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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Perfect Sketchbook

My Finished Sketchbooks
I have come to the decision that The Perfect one I make. I like stitched bound sketchbooks for travel and journals but for an all around workhorse I like my own best! Listed below are the papers and the sizes I use.

Watercolor Paper
3 Sheets of 22x30
I like an assortment of 140lb.  Bockinford or Saunders (Cold Press, Hot or Rough)

Bockingford & Saunders is available at Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, (800) 227-2788 

Toned Papers
8 pieces of pastel paper (11x10)
I use Mi-Teintes by Canson. I prefer creams, grays, and sepia tones. The paper comes in pads or larger sheets. Mi-Teintes can be found at most art supply stores.

Drawing paper
4 pieces of white drawing paper (11x10)

Simple Cover & Backing
For a simple cover and backing have spiral bound at an office supply store (Kinko’s, Staples, Office Max…). They provide a light weight cover, backing, and spiral.

If you want to get creative with the's what I do.
Additional Supplies for Decorative Cover
1 Piece decorative paper for cover.
Paper should be at least 1 inch larger than sketchbook size. A good resource for decorative papers is scrap booking stores. Papers that are thin should be avoided (tissue or Japanese paper). 

1 piece 11x10, 140lb watercolor paper
1 piece 10½X9½, 140lb watercolor paper
1 piece 11x10 stiff backing for back cover. I use thin illustration board, or mat board.

Miscellaneous items
Yes! Paste
Stiff brush for paste
Bone folder or burnishing stick

Place 11x10 watercolor paper on top of decorative paper (12x11). Cover watercolor paper with a light coat of Yes! paste. 
Turn watercolor paper over and burnish down with bone stick. 
Trim 4 corners as seen in picture.

Use paste on 4 flaps, fold over, and burnish down with bone folder.
Cover 10½X9½ watercolor paper with a light coat of paste and mount on top of cover (backside). This gives the inside cover a clean look and extra strength.

 Selection of papers in my sketchbook. The papers where punched with a spiral binder (picture taken before spiral was put on). Spiral binding is available at most office supply stores (Kinko’s, Staples, Office Max…).

Make a sketchbook fit your own needs. Use any brand of watercolor and drawing paper you like and any size you like. 
Happy Sketching! 


  1. This is wonderful Brenda! Thank you for your encouragement with painting and creativity.
    I am a fan!

    1. Barbara, You're very welcome! Glad you find my blog helpful!

    2. I enjoyed reading through your easy to follow and very sensible, creative descriptions of how you have personalized all these components to fit your needs. I am starting my own set-up today following your lead. Thanks so much for sharing so generously. Gloria Fox

  2. That top photo is terrific (as are the others). There is a special spirit that goes into the pages when you make it yourself...But I have trouble with bookmaking because of the precision that it involves...I visited an artist/illustrator when in Paris. She is 88 and has 73 finished journals on her shelves, all, I think, handmade, all about 18X12. Look her up on Lizzie Napoli or google her name. I think her work, mostly travel journals, is amazingly unique & wonderful, & since you're going to Provence, a lot of her books are about Provence! I will probably do an entry about her as it was one of the highpoints of my trip to France. PS I found an old watercolor magazine on my shelves and your work was featured in it. I do hope you'll stop by my little blog...

    1. Yes, Sketchbooks are very unique, personal and a very wonderful expression of ourselves.
      I stopped by your blog and you are off to a good start. I wish somewhere you had your name at least the first. It is nice to have a little personal information for readers. You're sketches are delightful!
      Thank you for telling me about Lizzie Napoli...I plan to do a little research.

  3. Hi Brenda, OK, I think I'll be brave & reveal that I am Rita on my blog. I just now posted my 1st entry from my April trip to France with a page from my travel journal.
    When you are in Provence you might find Lizzie's books in local bookshops.

  4. What a great sketchbook! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Dear Brenda I love these posts! I can take some pictures and make a post with links to my readers and connect with your blog?(the sketchbook and the Brenda bag?)

  6. Rita, Many have used my images and don't even give me credit ;/ It's okay if you give credit and provide a link to me.
    Thank you for asking!

  7. Thanks Brenda!As blogger as painter...
    I feel the problem of copyright!.
    Have nice day,Rita.

  8. Thank you Brenda for sharing this. Its really helpful.

  9. I appreciate your taking the time to explain exactly what papers you put in your sketchbooks. Having the specifics makes it all seem very doable. I've been frustrated lately with finding exactly the right sketchbook, but, after reading your post, I think I just might jump into making my own. And the cover info is very helpful, too. THANK YOU!

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  11. Thanks, Brenda, for the info on making this type of art journal. Question....when I visited Staples, they indicated they couldn't cut anything thicker than my 140# paper to make a spiral. Did I get misinformation?

  12. love your tips and newsletter from Annie

  13. Love your blog and your work. Thank you for going the extra mile to help other artists.

  14. Hi there,

    I love the fact you make your own sketchbook!

    I tried for so long to find a great sketchbook in a good size - with really great watercolor paper - but in the end I gave up. I also made my own (you can find it on my website! I used Fabriano Artistico paper (29,5x27cm when closed), cold press, extra white, 140 Ib, rough. And wow, do I love it!

    I live in a tiny town in Sweden and I need to purchase all my artist papers and tools on-line - I even bought some from the US. So, thats another reason I try to make my own supplies when possible!

    So glad I found your blog!

    1. Chatrine, Way to go! Nice sketchbookšŸ˜€

  15. Do you have your own paper cutter to cut the large watercolor sheets to the desired sizes or do you use Kinkos or a similar service for that? Also, don't the pages curl and buckle when you paint on them? How o you prevent that from happening?

    1. Karin,
      I use a mat cutter for large paper. The paper I use buckles very little.

    2. Thank you for your quick response. I have lots of Arches I could use, but it does buckle. I think I will try this.

  16. Thanks so much Brenda for sharing. Beautiful work. I just ordered one of your books.

  17. Brenda, I have flat files of odds and ends papers, and this would be a great way to put them to use and allow for experimentation. Do I need to be able to punch these before bringing them in to be bound or is this a part of the service? Thanks!

  18. You'll need to cut the papers but they punch and spiral bind.

  19. I've been using the Circa system from Levenger. I use a circa hole punch on Arches paper, then cut their covers to size using either the preexisting circa holes or punch my own, then use their discs. I like this system because I can add or take out pages, rearrange and make them to any size I like.

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  21. Dear Brenda, I got on your web this week and have been reading and writing down everything so I can go shopping via internet or town. I signed up for your WS in Seattle but the sketch class was full, darn. In enchanted with your work and want to try doing it before the class. Do you by any chance sell these books or strictly make my own? I'm getting a pen, paints,ink, pads and palette and a bunch more that you talked about. Thank you for so much inspiration. See you in 2020 Seattle. Rikki Spinner

    1. Rikki, I just saw your message! Unfortunately I don't make the books to sell. Hope to see you at a workshop in the future. Brenda

  22. I love your works so much. Thank you for sharing. I hope you have an exhibition in Hong Kong.


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