10 Best Watercolor Sketchbooks for 2022
A watercolor sketchbook is an important thing to have as an artist, illustrator, architect, fashion design, designer or creative. It goes without saying how important the mediums, materials and tools are for your art-making process and so let’s explore the best watercolor sketchbooks for 2022!
It is really important that people write these kinds of articles because you need an honest, thorough review from a real person in order to make the best decision. It’s also really important that you get tips and advice on what to look out for when choosing your watercolor sketchbook.
For instance, if you create an artwork in a sketchbook with paper that is just not suited to your chosen medium, then the completed piece can be a flop. You definitely don’t want to be putting all your creative energy into a watercolor painting or illustration that just doesn’t work in the end because you painted on the wrong kind of surface!
Not everyone needs the same kind of watercolor sketchbook for their artwork and so I have spent time reviewing which sketchbooks suit specific needs. Some people will need a high-level professional watercolor sketchbook that is best for architectural drawings, design, illustration, or professional watercolor painting.
Other people, like myself, need a watercolor sketchbook that can be used as an art journal or a creative journal. Art journalists often like to use a range of mixed media to develop their art journal or creative journal pages – so they need a sketchbook with pages that are strong enough to hold layers of paper, ephemera and watercolor paint.
This kind of article is really important because it means you are getting an honest, detailed, personal review of the best watercolor sketchbooks out there and which ones would best suit your needs – and since I am an artist who enjoys watercolor and mixed media you know you are getting good advice. Added to this, I have a slight art supply and stationery addiction – and finding cool art materials and tools is one of my favorite things to do!
Watercolor sketchbooks are made for people who paint with watercolor paint. However, they can also be used by people who enjoy painting with gouache paint or acrylic paint.
You can also use alcohol markers, alcohol inks, acrylic inks, or India ink on the pages. Watercolor sketchbooks are also suitable for a range of mixed media. I often work in my watercolor sketchbook with pen, collage and watercolor washes.
Because watercolor sketchbook paper tends to be highly absorbent, it is not suitable for oil painting as it will absorb the oil and the paint will flake off the surface.
It’s also really important to remember that literally the quality and the longevity of your artwork relies on the durability and type of paper as well as the quality of pigments in your paint.
**This page may contain affiliate links to products I have used or recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.**
Below is a list of the best watercolor sketchbooks for 2022.
10 Best Watercolor Sketchbooks
Size: 5.5” x 8.5”
Paper Weight: 230gsm
Pages: 76 ( 2 pack)
Suitable for: Watercolor painting, gouache painting, mixed media artwork and dry media.
This watercolor sketchbook is really sturdy and durable and the high-quality 230gsm paper, makes this a winning combination. Ideal for professional use and perfect travel size for urban sketching. Bear in mind that this is a smaller sized watercolor sketchbook and so not ideal if you are used to working on a larger scale.
The natural white cold-press textured surface of the watercolor sketchbook pages, makes them the ideal sheets to use for mastering watercolor techniques. They absorb water well, are excellent for blending, and leave clean lines with no bleed-through. It is also good to note that they are acid-free and non-color fading.
Arteza 5.1” x 8.3” Sketch Book
Size: 5.1” x 8.3”
Paper Weight: 175gsm
Suitable for: very light washes of watercolor, colored pencils, pencil, pen, ink, markers and pastel.
Even though this sketchbook doesn’t exactly fit into the watercolor sketchbook category because its paper gsm is only 175 I have added it in because the Arteza sketchbook is very high quality and well suited for mixed media artwork. 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.
Size: 8.25” x 8.25”
Paper Weight: 230gsm
Suitable for: Watercolor washes, pen, pencil, pastel, ink.
The Arteza Watercolor Book is an 8.23″ x 8.25″ square sketchbook. I find this to be a good size for both my watercolor painting as well as my mixed media work. Even though it is slightly larger than other sketchbooks I find it to be a wonderfully portable option for a watercolor sketchbook. It has the perfect amount of tooth for watercolor painting and mixed media studies. This sketchbook comes in a set of two and is a 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.
Arteza 3.5 x 5.5” Mini watercolor Sketchbook
Best Mini Watercolor Sketchbook
Size: 3.5” x 5.5”
Paper Weight: 175gsm
Suitable for: Light washes, pencil, pen, markers, charcoal and colored pencils.
