ways. You will develop skills in drawing things of different scales and from various angles and perspectives.
As discussed earlier, your sketchbook goals will dictate the type of paper you need. Below are the different characteristics of various types of paper.
For pencil sketches and doodles, a thin 20-lb paper would do. But if you intend to use a wide variety of media like watercolor, gouache, ink, or markers, you will need a sketchbook that has thicker paper that can take a lot of water.
The standard weight of wet media paper usually varies from 90, 140, and 300 lbs. Some manufacturers may also indicate paper weight in grams per square meter or gsm.
The typical sketchbook has white or off-white paper, but there are also colored types for people who want to experiment with colored backgrounds. Toned or colored paper is great for practicing tonal or value drawing.
With toned paper, you can instantly convey warmth or coolness to your art. It gives your artwork an entirely different feel compared to when it’s done on a white background. Usually, this is used in conjunction with pastels and colored pencils.
Finish refers to the texture of the paper. Some may have a rough and matte finish, while others may have a glossy finish. If you intend to do layering or lots of shading, a rough texture helps to absorb more layers.
With watercolor paper, the texture is referred to as rough, hot- and cold-pressed. As its name indicates, rough paper has a highly textured surface. This is great for creating grainy or speckled effects.
Meanwhile, hot-pressed paper is smooth and fine-grained with almost no tooth. It’s great for practicing lines and flowy washes. Cold-pressed paper, on the other hand, is somewhere in between the first two types. It has a slightly textured surface and is commonly used among watercolor artists.
The choice of a sketchbook binding would depend mostly on your archival and organizational needs. Each type of binding has its own pros and cons, which we will discuss below.
In a sewn sketchbook, the pages are sewn together with hand- or machine-stitches. Because there is continuity between pages, it is the right choice if you enjoy drawing across the gutter or the line between the two pages.
The biggest advantage of this type of binding is that it is more durable and has greater resistance to wear. Thus, it is often used to bind thicker books. However, it is also more expensive than the other types.
Perfect binding involves gluing the pages and cover together at the spine with a strong glue. It is the most commonly used method of binding in both textbooks and sketchbooks. However, perfect binding is best used for thin books. With thicker books, the glue often loses its hold over time, and the pages start to fall apart.
In spiral sketchbooks, a spring or plastic loop passes through a row of punched holes on the pages. This makes it easy for users to rip off a page when they want to remove it from the sketchbook.
This is certainly handy for those times when you want to file a particular sketch in a folder or envelope or when you want to discard a sketch. However, it also means that the sketchbook itself is not as long-lasting as the other types.
A perforated sketchbook offers you the best of both worldsーthe solidity of a sewn or perfect-bound notebook, and the freedom to rip off a page like you would in spiral notebooks. However, if you like drawing across the gutter, the dotted lines might affect how your drawing looks.
Below are some other points to take note of when choosing a sketchbook. They might be minor factors, but they are still important to consider, nonetheless.
Ask yourself, do you draw people or scenery? Do you like working with the cover up or on the side? The orientation of sketchbook matters because it affects the way a subject is presented, not to mention the ease of use.
Sketchbooks are available in landscape and portrait orientation, as well as in square formats. It really is a matter of preference that depends on the subjects you frequently draw. However, it's good to have a collection of sketchbooks in different orientations, so you can practice creating different types of compositions.
Sketchbooks with heavier paper contain fewer pages because the thickness makes them bulky. On the other hand, those with lighter paper offer more pages. If you like working in themes, it could be a good idea to have a set of sketchbooks with fewer pages, as opposed to one book with more pages. That way, you can organize your drawings better.
Sketchbooks come in soft covers and hardcovers. For durability, hardcover types are preferable. They also offer a rigid backing so that you can still draw easily even if you don’t have a proper working surface like a table.
On the other hand, paperback types have the advantage of being light and handier to travel with. However, you also need to carry along some sort of stiff support like cardboard to be able to draw smoothly.
Click to purchase
The Best Sketchbook for Pencil and Ink Sketching
Grandluxe Sketch Pad
Great Rough Surface for Various Drawing Techniques
400 Series Bristol Sketch Pad
Best for Graphite Pencil Drawings
A Reliable Choice for Collages and Journaling
High-Quality Pages That Can Endure Wet Techniques
Urban Sketching USK Book
Accordion-Fold Design for Urban and Landscape Sketchers
Great for Doodling and Practicing Calligraphy
An Easy-Tear Sketchbook That Works Well With Dry and Wet Media
400 Series Toned Gray Sketch Pad
Acid-Free Sketchbook for Practicing Values
Basic Sketchbook for Kids or Students
Moleskine is a brand that consistently tops sketchbook and notebook lists. This classic art sketchbook has a sleek and elegant design that makes it perfect for sketching on the go. With its rounded corners, you can slip this into your bag with no worries about getting them bent. It also has an elastic closure to keep your sketchbook organized.
