A seasoned artist can tell you how much of a difference the right paper makes. An inferior paper or one that is not manufactured for watercolors may result in a disappointing finished product.
Because choosing the right paper is so vital, we’ve collected this list of the best watercolor sketchbooks. Each one was thoroughly tested for the quality of its paper, the sturdiness of its cover and its longevity before making the final cut.
List of 12 Best Watercolor Sketchbooks on the Market Today:
1. Arches Watercolor Paper Pad
Each page of this 10″ by 14″ sketchbook consists of 140-pound, cold press paper. The cold press process makes this one of the best sketchbooks for painting.
It results in a light texture and a paper surface that reflects light particularly well. Moreover, this paper helps watercolors to retain their transparent quality, and details are given outstanding definition.
Arches is a venerable paper manufacturer, and each page in this 12-sheet sketchbook reflects this reputation. The paper is made on a cylindrical mold using long fibers, making this paper especially resilient and durable.
Each sheet is individually bathed in pure gelatin and air-dried to provide extra strength. With a history that spans back to 1492, artists can trust Arches to preserve the time-honored traditions of paper manufacturing.
Made with 100-percent cotton fibers, this paper is extraordinarily stable and guaranteed not to stretch or warp when water is applied.
Additionally, paint is extremely unlikely to bleed through this carefully manufactured paper. The paper even stands up well to layering and erasing. Reviews indicate that people notice the difference between Arches and other paper immediately.
While it may cost more than other products, the care that Arches puts into each sheet makes the price worth it.
2. Canson XL Series Mix Media Paper Pad, Heavyweight, Fine Texture
Bound with a side wire, this 7″ by 10″ pad includes 60 sheets of 98-pound paper. In addition to watercolor, this paper is suitable for use with pen and pencil as well as acrylics. Whether you use wet or dry media, this paper is up to the task.
A variety of larger and smaller size sketchbooks are available in this line, but many artists seem to prefer the 7″ by 10″. Microperforating along the edge of each sheet makes it easy to remove certain pages without affecting the others.
The side wire binding is particularly useful for folding the cover out of the way so that the artist can use the entire page. Both blending and erasing are made easy with this versatile and durable paper. The fine texture on the surface is ideal for a wide variety of applications.
Users say that they appreciate that the weight of the paper prevents watercolors from bleeding through to the other side.
Other reviews say that the paper is quite durable. Even when multiple layers or various applications are used on a single sheet, the paper performs well. Nonetheless, critics say that it pays to take care not to use too much water as this can cause the paper to warp.
This 60-sheet watercolor painting sketchbook from Canson is a bargain for aspiring artists.
3. Pentalic 20802 Watercolor Field Book, 7-Inch by 10-Inch
If you’re looking for the best watercolor sketchbook for working outside the studio, then this product from Pentalic is an excellent option. Its features include hardcover and double wire binding so that the book lays flat. The acid-free paper is 7″ by 10″, and the sketchbook price is great.
The 140-pound paper is extra thick so that watercolors do not bleed through to the backside. Additionally, this paper is finished with a cold-press process to ensure extra durability.
Inside the book are 24 sheets of paper that demonstrate exceptional strength even when water.
As a professional-grade watercolor paper, this is an outstanding choice for the artist who is going to be working in the field.
An elegant and understated cover protects the paper while also providing plenty of durability and stability.
The cover also serves as an excellent handhold while working. Each page is made with materials that are sourced from forests that are certified as sustainable.
People who love this paper say that it performs well with traditional watercolors but that it also accepts gouache, ink pens of all varieties and pencils. The hardcover is especially appreciated by artists who are creating outside of the studio.
Fans say that the paper quality is top-notch. Nonetheless, some people are bothered because the pages are not perforated and are difficult to remove.
This hardbound Pentalic sketchbook is ideal for watercolor artists on the go.
4. Moleskine Art Watercolor Album
This hardcover Moleskine album has dimensions of 5″ by 8.25″. With an affordable price, this may be the best notebook for watercolor artists who are devoted to the Moleskine brand.
In fact, Moleskine is recognized around the world for the quality of its blank books and journals. This watercolor album is no exception.
It features a hardcover that is incredibly durable even when it is used every day. Moreover, it features an elastic band to securely hold the book closed when it is not in use.
Inside the back cover is a storage pocket where small items can be stored. The thick, ivory-colored paper provides a lovely background for watercolor work.
