13 Best Travel Sketchbooks for 2021
If you are an artist, illustrator, or someone who just loves to doodle, sketch, art journal, or paint, a travel sketchbook is a must-have! Making sure you have the best travel sketchbook means you can sketch and make art anywhere, in any location!
What is a travel sketchbook you ask?
A travel sketchbook is essentially a pocket sized, or easy-to-carry visual diary, usually composed of good quality blank paper, on which you can draw, sketch, doodle, paint and make art in during your travels.
Whether you are traveling for work, waiting in a queue at the bank, sitting on a bench in your local park, having a travel sketchbook is a valuable asset to creative living. It provides an immediate outlet for creative inspiration and ideas.
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Below is a list of the best travel sketchbooks for 2021.
13 Best Travel Sketchbooks for 2021
Pentalic Pocket Sketchbook Traveler Journal
Best Pocket Travel Sketchbook for Pencil and Ink
Size: 6” x 8”
Paper Weight: 120gsm
Suitable for: sketching with pencil and ink on the go!
The Pentalic Sketchbook Traveler Journal was made from recycled, acid free paper for professionals, students and artists to sketch journal or draw art and their surroundings. It is an everyday sketchbook! It includes an expandable pocket, elastic band to close it and a ribbon to mark you page. This sketchbook was made
Ricco Bello Art Sketchbook
Best Vegan Friendly Travel Sketchbook
Size: 5.5” x 5.5”
Paper Weight: 180gsm
Suitable for: Dry mediums – pencil, pen, markers, pastels and light washes
Is the Ricco Bello Art Sketchbook worth it? Yes! The Ricco Bello Sketchbook is a high-quality, vegan-friendly sketchbook with a vegan leather cover and it is perfectly square in shape. These are the ideal dimensions for sharing on social media. It is also important to note that this sketchbook is a lay-flat sketchbook which makes it easy to work on a two-page spread. It also has an elastic enclosure and a ribbon to mark your page.
Arteza 5.1” x 8.3” Sketch Book
Best Travel Sketchbook For Colored Pencils
Size: 5.1” x 8.3”
Paper Weight: 175gsm
Suitable for: colored pencils, pencil, pen, ink, markers and pastel.
The Arteza sketchbook is high quality and good for use with most media. It includes a ribbon to marker your page and also an expandable inner pocket to hold your visual references, notes and ephemera. This sketchbook comes in a pack of 3 notebooks and it very easy to travel with. It also has a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you aren’t happy with it for any reason you can simply ask for a refund.
Tumuarta Square Watercolor Journal
Best Travel Sketchbook For Mixed Media
Size: 5.5” x 5.5”
Paper Weight: 300gsm
Suitable for: Watercolor, acrylics, pen, pencil, markers, pastel, and more. It also tolerates firm pressure from using an eraser.
The tumuarta square watercolor journal is composed of 25% cotton 300gsm heavy weight watercolor paper. It is cold pressed and easily holds mixed media studies.
The paper is acid-free and stays vibrant over time without turning yellow or fading. Another great aspect of this journal is that the sheets are microperforated so that they can be easily turned or removed if you want to. The paper tears easily along the micro-perforations and you can simply remove a page in order to frame an artwork you created during your travels.
This is a lay-flat sketchbook which means you can work on a two-page spread at once. This sketchbook has a sturdy cover with round corners to protect you from accidental paper cuts and it also includes a handy back pocket to store your reference images, photos, ephemera, and small items you have found along your journey.
Arteza 3.5” x 5.5” Watercolor Book
Best Travel Sketchbook For Markers
Size: 3.5” x 5.5”
Paper Weight: 230gsm
Suitable for: Watercolor washes, pen, pencil, pastel, ink.
The Arteza Watercolor Book is a wonderfully portable option for a travel sketchbook. It is pocket sized and has the perfect amount of tooth for watercolor painting and mixed media studies. This sketchbook comes in a set of three and is dual sided sketchbook and is perfect for both beginners and more advanced artists to explore their creativity.
