Watercolor Sketchbooks: Best Choices for Modern Artists

The watercolor notebook has long been the traditional medium for painters passionate about travel and watercolor painting.

A watercolor journal or sketchbook is an excellent tool, especially for beginners. It’s easier to get started and experiment with new techniques. 

To paint in a watercolor notebook, you don’t have to be a professional artist.

Read on to discover the best-mixed media sketchbooks. If you’re looking for the best sketchbooks for drawing or painting, you’re sure to find the right one for your needs.

Buying Guide to the Best Sketchbook

There are a few factors to keep in mind if you want a great sketchbook. Here’s what I look out for when buying good watercolor paper or a new sketchbook! 

Paper Surface & Texture

The feel of the paper is a significant factor to consider. Watercolor paper can vary from smooth to rough. It can feel very granulated and bumpy, or it can be almost shiny and slippery.

Watercolor paper comes in two main types – students’ or artists’ quality. Top-quality artists’ paper will be acid-free and last a long time without your paint fading.

But it’s also more expensive and might not be necessary for your sketchbook.

Paper Weight

Another critical factor is the weight of the paper. Thicker paper will absorb more water without it seeping through to the other pages. 

In a sketchbook, that’s an important thing to think about! You don’t want your other designs to get blurred or destroyed. 

But very heavy paper can be unwieldy and make your sketchbook weighty. You’ll also get fewer pages in your sketchbook overall. 

Light paper is more likely to ripple or tear if you use a lot of water. That doesn’t mean that light paper is of low quality. 

You can get high-quality thinner paper – but you’ll need to use more care with it!

How it Performs With Watercolor Paints

That brings up to how the paper will perform in use. Here are a few questions you’ll need answers to if you want to buy the best sketchbook:

  • Does the paper absorb a lot of water? 
  • Does the page ripple or buckle?
  • Can you erase on it? 
  • Is it better suited to watercolor paints, pencils, or markers?

Sketchbook Construction

As well as the paper quality, it’s a good idea to look at the construction of the sketchbook itself. Does it feel hardwearing? Are the pages sewn in, and do they lay flat? 

Sketchbooks can vary greatly. Some will be cheaper with cardboard covers while others are hardbound and premium. 

Spiral notebooks lay flat, giving you easy access to the page. But not everyone likes this design.

If you want to treasure your sketchbook for years, splash out on a more expensive journal. It’s the perfect way to preserve your artwork for years to come.

You can get sketchbooks with perforated pages so you can remove individual sheets. If you’d like to have the option of displaying your artwork, make sure to look out for this feature.

Don’t forget to double-check how many pages the sketchbook contains! This will also give you a good idea of the value for money of each option.

The Best Watercolor Sketchbooks

If you’re looking for the best sketchbooks or the best watercolor paper, read on. I’ve reviewed only the top products here so that you can be sure of their quality and suitability.

Are you looking for a low-cost sketchbook or a Moleskine watercolor notebook alternative? Whatever you need, you should find the right product below!

As an artist myself, I know how important it is to have the right materials. Here, you’ll find the best watercolor paper and journals for beginners and pros.

Canson XL Series Mix Paper Pad

Canson XL Series Mix Paper Pad

(Image credit: Canson)

This spiral notebook contains heavyweight paper that is ideal for watercolor painting. As a mixed media sketchbook, you can also use it to draw, sketch, and even collage.

This versatility opens up more options, allowing you to try out different techniques. You can experiment and push your limits with this quality notepad.

The pad is a generous size at 14 x 17 inches. And with 60 sheets, there’s enough paper to keep you going for a long while.

You’ll also be pleased to hear that the paper is acid-free. That means that the paper will last a long time without fading or breaking. 

The smooth, fine texture allows for an easy, flawless blending of colors and adding layers. It’s even possible to erase on this notebook.


  • Versatile mixed-media sketchbook with thick, heavy paper
  • Lots of sheets of acid-free, long-lasting paper


  • The pages can tear out by accident as they are perforated

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Arteza Sketchbook

Arteza Watercolor Sketchbooks

(Image credit: Arteza)

Arteza is a well-known brand name among amateur and professional artists. This Arteza sketchbook would be a gorgeous addition to your materials.

Each sketchbook contains 34 sheets of cold press 110 lb. It feels silky yet weighty in hand and is designed for watercolors.

The attractive hardcover will protect your artwork and looks excellent. It’s ideal for traveling, as it’s durable and sturdy. 

This is a beautiful notebook crafted from natural linen in a cool gray shade. The elastic band holds it in place when not in use. The handy ribbon bookmark helps you find the right page with ease.

Little touches like this set this product apart from the competitors.

It’s also a practical size, and the paper is acid-free, as you’d expect. The pages lay flat when painting, so you can work comfortably.

Arteza is so confident in the quality of its products that it offers a 100% guarantee. You can send it back for a free replacement if it doesn’t meet your expectations.

