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A Quick Review of the Leda Art Supply Sketchbook

September 21, 2018
Quick sketch from a Sktchy muse photo, testing pen and ink on this really smooth paper. I worked with Staedtler Pigment Liners in the .005; .3, and .5 sizes

Why a quick review of the Leda Art Supply Sketchbook? Specifically the “Baby Leda Pocket Sketchbook” which is what I purchased, but seems to be the same paper and construction as the larger version?

The paper didn’t work out for me at all. It took three quick sketches to learn what I needed about this paper and I spell it out here for you so you can either decide I need a book like that and get one, or decide, nope that doesn’t work for me either.

There are a couple issues with this book for me—all related to the paper. As you’ll see in the first image if you read my handwritten text the paper has a smell. For most people this will be nominal. I’m sensitive to certain smells and it could be anything from the fibers they use for the paper to the sizing they might use. Even dry, the paper has a slight smell, I can only describe as chemical. Again, this is very slight and 99 percent of people won’t be bothered by this. (See additional comment below about watercolor.)

The pen moves easily over this almost plate surface paper. If you enjoy working with pigment liners and similar pens than you will like this paper.

Another quick sketch using the same reference photo. Here I used the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.

In image two you’ll see the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen test. This is a very quick sketch with the pen skating the surface of the paper, pressure causing the darker areas around the eyes and mouth, and in some areas of the beard. 

Because the paper is so smooth it took ink very well, and the ink lines are delightfully crisp.

However, if you rest a pen like this even for a moment as I did near the eyes, the ink from this pen begins to seep through.

For me using the PPBP is one of the great joys of my daily drawing practice so it is critical that I have a paper that doesn’t allow this ink to seep through. I use lots of lightweight papers that have opacity issues—that’s not a problem for me. Here I’m writing about ink seeping through the paper. That’s a problem I would prefer not to deal with. Life is short and there are lots of papers out there.

This is the next page spread following the heavy Pentel Pocket brush pen ink. The arrow points to the eyes level where you can see the seeping beginning. This is one layer of ink, the pen resting for a moment. So of course I had to test it. That’s the circle on the top right—there I stroked the paper several times with pen tip as if I were filling in a solid area. See the next photo to see what happened.
This is the spread following the previous photo. The letter A shows where the ink seeped through from where I was testing the application of solid black in the previous spread. B is where the seepage was sufficient to mark the opposite page! If you look at C you can see the opacity of the paper. Again, opacity issues are typically not something that bothers me, and it doesn’t here. Seepage, however does bother me.

My next test was for other inks and also wet media. I tested wet media because the label says it is “Acid free paper takes pencil, ink, pen, pastel or charcoal and even a light watercolor wash.”

My testing of two other ink pens in the top of the righthand page. And my watercolor test. I found that the Uniball Vision and the Sakura gel pen both worked well on this paper, though the gel pen skipped a little on the surface (probably a surface sizing issue between ink and the sizing). Both pens, worked through the paper if more than three passes were used. If you’re a heavy hatcher you’ll exhaust the limits of this paper.

I found this not to be true. Even in areas where I put a light wash I found that the paint tended to degrade the paper. And it began to seep through. I then pushed the paper to get it to pill, which was easy. And then heavier applications of watercolor with minimal water continued the damage.

If you use little water in your watercolor application and you hit things once and move on, or use the watercolor only to shade small areas of your drawing you can probably get away with its use on this paper.

If you like a more varied approach from that to full on glazing pass on this book or you’ll feel chained to limited approaches as you move through it.

Additionally, even in scant water applications the paper slides along on this paper not really settling easily so drying time also becomes an issue and the longer the water stands on the paper the more degraded the paper becomes. Can you use it for light washes? Yep if you’re careful. Because of the ink seeping issues it isn’t worth it to me.

The other problem with wet media on this paper—the smell becomes even more noticeable. And that’s a definite deal breaker for me. It goes from being a slight and annoying smell that would give me a headache in about 30 minutes to an aggressive odor that puts me off in a couple minutes. Not a book I could work in the way I enjoy.

Construction of the Book

The construction of the book seems sturdy. The signatures are sewn and the book opens flat easily throughout. There are decorative (i.e., not structural) headbands at the head and tail of the spine.

The cover is a soft, pliable vinyl or plastic of some sort (the chemistry guy has left the building). The surface has texture on it and a debossed “Leda Art Supply” logo and name on the front. It’s pleasant to hold, though it might be difficult if you have sweaty hands or a humid climate. The back cover has the ubiquitous elastic that pulls over the head and tail to hold the cover closed. 

Inside the back cover is a sweet gusseted pocket to hold notes, scraps, whatever.

It is the nicest commercially made pocket I’ve even seen in a sketchbook. The paper is double folded and the gussets are made of ribbon. It will hold up to some wear.

Specifications

I purchased the Baby Leda Pocket Sketchbook. It’s 3.5 x 5.5 inches. That’s too small for me usually, but I didn’t want to buy a larger book I might not use, since I was ordering this online.

It contains 160 pages of 81 pound paper. The paper has a smooth plate finish, however you could also use graphite or color pencil on this paper.

The small book like the one I purchased sells for $12.94 but their site says it’s on sale now for $8.94. That seems about right. Since $12.94 or so will get you books with watercolor paper (albeit student grade) there seems no point in this book to me for my usage. You’ll find the larger book on their website. It contains the same paper.

Hope this information helps you make a decision about this book for yourself. Think what you’re going to use in your book and then making a decision will be easy.

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    • Kathy
    • September 21, 2018
    Reply

    Roz, thanks for another excellent review! And this was perfect timing: I was considering trying a LEDA for Inktober, but I intend to use plenty of ink washes, possibly layering them with gouache. I think I’ll stick to mixed media or watercolor paper on this round, and save my LEDA for drier media.

    1. Reply

      I’m glad I did this now as well, to steer you away from this for that project. I think you would be disappointed.

      Have you tried Nostalgie? They have a 9 x 12 inch (something in that range, maybe it’s 8.5 x 11.5 inches) sketchbook that is great fun to work in if you like a large size.

      If you look at this post https://rozwoundup.com/2014/06/what-i-do-for-fun-life-drawing-at-home.html
      you’ll see me using ink wash while drawing some dogs who were visiting the house.

      And here’s me playing with washes for a portrait on the same paper https://rozwoundup.com/2016/11/recent-tv-viewing.html

      It takes a beating if you watch your water, you’ll get the hang of it.

      And it works great for gouache https://rozwoundup.com/2017/02/a-couple-helpful-books-for-people-interested-in-drawing-comics-or-graphic-novels.html

      Anyway it’s what I was going to use. I hoped to participate this year, but I have too much work right now. I’ll still do my daily sketches, most of them will be in ink. it’s not much different from my regular life. Have a great month.

    • Tina Koyama
    • September 23, 2018
    Reply

    Thanks for the thorough review, as always, Roz. Leda has been doing a lot of aggressive marketing (FB, Amazon, etc.), so I’ve been curious about it, but I was doubtful about the paper with the media I like to use (including that same brush pen you like). Was hoping someone else would take one for the team. 😉 Thank you.

    – Tina

    1. Reply

      Tina, I’m glad I got the review out in time for your decision process.

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