The pages are acid free and is natural linen bound. It includes an inner pocket to store references images, photos and small items and it also has an elastic strap to prevent it from opening and getting damaged.
Leather Writing Journal Notebook
Best Refillable Travel Sketchbook
Size: 7.3” x 5.0”
Paper Weight: 80gsm
Suitable for: Pencil and pen.
This classic spiral refillable travel sketchbook has a nautical, vintage aesthetic to it. It comes with 160 pages which are mostly suitable for sketching and writing. The cover is made from durable man-made leather and it’s a handy sketchbook to have if you want to easily add or remove pages.
Travel Journal Kids Prompts Sketchbook
Best Kids Travel Sketchbook
Size: 6” x 9”
Paper Type: Crisp white paper
Suitable for: Pencil and pen
The travel journal kids sketchbook is a great place for kids to record their experiences while traveling. It provides prompts to stimulate their writing, drawing and art making. It includes activities, gratitude prompts and sketchbook pages to draw and log each day. Kids are prompted to log the weather, what they saw, what they ate, who they met and what they learnt about during the day. The are also prompted to draw or sketch any interesting sites they would like to include.
This journal is durable and light weight to carry around. It also makes for a great birthday or pre-travel gift and can be used during pit stops, waiting at terminals, on the airplane, bus, or train.
Leather Journal Tree of Life
Best Vintage Keepsake Travel Sketchbook
Paper Weight: 125gsm
Suitable for: Pencil, pen, markers, and colored pencils.
This travel sketchbook is a beautifully crafted Coptic leather bound and embossed journal with a vintage tree design on the cover. It is handmade form 100% genuine leather and no two journals are exactly the same. Because of this it becomes a special keepsake for your sketching, thoughts and ideas.
The paper used is hand-crafted, recycled, tree free and environmentally friendly. It is acid free and because of the thickness and the fiber of the paper, there is no bleed through from pen ink. This makes for a beautiful and creative birthday gift or travel gift for a loved one. In the unlikely event you don’t absolutely love your sketchbook, you have up to a year to ask for a full refund or free replacement. Your purchase will also be helping children in Zambia in Africa, as a percentage of the profits go to Tehila, a Non-Profit organization that promotes the prevention of child cruelty
Arteza 3.5 x 5.5” Mini Sketch Book
Best Mini Travel Sketchbook
Size: 3.5” x 5.5”
Paper Weight: 175gsm
Suitable for: Pencil, pen, markers, charcoal and colored pencils.
Arteza is known for its high-quality paper and sketchbooks that are built to last. This is a great travel sized sketchbook and is perfect for all dry media and light watercolor washes. This travel sketchbook includes an inner pocket to store your art reference images, photographs, ephemera and small embellishments. It also has an elastic strap to hold the sketchbook closed and a ribbon as a page marker.
Arteza has a 100% satisfaction guarantee – if you are not happy with the product then you can request a refund or replacement.
Field Artist 4” x 4” Square Watercolor Journal
Best Travel Sketchbook For Urban Sketching
Size: 4” x 4”
Paper Weight: 200gsm
Suitable for: Watercolor or ink washes, pencil, pen, charcoal, and markers
The Field Artist Travel Sketchbook comes in a square format which is the perfect format for Instagram artwork posts. This travel sketchbook contains high-quality, 200gsm, cold-pressed paper which is ideals for watercolor or ink washes, sketching, and mixed media art. It is a perfect travel-sized sketchbook for artists wanting to work en Plein air or for carrying it around urban scenery. This sketchbook is durable and is hardbound in soft, gray thermo-PU leather. As a cool extra, it has a panorama fold-out in the back cover for an elongated drawing surface.
Moleskin Art Sketch Album
Best travel sketchbook for graphite pencil or charcoal drawing
Size: 3.5” x 5.5”
Paper Weight: 120gsm
Suitable for: Pencil and pen drawing.
