Posts in category "reviews"

My Sketchbooks Comparison

My sketchbooks

I addmitted before I am a sketchbook addict — whenever I come across a sketchbook that looks promising, I must have it. It would not be a problem if it didn't end up unused for several years, which sometimes happens to my art supplies. But I did at least try out all my sketchbooks enough to make an opinion about them, so here it is.

I am not an experienced artist, I am a newbie trying to navigate my way in a complex world of brands, grades and avilability in second world countries (the latter being the reason why my review is a little thin - I can't even find a proper sketchbook where I live).
If you disagree with me, feel free to comment, I will be glad to hear your opinion.

Comparison table is provided at the bottom. I will add more to it as I try out.

Note: Links that link to Amazon are referrals, meaning I get a small cut if you buy the sketchbook. The cost is the same for you.


Moleskine sketchbook

Moleskine sketchbook

Considering all the hype about Moleskines, I was very disappointed with this particular sketchbook.
I knew it was not designed for water-based media (although it's advertised for gouache), but I expected it would at least handle ink well, and I was wrong. While there's no obvious problem with fineliners and brush pen, other than looking a bit faded instead of pure black, the results with my calligraphy pen are very poor - streaky, patchy, and leaky. Don't let my sketch examples fool you, I increase the contrast in Photoshop before uploading, but in reality the black ink is nowhere near black, the paper just soaks it up.
The paper is very smooth, but it's also covered with something that prevents ink from setting properly. I've heard people using fountain pens are also somewhat dissatisfied.
Thick black marker bleeds through.

You can use watercolor pencils on it and the paper won't buckle, but rub the paper with a wet brush too much, and you get patches of water leaking through the paper that kinda ruin the uniformity of colour.

Apparently you can use this sketchbook with opaque media such as gouache, acrylic or even oil - I tried a bit of gouache and yes it does work. This, the thickness of paper, and the fact that the book opens absolutely flat so you can use both pages at once, is the only advantage in my opinion. If you aren't too concerned with stuff showing through the other side, you might as well buy something more affordable with a larger number of thinner pages.
Also the yellowish tone is a bit too intensive for my taste. This is not a subtle off-white, it's vanilla.

Verdict: I'll use it up, but somehow I doubt I'll get this one again.

Buy on Amazon.com

Examples


Moleskine watercolor notebook

Moleskine watercolor notebook

First of all, I don't like the extreme landscape format. I have bought this sketchbook only because there is no alternative to it where I live — however, you may be able to find other sketchbooks locally or online with paper of comparable quality, but a more reasonable portrait format binding (Derwent, Global Arts, Stillman and Birn — if I find a retailer that doesn't charge an arm and a leg for shipping to Europe, I will try them out).

Paper is a quality heavy weight acid free watercolor paper — great for just about any water media application and double-sided use. The texture however makes it less than ideal for smooth ink drawings and calligraphy.

Verdict: If you can't get your hands on portrait bound sketchbooks, or you like the landscape format, this one is great.

Buy on Amazon.com

Examples


Winsor & Newton wire bound watercolor sketchbook

Winsor & Newton wire bound watercolor sketchbook

My sketchbook is several years old, and I have read they changed their paper supplier afterwards, so the quality is no longer as good as in the older editions.
I don't use it in an advanced way (heavy washes, lifting off the paint), but the price to quality ratio is in my opinion quite good and it works well for me. It has 170gsm acid-free paper with barely noticable texture.

One thing I noticed is when I use ink (whether it's pen or brush & ink or fineliner, it doesn't matter) when the pages rub together (wire bound books are pretty loose), the adjacent page will get some ink residue on it — nothing too big and most of it will get off with an eraser, but it can be annoying if there is a nice watercolor drawing on the other page... so depending on how important you consider your sketches to be, you may have to skip reverse pages if you work in ink.
Pages are perforated so you can tear them out.

Verdict: I prefer threadbound sketchbooks because wire bound smudge a lot, but other than that the paper is perfect.

I can't find this one for sale online – maybe it's discontinued?

Examples


Canson Art Book: Universal Sketch Book

Canson Art Book: Universal Sketch Book

I bought this hardbound sketchbook locally, and the price is about the same as Moleskines. However after testing all my drawing instruments on it, I love it! The paper is thin, but it's of great quality so nothing but the thick marker bled through. Paper grain is fine so my brush pen, dip pen and calligraphy pen glide over it and I can say this is absolutely the best sketchbook for ink of all the others I've reviewed. No feathering, no bleeding, no ugly yellow paper tone, opens completely flat, even has a back pocket... if the paper was a bit thicker, it would be perfect! But I'm satisfied with it as it is.

Water media warps paper a little, but it's not terrible. It's advertised as resistant to erasing, and I can confirm it really is.

Verdict: So far this is my favorite one and I hope I will be able to get them locally in the future because it has most of the features I want. This one, plus a sketchbook exclusively for watercolor, is all I need.

Buy on Amazon.com

Examples


teNeues Magneto

teNeues Magneto sketchbook

I suppose this one is similar to regular Moleskine notebook in many ways, but I haven't had one so I'm not sure. The paper is thin, smooth, off-white.
Good for everything except watercolor and a heavy ink application. Brush pen doesn't leak through, paper takes light water washes with a little buckling.

