The 5 Best Sketchbooks for Mixed Media in 2024

Best Overall

Strathmore Visual Journal 500 Series

1
A premium, high-quality sketchbook favored by professionals, featuring heavyweight paper ideal for mixed media.
Best Toned

Stillman and Birn Nova Series

2
A versatile, heavyweight sketchbook series offering unique paper colors, perfect for artists experimenting with light and shadow.
Best for Professionals

ETCHR Mixed Media Sketchbook

3
A durable and portable sketchbook with versatile, fine-grain paper, suitable for both wet and dry media, ideal for artists on the go.

Who hasn’t felt like a kid in a candy store when walking into an art shop? We all know the feeling of wanting it all but kinda not knowing what to get.

That’s the case for many artists, however, mixed media artists have a more difficult time when looking for reliable paper and sketchbooks that can handle dry, wet, and oily mediums without tearing or bleeding through, and since art supplies are much more expensive than candy, we can’t just get them all and try which ones we like the best.

But don’t worry, we got you! In this guide, we’ll learn how to differentiate a good sketchbook from the rest and which qualities to look for when shopping for sketchbooks. We’ll also present you with a handpicked list of what we believe are the best sketchbooks in the market for mixed media art, that will handle anything you throw them and resist through all the layers you use.

Let’s get started!

What to Look for in a Mixed Media Sketchbook

Paper Quality

One of the most important things you need to look for is the quality of the paper, and by this, I don’t mean always get the pricier option, however, make sure to look for acid-free paper which will maintain the integrity of the paper and the intensity and hue of the color over time.

Durable paper is also a must, this doesn’t always mean weight but material. For example, a thinner rag cotton paper will hold up better and resist more than 300gsm cellulose paper which will tear relatively easily when using multiple layers of paint markers.

If you’re doing professional work or you’re planning on having your work exhibited or even want something extra durable, look for archival paper, which will hold the integrity of the colors much better and will last for over a century.

Weight and Texture

While weight doesn’t really define the quality of a paper it does hold a lot of importance as most of us already know. Still, what range of paper weight is good enough for mixed media? When is it too much? When is it too little? Well, here’s a little guide on which paper might be the best for you according to your techniques and the type of art you do.

Heavier Weight (140 lb / 300 gsm and Above):

  • Ideal for wet media like watercolors, gouache, and acrylics.
  • Can handle multiple layers and heavier applications of paint.
  • Less likely to warp or buckle under wet conditions.
  • Suitable for artists who like to combine wet and dry mediums.

Medium Weight (90-140 lb / 200-300 gsm):

  • Versatile for both dry and light wet media.
  • Good for layering lighter washes of paint without heavy soaking.
  • Can handle a moderate amount of water and mediums like light washes, inks, and markers.
  • A good all-around choice for those who use a mix of mediums but don’t heavily saturate the paper.

Lighter Weight (Under 90 lb / 200 gsm):

  • Better suited for dry media or very light washes.
  • Not recommended for heavy or wet applications as it may buckle or deteriorate.

The texture of the paper is also important since it will influence the techniques you use immensely. For example, smooth paper is not the best for expressive strokes but it’s amazing for soft traces and intricate details. Textured paper might not be the best for botanical painting or detailed lettering, but it’s great to use multiple techniques on and it handles well any medium.

Size and Format

Large Sizes (A3, 11×14 +inches) are best for artists who work on a large scale, need more space for details, or prefer making larger compositions. This format is ideal for studio work, or for those who often exhibit or sell their work. Medium Sizes (A4, 9×12 inches) offer a balance between space and portability. Good for artists who enjoy a fair amount of detail without the need for a large canvas. These sketchbooks are great for both studio and outdoor settings. Small Sizes (A5, 5×7 inches) are the best for artists who travel a lot, enjoy urban sketching, or like to capture quick ideas. These sketchbooks are the favorite of many and are often used as daily journals, or to make quick studies.

Now let’s talk format. Landscape Formats are usually the pick of landscape artists or those who prefer a wider field for their compositions, while Portrait Formats, as their name says are great for portraits, but also a good option for beginners who want to explore and make studies without compromising space or limiting composition.