A very popular choice of sketchbook, this Moleskin Sketchbook is pocket-sized and high-quality. It is durable and is suitable for use with a wide variety of dry media.
Strathmore 483-5 Softcover Watercolor Art Journal
Best Travel Sketchbook For Watercolor Painting
Size: 8” x 5.5”
Paper Weight: 300gsm
Suitable for: Watercolor, ink, pen, pencil, mixed media and most other media.
Strathmore paper is high-quality with a natural white color and is perfect for mastering ink and watercolor washes. Because the 300gsm paper has a good tooth, it is also ideal for mixed media artwork. This is a great sketchbook to travel with and has a velvety soft cover.
Leda Art Supply Pocket Stitched Sketchbook or Field Journal
Best Pocket Field Travel Sketchbook
Size: 3.5” x 5.5”
Paper Weight: 216gsm
Suitable for: Pencil, ink, pen, pastel, charcoal and light washes.
Leda Pocket Stitched Sketchbook or Field is ideal for light color washes and most dry media. It fits easily into your pocket for easy travelling and sketching anywhere. It has 160 pages so won’t be used up too quickly and is bound in a durable weather which means it is ideal for the outdoors. It has been tested by wilderness guides who take the Pocket Leda on backpack trips in the Rocky Mountains! It really is the perfect field journal and a great gift for lovers of the outdoors!
How do I choose a sketchbook?
There are various factors to consider when you are choosing a travel sketchbook to buy.
What is the best sized sketchbook?
It is important to reflect on your own artistic processes and art making. What size are you comfortable working on and what size do you usually work on?
If you choose a travel sketchbook that is too large it can be difficult to carry around with you on your travels. You really want a sketchbook that is easy to take out and do a quick sketch in.
On the other hand, if you choose a sketchbook that is too small, then you might feel frustrated by the limited space available for your artmaking.
However, this all depends on what your style of art making is and what size you usually work on.
It is a good idea to test out some quick impromptu sketching or art making on different sized plain sheets of paper to get a sense of what would better suit your needs.
Spend an hour sketching someone at a café on a sheet of A6 Paper, or sit on your balcony and draw a stationary bicycle on an A4 page.
Generally speaking, a travel sketchbook is smaller and more compact than a regular sketchbook because it must be travel-friendly and easy to slip in and out of a pocket or bag.
An A5 size or approx. 5” x 8” is my ideal travel size sketchbook. It doesn’t quite fit into your pocket, but it is small enough to easily fit into a handbag. I also find that working on an A5 page size means that I have a good amount of space to quickly sketch down something I see on my travels in pen, pencil, charcoal or watercolor.
This is a really important factor because you want to make sure you have selected a sketchbook that is strong enough to weather the elements!
Your travel sketchbook is going to be slipped in and out of your bag or pocket often, it’s going to be placed on strange surfaces (like rocks, a grassy mound, or the side walk!), it’s going to be drizzled on, and possibly have coffee (or wine) spilt on it!
The best travel sketchbook must be well bound and have a waterproof protective cover to prevent the book from buckling and the pages from getting damaged. It also really helps to have an elastic band or tie of sorts to hold your books closed. This will prevent your book from opening in your luggage and getting damaged.
Make sure to choose a travel sketchbook that has good quality paper heavy paper.
A good quality sketchbook will have cotton paper that is at least 120gsm. This is perfect for sketching, and using dry media on paper. It will also tolerate you using an eraser quite firmly on the surface without it tearing.
If you want to work with markers or fountain pens, it is recommended to go for a heavier paper weight, – 200gsm or more. This means the paper is denser won’t have ink bleed through it.
300gsm cotton paper is ideal for painting with watercolor and ink washes. You should also choose a travel sketchbook with 300gsm paper if you are looking for a sketchbook in which to work on mixed media art. This paper will easily hold various liquid glue and gel mediums without buckling or tearing.
Cold-Pressed or Hot- Pressed
A travel sketchbook can have either cold-pressed or hot-pressed paper. Cold-pressed paper has more texture to it and has a more pronounced tooth, whereas hot-pressed paper is smoother with almost no tooth.