Arteza is known for its high-quality paper and sketchbooks that are built to last. This sketchbook is great for tiny watercolor doodles, quick watercolor paintings, small mixed-media illustrations, and for artists who like to work on a small scale. This is a mini-sized sketchbook and is perfect for all dry media and light watercolor washes. This 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.
Size: 5.5” x 8.5”
Paper Weight: 300gsm
Suitable for: Watercolor painting, gouache, pencil, pen, markers, charcoal and colored pencils.
Canson Watercolor Paper is known for its excellent quality. This heavyweight, cold-pressed watercolor paper is durable and holds up to firm erasing of pencil marks. It also holds watercolor paint well.
The pages are easily removed so that your artwork can be put on display, and they paper is acid free and non-fading. This sketchbook is ideal for studio work and lays flat so that you can work on a double spread.
Field Artist 4” x 4” Square Watercolor Journal
Best Watercolor 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 Watercolor Sketchbook comes in a square format which is the perfect format for Instagram artwork posts. This watercolor 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 watercolor 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.
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 use both in studio and en plein air and is lovely to hold with its velvety soft cover.
Size: 9” x 12″
Paper Weight: 300gsm
Suitable for: Watercolor, gouache paint, ink, pen, pencil, mixed media and most other media.
This Canson XL Watercolor sketchbook is a lovely large size. It is ideal for larger artwork compositions. You can also get this sketchbook in size 18″ x 24″ – which is slightly larger than A2 if you would like to work on a larger scale.
There are 30 sheets (60 pages) of 300gsm cold pressed paper and this sketchbook is great for studio work. This sketchbook is also side-wire bound and the paper is acid free.
Leda Art Supply Pocket Stitched Sketchbook or Field Journal
Best Pocket Field Watercolor Sketchbook
Size: 3.5” x 5.5”
Paper Weight: 216gsm
Suitable for: Light watercolor washes, pencil, ink, pen, pastel, charcoal.
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 watercolor 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 is a watercolor sketchbook different from a regular sketchbook?
A watercolor sketchbook is a sketchbook which is aimed at artists or illustrators who intend to use watercolor paint (or in combination with mixed-media art processes) on the pages inside. This means that the paper in the sketchbook must be of a high quality and be able to hold water, or liquid substances without buckling, rippling, or warping.
I recommend having your own watercolor sketchbook as it provides a fabulous outlet for creative inspiration and ideas and is an asset to creative living!
How do I choose a sketchbook?
There are various factors to consider when you are choosing a watercolor sketchbook to buy.
What is the best sized watercolor sketchbook?
It is important to reflect on your own personal artistic processes and art making. What size are you comfortable working on and what size do you usually work on?
Perhaps you enjoy watercolor painting on a large scale and so a larger sized sketchbook would be better suited to your needs.
Bear in mind that if you choose a larger watercolor sketchbook, it can be more difficult to carry around – especially if you are using it for watercolor urban sketching or en plein air watercolor painting. If you want a sketchbook that is portable and easy to carry then you may need to choose a smaller size.
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.
If you are a completely newbie then it is a good idea to test out some quick impromptu sketching, art making or watercolor painting on different sized plain sheets of paper to get a sense of what would better suit your needs.
Spend an hour painting someone at a café on a sheet of A6 Paper, or sit on your balcony and illustrate a stationary bicycle on an A4 page.
I personally find that a square 8.25 x 8.25 watercolor sketchbook is my ideal sketchbook size for watercolor and mixed media artmaking. This size provides me with enough room to play and paint a watercolor illustration if I am painting en plein air. However, it also is easy to carry around and keep in my backpack in necessary.
This is a really important factor because you want to make sure you have selected a sketchbook that is strong enough to last and protect your artwork.
The best watercolor 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 and getting damaged if you happen to travel with it.
Make sure to choose a travel sketchbook that has good quality paper heavy paper.
