In Context: Handling the Page

May 20, 2019
Page spread in an approximately 5.5 x 8 inch Hahnemühle Travel Journal.

Sometimes our brain just clicks on an automatic timer. That happened the other day when thoughts of my last Alaskan Malamute Dottie bubbled into my mind exactly on the day 16 years after she had died. 

How you handle an image or text, or both, on a page or page spread is going to be different depending on the type of tool you pick up to work with, the size of the page or page spread, and your own sense of design.

These are all things that I encourage you to play with. 

We all have our defaults.

For decades I designed books and other print materials. That left me always in favor of margins, especially near the gutter.

And I enjoy handwriting headings—they don’t have to be perfect, they don’t have to be pre-drawn in pencil. Just wing it in ink. Just be in the moment. The important thing is to get something down on the page. 

Make it readable if that matters to you. Make it illegible if it doesn’t. 

I look at this spread and am reminded this is exactly how my pages looked when I was in school and college, long before I started creating layouts by hand and writing typesetting specs, or creating layouts in computer programs like Quark Xpress and InDesign.

Playing like this will help you discover what you want to like in design, typography, tools and paper. It’s a path of discovery you can keep at throughout your life.

    • Barbara Obergfell
    • May 20, 2019

    Roz I am seeking your advise about sketchbook papers. My first sketchbooks were of Hahnemühle Gutenberg 130gsm. I loved this paper. But I understand it’s no longer available. Then I made books with Zerkall Nideggan. This paper took my wet washes well, but I missed the soft touch of the Hahnemühle. I am now using a sketchbook I made with Arches Text Wove Velin. I love the soft touch. This is an attribute I find very pleasing. Arches Text Wove takes my wet washes but my sketches from one page shadow on the following page. Maybe I will just learn to accept this. Can you suggest other papers that would be good for binding, wet washes, and have that lovely soft touch I find so desirable?

    1. Reply

      In the following two posts I discuss paper for visual journalers who make their own books as you do.
      gives some guidelines on how to get samples and what to avoid.
      talks about some specific papers that I’ve used and why I like them.

      My current favorite for binding is Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper. It’s sized to take wet media, yet is has a soft enough and toothy enough surface that it will take pencil and color pencils and other soft, dry media.

      But in the list in part two of my series you’ll find other papers that you can try.

      The issue of lightweight papers is something that every artist has to decide for him/herself. It has never bothered me that some of the papers I use show my bold PPBP lines—not seeping through, but showing through because of boldness. I also don’t care about buckling.

      Some people suggest that when working on lightweight papers you use only the recto page of each spread, but I don’t care for that. I like to use the full spread. I mention it only because that works for some people.

      If the issue of lightweight paper bothers you it means it’s time for you to explore heavier weight papers that don’t have the see-through issue. You’ll need to test them to see if they have surfaces that work for you.

      If you like the toned papers seeking out Magnani Annigoni Designo would be a good idea, however I can’t find it in sheets anywhere so I haven’t purchased it for some time. You’ll need to search for it. Don’t by pads of it. I’ve made it into books from both sheets and pads. The padded paper has been too compressed and you won’t like the harder surface. Don’t even try that.

      Your other recourse is to look at 90 and 140 watercolor papers. I recommend that you order sample packs and test for what you like. I really enjoy TH Saunders/Waterford, but finding the 90 lb. is tough. You might need to use the 140 lb. Depending on the structure you’re making this may be a more difficult bind, but it binds up well.

      Another option is printmaking papers. Stonehenge (not their watercolor Aqua Paper which I don’t like, you can read a review on the blog) but their printmaking/drawing paper. (Just avoid the 4 newest colors—also a post about this is on the blog, they don’t fold with the grain well.)

      Rives BFK also in that list of papers in the linked post is another option.

      With all printmaking papers note that you’ll need to change your approach with watercolor. The papers are not sized for watercolor, but for printmaking. They will be more absorbent than wc papers. The paint won’t move the same way on the paper. All of these things will be adjustments you’ll need to make with your water usage and your layering. It can all be done (I love painting on all these papers), but it is a DIFFERENT experience from painting on watercolor paper.

      So buy samples, start testing, and have fun with the experiments.

        • Barbara Obergfell
        • May 20, 2019

        Thank you Roz. I neglected to comment on your remembering Dot. They do leave a hole in our hearts when they’re gone. Though what they have taught us remains.
        I am going to play with some of the papers you have mentioned. Though I think I might end up adjusting to the less than opaque pages in exchange for the lovely feel of the Arches Velin. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

        1. Reply

          For me I can put up with the lightweight of Arches Velin/Text Wove because of the SMELL. When you wet that paper the sizing odor is released, and that is a wonderful gelatin smell that I associate with watercolor paper from my childhood.

          So many watercolor papers now are moving to non-animal sizing that this smell is more and more rare. I prefer the handling of paint and ink on papers that have gelatin sizing, not just the odor.

          So for those reasons I’ll keep using this paper too. Just FYI dip pen is very lovely to use on Arches Velin/Text Wove too.

          Keep in mind as well, if you do more full coverage on the paper (e.g., you pre-paint the page before you sketch on it or simply cover it all with paint while sketching), the SEE-through is less prominent and less noticeable.

          Also, when you are scanning pages with bold PPBP lines or other bold lines, showing through from the previous or next page, you can trick the scanner into not seeing those lines by inserting BLACK paper behind the page you’re scanning. (I’ll do this where the see-through is confusing the art I want to scan, but often I’ll scan without this “trick” and be fine with what shows through.)

          You will still see those see-throughs when you personally are looking through the physical book, but they won’t show up in your scans.

    • Stephen Rogers
    • May 20, 2019

    Roz, I’m piggybacking on the previous comment. I was at the art supply store on Friday and saw pads of Strathmore Mixed Media 500 Heavyweight series (vellum finish, 350 lbs). I wasn’t familiar with this but I do love the 500 Series Mixed Media softcover journals, so I thought I take a chance and grab some to test, since at some point I’d like to start making my own books. Are you familiar with this paper? Would you ever use it in a book or would it be too heavy? Maybe more the sort of thing you’d keep in your loose document holders? I wasn’t expecting something quite so heavy but I can see lots of uses for this paper with brush pens.

    1. Reply

      Yep, the heavyweight paper is almost like cardboard in thickness and stiffness. It is too thick for me to bend and use in any of the structures that I make. Even my sewn on the spine structures where you could get away with one folded thick piece per signature.

      I currently do use it for my loose sheets series of “journals pages” which are stored in 9 x 12 inch archival boxes. It’s a lovely paper.

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