We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.
Especially if you are busy with a full-time job and a family to raise, or you don’t want to risk a “fail” as you are refigure your life, starting with sketchbooks for watercolors may be the perfect way to learn to paint in watercolors.
If you are like me, you love images of loose watercolor travel sketch journals and dream of your own travel art journal.
You probably follow beautiful sketchbook or bullet journal images on instagram, especially those filled with free-flowing watercolors.
You wish you could create a similar art journal or paint something beautiful in watercolor but then, self-doubt creeps in.
Your fear or guilt may make you feel unworthy: that you don’t “deserve” or don’t think you can make time to learn to paint.
Maybe you imagine that you don’t have any or enough “talent”…
Keep reading and let’s see what happens when we give you
- a clear set of instructions
- access to materials that you fit to your personal budget
- And a bonus: while you learn, you make something useable.
Start with a sketchbook for watercolors: a perfect way to learn to paint in watercolors.
WHY Learn to Paint in watercolors using a Sketchbook or Journal?
- A sketchbook for watercolors will feel less daunting than a large white “painting-size” watercolor sheet of paper.
- Its smaller format, and affordability will give you “permission” to play:
- to experiment with your colors, amounts of water, drips and runs.
- Try out sticks, different brushes, calligraphy pens, waterproof markers
- or transfer and test our templates
- A sketchbook for watercolors will record your progress.
- you will find it very affirming to see that you are actually improving over time
- Some of your pages and experiments may call to you to become larger paintings.
- You can work out composition ideas, colors and style in our book.
- If you decide to use your sketchbook for watercolors to record the seasons or places you visit, you will be surprised when you look at the sketches later.
- No matter how primitive your sketches are (especially when you are starting) your visual “notes” will trigger more memories of those events.
- You will be glad that you made the effort.
- Of course, the more you use your sketchbook for watercolors, the better you will become at seeing colors.
- You will learn to draw.
- You can practice the technical parts of handing watercolors themselves.
- Painting across the open fold is beautiful and different
- Your sketchbook is private.
- It can be your oasis.
- You can work through emotions or just experience a little colorful joy, it is totally yours.
- Sometimes a few minutes with color can help you reset.
Habits to Keep a sketchbook For Watercolors:
- Set a daily sketching goal.
- Start with one sketch a day.
- Carry your sketchbook with you, at all times.
- Pick a sketchbook size (palette suggestions here) that fits into your backpack or pocketbook.
- Subjects to paint will show up where you least expect them.
- Set a timer.
- If you can squeeze 30 minutes into your day, stick to it.
- Then you look forward to doing this regularly and don’t stress about “lost time”.
- Remember that your watercolor sketchbook is for practice.
- Turn the page if something isn’t as perfect as you wish.
- Start fresh on a new page and a new day.
- More practice in your watercolor sketchbook will mean that you are getting better.
- Try more than one watercolor sketchbook.
- Chose different sizes or textures of paper (see review).
- Change up which journal you are using.
- For inspiration, different watercolor sketchbooks could have different themes.
- For example, if you have a “flower” theme, a beautiful day and a gorgeous flower in perfect light would be perfect for your 30 minutes of painting.
- Try one compact watercolor sketchbook for travel.
- You may find painting time easier to schedule on a vacation.
- Find a watercolor sketchbook that lends itself to pure abstraction or experimentation with colors.
Review of My Top 9 Best Watercolor Sketchbooks
Your watercolor sketchbook absolutely needs paper that can handle as much water as we feel like using.
Stillman & Bin Archival Sketchbooks Best Series
- Mine is 8-1/2″ x 5-1/2 ” size
- 180 lb (270 gsm) paper weight
- It contains 26 creamy-white pages
- Hardbound portrait book format
- Paper is internally and surface sized so water doesn’t soak through.
- In my hands, the paper ripples with large amounts of water
- It also “shreds’ (pills) when paint is scrubbed with a soft scrubbier.
