Review: The Aimporium Sketchbook

A few months ago, Amy of Parts by NC commented on my review of/eulogy to the Punctuate sketchbook, and we commiserated over the discontinuation of our favourite sketchbook. While I tested other commercially available options though, Amy decided to just make her own instead!

The result was the Aimporium Sketchbook, a spiral-bound sketchbook featuring the most important aspect of the Punctuate sketchbook: extremely good paper. Amy was kind enough to send me one of the sketchbooks for free. She didn’t ask for a review, but I’m writing one anyway. :)

Front and back of Aimporium Sketchbook in medium
Front and back of the Aimporium Sketchbook in medium. Stickers here by Oxygen Impulse, Alekivz, and Roamin Bison.

Sketchbook details:

  • Spiral-bound
  • 110lb (199gsm), FSC certified, smooth paper
  • Acid free
  • Hand-made in USA
  • “Everyday” size
    • 4.5″ x 6.75″ (11.43 cm x 17.15 cm)
    • 32 sheets (64 pages)
    • $9.00 MSRP
  • “Medium” size
    • 5.5″ x 8.25″ (13.97 cm x 20.96 cm)
    • 36 sheets (72 pages)
    • $12.00 MSRP

The sketchbook I have is the larger “medium” size.

Punctuate sketchbook VS Aimporium sketchbook paper
Paper in the Punctuate sketchbook (bigger) VS the Aimporium sketchbook (smaller). You can see it’s a teeny bit toothier.

As promised, the paper sourced for the Aimporium Sketchbook is great! It’s heavier and thicker than the paper in the Punctuate and has nearly the same texture — it’s very smooth, but has the teeniest bit of tooth.

It’s ideal for pen and ink, but it holds onto pencil well too. The thickness of the paper means that alcohol markers don’t bleed onto the next page, even without a buffer sheet! (Marker will still show on the back of the same page though.) Dye- and water-based inks don’t show through on the back at all though, so it’s easy and practical to use both sides of a sheet.

Drawings on both sides of the same sheet in Aimporium sketchbook
Drawings on both sides of the same sheet in the Aimporium sketchbook. Left is Tombow Fudenosuke and Pentel pocket brush with fountain pen ink. Right is three flavours of Kuretake Karappo with fountain pen ink.

The Aimporium is not a wet media sketchbook, and the smoothness of the paper isn’t very conducive to watercolor, but still — if you’re inclined, the pages do hold up pretty well to water and buckling is actually fairly minimal.

I did notice more feathering with this sketchbook’s paper compared to the Punctuate though. In this context, feathering is when the ink of the pen or marker bleeds outwards from where you draw, resulting in thicker lines than expected.

The amount of feathering is hard to point out and not visually noticeable in most cases, but you can definitely feel it when inking. Given that my use case for the sketchbook was very casual, this didn’t really bother me. But it’s worth noting since feathering can interfere with precise or detailed linework. It was also a bit of a surprise since feathering isn’t a common problem with smooth paper as the paper fibers are usually ultra compact, which diminishes feathering.

Aimporium sketchbook with watercolor
Pen and watercolor sketch in the Aimporium sketchbook. You can see that the page warped from a side view, but it’s barely noticeable from the actual page once dry.

The medium sketchbook is roughly half-letter size, which is a fairly common size for zines and indie comics. I’m not sure if the “everyday” size sketchbook corresponds to any standard, but it’s somewhere between A6 and A5.

Both sizes are in the typical range of “travel” size sketchbooks, which, for me, limits them to some designated specific/project use rather than general use. I decided to use the sketchbook for Art Fight this year. This let me test it pretty thoroughly with my go-to tools, but it was kinda frustrating as far as trying to compose fullbody characters into the smaller space.

Alcohol markers show through the back but don't bleed
Floating heads fit just fine in the small sketchbook though! Copic markers show through the back but don’t bleed onto the next page. No buffer sheet needed. Compare this amount of back-of-page show through with something like the Peter Pauper Press sketchbook. Much better!

I didn’t quite finish off the sketchbook with Art Fight stuff alone, so I used the remaining pages for pen testing, which worked out great! The size was actually a lot better for that purpose since pen testing is fairly fast and I’m not leaning over the sketchbook for long periods of time and straining my neck, which is my main issue with small sketchbooks.

Spiral-bound sketchbooks are also usually a dealbreaker for me because they are much more prone to damage in transit and in storage, but I’m not as inclined to keep a pen testing book long term…

Kuretake Karappo in three tip types, all with Pilot Iroshizuku Kiri-same grey ink
From the recent review. Kuretake Karappo in three tip types, all with Pilot Iroshizuku Kiri-same grey ink.

Though I do do some pen testing in my regular sketchbooks, I often just use scrap sheets of Bristol or the backs of random drawings, which I’ll throw away afterwards. It might be cool to have a specific pen testing book? I might still toss it once filled, but the orderliness in the meantime is appealing.

In any case, I can certainly understand that spiral-bound a lot easier for an independent artist to put together, and if you prefer spiral-bound, then great!

Drawings in the Aimporium sketchbook
Drawings in the Aimporium sketchbook. (These are not two sides of the same page. Left quail is in Copic marker, which shows through the back.)

The Aimporium medium’s $12 for 36 sheets (72 pages) might seem a little steep compared to the Punctuate’s glorious $10 for 96 sheets (192 pages), especially since the Aimporium is half the size and spiral — but a better comparison might be to the Travelogue Watercolor Sketchbooks, which also come in the half-letter size and have 30 sheets (60 pages). At 90 lb (200 gsm)1, it’s closer in paper weight to the Aimporium as well.

The Travelogue Artist Journals for dry media have double the pages at a lighter weight, 88 lb (130 gsm). Both the half-letter size Travelogue Watercolor and the Travelogue Artist retail around $24 but are commonly found for ~$14-17.

The Travelogues are hardbound, but I think Aimporium’s price point is pretty competitive given its indie nature and paper quality. If Amy can figure out how to make hardbound sketchbooks economically, it could be a game changer…!

Spiral view of Aimporium sketchbook
The Aimporium sketchbook is available in spiral-bound only for now.

The Aimporium is an awesome little sketchbook and a fantastic example of an intrepid artist making exactly what they want to exist. The paper quality is fantastic, allowing for versatile use of dry media while still holding up well against experimental wet media.

I’ll be crossing my fingers for a hardbound version someday, but if you don’t mind spiral-bound, I can definitely recommend checking out the Aimporium sketchbook and supporting your fellow artist!

1 How is it that the Aimporium (110 lbs/199 gsm) and the Travelogue Watercolor (95 lbs/200 gsm) have nearly the same paper weight in gsm but are 15 lbs apart? But also, Amazon lists the Travelogue’s paper weight at 95 lb/200 gsm while Blick lists them at 90 lb/200 gsm. Speedball does not give weight in poundage. Paper weightage remains a gotdang mystery…

Interior front cover of Aimporium sketchbook
Interior front cover of Aimporium sketchbook.

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.