September 29th, 2016

By Liz Steel, Australia

A few weeks ago I received a package of the new Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbooks to test out. They are available in every paper type in the S&B range and in five different sizes. This photo shows four sizes (the largest size can be seen in a photo below) with only the Beta and Alpha paper.

My thought when I initially heard about the new range was that the lack of a hardcover for a support when sketching in all kinds of situations wouldn’t suit me. But now that I have them here, I really like the feel of holding them in my hand. Having a lighter weight version of the sketchbook paper I love is a really important feature – in particular for my everyday book which I carry around with me everywhere.

This week I finally finished my current Alpha 9 x 6 hardcover book that I started in May before my big trip, and so I cracked open the A5 portrait book (5.5″ x 8.5″). It feels wonderful to have a different format sketchbook and the reduction in weight is not insignificant!

I have hardly sketched this week, but here are my first thoughts:
• I love the feel of a lighter weight sketchbook (I know I have mentioned this two other times already, but this is huge!)
• It makes my daily sketchbook feel a little more personal and less formal than a hardcover – I like this very much,
• It is less bulky than the hardcover version – so much easier to get in and out of my everyday handbag.
• Like all other S&B books, it opens flat – this is a massive requirement if you want to sketch across the gutter. So a big tick!
• It was lovely to be able to stamp the sketchbook number on the front cover (Kelly Purkey Southport stamp set with Stazon ink).

I am wondering how tatty the cover will get with all the rough handling I normally give my sketchbooks. I normally use rubber bands to hold my pages down (from wind etc) but I can’t do that with these books as it curls the whole book, though I can use one to hold the whole book together. So instead of rubber bands, I am having to use bull-dog clips which I normally don’t like using as they easily catch on things in my bag. But I am willing to have a go and see how bad it is (probably not a big problem). I have noticed already that the clips are leaving a mark in the cover, but I am not over precious about my sketchbooks. I love the wear and tear and warped pages of a used book. As I use a support board most of the time when I am out and about I am thinking that lack of support in the sketchbook itself is not such a big deal, but of course I have to remember to have the board with me.

Doing my daily latte sketches this week (sitting at a table) there was a noticeable flex when drawing on the left side of the spread. This will obviously occur at the start and the end of the book when working on the side with less pages, but not so much when I am working in the middle of the book.

So in summary, even though I consider myself a hardcover sketchbook girl, I am really excited to try something different. I can see that the smaller sizes might be the most useful for me as a book I carry in my pocket and the flex issue will not be so noticeable in them.

I am already surprised that I am liking the feel of the 5.5 x 8.5 book much more than I expected. So stay tuned for the final verdict once I have filled it.


This is the link to Liz Steel’s review with photos:…/



Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>