The paper is quite smooth and obviously designed for pencil or pen sketchers. The thickness makes it feel almost like card stock paper and can absorb most micron pen strokes and even fountain pen inks.
It can also accommodate a bit of watercolor, but only to a minimum. After all, it is not meant to be used with wet media, so if you work with watercolors, take care not to do extremely wet techniques. Otherwise, this sketchbook is a prime choice for working with pencils and ink.
Monologue is known for their quality Italian acid-free paper, and this sketchbook from the Grandluxe Sketch Pad series certainly does not disappoint! With a bright red suede cover, it feels rich and velvety to the touch.
Unlike most hardcover sketchbooks, its front cover isn't glued to the first page and can be flipped all the way back, a really handy feature when you're sketching on the go. The paper is treated with vegetable gel, and the end result is a rough surface suitable for a variety of techniques. You can use pencil, graphite, charcoal, chalk, and other types of dry media.
It also handles ink really well with no bleeding or feathering. However, depending on the wetness or strength of your strokes, some faint ghosting may occur on the other page. So, if you intend to scan your artwork, it's best not to draw on both sides of the page.
Bristol is a type of paper with a surface tooth that can accommodate lots of layering and shading. This sketchbook from Strathmore offers pencil artists high-quality and heavyweight Bristol paper that's perfect for fine detail work.
Because it is made of two-ply Bristol, it can also take a beating from non-pencil mediums like pens, inks, and markers. However, it is not recommended for traditional watercolor techniques, as the paper might warp or buckle.
The glue binding is sturdy, but you can easily detach a page if you need to. The paper is acid-free but not archival. Because it is of such high quality, even professional artists use this for final renderings and commissioned work.
As the name indicates, this sketchbook is quite versatile. It features a heavyweight, fine-textured paper that can absorb both wet and dry media. It is a really affordable choice for people who enjoy exploring different types of mediums.
The paper has a parallel grain that may enhance or distract from your artwork, depending on your purpose. For instance, with watercolor or pencils, it may be a bit distracting, but with other mediums like pen and ink, it works really well and provides some depth and texture to the artwork.
The heavy paper gives it even more versatility because it can be used for purposes beyond sketching. Some artists use it to make collages or daily journals, where they put stickers or dried leaves and flowers that they collect. This is why this sketchpad has a broad audience and is popular across a variety of art approaches.
From its appearance alone, you can already tell that the Etchr Lab sketchbook is a high-quality product. With a hardbound cover that has a cute little Llama logo at the corner, you will definitely feel the heft of this sketchbook. Some artists say that it is actually too nice to be used for ordinary, everyday sketching, so they tend to reserve it for special sketches.
Even if it is hardbound, the pages surprisingly open flat, so you can work conveniently. This is actually a watercolor sketchbook, since the acid-free cotton paper is thick and built to withstand heavy washes, but you can also use it for pen sketches with heavy ink washes.
However, some people find that the white cover can easily turn grubby or dirty. A solution to this is to paint over it with watercolor. Yes, you can paint on the cover! That's pretty unique for a sketchbook. Aside from that, it has a full-size expanding pocket at the back, an elastic strap, and a page marker.
Designed primarily for urban sketching, the Sennelier Urban Sketchbook is in a class of its own. Featuring an accordion-fold design, it offers long panels per side for your sketches and illustrations. If you are into sketching landscapes or panoramic scenes, this is a delight to use, as you can spread the pages out and lay them flat as you draw.
The paper is extra strong and rough-grained, suitable for use with wet media like watercolor and gouache. On top of that, the rough finish also makes it a good surface for a variety of dry media such as pens, pencils, and oil pastels.
When you're done with the sketch, you have the option of opening it and propping it up on a shelf or mantel. The elegant black cloth cover embossed with the Sennelier logo gives it a final touch of class as a tabletop display.
At first glance, this sketchbook from Limelight looks expensive. The hardcover is padded and lends it a sturdy and luxurious feel. And yet, when you look at the price, it's a super affordable sketchbook.
The pages are creamy and smooth, making it the ideal surface to practice calligraphy strokes. It's perfectly able to handle pen or pencil sketches and even light watercolor washes, too. You can also use wetter types of pens like gel pens, brush pens, or markers with very minimal ghosting on the other side of the page.
There is also an elastic lock so you can keep your sketchbook closed when in transit. It also has a ribbon marker to help you go back easily to where you left off. At the back cover, a storage pocket is available to tuck in your photos, stickers, notes, or anything you would like to keep.
If you want a sketchbook that is a keeper yet won't break the bank, this one from Tokyo Finds might be just what you're looking for. Each sketchbook feels solid and well-made and shows good attention to detail. For instance, even though it already comes in spring binding, it still has perforations, so you can tear off the paper in a straight line.
Another plus is its dual surface finish. One side of the page has a smooth finish, while the other side has a rough texture. This versatility makes it a great choice for those who want to have the best of both worlds and explore both wet and dry media. And at its affordable price, you'd be surprised to find that the paper is acid-free, too!
