I first heard about the Daler Rowney Pocket Sketchbook on an art supply website somewhere– unfortunately I’ve lost the link, but it was a glowing review that got me very intrigued, especially since it was said to be available at a very low price from Walmart. It took me a few tries to find a Walmart store that actually had one on the shelf, but let’s take a look at the one I bought.
My first impressions of this notebook were really not promising. It has a very standard black Moleskine-clone look but with a rather cheap feel to it, with the exterior reminding me of the Piccadilly notebooks I bought years ago. The branding is all on a removable paper band except for the Daler Rowney name stamped on the back cover. So many notebook brands mark their name in this spot, but oddly, Daler Rowney doesn’t center theirs in the middle of the back cover like everyone else, instead putting it to the side, sort of centered between the elastic band and the spine.
What bugs me most about the Daler Rowney sketchbook is that the corners are a little askew and there is a huge overhang. The spine seems like it will be susceptible to splitting where it bends.
The Daler Rowney is shown compared to an early-2000s Moleskine sketchbook below:
Inside, the Moleskine-ish-ness continues with a ribbon marker and a back pocket.
The paper also has a creamy tone and smooth texture (described as “medium grain”) similar to a Moleskine sketchbook. But there the similarities end. The Daler Rowney sketchbook paper feels thinner than Moleskine’s sketchbook paper. But Daler Rowney’s paper is 100 GSM, and it actually works really well with a variety of materials! Fountain pens, markers, gel ink, pencil– all my usual tests resulted in better than average performance on show-through, and no bleed-through or feathering except for the Super Sharpie. I also tested some moderate watercolor usage and it seemed fine, without the paper disintegrating or warping too much. This would be a great sketchbook to use as a visual journal where writing and sketching could be combined with marker or watercolors. (And it’s a huge improvement over the last Daler Rowney sketchbook I reviewed in 2014!)
Best of all, this sketchbook is an incredible bargain! At Walmart, it’s only $5.84, and a pocket size softcover is also available for $2.17. You can also find Daler Rowney sketchbooks in various sizes and binding types on Amazon— most are very inexpensive, but for some reason this exact 3.5 x 5.5″ hardcover sketchbook costs a lot more on Amazon.
I can’t 100% recommend this sketchbook due to the construction feeling a little inferior– if I have a chance to use it for an extended period and feel that it holds up well, I’ll update this review, but aside from my suspicions about its durability, it’s just not ideal aesthetically. However, if you want a budget-friendly Moleskine alternative that you can pick up at your local Walmart, this is a great option!