Inside the sturdy cover at 72 pages of 135-pound paper. The paper is cold-pressed and is identical on both sides.
Because it is so thick, artists may be able to use both sides without difficulty. You can keep your place among the acid-free pages with the included bookmark.
People praise this watercolor album for its ideal size and sturdy cover. Moreover, many of them note that the paper is genuinely impressive, and they love this album’s ability to lie flat when open.
Moleskine makes high-quality products for artists of all ability levels.
5. Bellofy 100-Sheet Sketchpad Artist Pro, Watercolor
Frequently referred to as the best watercolor travel sketchbook, this product from Bellofy is an excellent option for novice and seasoned artists alike. The 9″ by 12″ size is universally appealing, and the 90-pound paper is the “just-right” weight for taking on the go.
The heavy, A4-size drawing paper is ideal for watercolors as well as acrylic paint, pencil or any ink. The sketch paper itself is smooth and strong and able to absorb all sorts of lines and colors. Each sheet is microperforated to make them easy to remove.
Because the wire binding coil is placed at the top of the page rather than the side, this sketchbook can be used with equal ease by both right- and left-handed artists. The recycled, acid-free paper has a smooth surface, and it can handle watercolor well if the water is not distributed too heavily. Both sides of the paper are identical, making it possible for artists to use both if they choose.
Saying that it is an economical idea for sketching out ideas, people frequently praise this sketchbook. Reviews suggest that people are impressed with how much paper they get for the price. Some critics do comment that this paper isn’t well suited to layers or erasing.
For the traveling artist, this Bellofy product is an excellent choice.
6. Field Artist 4″ by 6.5″ Rectangle Watercolor Journal
This is an excellent hardback watercolor sketchbook. It’s ideal for people who like to combine a personal journal with sketches and watercolors. The journal contains 80 pages that are finished with a cold-press process.
A hardbound cover that is finished in a lovely faux leather makes this an elegant sketchbook that’s suitable for men or women. It can be securely closed with an elastic strap, and a ribbon bookmark ensures that you can always pick up where you left off.
The paper is made with recycled materials, is acid-free and a bright white. This 140-pound paper is considered ideal for watercolor work, but you can certainly use any type of paint, ink or pencil as well.
The binding is sewn to ensure its sturdiness, and the book conveniently lies flat when open. Many people use this watercolor journal to record their travels or the everyday events of their lives. They love that the sketchbook opens flat and has thick paper.
If you’re looking for a handsome and portable watercolor pad, this could be the one for you.
7. ARTEZA 9″ by 12″ Sketch Book
A set of two of these 9″ by 12″ spiral-bound sketchbooks may be purchased for a pretty cheap price. With each book containing 100 sheets of paper, this is a genuinely valuable deal. If you are a student or simply have a wealth of ideas to explore, then you’ll probably love this watercolor sketchbook journal.
With a total of 200 sheets, you’ll be able to sketch and watercolor as much as you like. The large size of the pages is a definite plus, and this paper is pretty heavy. It’s 68-pound paper, which is just right for playing and experimenting without breaking the bank.
This paper is designed to resist bleed-through and fading, which means that you may be able to use both sides of each sheet. Additionally, the pages are easy to remove using the perforation. ARTEZA provides a 100-percent guarantee on their products, so they’ll provide a free replacement if anything goes wrong.
People remark that this paper is perfectly adequate for sketching and light watercolor painting. Some have experimented with gluing together two or more sheets to make them thicker. The paper may be just a tad thin for those who prefer a wetter watercolor application.
ARTEZA has a reputation for making quality art supplies at affordable prices. These sketchbooks are no exception.
8. Bellofy 50-Sheet Watercolor Paper Pad
People who are in the market for good watercolor sketchbooks are bound to try these Bellofy 50-Sheet pads at some point. The 130-pound paper is a nice weight for watercolor, and each sheet undergoes a cold-press finishing process.
Accordingly, you can expect this paper to be quite sturdy and durable. A glue binding is placed at the top of the pages, which makes this sketchbook suitable for both lefts- and right-handed users. Moreover, the glue binding makes it easy to remove pages from the rest of the book.
Bellofy offers a money-back guarantee for anyone who is not satisfied with this product. As advertised, the paper is suitable for watercolor as well as all sorts of sketching and drawing. The acid-free paper is designed to stand the test of time, and the 9″ by 12″ sheets are a popular size.
