Stillman & Birn deserves a medal for their range of sketchbooks. I had a good run with spiral-bound sketchbooks but now I prefer the hardbound.
My thoughts on the 3 I have (so far): Alpha, Zeta and Beta.
With its 150 gsm/100lb paper, the Alpha series 4″ x 6″ portrait is my everyday, around the house sketchbook. With the perfect balance between smooth and textured pages, it’s comfortable with everything I use – graphite pencil, watercolour pencil, Micron fine liner, fountain pen, and watercolour. The paper buckles slightly with watercolour, but settles down once dry, allowing me to sketch on the back of the page with no problem. However, looking from the side, I can see the buckled pages and that’s fine with me. I like to see that in a sketchbook – evidence of use.
I was so impressed with the Alpha that I bought the 9″ x 6″ landscape, and the 5″ x 8″ portrait is sitting in my Amazon cart along with a Delta series 5″ x 8″ portrait and a Gamma series 9″ x 6″ landscape, waiting for the next round of art supply shopping.
I did a quick, tiny weenie test on the last page of the Zeta series 270 gsm/180 lb 5″x 8″ portrait sketchbook, just to see how it feels to sketch on smooth paper, found it surprisingly pleasant, and put it away. (After all, I have several sketchbooks currently in use.) Though I’ve been thinking that I may not buy it again or any other sketchbook with smooth paper, the fact that it is a hefty 180lbs (140lbs is the heaviest paper I’ve used so far) I’ve been itching to do a serious sketch in it. I finally scratched the itch and it’s not going back on the shelf with the spanking new sketchbooks. Instead, I’ve added it to my current sketchbooks in use. I maybe not use it every day but I want to be able to reach for it when the sketch-in-the-Zeta bug bites.
As for the Beta series 270 gsm/180 lb 5″ x 8″ sketchbook, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m going to love sketching in it – gosh I wish S&B offered it in a 9″ x 6″ landscape. They’ve responded splendidly to the needs of artists with their 6 series range. I won’t be surprised to see landscape formats of the hardbound Beta, Delta and Zeta on the market soon, sporting the same 270 gsm/180 lb feature I love and prefer.