The best sketchbooks for artists are well made, feature high-quality paper and give you the perfect canvas on which to sketch, scribble, doodle and more. Our reviewers, who are all artists themselves, have tried out a wide range of products to carefully curate the list below.
Our experts have tested the best sketchbook brands to pick out their preferred choices for different mediums, from the best mechanical pencils to markers and watercolours. They've evaluated them for quality, binding and their practicality in terms of size.
The best sketchbooks for artists available now
Best for travel
Size: 5 x 8.25 inches
Pages / paper weight: 240 / 121lb
The larger of two sizes, this gives plenty of room but is great for sketching on the go thanks to its elastic closure, which keeps it neatly closed, and rounded corners that won't get bent. We found the ivory-coloured paper to be smooth but with enough tooth for most dry media. With 240 pages, you won't worry about filling it too quickly.
Best for beginners
Size: 7x10 inches
Pages / paper weight: 160 / 81lb
We think this superb all-rounder is the best sketchbook for beginners. It's a little smaller than A4 size so fits into most folders and bags and it's inexpensive enough for everyday practice. Its cover is waterproof, though it is flexible, so you'll need a hard surface to support it. The cream-coloured pages have micro-perforations for easy removal.
Best for pros
Size: 9 x 12 inches
Pages / paper weight: 50 / 60lb
With a fine-tooth that carries graphite, coloured pencils and pastels well, we think this is the best sketchbook for professionals. This is the smallest in a wide range of sizes (up to 18 x 24 inches). The price per sheet makes it expensive for regular practice, but we found it a delight to use and ideal for structural sketches.
For mixed media
Size: 12 x 1 x 9 inches
Pages / paper weight: 100 / 1.10lb
We found this super-thick, premium paper is strong and smooth enough to carry wet media like ink or watercolour and allow dry media like charcoal and pencil to slide. It's acid-free, which helps reduce blotches and smudges, and it's made from recycled paper. Spiral bound at the top, it lies flat without the annoyance of the spiral on the side – great for left-handed artists.
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Pages / paper weight: 20 / 140lb
Mixed-media pads can be useful but rarely perform as well as pads designed for specific tasks. This watercolour pad is specially made to withstand repeated washes. Thick paper ensures that it won't ripple or deform as it dries, and there'll be no bleeding. Pages are perforated, but Canson has factored that into the size, so you don't lose paper.
Size: 8.3 x 8.3in / 8.3 x 11.7in
Pages / paper weight: 78 / 120lb
Ohuhu creates markers so it makes sense that offer a decent sketchbook for them. The paper is pleasingly thick, and markers glide across it easily. A translucent sheet stops bleed through, but you'll be able to see markers on the other side of the paper, which means you can only really use one side with markers.
Size: 9 x 12in
Pages / paper weight: 50 / 80lb
The best sketchbooks with toned paper are ideal for learning to use values since they encourage a whole range, helping achieve more realistic results. Strathmore offers a grey-toned pad, but this is our pick since its warm colour lends life to portraits. The smooth texture works strongly with coloured pencils and graphite, though it carries all dry media well.
Size: 4 x 6in
Pages / paper weight: 80 / 70lb
This is the best sketchbook compact enough to fit in a pocket – and tough enough to survive rough treatment. Its hard cover prevents damage from knocks and scrapes, while its double-wire spiral binding is resistant to bending. There are no perforations for tearing out pages, so this is better for exercises and rough work.
Size: 18 x 24in
Pages / paper weight: 35 / 65lb
Many of the best sketchbooks are around A4 size, but there's no need to confine your work. This range has a version that's two feet long. The spiral binding lets it lie flat as you work, while the hard cover provides protection and support. Pages are easy to remove to store in a portfolio. It doesn't have a great deal of tooth though, so it's best for pencils and charcoal.
What size sketchbook should I get?
There's no universal answer to this question and pretty much comes down to personal preference. Obviously, smaller pocket-sized books are ideal for quick sketches on the go, while larger books offer more space for detailed work. So if you want to work outdoors, there may be a compromise to be made there.
Which weight of paper is best for sketching?
Most of the best sketchbook brands will display the grams (or lb) per square metre of their paper. This refers to the weight of the paper. Generally, the heavier, the higher the quality of the paper.
Paper with a weight of 75-90 gsm / 50-60 lb is generally heavy enough for sketching with pencils, pastels or charcoal but too thin for ink or markers, which could bleed through it. A weight of around 100-130 gsm / 70-80 lb is generally suitable for finished pieces in a range of media. For very rough sketches, really any kind of paper can suffice, even office printer paper, which tends to have a weight of around 80 gsm. However, it doesn't offer the most satisfying feel and isn't the most practical to carry around and keep your sketches.
For watercolours, you will generally want a paper of at least 300 gsm / 140 lb. Ideally, you will want heavier paper than tat to avid having to stretch the paper beforehand. Cotton paper, sometimes called 'rag paper' is better than wood pulp paper for watercolours, especially if you do a lot of scrubbing and masking, but it is usually more expensive.
What is 'tooth' in terms of sketchbook paper?
Tooth describes the surface of the paper, with high tooth having more texture and low tooth being smoother. High-tooth papers feel more bumpy and textured. They grab onto pigments and create a more granular, "grippy" effect with dry media like charcoal, pastels or pencils. Low-tooth papers in contrast feel very smooth and almost waxy. This kind of paper provides the least amount of grip for dry media but is good for fine, precise lines and washes made using wet media such as watercolour brushes.
How to choose the best sketchbook
The best sketchbook can be different for each artist. Different paper is different for different mediums: you'll need thick, heavy paper for markers and watercolours, and lighter paper for dry media. You'll also need to consider the 'tooth' or 'texture' of the paper. Pencils and inks work best with smooth paper, whereas charcoal and pastels are well suited to paper with more bite, as the pits and grooves hold pigment.
The binding of the sketchbook is also worth considering. A spiral-bound sketchbook will lie flat when you work on it, whereas some hardbound sketchbooks can be more tricky to use. Lastly, there's the question of size. For sketching on the move, a smaller hardcover sketchbook is handy as it fits into a bag or pocket and protects your work. Large-format sketchbooks will offer more space and freedom on the page.
How we test the best sketchbooks
We test sketchbooks and sketchpads with six different media: pen, pencil, pastels, charcoal, markers and, where appropriate, watercolours. We consider paper quality, weight and texture, permanence, and also consider format and price in order to choose the best sketchbooks for different requirements, including options for beginners, for travel and for different media.