You can’t beat this excellent customer service. The quality guarantee is all you need to assure you that an Arteza sketchbook is worth investing in.


  • Fantastic, high-quality design with extra touches
  • Cold-press, acid-free paper


  • The paper does tend to buckle if you use a lot of water

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Pentalic Art Journal Aqua Watercolor

Pentalic Art Journal Aqua Watercolor

(Image credit: Pentalic)

Here is another gorgeous watercolor journal that is a joy to use. It looks stylish and is perfect for landscapes and other paintings.

This Pentalic sketchbook contains thick, quality watercolor paper. It is 100% cotton, 140lb paper that has a neutral PH. The cold press paper is milled in the Netherlands to the highest standards.

All these factors combine to make it ideal for watercolor paints. It’s thick and sturdy enough that the pages shouldn’t warp, buckle, or bleed onto the next page.

This journal is designed to lay completely flat, making it easier to use. The ribbon marker makes it quick to find your place and even has a handy storage pocket.

This set also contains a set of watercolor paints and a brush. So, you have everything you need to get started, making it perfect for any beginner.

But it’s also suitable for experienced artists. It’s a great size for taking on your travels, and the elastic band will keep all your artwork safe.


  • Beautiful, thick paper that won’t buckle or fail you
  • It’s a good size and comes with extra features like a storage pocket


  • The first page of the journal is a little loose

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Paul Rubens Watercolor Paper Block

Paul Rubens Watercolor Paper Block

(Image credit: Paul Rubens)

This watercolor paper block is an excellent gift for any artist, including yourself. It’s suitable for everyone, no matter how much experience you have. And it’s a delight to use.

The classic black leather design makes this watercolor journal stylish and timeless. It has a hardback cover, which ensures that it should last for a long time.

The paper doesn’t disappoint, either. Hot pressed and 100% cotton, it’s incredibly smooth. That makes it the best sketchbook for markers by a long way. 

Grab this paper block if you like to dabble in watercolors and other media. Your sketches will look just as good as your watercolors and line drawings with markers.

The fact that the paper is acid-free guarantees that your designs won’t fade. 

It differs from a notebook or journal in that the paper is glued down on all four sides. The benefit of this is that it’s super easy to use on the road.

But it does mean that you can’t flick through and work on several pages in one session. You’ll need to remove the top sheet to move onto the next one.

Altogether, it’s a fantastic product for artists. The handy size allows you to express your creativity while remaining portable. So, you can draw and paint both at home and on the go.


  • A paint block that has premium quality, smooth paper
  • Easy to use at home and when traveling


  • You’ll need to store your finished pieces somewhere to keep them safe – this is not a journal

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Stillman & Birn Beta Series

Stillman & Birn Beta Series

(Image credit: Stillman & Birn)

Stillman & Birn is another respected brand that creates high-quality art materials. This premium sketchbook ticks all the right boxes and is affordable, too! 

At 270 gsm, the paper is extra-heavyweight. That means it’s designed to suit all sorts of media, from watercolor to markers and pencil sketches. 

You can even use gouache paints, and it can withstand many layers of paint.

The paper is thick enough to prevent any bleeding to the next page. But you can also erase on it without the paper tearing. That makes it the best paper for watercolor markers, too! 

The binding is sewn in the US, ensuring top-quality construction. This sketchbook is an excellent alternative to a Moleskine sketchbook.


  • High-quality paper and construction
  • The paper is both acid and chloride-free


  • It’s quite small

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Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal

Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal

(Image credit: Unbekannt)

This travel-sized watercolor journal is perfect for anyone who likes to paint on the go. You should snap up this great journal if you travel frequently and want to document your trips.

At 5.3 x 8.3 inches, it’s compact and portable. So, you can pack it into your handbag, backpack, or suitcase with ease.

The paper is also high-quality and designed for avid artists. It’s cold-pressed and acid-free to prevent your designs from fading. And with a generous 60 pages, you can create as many masterpieces as you like. 

Plus, this journal looks beautiful with its natural linen cover. You’ll want to take this sketchbook everywhere with you!


  • A fantastic travel-size sketchbook
  • Gorgeous handbound linen cover and elastic closure to keep your sheets safe


  • The paper isn’t as thick as some other sketchbooks

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Below are sketches from my travel sketchbook.

(Image credit: Outmane Amahou)

The Wrap Up

A sketchbook is a worthy addition to your art tools and materials. It allows you to experiment and give free rein to your imagination.

It’s also an excellent way to see how you’re progressing as an artist. You can look back over the pages and preserve memories within.

The best artist sketchbooks for watercolor have high-quality paper and durable construction. You want a book that will last and hold all your paintings safe.

Grab any of the fantastic sketchbooks reviewed above. You won’t regret it! There’s something for everyone and every budget.

Then, sign up for the Proactive Creative newsletter! I’ll keep you up to date with all the best tips, articles, and reviews so that you can stay on top of your game.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, Proactive Creative may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.


Outmane is the founder of Proactive Creative. He is an artist/designer.

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