Review and Giveaway: Leuchtturm Notebooks… and Sketchbook!

I’ve reviewed and mentioned Leuchtturm notebooks many times– over the last few years, they’ve been popping up in more and more stores and are probably Moleskine‘s closest competitor. I’m sure that is in part due to marketing efforts on the part of their distributor, Kikkerland, who were kind enough to send me the samples you’ll see below!

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Their success is also attributable to their offering a product with some key distinctions from Moleskine– numbered pages, index pages at the beginning, and a reputation for fountain-pen-friendliness. But there was one area where Moleskine always had them beat: the sketchbook. Moleskine’s heavyweight card-stock sketchbook paper has become a favorite of many artists for good reason– though the texture and color of the paper aren’t for everyone, there is almost no alternative on the market if you want a small pocket sketchbook with smooth, heavyweight paper. There are other brands that have a similar form factor, but with lighter paper, or rougher paper. There are tons of sketchbooks for artists that offer a wide variety of sketch papers in bulkier, larger formats, or with a spiral binding. But if you wanted a hardcover, heavyweight paper, elastic-closure sketchbook that was truly pocketable, there weren’t too many options. But now there is an exciting new one!

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Leuchtturm has introduced a sketchbook with 180 gsm paper. It has the standard format with a black hardcover, elastic closure, ribbon marker and back pocket, but inside you get this lovely, thick, bright white sketch paper. It is not as smooth as Moleskine’s sketchbook paper, but it still feels good with fine rollerball pens– not scratchy or rough. All other pens work well on it too, as well as pencils, and even watercolor. Though Leuchtturm doesn’t make any claims about wet media, I found that it held up to watercolor, without much buckling or deterioration of the paper. There is almost NO show-through or bleed-through, except from the Super Sharpie, and the Accu-Liner when it was held in one spot for 5 seconds. One interesting pen test result was that the white Uniball gel ink, which is often almost invisible, stood out and looked yellowish on this cool white paper. And certain pens that can sometimes look a bit greyish looked dark black on this paper. It opens nice and flat if you want to work across a double page spread.

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This is probably the best sketchbook paper I’ve tried outside of Stillman & Birn’s product line. In fact, when I reviewed their sketchbooks, I wrote about wishing that they had a size smaller than 4×6″, to match all my other pocket notebooks from Moleskine, Piccadilly and similar brands. This Leuchtturm sketchbook comes sooooo close– but it is 9 x 15 cm, rather than the 9 x 14 cm size I prefer. (Shown below with a pocket Moleskine sketchbook for comparison.) Other than that, I think it’s a fantastic sketchbook that really fills a hole in the market. They also offer it in Orange, Taupe, and white, and in their Master and Large sizes.

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I also took a look at the orange graph paper notebook they sent me. When Leuchtturm first came on the scene, they always seemed to have better quality control than Moleskine has in recent years. Now that they are presumably gaining in popularity and getting broader distribution, I wondered if they might also start to stumble in quality as they produce more units. I don’t remember if Leuchtturm ever claimed to be manufactured anywhere other than Asia– this notebook says it is made in Taiwan. One indicator of quality I always look for is the corners of a hardcover notebook. On this orange one, they are not turned very precisely, so you end up with a sort of choppy, angled-off corner, instead of a tidy, fully rounded one. In the previous Leuchtturm I reviewed, the corners were much neater. This one also seemed to have a lot of glue on the spine– this might strengthen it, but it also makes it a bit stiffer and harder to open fully flat. The paper is still nice and smooth and feels good to write on, but it’s no better than Moleskine’s in terms of show-through and bleed-through. It does seem to work well with fountain pens, though my Lamy seemed to be running out of ink as I did the test, and was skipping a bit. (I later remembered how to refill it, and retested it with good results on a different page.) Most of Leuchtturm’s notebooks say they have “ink-proof” paper, but the weight differs among their various products. The Pocket and Large size notebooks have 80 gsm paper. The Master size notebooks have 100 gsm paper. The Mini size and some of their other products don’t specify a paper weight on their website.