A good quality watercolor sketchbook will have cotton paper that is at least 200gsm. This is perfect for sketching, using dry media, and light washes on the 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, – 230gsm or more. This means the paper is denser and 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 watercolor 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 more often 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 quite as well and lighter weight hot-pressed paper tends to buckle when washes are applied to the 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 easy to open and to store. A sketchbook with too many pages can make it more difficult to carry around if you are using it for urban sketching or need to keep it with you on your travels. Aim for a balance between a good number 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 watercolor 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 watercolor sketchbook if you are painting botanicals or detailed illustrations 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 paint in with the other is absolutely fine! In fact, that’s how many artists work!
What is the best watercolor sketchbook for beginners?
What is the best watercolor sketchbook for mixed-media?
What is the best watercolor sketchbook for professional artists, illustrators and designers?
What is the best watercolor sketchbook for art journaling?
This is a tough one! Art journaling is such a personal thing… and it really depends on what you want your art journal to ‘feel’ like! I like to test out different kinds of sketchbooks for art journals and at the moment I am using the Arteza 8.25” x 8.25” Watercolor Book which I am really enjoying.
I like the square format and I find that the linen cover feels good to hold. The sketchbook 230gsm paper is ideal for watercolor washes and it definitely holds up to mixed media work!
Do you need watercolor paper for watercolor pencils?
The pigment in watercolor pencils is activated once water is applied to the dry pencil mark. Generally, one uses less water with watercolor pencils than with watercolor paint. Watercolor paint allows for greater areas of washes. Due to this, you can definitely get away with using slightly lighter gsm paper for watercolor pencils – at least a 200 gsm paper upwards for watercolor pencil drawing.
What kind of paper do I use for watercolor?
The best type of page or paper for watercolor would be at least 300gsm paper, either hot or cold-pressed. Cold-pressed paper has more surface texture and tends to hold water better.
What can I use if I don’t have watercolor paper?
You can also use rice paper, parchment paper, or alternatively home-made paper. There are also artists blocks or watercolor boards you can use to watercolor on.
Can I make my own watercolor paper?
You can absolutely make your own watercolor paper! Infact, painting watercolor on handmade paper can have a beautiful finish!
Watch this great video by Artrageous with Nate on How to Make Your Own Watercolor Paper
What should I do in my watercolor sketchbook?
Here are some tips and ideas for working in your watercolor sketchbook:
Set up a creative space at home
Even if you don’t have an art studio, you can still make a creative space in your home where you can escape and makes some art. Turn a corner of your bedroom, living room or kitchen into a little art-making nook!
Have your watercolor paints, watercolor sketchbook and general supplies stored and easily accessible. You can get some really great craft trollies to store your supplies!
It’s a good idea to have a good light source like a day-light lamp so that you can even work on your watercolor paintings in the evening.
Release the desire to paint perfectly 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.
Do not have fixed expectations about the outcome of your artwork – especially when you are painting with watercolor. Watercolor is a very freeing medium to work in, because you have to allow it to do what it does! You cannot exactly control how the pigment will bleed or bloom when painting wet-on-wet.
Commit to working in your watercolor sketchbook regularly
In order to reap the fruits of your artistic labor, it is important that you work consistently in your watercolor sketchbook. Just think about how great it will be at the end of the year when you can look back over all the creative explorations and memories of your art making.
Consistently working in your watercolor sketchbook will also get your creativity flowing and new ideas and thoughts will emerge. You will also find your watercolor painting skills will improve with this regular practice.
[Want to improve your sketchbook? Read my article on the Top Sketchbook Tips & Tricks]
Annotate your drawings
Just because it’s a watercolor sketchbook doesn’t mean you can’t write in it too! It’s a great idea to write down notes about what you are painting and your feelings about your chosen subject matter.
Often botanical artists with write down notes about what they are painting. This adds another level to your artwork and its fascinating to go back and look over the notes you have made. Write about what you are drawing and what inspires your art making.
Here are some excellent watercolor sketchbook art prompts to start you on your travel sketchbook!
10 Watercolor Sketchbook Prompts
- Sunday Afternoon
- Café scene
- Old building
- Pot plant
- Café/bar/restaurant scene
Other Watercolor Articles You May Enjoy:
Whether you are a watercolor fanatic or are exploring mixed-media artwork having a watercolor sketchbook is a valuable asset to creative living!
Make sure you have the best watercolor sketchbook to explore your watercolor painting and mixed media art this year!