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. :)
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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…!
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…