If you work exclusively with dry media, this sketchbook is perfect for you. It is ideal for both light and dark media such as pencil, graphite, charcoal, chalk, and pens. The paper is also thick enough to accommodate markers and gel pens. What's more, is that it is acid-free, so your sketches won't turn yellow and will stay pristine for a long, long time.
Within the 400 series, Strathmore offers toned paper in gray, black, and tan shades. This specific variant is gray, and it's wonderful for practicing shading and studying values. The paper tone works well with colors and requires less blending. The thickness of the paper also allows it to withstand hard strokes.
Even if it is a paperback-type of sketchbook, it does have a hard cardboard backing. This makes for convenient drawing, even when you are not working at a desk. And because it is perforated, you can tear out your pages as you wish.
This sketchbook is a staple in an art student's kit for many good reasons. First, it is inexpensive and can be used by those who need to practice their art skills. With lightweight 90 gsm pages, you are free to scribble and doodle away with no worries about costs.
The size is pretty standard for someone who is only beginning to learn about drawing from scale and from different perspectives. The paper is smooth with just the right texture to accommodate layers and layers of pencil shading. For kids, students, or art newbies, this is the perfect product for you!
Below are some of the most asked questions on the web answered by the mybest team.
Yes. Sketchbooks are intended for practicing and experimenting, so the paper is more lightweight. Drawing books, on the other hand, is intended for finished art. The paper is heavier and has a toothier surface to be able to receive more layers and allow the artist to create more depth and complexity.
However, this difference applies to simple dry media sketchbooks only and does not apply to specialized types like watercolor or mixed media sketchbooks.
If you want your sketchbook to last longer, it's best to have a dedicated space for storing it, such as a bookshelf. To keep the pages smudge-free, you can use a fixative spray to preserve your sketches and prevent them from smearing on the adjacent page. You can also secure it with rubber bands or elastic to keep it firmly bound together and protect the spine.
Yes, especially if the paper isn't acid-free. Overexposure to sunlight can fade your drawings and lead to bleaching, yellowing, and weakening of paper. That's why it's important to go for acid-free sketchbooks and to store them in a designated space away from sunlight.
Now that you have your basic drawing surface, it's time to go shopping for your art materials. Check out our other article reviews of art materials to help you get started on your art journey!
Author: R. Umlas
Our buying guide was carefully researched and crafted by the mybest team of writers and editors, in collaboration with the expert featured in this article. We used the buying guide as a basis for choosing and ranking the product recommendations, and we looked at reviews and ratings from different E-commerce sites like Lazada, Shopee, and more.
No. 1：Moleskine｜Art Sketchbook
No. 2：Monologue｜Grandluxe Sketch Pad
No. 3：Strathmore ｜400 Series Bristol Sketch Pad
No. 4：Canson｜XL Mix-Media
No. 5：Etchr Lab｜Sketchbook
View Full Ranking
When you purchase products mentioned in the article, part of the sales may be returned to mybest.
The descriptions of each product is referenced from the content available from the manufacturer, e-commerce sites etc.
BeautyBody care, Makeup, Skincare
CamerasCamera supplies, Digital cameras, Drones and multirotors
HealthBeauty supplements, Medical supplies, Feminine care
Household goodsAir treatment, Bath and shower supplies, Blankets
PCs and laptopsComputer accessories, Computer components, Desktop pcs
Home appliances and electronicsAir conditioners and coolers, Air treatment, Blenders, mixers, and food processors
Food and drinksAlcoholic beverages, Baked goods and desserts, Baking
Kitchen suppliesBaking tools, Coffee and tea accessories, Food containers
ClothingBrands and shops, Men's coats and jackets, Men's innerwear
ShoesMen's shoes, Other shoes and footwear, Outdoor footwear
AccessoriesBags, Accessories and jewelry, Belts
Mom and babyBaby books and toys, Baby food and snacks, Baby supplies
Interior and furnitureBeds, Carpets and rugs and mats, Chairs
HobbiesAnimes, Arts and crafts, Board games
OutdoorCamping beds and cots, Camping stoves, Coolers
DIY and tools
Sports and fitnessAccessories, Badminton, Basketball
PetsCat supplies, Dog supplies, Fish and aquarium supplies
Books, CDs, and DVDsBooks and magazines, CDs, Linguistics, dictionaries, and phrase books
GamesConsole accessories, PC and console games
Cars and motorcyclesCar accessories, Car seats, Car supplies
GiftsChristmas-related gifts, Gifts for kids, Gifts for men
Home improvement and toolsDoor hardware and locks, Electrical, Gas stoves
Smartphones and tabletsSmartphone accessories, Smartphones, Storage
Investment and asset management
Banking and financeCredit cards, Debit cards, Services and apps
InsuranceCar insurance, Life insurance, Medical insurance
AudioEarphones, Gaming, Headphones
Smartphone applicationsBusiness apps, Dating apps, Education apps
OthersOthers, Merch, Recreation