Stillman & Birn Nova Sketchbook Review

Stillman & Birn Nova Sketchbook Review

(Sarah Read is an author, editor, yarn artist, and pen/paper/ink addict. You can find more about her at her website and on Twitter.)

I have long harbored a misconception that tinted paper would obscure the vibrancy I love so much in most of my media. I tend to choose my art supplies for their colors, and often seek the contrast of a white background. But what about lovely pale colors and pastels? Tinted paper to the rescue--it's the perfect background for showing off a whole range of color. The Stillman & Birn sketchbook paper has just the right hue to make any color pop and can stand up to an incredible range of wet and dry media.

Stillman & Birn Nova Sketchbook Beige Paper

The Nova sketchbook is 5.5" by 8.5", or about A5 size, and has beige paper. There is also a smaller version, as well as books with grey, black, or white paper, soft or hard cover, thread or wire binding. There's likely a version that suits your fancy. This softcover book has a papery faux-leather cover. It's nicely flexible and feels sturdy enough to stand up to some abuse. The book itself wears well--it doesn't get shabby so much as takes on a character of its own. I love that in a book.

The binding is thread and glue. It is a bit stiff at first, but with training, it does lie flat fairly well. It still does tend to fall open to places where the glue has been broken and remains stiffer in other places, but when it's in use, it opens well and doesn't bow the pages. The cover is plain matte black with a smooth texture logo on the back. It's very minimal, almost so that it can be tricky to open it the right way unless you mark it yourself somehow, or until it takes on that recognizable character. There are no bookmarks or pockets or frills of any sort. I do wish it had a few of these conveniences. I admire the minimalist aesthetic of it, but there are some frills that make a good tool a great tool.

The best part of the book is, of course, the paper itself. There are 46 sheets of 150 gsm light brown paper. It's quite thick and sturdy, with a fair amount of texture. I tried out a wide variety of my artsy arsenal, and all of them did well on the paper. It's a bit toothy--so very fine pens, whether felt-tip fineliners, gel pens, or fountain pens, can feel a bit snaggy. Pencil also went down quite thick and left a shiny layer of graphite. But colored pencils and pastels were a real delight, and watercolor worked a treat. Markers, liquid inks, and paints did not show through at all, though markers soaked in a bit and didn't show the vibrancy of other media. I did one full page in a wash to see how it would hold up to wetness, and it dried flat with only minimal rippling. The paper is said to be formulated with both internal and surface sizing, so it can handle wet media. It does have a long dry time because of this, so paint markers had to sit for quite a while before they fully dried.

Stillman & Birn Nova Sketchbook Paper

The versatility of this paper invites play, and it makes me want to come back to it and try new things. One really can't ask for much better from an art supply--permission to play can be half the battle, and this book practically dares you to push its boundaries. If you like to play with a wide variety of media, or if you want to see what using a tinted background does for your color vibrancy, this is a great product to work with.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)


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Stillman & Birn Nova Sketchbook
Posted on February 22, 2018 and filed under Stillman & Birn, Notebook Reviews.

DeAtramentis Thomas Gainsborough Black-brown Ink Review

DeAtrementis Gainsborough Ink

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

With all the vibrant, gorgeous ink colors available on the market today, it's a wonder anyone tries the browns and blacks to uncover the subtle treasures they offer, but I'm always glad when I take a trip to the dark side of ink. DeAtramentis Thomas Gainsborough is my latest experiment, and I've been pleasantly surprised.

DeAtramentis Thomas Gainsborough, part of the famous people collection of inks, is a rich black-brown ink that reminds me of caramelized sugar or bourbon when writing. My expectations were a little harsh on this ink just because of the name. When I think of a black-brown, I think of the inks I've tried that so dark that you can barely see the chocolate colors coming through. In the case of this black-brown, the brown is still the star and main attraction. The color reminds me very much of Monteverde Scotch Brown, but just a tad darker.

DeAtrementis Gainsborough Ink Sample

Along with the sultry color, the ink exhibits some lovely shading. The amount of variance isn't dramatic, but it's just enough to add some visual interest on the page that alters between a dark and medium brown. I was surprised (again) to see this much variation in such a dark color, but these types of unexpected features are always welcome.

It's not often I find an ink that dries in less than 15 seconds, but this ink easily fits in that category. Using the 1.1mm stub nib on my test pen, the ink was typically dry in 15 to 20 seconds. But, when using a smaller medium nib, it was dry between 10 and 15 seconds. Not bad!

DeAtrementis Gainsborough Ink Shading

The Monteverde I use to test inks can also lean toward the dry side, but this ink does a good job of lubricating the nib and keeping the flow of ink steady and dependable. Using the pen after a long period of rest was also no problem — after a few test strokes, the ink starts flowing easily.

This ink is also incredibly easy to clean out of pens. It washes out quickly and doesn't leave behind any pigment. Overall, it's extremely well-behaved.

DeAtramentis Thomas Gainsborough is available in a 35ml bottle for around $14. It's a beautiful but subtle color, and I can highly recommend it if you're a fan of brown inks.

(Vanness Pens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)


Enjoy reading The Pen Addict? Then consider becoming a member to receive additional weekly content, giveaways, and discounts in The Pen Addict shop. Plus, you support me and the site directly, for which I am very grateful.

Membership starts at just $5/month, with a discounted annual option available. To find out more about membership click here and join us!

DeAtrementis Gainsborough Ink Review
Posted on February 21, 2018 and filed under DeAtramentis, Ink Reviews.

Strong Like Bull Pen Addict Magnet Giveaway

Strong Like Bull Pen Addict Magnets

You already know my love for Spoke Pencils know no bounds, but did you know the man behind that brand has something else up his sleeve? Brian Conti also runs Strong Like Bull Magnets, featuring super strong Neodymium Iron Boron magnets that can handle your toughest tasks. He even added the Pen Addict logo and orange rubber ring to the casing for these sets. How great is that?

I have two three-packs of magnets to give away to two winner. Check out the details below and enter away!

Strong Like Bull Pen Addict Magnet Set
Posted on February 20, 2018 and filed under Giveaways.