The Best Sketchbooks for Artists

A great sketchbook coupled with a reliable mechanical pencil still is an unbeatable combo.

Don’t get me wrong. Drawing tablets are revolutionary artistic tools, and I love them so much that I decided to create an entire website dedicated to them.

That said, the feeling and, most importantly, the precision achieved by pencil on paper is something every artist misses no matter how long they’ve been using digital tools.

For this reason, I decided to dedicate an entire post to one of our main allies, the sketchbook.

Here’s how this post is organized:

Best Sketchbooks in the Market

  • Best Sketchbook with a Large Drawing Area
  • Best Sketchbook to Carry Around
  • Best Budget Sketchbook

Most important aspects when choosing a sketchbook

  • Page size
  • Paper quality
  • Page color
  • Edge (spiral or hard)

How to choose the right sketch book for your style

  • Years of experience
  • Personality traits
  • Financial situation

Best Sketchbooks in the Market

Best Sketchbook with a Large Drawing Area

Canson XL Series Sketch Pad (Check Price on Amazon)

If you like creating intricate illustrations that require a lot of space due to its multiple elements, you will definitely need a large drawing area.

This sketchbook is super large at 18 x 24 inches (a regular letter-sized page is 8.5 x 11) and it contains 50 sheets, which means you will have 100 pages to draw on.

This is more than enough to keep you busy for a long time, especially if you develop the habit of using your sketchbook intelligently.

If you’re one of those people who moves to the next page right after making a mistake in the first stroke, stop doing that and push yourself to fix your drawing mistakes intelligently.

Try to learn how to play with what you have and do your best to stay away from erasers for a while because using them can become a bad habit.

Great artists rarely use erasers, they simply know how to go with the flow.

Now, back to the Canson XL Series Sketch Pad.

Due to its size, this is not the best sketchbook to carry around, but it’s definitely one of the best options to keep at home.

Another thing worth mentioning is that this pad has a spiral instead of a hard-edge, which means you will always have a perfectly flat surface to draw on whenever you turn the page.

Advantages of the Canson XL Series Sketch Pad

  • Large drawing area
  • High quality 50lb paper (regular paper is only 20lb)
  • 50 sheets (100 pages to draw on)
  • Perfect for dry media such as pencils and mechanical pencils
  • Spiral bound (keeps the drawing area flat at all times)

Disadvantages of the Canson XL Series Sketch Pad

  • Portability (its large size makes it hard to carry it around)
  • Soft cover (while the cover is not super soft, it’s still not a hardcover like regular sketchbooks have)

Best Sketchbook to Carry Around

Pentalic Sketch Book (Check Price on Amazon)

This is a great option for artists ranging from beginners to professional. If you need a portable option, this is unquestionably the best one out there.

Unlike the Canson XL Series Sketch Pad, the Pentalic Sketch Pad fits perfectly in any backpack due to its standard size of 8.5 x 11 inches (the exact same size of a regular sheet of paper).

This sketch book comes with 110 sheets of paper, which means you will have 220 pages to draw on.

Another characteristic I really like is the fact that all the sheets are in 70lb paper, which feels pretty similar to the more common 65lb, but slightly nicer.

Just for you to haver a better idea, the paper your printer at home uses is only 20lb.

It’s also worth mentioning that this sketchbook is not spiral bound, but it has a hard lay-flat bounding that tries to offer the best of both worlds: a flat drawing surface without a spiral running right in between the pages.

Truth be said, while the drawing surface feels indeed better than what you would expect from a hardbound sketchbook, it’s still not as flat as a spiral bound one.

Before I forget, this book also comes with a hardcover that ensures your artwork will be kept pristine even if you carry it around everywhere you go.

Advantages of the Pentalic Sketch Book

  • 110 Sheets of paper (220 pages to draw on)
  • Extremely high quality 70lb paper (regular paper is only 20lb)
  • Feels great to draw on with pencils and mechanical pencils
  • Hard cover (you won’t have to worry about transportation)

Disadvantages of the Pentalic Sketch Book

  • Hardbound (the drawing surface is not always perfectly flat)
  • Page size (if you’re looking for a regular-sized sketchbook, this one is perfect. However, if you would like to create intricate illustrations in a large area, you will probably be better off with the Canson XL Series Sketch Pad)

Best Budget Sketchbook

AmazonBasics Classic Blank Notebook (Check Price on Amazon)

OK, I get it. Life is expensive and you don’t want to spend 50 dollars on a sketchbook.

Here’s, without a doubt, the best budget sketchbook you will ever find.

Advantages of the AmazonBasics Classic Blank Notebook

  • 120 Sheets of paper (240 pages to draw on)
  • Unbelievably affordable price (regular paper is only 20lb)
  • Easy to carry around
  • Hard cover (although not high-quality)

Disadvantages of the AmazonBasics Classic Blank Notebook

  • Hardbound (the drawing surface is far from being perfectly flat)
  • Page size (this is the smallest sketchbook from this list at 8.25 x 5 inches, which is smaller than a regular letter-sized sheet of paper)
  • Paper quality (although the paper heavier than the standard 20lb, it feel pretty close to that)

Most important aspects when choosing a sketchbook

Page Size

Sketchbooks come in a wide variety of page sizes.

Since you’re reading this post, I’m sure you’re someone who loves to draw, and I know that you already have a preference when it comes to paper size.

If you’re used to drawing on A4 pages (regular letter-sized, close to 8.5 x 11 inches) don’t even consider getting a small sketchbook.

