Art Tip #5 - How to Choose a Journal

"What kind of journal do you use?" 

This is a frequent question I get asked when it comes to my art journals.  

I can definitely understand why -- it's frustrating to buy a journal and take it home, only to find out your watercolors don't agree with the paper!

So, rather than only recommending one particular brand for you, I thought I'd share with you the check list I keep in my head whenever I'm buying a new journal for my watercolor projects.

Here goes: 
#1)  What's the weight of the paper?  
A ream of paper is sold at 500 sheets.  If you're in a store, and you look at the front of a sketchpad, you'll see a number listed in lbs or gsm.   This little guy tells you how much that particular type of paper weighs at 500 sheets.  Basically what that means for an artist is, the higher the number (aka the "weight" of the paper), the thicker those pages will be.  And the thicker your paper, obviously the better it will handle moisture:  ie, watercolor, acrylic, glue, and other fun/messy stuff.  The weight can range anywhere from 20lbs (office copy paper) to 300 lbs (really, really good watercolor sheets).  

Here are snapshots of some of my different art pads and their weights: 

I've found that paper in the 90-140lb range works best for my art journaling.  
(If I'm in the store, and the sketchbook I'm considering doesn't have a weight listed, I don't buy it!)

#2) What's the quality of the paper? 
Excellent watercolor paper is actually made out of cotton (sometimes referred to as "rag"), instead of wood pulp.  Cotton is a great absorber.   Wood pulp, not so much.  
Note:  there is a reason that good watercolor paper is as expensive as it is.  It's because it really does make a difference!  It's definitely worth the investment.  

#3)  How is the book binded together? 
I prefer the hand-sewn journals more than the spiral-bound ones.  When I open up the book, I like viewing it as 1 big page, instead of 2, broken up in the middle by wires.  Plus, it drives me crazy when the wire-bound books snag or bend.
(See the wire bent on the top of the green one?  aaak!)  

4)  What other goodies does the journal have?
I like fabric bound journals, simply because feel nicer to hold in my hand.  Some books also have little pockets in the back.  I like to press flowers in those.  Other journals may also have bookmarks and elastic bands to hold your pages down.  
... 

So that's it!   Those are the 4 big "criteria" I keep in mind when looking to buy new journals.

There's lots of good stuff out there.

I hoped this has helped with your search.  :)

Here are a few links to some journals too:

      Dickblick.com
      Jerry's Artarama
      Utrecht
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How about you?
Do you have a favorite kind of journal?