- The paper texture makes beautiful watermarks and is gorgeous when painting with permanent ink lines.
- Perfect for my “seasonal” floral sketches.
- Approx $18
Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Book
- 5-1/4 inch x 8-1/4 inch, landscape
- 200 gsm
- 60 acid-free, soft-white sheets
- Elastic closure on Natural linen cover
- The papers are heavyweight so water doesn’t soak through.
- The paper texture paints with enough granulation to make the water marks interesting.
- I use my Global Arts Journal for life drawing: a single granulating pigment over pencil lines
- I love to follow my progress through the journal pages.
- Approx $17
Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Journal
- 5” x 7”
- 140 lb (300gsm)
- 15 sheets of mouldmade 100% cotton cold press watercolor paper
- Each sheet is micro-perforated for easy removal
- Paper front and cardboard back covers
- Wire bound
- Paper is takes a lot of water and doesn’t ripple.
- The texture allows for good watermarks and lifts well.
- The paper “holds” lots of saturated color
- Small size so easy to pack…..use for
- Approx $12
Strathmore 400 Series Visual Watercolor Journal
- 5.5″ x 8″
- 140lb (300gsm)
- Cold Press Watercolor paper
- Heavy cardboard front and back covers
- 22 Sheets
- Paper paints well with lots of water and no bleed through
- Paper texture allows for nice textural watermarks
- Great travel size…I am using this journal for my color mixing exercises (2nd photo)
- Approx $8
Bee Paper Aquabee Super Deluxe Mixed Media Sketchbook
- 6″ x 9″
- 93 lb (150gsm)
- Natural white, heavyweight, textured paper, neutral ph
- 60 pages
- Double sized to accept wet media
- Spiral bound
- Heavyweight cardboard front and back covers
- I have used this sketchbook for compositional work in the 17” x 14” 50 sheet format because it allows some watercolor or marker work without bleed through.
- As a watercolor only sketchbook, this paper buckles with lots of water
- The texture allows for nice watermarks and holds saturated color and layers.
- Approx $9
- 8” x 6”
- 180 lb (270gm)
- 25 pages
- Hard cardboard front and back covers
- Wire bound
- Internally and externally sized SMOOTH Surface
- Accepts watercolor paint without bleed through
- Allows saturated color and layers of color
- Although it feels smooth to touch, in my hands, it doesn’t paint with the same “skating” surface of HP paper
- Scrubbing causes “pilling”
- Approx $16
Moleskin Watercolor Notebook
- 5″ x 8-1/4″ ordered but 11-3/4″ x 16-1/2″ received
- 72 pages listed in small size
- (Note: the large size counts the pages on each side as 60, I count 30))
- 25% cotton cold pressed watercolor paper
- beautiful thread-bound Moleskin textured cover
- elastic band enclosure
- Paper is creamy white
- Takes saturated color and layers well
- Texture and watermarks slight
- The large size is not transportable
- I am not certain that I would reorder a smaller size for travel
- Aprox $17
Fabriano Hardcover Watercolor Journal
- I own 9” x 12”
- 90 lb (200 gsm)
- 30 pages
- acid-free, externally and internally sized 25% cotton
- A sewn binding allows the book to lie flat
- This paper buckles minimally with lots of water
- the color saturation is fabulous
- and the textural marks are beautiful
- allows for scrubbing/lifting without pilling or shredding
- this is my favorite watercolor sketchbook paper
- For travel I would purchase 6” x 9” size
- approx $13
DIY Watercolor paper sketchbook
- use your favorite watercolor paper (or put a variety of paper: HP, CP and rough)
- cut paper to your preferred size and
- take to an office supply store like Office Depot or Staples that has a printing service.
- ask them to bind it
- add a sturdy cover and a wire spine.
- This option will be your perfect size.
- The paper will paint exactly as you like.
- The price will be in line with the size of your paper plus a small amount for binding.
A watercolor sketchbook or journal is a perfect place for ideas and practice.
Wishing you fun color, great memories and a tons of learning.