Binding

Although the binding might not seem like that big of a deal at first, it makes a world of difference when using them. For example, a spiral-bound sketchbook makes your pages lie fully flat and is easy to use, however, some artists find bumping against the spiral while drawing or painting very uncomfortable, plus, if you choose a large sketchbook and the spiral is not of good quality, the pages might end up coming loose.

Thread-bound sketchbooks’ pages are sewn tightly, which ensures the pages stay in their place, but also makes it slightly hard to “break” the binding and make the sketchbook lie flat, especially if it has many pages

Glued Sketchbooks are great for those who want to rip a page off after finishing it, be it for a commission or to frame their work. They can lie fully flat which is an advantage, but the pages tend to come loose easily.  

Price

There are sketchbooks for every budget, from very cheap and easy-to-get options to very expensive, premium, and hand-made options. Deciding which one to get might be tough, especially for beginners, however, my honest advice is to start down and in the middle. Get a cheap sketchbook and use the hell out of it. Use it, abuse it, and experiment all you want. Then get a mildly expensive one, and once you’ve mastered an ability, make something on that one as a “proof” of your learning journey. That’s a good way to lose the fear of sketchbook blank pages. Once you’ve filled a couple of sketchbooks you’ll feel ready enough to try fancier stuff, plus you’ll have enough experience with texture, tone, and weight to be able to choose your own.

Best Mixed Media Sketchbooks in 2024

  1. Best Mixed Media Sketchbook Overall — Strathmore Visual Journal 500 Series
  2. Best Toned Sketchbook for Mixed Media — Stillman and Birn Nova Series
  3. Best Premium Sketchbook for Professionals Artists  — ETCHR Mixed Media Sketchbook
  4. Best Large Sketchbook for Mixed Media — Winsor and Newton Professional Mixed Media Pad
  5. Best Budget Sketchbook for Mixed Media — Canson XL Series Mixed Media.

1. Best Mixed Media Sketchbooks Overall — Strathmore Visual Journal 500 Series

Selection Criteria

  • Paper Quality: Medium Grain Surface.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Paper Weight and Texture: 190 gsm.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Size and Format: 12 x 9 Inches, Portrait.
    • Our Score – 8/10
  • Number of Pages: 68 Pages.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Binding: Spiral Bound.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Price: $25.42.
    • Our Score – 9/10

About the Strathmore Visual Journal 500 Series

The Strathmore 500 Series has some of the best sketchbooks for all artists, however, the 500 Series Visual Journal has a special place in the hearts and shelves of many artists. Strathmore is one of the few brands that offer good quality paper for a fair price, along with several different presentations, formats, and colors; and this sketchbook is not an exception. 

This journal features 100% cotton vellum paper, making it great for drawing, inking, painting, markers, and watercolor. The spiral binding is strong and durable and it makes it easy for the sketchbook to lie flat, additionally, it has more than enough pages for you to work on and th price makes it incredibly accessible for being 100% cotton paper.

Pros

  • Durable paper quality.
  • Versatile mixed-media support.
  • Convenient size options.

Cons

  • Slight warping issues.
  • Relatively higher price.

2. Best Mixed Media Sketchbooks Overall — Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks (Nova Series)

Selection Criteria

  • Paper Quality: Medium Grain Surface.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Paper Weight and Texture: 150 gsm.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Size and Format: 5.5 x 8.5 Inches, Portrait.
    • Our Score – 8/10
  • Number of Pages: 92 Pages.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Binding: Hardbound.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Price: $20.76.
    • Our Score – 9/10

About the Stillman and Birn Nova Series

Coming strong into the market, the Stillman and Birn Sketchbooks are one of the top cellulose sketchbooks in the market. Thanks to the wide variety in presentation, color, weight, texture, and format, these sketchbooks are the go-to choice of many artists. The toned series is no exception. These beautifully toned sketchbooks are great for mediums like coloring pencils, tinted charcoal, gouache, paint markers, acrylics, etc. They handle wet media beautifully despite being made with cellulose paper and are another affordable option for artists looking to experiment and try different papers and techniques.

