The Only Travel Sketchbook You'll Ever Need
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I have been using the Moleskine Art Plus Pocket Sketchbook as my go-to sketchbook for the past three years. Over those years, I have completed seven sketchbooks with sketches on each page. I have taken these sketchbooks to the Amazon rainforest, to the Netherlands and Germany, and backpacking and camping all across the US. These sketchbooks, along with a few travel watercolor sets, have really been through the wringer. So, here is my complete, unbiased and unsponsored review of my favorite sketchbook and the pros and cons of using it.
- Travel sized
- Decent paper quality
- Good construction
- Elastic closure
- Lays flat (most of the time)
- Pocket in back
- Braided bookmark included
- Hardback so you can sketch almost anywhere
- Paper is ever so slightly off white
- Doesn’t take acrylics as well as I would like
- Some parts of the pages seem to have some residue and it does not always respond evenly to watercolor
- Very beat up sketchbooks have “cracked” a little at the seams
The biggest draw for me of this sketchbook was the fact that it was travel size. I had used some Moleskine journals before and been happy with the quality of the journal, but hadn’t found a good, small sketchbook that I could take anywhere. I saw this one and figured it was worth a shot, so I purchased it. Overall, I have been very happy with this sketchbook and I will likely remain loyal to this exact one until Moleskine stops making them - which is hopefully never.
At the time, I already had a nice, large sketchbook in my arsenal that was great for working through things at home or in the studio. However, when I was looking for a small sketchbook I was also doing My Friend Court’s Make Your Mark challenge so I was doing a daily drawing/painting and my big sketchbook didn’t really work for that. Now, this sketchbook is on my list of essentials whenever I travel. I can’t necessarily bring a large store of art supplies when I travel, so at the very least I will take this sketchbook. I am a true believer in the carry on only/one bag method of traveling so space and weight in my pack are both precious things to be carefully allotted. I will always make room for this little sketchbook and truly think it would fit the needs of most artists when they are traveling.
Decent paper quality
The paper in the sketchbook has a nice weight and a little bit of texture. 90% of the time, I use watercolor when I sketch in this sketchbook and it holds up well to that medium. The texture helps with the watercolor, but it isn’t so much texture that it interferes with drawing. The paper is acid-free which is always a bonus and according to the packaging, the paper is 165 g/m2 or 111 lb. Overall, for sketching purposes, the paper has a nice weight to it without being so heavy that the sketchbook is an unwieldy size and the texture adds a little when you’re using watercolors.
Unlike some sketchbooks I’ve used, this one is sewn together at the seams in little mini booklets. It is more durable and has held up to many adventures. I’ve had others that were glued, or worse, spiral bound, and this holds up better than all of those. The sewn spine is a nice addition and I have preferred this binding method over others.
Personally, I no longer want anything to do with sketchbooks that do not have an elastic closure. As sketchbooks get used, the paper will inevitably wrinkle, or I will collage on it, or something and the thing won’t shut as well as it used to. Enter the elastic closure - it holds your sketchbook firmly closed when bouncing around in your purse, bag, or backpack. I’ve had other books fall open inside of my bag and pages will bend or worse. Having the ability to firmly close a sketchbook is a feature I will no longer consider optional - especially since this book travels everywhere with me.
Because the spine is stitched, most of the time the sketchbook lays flat. This is nice when you’re sketching because it doesn’t usually flop back on top of your hand while you’re sketching. Some of the pages at the beginning and the end do occasionally flop, but I will use the elastic closure or a binder clip to keep the unruly pages contained. This method has worked for me. I’ve had some smaller sketchbooks that won’t lay flat without essentially breaking the spine. I find that rather frustrating, so this sketchbook laying flat the majority of the time is a plus for me.
Pocket in back
The times that I have used this sketchbook for collage, I have been very grateful for the pocket. It isn’t super deep, but it will definitely hold bits of paper and other small odds and ends that you may want. For me, this feature is always a nice little bonus, but not a necessity in a sketchbook.
Braided bookmark included
This is another feature that I put in the “nice to have” category. I appreciate the bookmark keeps my place. It doesn’t take me too much longer to find my place without a bookmark, but again it is nice that it is there.
This is one thing I love. I’ve used softcover sketchbooks and they get so beat up so quickly. Maybe because my sketchbooks are usually bouncing around in a bag this is a much more common problem for me, but still hardcover is a must for me. It makes sketching on the go a lot easier. I have often sketched on the train and there isn’t always a table or hard surface in that situation so having a hardcover makes all the difference.
Paper is ever so slightly off white
This is a minor nuisance, but I really do prefer pure white paper. The paper in the Moleskine sketchbooks is ever so slightly creamy. It definitely isn’t a dealbreaker, but if I could change one thing, I would make the paper bright white.
Doesn’t take acrylics as well as I would like
The main issue I have encountered with this is when using thicker acrylics that haven’t been diluted in any way. Not gouache. Medium to heavy body acrylics. Whenever I have used those, the pages always stick together. I haven’t had this problem with other sketchbooks. Honestly, acrylics for just a sketch are too much work so at this point I don’t even bother using acrylics in my sketchbook anymore. I think others who use gouache or water down their acrylics a little have had a lot better luck than me.
Some parts of the pages seem to have some residue and it does not always respond evenly to watercolor
I’m not sure if some pages have a little bit of adhesive or binding agent left on the surface, but one page out of every 30 or so will repel water in weird sections seemingly at random. This can get annoying if I am trying to draw a really crisp, clean line, but overall it is mostly a minor nuisance. This is my biggest quality issue with the sketchbook. It messes with large swaths of watercolor and crisp lines. It seems to be fairly random and I am unsure of how to fix it or what even causes this problem in the first place.
Very beat up sketchbooks have “cracked” a little at the seams
Similar to how paperback books can crack if they are left open for too long or left to rest open, this sketchbook can occasionally crack at the seams. I would say ⅓ sketchbooks I’ve used have cracked so it isn’t common but it is a flaw that I have noticed while using this sketchbook.
Should you buy this sketchbook?
If you want a portable sketchbook that is relatively durable and made of mid-level quality materials, buy this sketchbook.
If you’re looking for something very high quality to make completed works of art in, don’t buy this sketchbook.
Again, this post is not sponsored or affiliated in any way with Moleskine. These are my own opinions formed after using this specific sketchbook for three years and traveling around the world with it in my bag. I love it. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to sketch on the go.