I know many artists who are extremely skillful and are able to produce highly detailed artwork on tiny sketchbooks. In order to do so, they use mechanical pencils coupled with years of experience.

While intricate artwork on a small page has its special artistic appeal, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to go through a tiny sketchbook in less than an hour.

This is why you must stick to a page size that you’re already used to.

If you decide to force yourself to draw on a smaller space than you’re used to, you will be wasting your money for no good reason.

Paper Quality

The first question you need to ask yourself is:

“Why am I buying a sketchbook?”

Your answer will fit one of the cases below:

  • You need s sketchbook simply to…sketch

In this case you don’t really need anything fancy. Stay away from those sketchbooks that have thick pages made of any sort of expensive material.

Don’t let large brands’ marketing tactics get to you.

If you need to sketch, any book with regular blank pages will do. As long as the paper is standard, you’re good to go.

  • You need s sketchbook to create an art piece

Some people buy sketchbooks because they want to create an art piece or a sequence of drawings that belong to the same project.

For example, if you’re creating characters for a specific story, it would make sense to get a super nice sketchbook with beige pages and dedicate each page to a specific character.

The sketchbook would help you keep all characters in the same “environment” and promote a cohesive element among all of them.

Paper Color

When it comes to sketching, nothing beats white.

I know, I know…using darker pages give the sketches some personality, plus it’s nice to do something different every once in a while, I get it.

The thing is, the higher the contrast, the more precise you can be and the more precise you are, the better you will be able to develop your drawing skills, which is exactly what you should be looking for when you get a sketchbook.

Now, as I’ve previously mentioned when discussing paper quality, if you’re creating a specific project on a sketchbook or if you’re trying to make an artistic statement, it would make sense to look for sketchbooks that has pages in different colors.

Most artists tend to stick to different shades of beige or simply completely black pages that can be drawn on with white pencils for a very specific high-contrast style.

Edge (Spiral or Hard)

Once again, here we have a battle between what’s practical and what looks good.


This is by definition the most practical edge on a sketchbook.

It’s easier to turn the pages and, after you’re done, the sketchbook will remain perfectly flat, which is something you need while drawing.

Some artists try to stay away from sketchbooks with spirals for stylistic reasons. They think that anything with a spiral is closer to being a notebook than a sketchbook.

Artists are like that, right?

Sometimes the most practical approach is ignored because the other option simply looks more appealing.


If somebody asked you to imagine a sketchbook, you’d probably think about one with a hard-edge.

This is precisely the same concept that every artist holds in their minds.

Sketchbooks with a hard edge look great, I know. But truth be said, they’re not very convenient.

More often than not, the artist needs to hold the left page while drawing on the right one and vice versa. This is a completely unnecessary hassle.

Some people say that the lack of a spiral provides more drawing area and allows the artist to create illustrations across two different pages, which effectively turns a “portrait” sketchbook into a “landscape” one whenever the artist feels like it.

While both arguments are true, a sketchbook with a spiral and larger page size would definitely offer an equivalent solution for the space and landscape issue.

If you’re not looking for a sketchbook for stylistic reasons, spiral beats hard-edge any day of the week.

How to choose the right sketch book for your style

Years of experience

Experience artists don’t make too many mistakes and therefore can use their resources wisely. Meaning they will be able to produce high-quality artwork even when drawing on limited space such as the small pages of a pocket sketchbook.

What I’m trying to say is, the more skillful you are, the better you will be able to use a small sketchbook.

Inexperienced artists should stay away from small sketchbooks at all costs because if they will go through those tiny pages in a single drawing session.

Personality Traits

Some people have a kind of unhinged style and like to express their artistic talent though spontaneous bursts of creativity.

If this is your style, the constraints of small pages will be nightmare to workaround.

Don’t do that to yourself!

If you like drawing with long, expressive, or even aggressive lines, get a larger sketchbook that will give you enough space to transfer your ideas to.

However, if you’re analytical and like to think about each single line individually, you have a lot more options when it comes to sketchbooks.

Either way, try to stay away from particularly small sketchbooks because no matter how good you are, drawing on a small area is definitely additional work.

Financial Situation

Sketchbooks can be surprisingly expensive!

Who would have thought that a little bit of paper wrapped around a nice cover could cost so much?

If you don’t have much money to spare, perhaps getting a sketchbook isn’t the best idea.

Instead, you could get an entire ream of paper and have enough pages to draw on for a long time.

Here’s the thing, if you’re someone who like walking around with a backpack (I know I am!), then carrying A4 (letter-sized) pages shouldn’t be a problem and, for this reason, getting a ream of paper would solve all of your problems while keeping your money where iy should be, in your pocket.


For most artists out there, the Pentalic Sketch Book would be the most recommended option because it has nearly all the advantages while maintaining an acceptable price.

Since I’m someone who absolutely hates drawing on small surfaces, I prefer to stay away from sketchbooks smaller than 8.5 x 11 inches, that’s why I prefer to stick to the Pentalic Sketch Book.

How about you? What’s your favorite sketch book?

Leave a comment below I will get back to you as soon as possible!

Bruno Brasil

Hi! My name is Bruno. I'm a web developer/designer based in Toronto, Canada. I've been working with drawing tablets for over 20 years and I'm among the Top 10 Most Viewed Writers on Quora in the Graphics Tablets category. Do you have any questions? Just leave a comment =)

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