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.