I’ve always dreamed of a sketchbook that will handle anything I throw at it, that will take all of my favourite mediums well and without compromise. Regular cartridge paper sketchbook is OK for charcoal, conte, and dry media, but terrible with pens and ink. Smooth writing paper is brilliant with inks, and might be OK with graphite, but is terrible with charcoal and other crumbly dry media. Watercolour paper can take washes if I want to add them to a sketch, and can be decent with pens but not with pencils. All of this is acceptable- different papers were made for different purposes and if you’re really feeling the itch to draw literally anything will get the job done.
Yet it used to bother me that I couldn’t find the one sketchbook to rule them all- until recently. The Stillman and Birn Zeta hardcover sketchbook is roughly A4 in size, but lies completely flat; the binding was made to withstand the flattening. The paper is almost as smooth as quality writing paper but with the mildest tooth to it, and a very clean, crisp white tending slightly towards a warmer tone. But by far the best thing about it is that I’ve finally found paper that is good with everything I like to use. It can take heavy watercolour washes- almost more than my dedicated watercolour pad. And it can take layers upon layers of Copic markers without staining the next page, with only slight ghosting on the other side. The result is that even though this sketchbook has 26 pages, I’ll finally be able to use both sides of the page without fearing that the poor thing will disintegrate. I’ve been throwing everything at it- watercolours, Copics, fountain pens, marker pens, fineliners, pencils, even Conte- trying to find a flaw but so far everything behaves optimally. Very impressed.