Pentalic Traveler Pocket Journal—Product Review

September 26, 2014

140924_Pentalic_Pencil-tCR Left: Detail view of color pencil sketch on the 92 lb. cream drawing paper. (A doodle, but Dick and I both think it ended up looking like a friend I haven't seen in decades!)

I found the new Pentalic Traveler Pocket Journal on a trip to Wet Paint before the Minnesota State Fair. It has a soft-cover, sewn-signatures, and cream colored 92 lb. drawing paper. I can't find the label but I think it had 120 pages before I cut out my test pages—it's a nice thickness.

I liked the smooth feel of the paper. It looked thick enough to maybe stand up to some mixed media. You could collage on it.

140924_Pentalic_Pencil-WC-TestLeft: Here's the full page where that color pencil sketch was. You can see from the quick application of watercolor that the page buckles a lot. That isn't a deal breaker for me but is for many folks. The watercolor does seep through and the paper is fuzzy if worked, so wet media is pretty iffy on this paper and that's a deal breaker for a lot of folks.

I purchased a 9 x 12 inch journal because I like working large these days, and thought I could take it to life drawing.

Before I go any further I have to say that it is a lovely journal but the paper has a chemical smell that is off-putting to me—it gives me a headache in about 10 minutes or less. It's not as smelly as a Moleskine's sketch paper so if those books don't bother you this paper's smell shouldn't either.

Sadly for me it means I won't be keeping this journal. I've cut my 4 test pages out of the back of the journal and it will be up for grabs at the "studio swap" meeting coming up at the MCBA Visual Journal Collective. (I think that's November if my memory is correct). So if you want to see the book in person it will be there looking for a home. (Minus the 4 last pages of course.)

140924_Pentalic-Draw-TestLeft: Here's another test page. In the grey Colorbrush letters you can see a beading effect of the ink on this surface. You can also see that washes don't move easily. And you can see pilling just above the "e" in Grey. Pigmented pens like the Micron, Staedtler Pigment Liner, and the Pentel Pocket Brush did NOT seep through and would all be great for use in this journal.  The Pentel Aquash Brush Pen with Light Black Pigmented Ink didn't seep if you didn't build up layers with it. However I tend to build layers with that pigmented light black ink pen. There comes a point when it does start to seep through. The paper just gets too saturated. The Tombow and the Colorbrush pens are dye-based and all seeped now and then (without warning) and always when water was added to them. The red paint is red gouache and it didn't seep unless I really wet an area, but of course it buckled the paper. The Montana Acrylic Paint Marker (not shown here) doesn't bleed through, and does buckle the paper minimally.

The paper had some other problems as well—dye-based inks and watercolor seeped through the paper. Additionally watercolor, when worked even minimally tended to fuzz up the paper.

All of that would not have mattered to me if the paper had not had an odor. The reason it wouldn't have mattered is that this paper is really fun to draw on with color pencil, pencil, and the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (which has a pigmented ink that doesn't seep through the pages; also the pages are thick enough that the show through of the black ink lines isn't bad).

I could have been very happy drawing in this book with pencil, PPBP, and my Staedtler Pigment Liners. It you like working in only those media you might want to check out one of these books. It comes in a couple different sizes and there is a pocket in the back, a bookmark ribbon, and an elastic closure like the Moleskines have. The journal also has rounded corners.

I don't particularly care for the cover material of this journal—it's a black material not unlike the soft cover of the Strathmore soft-covered journal line (I don't care for it in that line either). The material has a flat finish which doesn't feel right in my hands, like those dust jackets popular the previous 2 years that felt almost "rubberized" to the touch.) Poking around on the internet I saw that the journal not only comes in different sizes but colors and different papers (I saw a gridded paper). Keep in mind that I'm reviewing the 92 lb. drawing paper version.

The structure of the book seems to be sound. I bent the covers back (something that you are more likely to do with a soft-covered book) and the book didn't complain too loudly. The sewing looks strong. The joins seem good. So if odors and media limits don't bother you this just might be the journal for you.

    • Tina
    • September 27, 2014

    I used one of these as my travel journal last year. I liked the paper a lot (I didn’t think the smell was too bad). But about halfway through my 2-week trip (daily use in my bag), the binding totally fell apart.


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