Many aspiring artists try this product when they are ready for their first “real” watercolor paper. They love that this is 130-pound, cold-pressed paper for a reasonable price. Some reviews mention a grayish cast to the paper that they dislike.
Step up to this Bellofy watercolor paper when you’re ready to take your work to the next level.
9. Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paper Journal
When your work requires the best quality sketchbooks, then give these Winsor & Newton paper journals a try. This is a time-tested, reliable company that also manufactures paints of many varieties. Accordingly, they can be trusted to make exceptional watercolor paper.
The 5″ by 7″ size is perfect for being able to take anywhere. It’s filled with 140-pound, the cold-pressed paper that is incredibly durable. Winsor & Newton warrants this paper not to warp even when saturated. Each sheet is made on a cylinder mold using interwove fibers to provide greater stability and strength.
The less-textured finish is perfect for watercolors. Made of 100-percent cotton, this paper is bound to delight artists. The sketchbook contains 15 sheets. Fans love the spiral binding on this notebook and the cotton paper. However, some people are troubled that the pages measure less than a true 5″ by 7″ inches when removed at the perforation.
Winsor & Newton live up to their reputation with this excellent watercolor sketchbook.
10. Strathmore 483-5 400 Series Softcover Watercolor Art Journal
Containing 48 pages of 140-pound paper, this watercolor pad features excellent quality. It’s brought to you by a company that is considered by many to be the best watercolor sketchbook brand, Strathmore.
This softcover journal costs less than $15 and measures 8″ by 5.5″. It is manufactured in the U.S. and is considered ideal for watercolor painting. The paper is put through a cold-press finishing process, giving it a slight tooth on one side and a smooth finish on the other.
Bound with glue, it’s fairly easy to remove individual pages without disturbing the others. Most paints and inks will not bleed through this thick paper. Reviews suggest that people like to use both sides of this paper. They say that the toothy side is perfect for watercolors and that the smoother side may be used for sketches or very light watercolor.
The portable size is praised as is the quality of the Strathmore paper. Occasionally, people complain that the lack of cotton fiber in the paper makes paint dry incredibly slowly.
Strathmore preserves its excellent reputation with this outstanding watercolor sketchbook.
11. Stillman & Birn Beta Series Softcover Sketchbook
Billed as having “extra heavyweight” paper, the paper in this sketchbook is designed for mixed media use. It contains 28 sheets of white paper that are finished with a cold-press surface.
This also is an economical, budget-friendly choice. The dimensions of 5.5″ by 8.5″ place it among the best watercolor journals for picking up and taking on the go. The manufacturer says that this paper is designed to withstand both wet and dry media techniques. If you are working with a heavy wash or overlaying washes.
Each sheet is doubled-sized using non-animal materials to ensure that it possesses incredible wet strength. If you need to erase or lift away wet media, have no fear. This paper is built to withstand all sorts of use.
Reviews sometimes describe this sketchbook as exceptional. The size is praised as is the fact that watercolors do not bleed through the pages. Nonetheless, some users complain that the sketchbook doesn’t open flat.
This Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbook is great for use outside the studio.
12. illo Sketchbook, Large, Square
This one is for artists who prefer a square watercolor sketchbook. The 8″ by 8″ size is perfectly portable, and this sketchbook is designed to lay flat when opened. It features 122-pound, premium paper.
The hardcover is durable, elegant and attractive. Inside the cover are 112 pages that are designed for use with virtually any art medium, including watercolor. This is the perfect selection for the student or struggling artist with a budget-friendly price. Thanks to the square dimensions, sharing on social media is easier than ever.
You don’t have to do any cropping. An elastic strap keeps the book securely closed when not in use.
Although the paper is not acid-free, it still has many fans. Some say that it is their favorite watercolor sketchbook because it has great paper and a portable size. Remarks that artists fill up this big sketchbook quickly are common.
This product from illo is an excellent option for the student artist.
Making the Decision
Artists can be quite finicky when it comes to their choice of paper. What seems like adequate tooth to one may be entirely too much for another. Moreover, some may insist on 100-percent cotton fibers for their very finest work. At other times, they may be fine with using a pulp paper.
Each of these varieties and more is included in this list of the best watercolor journals. Some selections are suited to classroom work and informal watercolor sketches while others are designed for finished work.
Chances are good that you will find opportunities to use each one of these products throughout your career. It’s advisable to try as many of them as you can before deciding which watercolor pads are the right one for your work