Review: Denik Hardcover Sketchbook

The Denik hardcover sketchbook comes in a variety of cover designs, but somehow the one I found had to be inscribed with “Ideas + Such.” I guess this isn’t an inaccurate label, but I find most such declarations on sketchbooks and journals to be unnecessary and kind of dorky? Lame? I’ll get over myself though.

Photo composite of the front and back covers of the Denik hardcover sketchbook
Stickers from various artists, including Forever Softcore, Ains Yeager, and Oxygen Impulse.

Most of the covers are designed by independent artists, who are named and linked clearly from the sketchbook listings on Denik’s site. This is extremely rare in mainstream stationary, but Denik doesn’t seem to be mainstream stationary.

In addition to paying artist royalties (which is also rare: commercial art contracts are often work-for-hire, so the artist retains no rights and gets no royalties), a portion of all the company’s sales goes towards building schools and funding education around the world.

That’s all great, of course, but how’s the actual sketchbook?

Photo composite of the Denik hardcover sketchbook's binding and bookmark
Denik hardcover sketchbook’s lay-flat binding and ribbon bookmark.

Sketchbook details:

  • Vegan leather cover
  • 7″ x 9″
  • 120 lb/177 gsm smooth, recycled paper
  • 88 pages
  • Ribbon bookmark
  • Lay-flat binding
  • $13.99 MSRP
  • A portion of each sale goes towards artist royalties & philanthropic work

Denik also makes several 8.5″x11″ sketchbooks with the same stats for $17.99.

Photo composite of the front and back interior covers of the Denik hardcover sketchbook
Front and back interior covers. These stickers are from my childhood sticker collection that I found at my parent’s house over Xmas a few years ago, lol.

I bought this sketchbook at Barnes and Noble, whose online store currently lists them for $7.00, about half the MSRP. Blick has the list price as $10.99 while selling them at $9.24, and Denik’s own website recently had most sketchbooks for half off, though that sale seems to be over.

$13.99 MSRP is more than average for an A5-ish size sketchbook, and pricey for one with only 88 pages, but $7.00 isn’t terrible. And in addition to Denik’s respectable business practices and charitable work, the materials for the sketchbook are top notch.

The cover is soft and flexible while still providing the protection of a “hard” cover. The print quality of the cover design is good, and the artist is named on the back cover. (The artist for the one I have is Katelyn Jones.) The interior front cover describes Denik’s mission, the back interior reaffirms it. The ribbon bookmark has a tactile texture to it and is a little thicker than average.

But most importantly, the weight of the paper in this sketchbook is substantial, and very noticeably so.

Open sketchbook with a drawing of an egret
Tombow Fudenosuke and Pentel pocket brush drawing of an egret. Lay-flat binding eliminating the unusable area in the page gutter will always be amazing.

I’ve never come across another sketchbook with paper this heavy! While 300 series Strathmore Bristol is still heavier, this is the closest I’ve come to feeling like there’s Bristol board bound in a sketchbook.

Confusingly, Bristol board is noted to be 100 lbs or 270 gsm, highlighting the fact that gsm (g/m2, or grams per square meter) is clearly a more sensible unit for weight, since, you know, it actually gives you weight per area. Poundage only gives you the weight, without an area, so… sure, Bristol can be 100 lbs and still heavier than the 120 lb paper in the Denik sketchbook because who knows how much paper either of them are weighing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Heavy paper in a sketchbook can make it intimidating to use, but if you’re able to get past it, it’s a real treat to be able to sketch on excellent quality paper. And at the $7 price at least, it’s easier to accept that it’s no big deal if you “waste” or “ruin” some pages with not-great doodles.

Open sketchbook with drawings of snakes and snake skulls
Tombow Fudenosuke and Daiso color brush snake studies.

Smooth paper is best for use with ink and harder pencils. Other dry media, like softer graphite pencils and charcoal, is prone to smearing and smudging since there isn’t much texture for the particles to settle in.

Water-based markers and fountain pen inks can cause very slight warping, but it’s honestly not very noticeable unless you’re laying down multiple layers, but they don’t bleed or show on the reverse side of the page.

Alcohol-based markers and inks will show through the reverse side, but won’t bleed onto the next page unless you’re layering or blending quite a lot.

Photo composite showing an ink and alcohol marker drawing and the reverse-side show-through
Tombow Fudenosuke, Pentel pocket brush, and Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush.

I went through this sketchbook really fast.

I did a lot of “finished” ink drawings (and lettering!) in it because the paper made it easy to, but there were still a ton of inconsequential sketches and miscellany in there too. Good paper in a sketchbook, especially one that’s pretty affordable, can really help you overcome the idea that paper is precious, which leads to more drawing and sketching, which leads to improvement!

I bought a bunch more of these sketchbooks during Denik’s sale — one of each cover design, even though I still find a lot of the inscribed cover text to be silly. At MSRP, I might not have, but $7 a piece ($9 for the A4-ish ones) for this quality of paper (and the quality of the rest of the sketchbook, too) is totally worth it to me, even if the page count is low. Supporting artists and schools through the sketchbook purchase is an excellent bonus as well.

Pile of new in packaging Denik hardcover sketchbooks
Me: I’m not allowed to buy more sketchbooks until I finish what I have. Also me: THEY’RE ON SALE.

I’m excited to try the 8.5″x11″ ones! That’s closer to my ideal sketchbook size, so I think this sketchbook in that size will be the closest I’ve gotten to my old favourite so far…

The Denik hardcover sketchbook is of fantastic quality, which makes it fun and easy to draw in — and what more can you ask of a sketchbook? It’s a little pricey at MSRP, but if you can find it on sale, get it!

Open sketchbook with a pencil sketch of a rooster and ink calligraphy.
That Zodiac series is coming along slowly, but it’s coming, lol…

About the author

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