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Other pros and cons: I LOVE the fine, thin lines of the graph paper– the grid is the perfect weight and size, unlike some other squared notebooks where the lines are distractingly dark or too close together.  But I would prefer the grid went all the way to the top and bottom instead of having margins for the page numbers and spaces to write a date. I like that they include stickers for labeling the notebook, even though I doubt I’d ever use them myself. I like it that they sell stick-on pen loops so you can decide for yourself whether you need that feature. I like the various size and color options offered by Leuchtturm, especially the charcoal-grey cloth-covered ones. Their cover overhang isn’t too bad. And they do generally feel solid and well-made. I’ve never noticed the sloppy corners until the orange and neon yellow samples I received, so I’m hoping it’s an anomaly and not evidence of a trend! I really do wish the pocket size notebooks weren’t 9 x 15 cm, or I’m sure I’d use them a lot. But I know that won’t stop a lot of other people!

And just to briefly mention the other samples: I’m not a huge fan of neon colors, but I like the mid-size notebook. The cover has a dot pattern all over it. And I love the “Master Slim” notebook in grey. I like to use big notebooks like this at work, so I might look for a dotted or squared one to try. It would be nice if they also had a softcover option in this size.

Now for today’s giveaway! I’ll be picking two winners, each of whom will receive one notebook and one pen loop. I’ll randomly select the winners from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Leuchtturm @LT1917NYC” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @LT1917NYC.

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and post something containing the word “Leuchtturm” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Leuchtturm” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday May 23, 2014 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.

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9 Responses to “Review and Giveaway: Leuchtturm Notebooks… and Sketchbook!”

  1. Are the sketchbooks “coming soon”? I can’t seem to find them on kikkerland’s website or anywhere else :(

  2. Lovely review– wanted to know more about these before trying one!

  3. Great review. I’ve looked at these several times but ‘gone safe’ and kept buying the moleskines.

    Think I’ll pick up one asap

  4. […] Review and Giveaway: Leuchtturm Notebooks… and Sketchbook […]

  5. Love trying new paper and sketchbook. I’ll be going to Facebook, I don’t tweet!

  6. Awesome review!
    I’ve really been eye balling these notebooks for a long while. Really want to try one already! :D definitely entering this contest. Posted on Facebook for this one.

  7. Allons-y! They look like great sketchbooks! Would love to field test them. Thanks for the giveaway.

  8. Oh too bad I just found this!
    I really want the notebooks. These brand names notebooks don’t exist in my place. I haven’t seen anything but moleskine here, and even that is only sold in certain places.
    I’m waiting for the chance to lay my hand on a Leuchtturm, Whitelines, Rhodia, or Clairefontaine… Well, there’s always tomorrow, I guess.

  9. Actually, Leuchtturm does offer master size notebooks in soft cover, but much thinner. It’s from their Jottbook collection – the notebooks are only 60 pages, but they offer it in A4 format, which I think is pretty neat and useful.

    I have a lot of Leuchtturm notebooks in my collection, and when it comes to the roundness of the corners I don’t think they were ever fully round – there’s always just a bit of rough egde, though I’d say most of the time it’s barely noticeable.
    As for the margins on the top and bottom of each page – dotted notebooks don’t have that.
    For me pocket slim dotted leuchtturm is, at least for now, the perfect little black notebook. Lauchtturms are very durable (I’ve carried one of them for over a year, and only cover is a bit battered, but not that much either). The dotted pattern is perfect for me – dots are distributed evenly so that the pattern of pages is a bit like a lighter squared, except when you’ve filled a whole page, it looks like the page was originally blank, not dotted.
    I think that those dotted pages are one of many advantages Leuchtturm has over other brands, because I’ve been looking around and there were very few brands that offered dotted page pattern, and I think it doesn’t get enough credit.

    Anyway, thanks for the review! As always it’s been a pleasure to read your insights.

    Best regards from Poland,
    Anna

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