Hi everyone, this is my first time posting in this section. I saw a few of you using Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks and have high praise for it and I'd like to join in to explore this brand.
I have three Stillman & Birn journals and I would like to compare them with other brands along the way. I won't post the work done on other sketchbooks but will link to it so you have a comparison. Like Robert, I'd like to put all three journals in the same thread because I'm comparing each medium on the three books too and it's easier to see them adjacent to one another.
I got the following three from left to right:
s Heavy Weight Paper for Pen & Ink Natural White
100 lbs - 150 gsm Plate surface suitable for line drawings without feathering or bleeding 50 sheets 7x11 inch SPIRAL
Heavy Weight Paper Natural White 100 lb - 150 gsm Vellum Surface suitable for all dry media will accept light washes 62 sheets 5.5 x 8.5 inch HARDBOUND
Extra Heavy Weight Paper Ivory 180 lb - 270 gsm Rough Surface enhanced wet strength suitable for mixed media renderings 25 sheets 6x8 inch SPIRAL
These came just in time because I have been in a rut the last two weeks with a new job and have been so busy I have sort of lost incentive to draw. Nothing is better than testing out new toys.
The first thing I did was to test how flat the Alpha drawing sketchbook could lay open with a hardbound binding.
If you are familiar with these journals below, then you could tell that Stillman only lays relatively flat but not very flat. I opened every single book at 1/3 of its pages.
Top left to right: Daler Rowney Simply 65 lb, Pentalic 70 lb
Bottom left to right: Strathmore Watercolor 140 lb, Handbook Watercolor Journal 95 lb
Here, I open them and put the same steel Japanese weight on each one except the top which is the Handprint one. Even with just a light ruler, Handprint lies absolutely flat.
Top row: Handprint watercolor journal
Second row left to right: Daler Rowney Simply, Pentalic
Third row: Strathmore watercolor, Stillman Alpha Series drawing sketchbook
Strathmore is equally flat and very impressive for such heavy paper. I've been using toting this Strathmore one back and forth for 6 months and not a single page is loose.
I added Handprint Drawing Sketchbook at 130 gsm and labelled good for pen and ink, pencil, markers and light watercolor washes without buckling and 100% acid free.
Impressively flat! But I don't care for the light cream color.
So I'll show you the quick sketches I did of the Stillman here. You could see the rest of the comparison here
One of more difficult tests I found is using India ink because they could warp weaker paper.
Hardbound Alpha Series
Dr. Ph Martin's Bombay India Ink - sepia, deep red
Walnut Ink applied with Chinese brush
Pentel Pocket Calligraphy brush pen - fibre tip for styling details
No name disposable fountain pen with black ink cartridge for line and wash
I really like the sturdiness of this paper. It's smooth enough for my brush pen to glide through without it becoming drybrush effect as heavy texture would do to it. I've given it light washes last night and impatiently waits for "the morning after test" as you could see by the next morning if it will flatten out when dry. It did 95%. You could see a slight buckling underside but it's way better than the 65 - 70 lb paper sketchbooks which couldn't take washes as elegantly.
My comparisons with Handbook is here
. While the colors, washes didn't bleed or show through for now, I would hesitate to draw on the underside. When you scan it, the image will show through from overleaf. I think this book would probably be better for dry media, definitely. I'll find out later on if I could do oil pastel, colored pencil, pen and ink back to back.
The next one is on the Epsilon Pen & Ink sketchbook. I'm really not being fair to the manufacturer because it states it's good for line drawings without feathering or bleeding. It didn't say it accept washes.
I lathered the same materials all over it. No pilling or but it failed my morning after test. The next morning, I opened it and the underside cockled terribly all over like the 65lb from Daler Rowney Simply. Even Pentalic 70 lbs hold up better for washes. But then it's only for line drawings, it says. So next time, I'm going to test it with pen and wash only, and in future, markers, fountain pens...etc. I won't give it aggressive washes. I can't use the underside for definite with this aggressive mixed media. I've compared it to Bee Company's Artist Marker Pad at 110 lb smooth surface here
Fianlly, I tried the extra heavy weight paper Delta 180 lbs. Too bad it's Ivory in color. I'm not very good with color schemes yet but ivory color works better for earth colors and I'm more a blue and purple fan and white would probably be easier. I bought a Classic Cachet sketchbook some time ago at 110 lbs made in England and it also has some sort of cream color and it took me forever to fill that one up too.
China - Guilin
Same material minus the Bombay India ink. Too lazy to open it tonight.
This one I don't have to wait for the morning after test. It's superbly flat after many washes. I've worked certain sections to lift the stubborn Walnut ink that's hard to lift and the paper didn't give way after repeated scrubbing. Very good product.
I personally would hesitate to slather pastel ground on to do soft pastels because it would waste this expensive sketchbook. Pastel ground could go on any other surface and stiffen the surface. I don't need to do it on 180 lbs at $0.67 per 6x8 inch page.
This book has its charm. Even though it says rough surface, it's smoother than the new Strathmore Readycut watercolor cards at 140 lbs both hot press and cold press (those two have very similar bumpiness for some reason). For someone like me who likes to use pen work on watercolor pieces, it's ideal. But if you are used to the rougher watercolor surface, this wouldn't work for you.
This extra heavy weight book is really the book to take around for watercolor sketches on both sides of the page. I'll try some acrylic and gouache later on.