Review: Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook

This Deconstructed Color Palette sketchbook is by Studio Oh!, the gift division of Orange Circle Studio. I got mine from Barnes and Noble, but it’s also available through several other distributors, and there are a few other cover designs available.

Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook
Stickers are order freebies from StickerApp and Tokidoki.

The stats on this sketchbook are:

  • Cotton canvas hardcover
  • 7″ x 10″
  • 90 lb smooth paper
  • 140 pages
  • Acid-free
  • Lay-flat, modern Coptic binding
  • $18.99 MSRP

As a note, I bought this for $15.95 at B&N, and it’s $14.99 on Amazon. Amazon also has a few older (?) cover variants of the sketchbook that are closer to list price. I also found it for $22 at a boutique and for $30 in Walmart’s online store???

Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook
The cotton canvas is a thin layer over the usual paperboard.

Stupid as it sounds, my biggest initial hang-up about this sketchbook was the canvas cover.

While sturdy and nice looking on its own, I figured the cotton surface wouldn’t be ideal to sticker bomb. I only put a few stickers on it — and all of them freebies, in case it went poorly — but thankfully, they seem to have held on pretty well. I think paper stickers (as opposed to vinyl) would have a harder time of it, but that’s the case in general. Also, the canvas cover did well to absorb Sharpie ink, so maintaining my totally sophisticated label system was no problem.

Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook
Ink drawing with a Tombow Fudenosuke in the Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook and the slight indentation of the inks on the reverse side of the page. The circle was filled in with a Pentel Pocket Brush, which is wetter than the Tombow.

90 lb text stock is a good paper weight! Not so heavy that you feel pressured to draw masterpieces on every page, but not so light that drawing on the reverse side of pages isn’t an option.

The smooth page is pleasant to work on and it’s substantial enough for reverse-side ghosting and indentation not to be a huge issue with dry media like pencil and brush pens.

The paper isn’t as thick as the stock in the Punctuate sketchbook or the Barnes and Noble rainbow sketchbook, but I still really liked inking on it. The balance between too heavy and too light is a tricky one, and I think this sketchbook managed it well.

With only 140 pages, I went through the sketchbook pretty fast.

Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook
Ink drawing with Pentel Pocket Brush with another ink drawing on the reverse side. I’m less heavy handed with the Pentel than the Tombow, so there are no indentations, and the inks themselves aren’t really visible during usage or when scanning. Right-side photo shows the page in mid-turn, with natural window light showing under it.

The paper remains smooth for dry media, but buckles very readily at the first hint of moisture.

You can see some light buckling on the left page below, especially at the bottom of the page where there’s a slight wave pattern on the edge — the reverse side of that page has some fountain pen ink (Pilot Iroshizuku) applied with a Pentel pocket brush.

Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook
Ink drawing and ink + Copic drawing.

Since they’re (usually) water-based inks, fountain pen ink isn’t typically a big problem for sketchbooks, but applying it with a brush makes the application significantly more wet than if I’d used an actual fountain pen. Still, the buckling is very slight and doesn’t bother me enough to not draw on the reverse side.

Water-based markers like the Daiso Color Brush don’t come down wet enough for there to be visible buckling unless you’re really layering it on.

Alcohol-based markers like Copic bleed through the back, as usual, and I’d recommend a buffer sheet to ensure it doesn’t bleed onto the next page.

Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook watercolor test
Watercolor test. This sketchbook definitely isn’t intended for wet media.

Actual watercolor, though, warps the page significantly.

Layering on wet media or being rough with blending would definitely damage and possibly tear through the paper. The blotches of paint above were single layer and done quickly, with basically no blending attempts, but you can already see where the paper thins out on the reverse side, and no amount of stacking other sketchbooks on this sketchbook would ever flatten out the page.

Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook
Lay-flat binding!

The Studio Oh! sketchbook features lay-flat binding, which is really cool, but also something I didn’t take advantage of nearly often enough.

The sheets of paper are bundled in small batches and the cover doesn’t wrap around the spine, so there’s nothing to impede the sketchbook lying flat on a table. This ensures that no part of the page is lost to the gutter. No matter where in the sketchbook you are, it can lay flat.

There’s just something really aesthetically pleasing and satisfying about a drawing spanning across the full width of a spread like this:

Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook
This spread is near the back of the sketchbook, but that doesn’t matter! Lay-flat binding means it can lay flat regardless.

This is a good sketchbook, though it edges into the pricier end for A5-ish, obscure brand sketchbooks, even at the $14.99 Amazon price.

The Barnes and Noble rainbow sketchbook was a similar size, but only $7.99 for more pages and a thicker paper stock.

What’s contributing to the higher price here, just the binding? The canvas cover? Theoretically, lay-flat binding uses less material, and the lack of spine covering makes it a simpler manufacturing process in my head, though I don’t know whether that’s the reality. Is cotton canvas expensive? I have no idea, but there’s no way it can be twice as expensive as the material used for typical hardcovers, right? (I’m not even sure what that material is though — sometimes it looks like faux leather and sometimes like a thick textured paper?)

I wouldn’t be opposed to picking up more of these though. The lay-flat feature is really cool, but I’d also have to try and take advantage of it more, so this might be better suited as a special purpose sketchbook rather than as a general one.

I’m still not giving up on finding a good sketchbook that’s closer to A4 size like the Punctuate though…

Studio Oh! Deconstructed Sketchbook
The lack of binding does make spinal labeling wonky, but it’s charming in its own way, right.