Review: Artist’s Loft Hardcover Sketchbook

Artist’s Loft is brand of beginner and hobbyist artist products by Michaels, a huge US arts and crafts retailer.

I rarely have a reason to stop by Michaels, but I recently picked up this sketchbook because it looked like it could be a contender in my ongoing search for a Punctuate sketchbook replacement — and because it was shockingly cheap.

Artist's Loft hardcover sketchbook
Artist’s Loft hardcover sketchbook. Stickers here by Alekivz, Houndsaint, Kelly Latham, JustaSuta, channelSQUARE!, and others.

Sketchbook details:

  • Hardcover
  • 8.5″ x 11″ (21.5 cm x 27.9 cm)
  • 75 lb / 110 gsm textured paper
  • 110 sheets (220 pages)
  • Acid free
  • $6.99 MSRP

220 pages in a 8.5″ x 11″ hardcover sketchbook for $7 is stellar. Though it’s without some increasingly common features like perforated pages and a ribbon bookmark, the Artist’s Loft sketchbook has more pages and is cheaper than the Punctuate. Wild!

But to be honest, even at this price, I was a little hesitant to buy the sketchbook because my big hang-up is paper quality, and feeling the pages in-store didn’t impress me. They felt thin and limp. I expected to be disappointed in the same way I was with the Peter Pauper Press sketchbook.

Pencil sketch in Artist's Loft sketchbook
Pencil sketch in Artist’s Loft sketchbook. There’s another pencil sketch on the reverse side of this page, which you can sort of see.

I was pleasantly surprised though!

The pages are lightly textured, but don’t have enough tooth to be distracting. It’s still a fairly smooth sketching experience using my preferred 0.5mm mechanical pencil.

Despite feeling thin, mark indentation through the paper isn’t much of a problem. Pencil sketches mostly aren’t perceptible on the reverse side of the page unless you’re really digging in with that mechanical pencil, like the reverse side of above, and even then, the indentation is light and you’d only notice if you’re looking for it.

Ink show-through on page of Artist's Loft hardcover sketchbook
Regular inking (Tombow Fudenosuke used here) is noticeable on the reverse side of the page, but not to the extent that it’s distracting to draw over.

If you’re mildly heavy-handed like me, inking with felt tip brush pens will leave a similarly light indentation.

Wetter, bristle-tip brush pens and water-based markers leave a sort of shadow on the reverse side of the page and can warp the page if you layer ink — but using these tools on both sides of a page doesn’t present any problems. Once something is drawn on the back, the ghosting and minor indentations from the stuff on the other side aren’t noticeable anymore.

Brush pens, fountain pen inks, and water-based markers on Artist's Loft sketchbook pages
These are the two sides of the same page! You can sort of tell there’s stuff on the other side, but only just. Left: Pentel pocket brush with default black ink and grey fountain pen ink (Pilot Iroshizuku Kirisame). Right: Tombow Fudenosuke and Tombow Dual Brush.

Fountain pen inks will cause warping, especially if you’re laying it down with a thick brush like I am, but once dry, using the reverse side of those pages is also fine. This definitely isn’t a wet media sketchbook though, so I didn’t bother trying actual watercolor, which would probably disintegrate the page after a few washes.

Alcohol-based markers will bleed through the back of the page and onto the next page, especially if you’re using darker colors, so I’d recommend using a buffer sheet when coloring, but this is par for the course for alcohol markers.

Alcohol markers on Artist's Loft sketchbook
Tombow Fudenosuke (red lines) and Copic marker. Alcohol-based markers, of course, bleed through, but regular ink lines do not.

I did miss having a ribbon bookmark, particularly because this sketchbook has so many pages. A bookmark that isn’t attached to the sketchbook just doesn’t work as well. Rigid ones pop out easily, and a ribbon that isn’t attached is just a cat toy hazard. (The attached ones are also cat toys, but at least I don’t have to worry about a cat swallowing the whole damn thing. ಠ_ಠ)

But other than that, the lack of other features from my other recent sketchbooks, like perforated pages and lay-flat binding, was a total non-issue.

I almost never remove pages from sketchbooks and while lay-flat binding is always awesome to have, the truth is I don’t even think to take advantage of it very often. Which is good, honestly. The alternative, overthinking the possibility of drawing cool double-page spread illustrations, is a hindrance — it makes the sketchbook feel too precious, and that’s never any good.

No lay-flat binding means you can't draw in the page gutters, but whatever
No lay-flat binding means you can’t draw in the page gutters, but whatever. The gap is artsy too, amirite. This was inked with Tombow Fudenosuke and shaded with a Pentel pocket brush filled with fountain pen ink, hence the warping. The reverse side of the left page has some regular inking and the reverse of the right has that and more fountain pen ink — but if I didn’t tell you, could you tell?

The Artist’s Loft sketchbook doesn’t feel cheap though, despite the price.

The hardcover has a nice, tactile, canvas texture, though it does wear away a bit if  you use paint pens on it like I do to denote the usage period and number on the spine. The binding has held up extremely well against being held open for long periods of time, having things stacked on it while open, and being knocked off tables by cats.

It feels as durable and sturdy as hardcover sketchbooks should.

Artist's Loft sketchbook binding
Artist’s Loft sketchbook binding.

I’m really happy with the Artist’s Loft sketchbook.

It’s a sturdy hardcover at my preferred size. The price per page value of this sketchbook is incredible. The paper isn’t as flimsy as it feels, and I’ve had no issues working on both sides of pages using my regular arsenal of tools. Pretty much the only thing I’d change about it is adding a ribbon bookmark, but there’s really not much to complain about.

It doesn’t feel as luxurious as the Punctuate, but this is definitely the best potential replacement I’ve found so far. Of course it’d be another cheap, chain store brand sketchbook that does it. Well, I hope Michaels doesn’t take this one to pasture any time soon.

Artist's Loft hardcover sketchbook
Soooo many pages! Also, there is cat hair on everything I own.

About the author

Kiri is a Seattle-based artist, writer, and (brush) pen enthusiast with over 12 years of convention vending experience and a lot of opinions.