The Sketch & Draw notebook is another Art Alternatives product that I picked up at Blick. These are inexpensive sketchbooks with toothier paper, similar to what’s found in the Hahnemuhle and HandBook sketchbooks, but not quite as thick.
The first thing that really sticks out about this brand is the placement of the elastic closure, which is tucked rather jauntily around the upper right corner on the diagonal. It’s not something you see on many other notebooks, and I think people’s opinions will be divided on it. I fall in the camp of not liking it, ultimately. It looks kind of nice from the front, but the back of the notebook looks kind of weird. It also seems as though it may twist the notebook a bit, so it’s not quite square. I do like the lime green color they picked, and the matching ribbon marker is a nice touch. Overall, it’s almost exactly the same size as a pocket Moleskine, but slightly thicker.
The exterior of the notebook is otherwise pretty typical– plain black, slight faux-leather texture, and brand name stamped on the bottom of the back cover. The cover overhang is a little more than I’d prefer. The spine has headbands at the top and bottom, but they are a bit too short to cover the whole spine width. Not sure why they bothered with this purely decorative detail without making them fit a little better! One other thing I noticed is that the spine feels a bit loose, which could be good for those who like to paste a lot into their sketchbooks– there’s some space to expand.
Inside the notebook there is no branding, just plain white endpapers. The pages lie nicely flat. There is an expanding pocket in the back with cloth sides.
The paper in this notebook, as noted already, is a bit rougher in texture, with a tooth that gives a nice feel to pencil or charcoal drawings. The packaging indicates that it is 110 GSM, but it feels lighter, somehow. Show-through and bleed-through were worse than I expected for this paper weight. The tooth makes it a bit rough for fine point pens, and my Zebra extra-fine brush pen really felt dry and scratchy on this paper. Pencil, charcoal, and thicker pens and markers are more the way to go in this sketchbook. Watercolor also seemed to work fine, without too much buckling or deterioration of the paper from light washes. The colors look flat and even but bright.
The show-through in the paper and the angled elastic make this a less than ideal sketchbook for me, but I think I could happily dedicate it to pencil drawings and collages, so it’s in my “to use someday” pile despite those complaints. These are available in portrait and landscape formats, and a couple of different colors for the elastic and ribbon. They’re $7.49 at Blick, which seems like a good value for a well-made little sketchbook, even if the paper isn’t perfect.