Review: 400 Series Toned Sketch Hardbound Art Journal

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For this series, there are 2 types of toned papers” Warm Tan, and the Cool Grey. For the review I have only tried the “Warm Tan”. The series comes in 2 sizes too. 5.5” X 8.5” and 8.5” X 11”. Both types contain 128 pages. According to the manufacturer, the sketch paper is 100% recycled, and contains 30% post-consumer fiber, acid free.

What is post-consumer fiber? The latter is a type of paper material that has been discarded after someone has used it and then recycled; in other words it comes from products that have reached the consumer and then been recycled back into the paper making process.

The journal is bound by Smyth-sewn binding so you can lay the pages flat as you work on it, but not totally without first pressing hard at the spine. In the process of sketching or drawing, you still need to hold the pages with your non-drawing hand in order to keep them flat to draw comfortably. To help, I sometimes hold some pages together with a binding clip.

According to Strathmore, the journal sketchbook is suitable for use with the following medium: graphite, chalk, charcoal, sketching stick, markers, china markers, colored pencils, pens and white gel pens. Paper surface is also slightly textured but not rough. Though the weight of the paper is 118gsm (80 lb.), it feels slightly thicker and more durable.

I like the journal cover, which is slightly textured, matte in dark chocolate brown. The soft textured cover offers a non-slippery surface to hold comfortable in the hand. The spine only measures about 2cm, so it is really easy to handle and carry around without much hassle. The hard-bound-cover also provides a good sturdy surface to draw on if you are sketching on location, whether you are sitting or standing. Overall it leaves a very good first impression.

Initial Test:
I did a location sketch on the first page with a Hero fountain pen loaded with Noodlers bulletproof black fountain pen ink, and added some light watercolor wash and finally gouache white to add some highlights. My fountain pen glides well over the paper and I am quite satisfied with the variety of line weights I can produce. However the surface consistency is not constant as some portions becomes too “smooth” or “waxy” resulting in my pen gliding over without any ink flow. Paper takes in wash very well but buckles slightly when the wash is dried. The brown tan makes adding white fun. By choosing suitable areas to add some hints of highlights, the drawing pops.

The following are images of pages on which I test the paper with Chinese ink, Noodlers non-bleedproof Red-Black ink used with a Shakespeare nib pen, Daler Rowney brown Calli ink, and a brush pen loaded with black indian ink.

Brush Pen
This was done with a brush pen and Rotring drawing indian ink. Gouache white is added subsequently. Ink bleeds slightly while applied and even more when you are drawing slowly. To draw a thin line I need to draw quite fast over the surface. The wash is done by dipping the brush pen directly into a container of water thus diluting the ink on the brush and then painting over the ink lines.

Dip Pen
My next test was drawing with a "Shakespeare" dip pen and Noodlers non-bleed proof Red-Black fountain pen ink. The nib glides easily and smoothly but there will be occasions when the point of the pen would cut into the surface when I overwork a line. It would become worst if you are using cross-hatching method to add tones to your pen drawing. I don't think the paper can take too much scraping and scratching with a dip pen.

Daler Rowney Brown Calli ink is used for adding wash to the sketch below. While doing the line art for this, I notice there was excessive ink flow at some portions of the paper resulting very thick lines.

Watercolored ink added as background. Ink bleeds slightly on the other side. Not recommended for heavy usage.

Felt-tip marker (walnut color)

Pen & ink with ink wash

Pastel: Sepia pastel chalk which blends well on surface. Though the tooth holds the chalk particles well, you still need fixative to protect it from smudging later. Inked lines were made with a fountain pen that produces quite even line weight.

Colored Pencils: Derwent Colored pencils [left] and watercolor colored pencils [right]. Paper surface provides good adhering property to hold the pigment particles well. The brown tan also gives good contrast to the hues.  The captions were added with a General's Layout Pencil. The sketchbook is really ideal for dry medium, such as colored pencils, graphite pencils and even pastel chalk.Chinese ink with brush pen and added gouache white subsequently

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