Drawing Sketch Books: Which ones are the best for pencil art?

Why is there so many different types of drawing sketchbooks on the market? And How does a beginner know which drawing sketchbook to choose?


Various drawing sketchbooks by Canson and Strathmore
The common drawing sketchbooks on the market.


In this article we will go over all the types of drawing paper and sketchbooks and how they are used for different types of art.

Many beginners often ask about drawing materials and which ones are the best to use for any kind of art.

The short answer is It Doesn’t Matter.

Drawing, painting and doing any kind of art is a matter of skill not materials. To be honest you can draw on toilet paper using a simple pencil if you have the patience.

But seriously, the choice of paper depends on what materials are used for drawing.  For example,  water colors, ink and markers requires a thicker paper to prevent the colors, and ink  from bleeding through the paper. Certain forms a charcoal require a heavier textured paper to hold the charcoal particles in place.

Since this is pencil art we won’t cover all the various types of paper used for drawing. As you advance in your artistic journey,  you can investigate the other types of paper that are used in water color, heavy charcoal and pastel drawings. There is even a specific paper used for long term archiving of art.

As you can imagine the price varies depending on the type of paper used.

Drawing Sketchbooks can be broken down by:

  • weight,

  • texture or tooth

  • size

  • and color.

Weight: The specified weight listed on the sketchbook, is what a ream or 500 sheets of paper would weigh when stacked on top of each other. For example in the sketchbook below,  5 sketchbooks of 100 sheets stacked on top of each other with a medium surface would weigh 50lbs.



sketchbook by Biefang 100 sheets @ 50lbs
Sketchbook by Beinfang. Note the weight and the amount of sheets

To give you an idea of the thickness of the page:  a single sheet of paper rated at 50lbs. is slightly thicker than a sheet of photo copier paper. It’s still malleable for writing and drawing but not so malleable that it will wrinkle easily. Therefore it’s easy to draw on and  render realistic values.

Heavier paper rated at over 100lbs. would be like cardboard. This type of paper is suited for watercolors, markers and heavier charcoal.

Here’s a break down on the various types of  Drawing sketchbooks and their weights

  1. Colorline Black Drawing Medium Surface by Canson 40 sheets 92lbs. Approx 13 books would weigh about 92lbs.
  2. Toned Gray by Strathmore Medium surface 50 sheets 80lbs. 10 sketchbooks would weigh 80lbs.
  3. Mixed Media by Canson Heavy surface 60 sheets 98lbs. Approx 8 sketchbooks would weight 98lbs.
  4. 4 sketch books of 24 sheets Vellum Bristol Pad weigh in about 100lbs.

 Texture: Sketch books or drawing paper comes in 3 different surface textures, smooth, medium and rough. The surface texture, is also referred to as the tooth of the paper. Smooth textured paper has no tooth and is used in copier machines. The smooth surface makes it ideal for writing and photocopying.

On the other hand, Heavy Charcoal, markers, or pastels would either bleed through or rub off the paper’s smooth surface.

Paper with a rough and medium texture would be suitable /for pastels, and charcoal. The surface is relatively smooth and doesn’t have a lot of nooks and crannies that are present in thicker paper. The surface of the paper has enough tooth to absorbs graphite and other forms of charcoal without rubbing off.

Size: As you can imagine sketchbooks come in different sizes. Starting with 8.5 x 11 in all the way up to 18 x 24 and beyond called Newsprint. As a beginner the bigger 8.5 x 11 should be fine. But if you get into human and figure drawing bigger format paper 18 x 24 should be used for that life-like quality.

Color: Sketch book comes in various colors. The different colors  helps in rendering the different shades of grays in pencil and charcoal drawings.

What is Acid Free?

Acid Free is how the paper is processed. Acid Free paper will last longer and will not yellow over time. Beginner artists need not worry about this designation most paper is ACID FREE

To Sum up

Drawing sketchbooks rated at 50lbs to 100lbs with a, medium to smooth surface will be more than adequate for pencil art. Heavier weighted paper will archive the drawings for a long time in case you want to frame your masterpiece.

Artists that work with markers, or water colors etc.  need multimedia sketchbooks with a rough texture to prevent the colors and markers from bleeding through the paper.

Bottom line:

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the drawing sketchbooks on the market. As a beginner there are two things to look for in a drawing sketchbook : the weight of the paper, and surface texture. Any sketchbook that fits that criterion will be fine for beginner work.


Hard Work and discipline will produce quality results

There is no substitute for quality drawing. Only daily practice and hard work will improve the skill sets. Keep in mind the renaissance artists  did not have access to all these drawing materials. They had to make their own drawing materials from scratch which proves that you can draw on anything.

Be sure to  let me know in the comments some of your favorite  drawing sketchbooks. The next article will talk about different pencils


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