Pros

  • Excellent toned paper.
  • High-quality construction.
  • Ideal for various media.

Cons

  • Limited size options.
  • Premium price range.

3. Best Premium Sketchbook for Professionals Artists  — ETCHR Mixed Media Sketchbook

Selection Criteria

  • Paper Quality: Medium Grain Surface.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Paper Weight and Texture: 230 gsm.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Size and Format: 5.8 x 8.3 Inches, Landscape.
    • Our Score – 8/10
  • Number of Pages: 52 Pages.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Binding: Hardbound.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Price: $33.72
    • Our Score – 9/10

About the ETCHR Mixed Media Sketchbook

The ETCHR Sketchbooks are one of the best alternatives for professional artists today, they offer some of the best acid-free 100% cotton archival paper, bound by a beautiful hardcover made of white cotton fibers that you can also customize.

The insanely popular ETCHR Sketchbooks took over the internet and the art community a few years ago, due to their high quality, beautiful cover and aesthetics, and amazing texture. Well, they’re still as great as ever, however, the price is still very much on the expensive side.

If what you’re looking for is an archival sketchbook to hold your work or portfolio then don’t hold back and go for it, however, If you often go through sketchbooks quickly for practice rather than keeping them for your work, buying multiple units of this sketchbook will end up costing you a small fortune.

Pros

  • Premium paper texture.
  • Exceptional build quality.
  • Professional artist’s choice.

Cons

  • Higher price point.
  • Heavier weight may limit portability.

4. Best Large Sketchbook for Mixed Media — Winsor and Newton Professional Mixed Media Pad

Selection Criteria

  • Paper Quality: Slightly Grain.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Paper Weight and Texture: 250 gsm.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Size and Format: 9 x 12 Inches, Landscape.
    • Our Score – 8/10
  • Number of Pages: 60 Pages.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Binding: Spiral Bound.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Price: $15.78.
    • Our Score – 9/10

About the Winsor and Newton Professional Mixed Media Pad

Winsor and Newton is a well-established brand in the world of art supplies, known for their high-quality oil and watercolor paints, and their high-quality paper. This Professional Mixed Media Pad is no different, it’s acid-free, made of 100% cotton, and has a nice texture, smooth enough for pencil and inkwork but textured enough for wet media and watercolors.

The size is great for artists who like to work on large formats, the spiral binding allows you to work on either portrait or landscape format, and the micro-perforations help you remove pages with ease. The price is affordable enough, and it has a good amount of pages but not so much that it’ll overwhelm you. 

Pros

  • Large sketching surface.
  • Professional-grade paper.
  • Minimal warping issues.

Cons

  • Higher price tag.
  • Slightly heavyweight.

5. Best Budget Sketchbook for Mixed Media — Canson XL Series Mixed Media.

Selection Criteria

  • Paper Quality: Medium Grain Surface.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Paper Weight and Texture: 160 gsm.
    • Our Score – 9/10
  • Size and Format: 9 x 12 Inches, Portrait.
    • Our Score – 8/10
  • Number of Pages: 120 Pages.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Binding: Spiral Bound.
    • Our Score – 7/10
  • Price: $11.84.
    • Our Score – 9/10

About the Canson XL Mixed Media

The Canson XL Mixed Media Sketchbook is one of the few sketchbooks that offer great quality for a low price. This sketchbook is made of acid-free cellulose paper, however, it withstands pretty much every medium and it has a uniform, smooth texture that fits dry and wet media with ease.

Another advantage of the Canson XL is its size and portability, available in several sizes, it is convenient for artists on the go, fitting easily into a bag or backpack. The spiral binding allows it to lay flat when open and makes it easy to turn pages but it’s not as easy to work across two pages simultaneously.

The paper’s weight is also a key factor. While not as heavy as some premium options, it is thick enough to prevent most mediums from bleeding through, making it an excellent choice for artists who like to utilize both sides of the paper.

Pros

  • Budget-friendly option.
  • Decent paper quality.
  • Variety of size options.

Cons

  • Prone to warping.
  • Not as durable.
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