I bought it at a discount so the price was OK, however the normal price is more than I'd normally be willing pay for such a notebook (about he same as Moleskine) since it's not art grade.

Verdict: I'm satisfied with it because it's been very useful, but I won't buy more of them.

Buy on teNeues.com

Examples


Lega-lega notebook

Lega-lega notebook

This sketchbook has thin velvety paper — not very good for fine-liners or brush pen because they feather and sometimes leak, but it's good for pencil (though graphite easily transers onto adjacent pages, but it happens with a Moleskine too), colored pencil, ballpoint pen, and even watercolor pencil and light watercolor will work, but as with any thin paper it will buckle a bit when wet.
The subtle off-white tone is very nice.

Verdict: If you live in Croatia and are not too fussy about paper quality, this one is very good and I've used it more than all other sketchbooks combined. I suppose you can find similar quality sketchbooks locally wherever you live.

Buy on Lega-Lega.com

Examples


Lega-lega red notebook

Lega-lega red notebook

I can't find it online (sold out?), but it's the same as the black one linked below.
The paper is thin and somewhat smooth. Brush pen doesn't leak through, but my calligraphy pen does a bit.

Verdict: If you live in Croatia and love unusual things, this is as unusual as it gets. That, and the black version.

Buy on Lega-Lega.com

Examples

EDIT: Moleskine now has the same black paper thing, but thicker.


Sketchbook medium comparison table

I assigned "points" for each medium I thought of testing (I don't have art markers, sorry). OK gets 1 point, Great gets 2 points, Bad gets zero, and the sum is at the bottom. The points by no means reflect the overall quality of the sketchbook, just that it's more versatile with different mediums.

Moleskine sketchbook Moleskine watercolor Winsor & Newton wire bound watercolor Canson Art Book teNeues Magneto Lega-lega notebook Lega-lega red notebook
Graphite pencil Great Great Great Great OK Great Bad
Ballpoint pen Great Great Great Great Great Great Great
Pigment ink fine-liner OK OK Great Great Great OK Great
Brush pen OK Great Great Great Great Bad Great
Color pencils Great Great Great Great Great Great Bad
Watercolor pencils OK Great Great Great OK OK Bad
Watercolor Bad Great Great OK Bad OK Bad
Gel pens Great Great Great Great Great OK Great
Calligraphy Bad OK Great Great Bad Bad Great
Fountain pens OK OK Great Great OK Bad Great
Paint markers Great Bad Bad OK Great Bad Great
Gouache and Acrylic Great Great Great OK Bad OK Bad
Points 16 19 22 21 15 11 14

My new Epson scanner arrived! (Epson Perfection V330 Photo scanner Review)

I bought an Epson Perfection V330 Photo scanner, and tested it today so here's my review!
I was a little skeptic because I read many reviews that pointed out some issues, but so far I had none.

I was deciding between this model and Canon CanoScan 5600F. They are around the same price and have very similar features, and the reviews are equally good (or equally irate). My deciding point was that Epson can open the lid fully up to 180° as the images clearly showed, but I wasn't sure if Canon can do that. Since most of my artwork is larger than A4, this is very important to me.

So, am I satisfied? Yes, pretty much! :D I have scanned some of my drawings and paintings and the scans are just sooo much better than the photos I made of them. Here's an example:

Photo vs. scanner

See the new scan of Animus in full size :)

I used my Pentax k100D SLR for the photo, I took the shot in daylight with a tripod, and preserved the RAW format so basically, that's the best you can get without studio lighting. I retouched it to get more accurate colors, but there simply wasn't enough color information to begin with. Compared to the scan it's washed out.
The scan is very close to the original, the colors are very vibrant, contrast is perfect, I had to make minimal color adjustments. The paper texture is maybe too harsh (it's not so evident in person), but I can live with that.
I noticed on the new scan of Ascent that it picked up even the subtlest creases on the paper, but it can be retouched — as long as all the shades are there (and they pretty much are!) it's good.

I don't really need the transparency unit so much, but 25 Euro difference wasn't a big deal, so it's nice to have that option in case I decide to have fun with my vintage film cameras again.
Canon LiDE models were out of the question because of the CIS sensor which is pretty much useless for anything that's not completely flat. Forget about mixed media/collage, warped watercolor paper, paper that has been folded and such.

One other thought: the scanner software applies automatic settings when you preview the scan. I haven't found the option to turn it off completely yet, but there is a button that resets the settings to normal. You can either use the scanning software settings then to adjust your scan, or if you prefer to use a certain program (GIMP or Photoshop) just scan as it is, and then edit the image in your favorite program, which is what I'm doing.

I've been without a scanner for over a year, but the one I had was not very good (one of the older HP all-in-one printers), it used to cut off subtle shades and this was very frustrating, so photographing pieces was actually a better option.

If you don't have a scanner, it's OK if you have a decent point-and-shoot camera. Some of my artwork photos were taken with a Sony Cybershot DSC-W170 from my hand, and it worked well too. The only trick is that you take it in daylight so the colors are accurate, and you have a steady hand (I take 5-6 photos and pick the clearest one). My sketches and WIPs were taken on incandescent light, so it took a lot of Levels adjusting to get the colors from yellowish to neutral.
If you're thinking about a scanner for your traditional artwork, I can recommend this one. I'll let you know if anything changes :)

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