Today is the final part of my three-part review on the Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbook.
In today’s post I wanted to write about the book structure itself. I’ll then wrap up with a final comment about the paper quality.
Binding and Covering of the Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbook
I really love the Hahnemühle Nostalgie Sketchbook binding—yes, I’m writing about a different book for just a moment. An embossed paper covers the cover boards. It is extremely hand friendly, easy to grip and it doesn’t feel odd in the hand. It also wears well when you carry it about. It can start to fray on the corners after a long period of usage, but I’ll be you fill it up before this type of wear shows. If it bothers you simply pop it in a plastic back when you carry it in your purse or pack and that will minimize corner wear.
Unlike its sibling, however the Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbook has cover boards covered with some sort of impregnated paper or fabric. It is smooth to the touch, but it also feels, to me, odd to the touch—too slick and yet resin-y. I like regular book cloth, but all manufacturers seem to be moving away from that so I’ll take what I can get. It is VERY durable. You will appreciate that if you take a while to work your way through a journal.
The cover material does have an odor when you first open the package. Happily this aired out in about a week. (It was like a varnish smell.)
I have used the 6 x 8 inch journals. These are for me the perfect size. I love a portrait orientation (the watercolor journal is also available in landscape orientation). I stand when I sketch and the portrait book is so much easier to hold in my hand, with my palette, as I sketch.
The book opens flat just as other books like the popular Moleskine sketchbooks do. Also like the Moleskine the Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbook has rounded corners. It also sports a back cover elastic that will hold the book closed when not in use. (I don’t care for this feature at all, but that’s just me.) A lovely red book mark ribbon emerges from the top of the spine. I don’t care for that feature at all either, so I cut mine off flush with the head of the spine. I’m sure you’ll love using it if you like that sort of thing.
I would rather manufacturers of sketchbooks stop putting in these “silly” features like back elastic and bookmark ribbons and instead use different quality paper—but that’s me.
Please look at the caption under the photo of this book’s cover to see my comments about the spine covering on this sketchbook.
The book opens totally flat for ease of scanning. You can easily work across the gutter to fill the complete spread. The signatures are sewn.
Between signatures when you make a construction of this sort there is a little glue join between the last page of the earlier signature and the first page of the next signature (each time signatures meet). In some books these joins pull totally apart, and gape open widely so that you can see into the construction of the spine. In one of my test books I found one glue join between two signatures pulled slightly apart, i.e., the pages were no longer glued together in the visible gutter. But they remained glued together within the rest of the spine and spine backing was never exposed as happens in some books. I thought this was done in a sturdy and excellent fashion for a commercially bound book.
Gluing watercolor paper is always a difficult trick anyway—since the sizing sometimes keeps the glue for entering the paper and joining them, and alternately the paper is to soft and the pages pull apart. Hahnemühle seems to have hit the right balance with paper and glue for the most part in this construction. That little bit of pulling is within the normal use of a sketchbook.
Price and A Final Look at the Sizing on the Paper
At $27.95 I found the price for this book, at this size, too expensive. If it had been thicker I might not have minded the price as much. I haven’t found it anywhere on sale, so I’ll have to think seriously every time I purchase one. The Handbook Watercolor journal, on the other hand, can typically be found on Amazon or other online vendors at a steep discount, so it might be more economical for people. I like the paper a little bit better in the Hahnemühle Watercolor book, but price is an issue.
Overall I liked the sizing on this paper. While I don’t like using all my favorite pens on this paper, I find that using watercolor with minimal pen, or doing direct brush sketching is very fun on this paper. I think most watercolorists will find it easy to adapt their working style to this paper. Those used to working on slick, heavily sized papers, and those who enjoy lifting paint as part of their process will find their adaptation particularly quick.
Gouache works great on this paper as well.
While I didn’t do any collage in my test book (it just didn’t come up during the test period) the paper is stiff enough to easily handle collage.
Now you have all my thoughts on this new watercolor sketchbook.
If I had not just bound 52 books using art papers I normally paint with I would probably be going over to Wet Paint to pick up a couple more of these to have on hand.
I know that I will use them again. Their size and compactness is something that I would consider taking on a trip when I needed to travel light and yet wanted to work with watercolor and traditional brushes. (A Niji Waterbrush will work fine on these pages.)
Remember too that Nichiban masking tape pulled up cleanly off these pages when used for masking.
If you aren’t in the Twin Cities area and wish to purchase these books from Wet Paint, give them a call. I know they do mail order. Otherwise you’ll need to look around for a vendor for this book. (Reminder: I purchased my test books and am not connected to Wet Paint financially so you can buy them wherever you want.)