The best sketchbooks for artists in February 2024

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Three sketchbooks on an orange background

(Image credit: Future / Moleskine / Leda Art Supply / Strathmore)

The best sketchbooks
FAQs
How to choose
How we test

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.

If you're not sure what you should be looking for, jump ahead to our FAQs. Alternatively, to discover more art tools, read our guides to the best art supplies and the best pencils

The best sketchbooks for artists available now

FAQs

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.

Cat Ellis

Cat is currently the editor of Creative Bloq's sister site Advnture. She was operations editor on Computer Arts, the former magazine for graphic designers and illustrators, and spent many years covering creative software as downloads editor for TechRadar. Cat is also a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time she enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).

With contributions from