I could tell as soon as I opened the packaging that the illo Sketchbook was pretty snazzy. Far too snazzy for my poor art skills. Fortunately, I live with a talented artist who was willing to put this book through thorough tests.
The sketchbook has a hard cover with a faux leather feel and the brand name subtly debossed on it. The color is a charcoal gray, which looks nice with the silky blue bookmark ribbon. There is an elastic band closure and a pocket in the back to hold any loose scraps of paper.
The sketchbook comes in two sizes: 8 x 8 or 10 x 10--both are square, designed to allow easy posting to apps like Instagram without having to crop anything out of the picture.
The binding is sewn and it lies perfectly flat with no training or spine-bending necessary. Even the first few pages lie flat right out of the package. I've seen some very fancy notebooks fail that test, so I was quite impressed with the binding.
There are 112 pages of 122 lb/180 gsm super white paper. The paper is not acid free, so I would hesitate to recommend it for professional artists, but it should be fine for student artists, especially if they'd be practicing with a wide variety of media.
This paper did well with pencil, colored pencil, markers, and one of the heaviest applications of paint I've seen in a while. The thick paper didn't even flinch, even when black paint was spread all across the back page of an illustration with a light blue watercolor wash. From the front, the peaceful island bird has no idea that one page over lies the deep black of space and the burning inferno of our sun.
The paper is coated, so there may be some longer dry time for wet media, and powdery pigments may smear a bit if you're not careful. The product is aimed at students who may need that versatility in function, rather than an artist who specializes in one form of media and needs paper that's engineered to that specific purpose.
And the price is aimed at students, too. The 8 x 8 notebook is only $16.75, and the 10 x 10 is $24.99. There are less expensive sketchbooks, but illo wanted to provide top quality at a reasonable price, and I think they've come pretty close. If the paper was acid-free, I'd be recommending it for everyone--I think that's an oversight on their part. But the build is very good and the versatility is great. I think it will continue to hold up to my resident artist's abuses and it will make a nice keepsake to showcase his fabulous talent.
(illo Sketchbook provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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