In September 2019, I backed the Sketchnote Ideabook on Kickstarter.
Its whole thing is that it’s a “sketchnoter’s sketchbook,” but while I don’t know much about sketchnoting as a movement, I was curious about the make and quality of the sketchbook, particularly after it was praised by the nerds on the Pen Addict.
The sketchbook missed its estimated delivery date (December 2019, ambitious!), but it still arrived within a reasonable time, I think, around February 2020.
- Ultra-smooth PU leather cover
- 5.8″ x 8.3″ (A5)
- 110 lb/160 gsm slightly textured paper
- 128 pages
- 2 ribbon bookmarks
- Elastic closure band
- Lay-flat binding
- Includes a sheet of labels/stickers
- $24.00 MSRP
Via Kickstarter, I paid $19 + $7.25 shipping for it, so $26.25 altogether. I don’t think this sketchbook is available from retailers, so the shipping may be unavoidable.
The Sketchnote Ideabook has a lot of bells and whistles, but ultimately very little of it mattered to me.
The PU leather cover is very nice to the touch and has some fancy debossing, but this got in the way of my usual labeling and sticker bombing more than anything. The interior front and back covers have various notes and suggestions with regard to sketchnoting — nice, probably, for someone actually sketchnoting, but mostly irrelevant to someone just sketching.
The interior back cover also has a folder flap that I immediately and completely forgot about, but it would be a good place to, I dunno, store loose notes and maybe business cards if I had traveled at all while this sketchbook was in use.
The sketchbook is small enough that I didn’t really need the bookmarks to mark my current place, so I used them to mark pages with sketches I wanted to revisit for something later, which was handy, even if I was limited to two. I usually use small sticky tabs for this purpose.
I don’t care for the elastic closure band and never used it. I think closure bands are nice in theory, but in practice, they just get in my way — I hate having the undo the closure to sketch and tucking it in the back just makes my drawing surface bumpy. How often does a sketchbook fall open that you actually need a closure band? And with a nice cover and quality paper, dropping the sketchbook isn’t likely to significantly damage the pages anyway.
As advertised, the paper is excellent!
160 gsm isn’t as heavy as Denik’s sketchbooks, but it’s still much heavier than average. There is a very, very slight tooth to the paper, which is comfortable without being distracting. It holds graphite a little better than smooth paper while still being really great to ink on.
Water-based markers and fountain pen ink absorb well with little to no show-through on the reverse side and no bleeding onto the next page. Alcohol-based markers and ink show through the back, but don’t bleed.
Lay-flat binding is always great, especially in a hardcover book that still wraps around the spine, rather than leaving it exposed, as in the Studio Oh! sketchbook.
The last few pages of the sketchbook are perforated and have some printed grids and boxes for… something related to sketchnoting, I’m sure.
I ignored them and just used the pages as normal. The printing is pretty light, so it didn’t really concern or bother me. The perforation is more prominent than the micro-perforation I’m used to, but this also makes it harder to tear out by accident.
Paper is usually the most important part for me, so I was glad that the Sketchnote Ideabook delivered on this. Unfortunately, while A5 (technically 5.875″ x 8.25″) is a common and popular notebook size, using this sketchbook helped me determine that this size is just too small for me in a general use sketchbook.
My other recent sketchbooks have been 7″ x 10″, 7″ x 9″, and 6.5″ x 10″ ish — all smaller than my long-preferred 8″ x 11″ (A4-ish), but still pretty manageable. An inch on each side makes a difference though, and the Ideabook was just uncomfortable and inconvenient for me to use.
The problem is mostly that looking down on the sketchbook while drawing strains and puts pressure on my neck, but the sketchbook is too small to prop up on my legs — in that position, I’m still straining my neck to look down. The sketchbook is also too small to use comfortably with a desktop easel, and I usually ended up propping the sketchbook up with another sketchbook so I could have it at eye level.
I think things might have been different if I’d been able to travel in 2020. Then, I would’ve probably demoted this to a travel sketchbook instead of a general one, but it’d have been more tolerable as a travel sketchbook.
Away from home, sketching conditions aren’t ideal anyway, so compromising wouldn’t have felt so annoying. At a convention table, there’s no space for an easel or for me to prop a sketchbook up on my knees, so I’d be drawing with the sketchbook flat on the table anyway. Yeah, that’s not great for my chronic neck pain, but there’s little to be done in that environment, so it’s easier to accept.
The Sketchnote Ideabook is very well made, but it’s not for me — which is maybe obvious, since it was made specifically for sketchnoters, and I’m not a sketchnoter.
(Or at least, I don’t really have need these days to take extensive notes, though when I did, I suppose I might have fallen into the category of “sketchnoter.” What? It doesn’t count as sketchnoting if you simply sketch random things all over your pages of notes? Oh.)
This sketchbook can be used as a normal sketchbook, sure, but $24 for 128 pages (even 128 very nice pages) is pretty pricey. I think it’s difficult to justify the price if you don’t get much out of all the extras — doubly so if you find it physically uncomfortable to sketch in A5 size like I do.
But if you like the size and find the extras useful, then it could be a great deal! Despite its fanciness, I do appreciate that the sketchbook emphasizes that it’s for ideas and not art. The sketchbook is not precious. What’s important is that you use it.