The bumps and texture of cold-pressed paper allows it to better hold and absorb liquid without buckling. This makes cold-press paper ideal for watercolor painting and ink washes, as well as mixed media art.
Hot-pressed paper doesn’t hold liquid very well and tends to buckle when washes are applied on its surface. For this reason hot-pressed paper is better suited for dry media like graphite pencil, charcoal, pen and colored pencil. It is important to note that markers will work on heavier gsm hot-pressed paper, but bleed through will occur on thinner paper.
Amount of Pages
Choose a sketchbook that is lightweight and easy to carry. A sketchbook with too many pages can make it more difficult to carry around. Aim for a balance between a good amount of pages (at least 70), and something that isn’t too heavy.
Think about what sort of layout you want. If you would like to work on a two-page spread at once, then it is a good idea to get a lay flat travel sketchbook. This means that the sketchbook will open up and lie flat so both pages can be worked on at the same time. Essentially, you can create artwork that extends over both pages.
It is very useful to have a lay flat travel sketchbook if you are painting botanicals or detailed illustration where you don’t want to be holding the sketchbook open all the time.
That being said, having a sketchbook that you can hold with one hand, and sketch in with the other is absolutely fine! In fact, that’s how most artists work!
How do you make a travel sketchbook?
You can make your own travel sketchbook from scratch by arranging sheets of paper into collections called signatures. You can then sew the signatures into a cover to bind the book. For more details on how to make your own sketchbook from scratch, you can read my article on Junk Journal 101 for tips on how to do this.
You can also make your own sketchbook by using a readymade old textbook, encyclopedia, novel or other book with a firm cover. You can remove and add pages and paper to the book and repurpose the book as an art journal or travel sketchbook. This is called an altered sketchbook or art journal.
How do you sketch when traveling?
Here are some tips for sketching while traveling:
Keep your sketchbook close by
Have your travel sketchbook available in your handbag, backpack or in your pocket for those moments when you are suddenly inspired by something you see on your travels. You really don’t want to be wasting precious time and energy rummaging around in your luggage for your sketchbook!
Keep essential art supplies close by
It’s a good idea to have a small pencil bag that can hold your essential supplies – pencils, pens, eraser, watercolor pans, glue stick, scissors, markers. You can also get a travel-sized watercolor pan that is easy to whip out when the moment strikes!
Release the desire to draw or make perfect art
Perfectionism kills creativity. Remind yourself that making art is much more about the process than the end result and beauty is found in imperfection.
Commit to drawing/ making one page a day on your travels
In order to reap the fruits of your artistic labor, it is important that you work consistently in your travel sketchbook. Just think about how great it will be at the end of your journey when you can look back over all the creative explorations and memories of your travel.
Consistently working in your travel sketchbook will also get your creativity flowing and new ideas and thoughts will emerge. You will also find your art making skills will improve with this regular practice.
Annotate your drawings
Just because it’s a travel sketchbook doesn’t mean you can’t write in it too! It’s a great idea to write down notes about what you see and experience on your journey. Write about what you are drawing and what inspires your art making.
Here are some excellent travel sketchbook art prompts to start you on your travel sketchbook!
10 Travel Sketchbook Prompts
- Morning light
- Something New
- A Beautiful Stone
- An Interesting Stranger
- Music or Song Lyrics
- A quote from a book I am reading
- Landscape/ Cityscape
- Café/bar/restaurant scene
Other Great Supplies You Might Need:
[Best Watercolor Set for Beginners]
[Best Drawing Kit for Creative People]
[The Top Black Paper Sketchbooks]
[Gifts for Artists who Paint]
[Gifts for Artists who Draw]
[Art Journal Supplies]
Whether your travels are to exotic locations or you are just exploring your own neighborhood, having a travel sketchbook is a valuable asset to creative living!
Make sure you have the best travel sketchbook to record all your exciting journeys and experiences this year.